5 Overlooks Around Cherokee You Need to Visit This Fall9.29.2017
In Cherokee, NC, we are very fortunate to be surrounded by natural beauty everywhere we look. Autumn is an especially popular time for visitors and residents alike to take a drive through the mountains and view the brilliant colors on the peaks and valleys.
A pit stop to see natural splendor at its peak is never out of the way, right? If you haven’t planned some time to take in the sights and sounds of fall, then we’re certain you’ll be marking your calendar after you read this post. Depending on elevation and weather, the leaves all change at different times, so even if the leaves have already started to fall, these overlooks offer some amazing views.
Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks
Two of our region’s most visited attractions are easily reached: the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and The Blue Ridge Parkway.
To the west, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park includes 800 square miles in Tennessee and North Carolina open to visitors year round. Known for its scenic beauty, The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mile road that runs southwest from Front Royal, Virginia, (where it’s called the Skyline Drive) along the Blue Ridge Mountain range, ending at the southern gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee.
According to Romantic Asheville's 2017 fall foliage predictions, most leaves will be changing colors in Cherokee by the third week of October. While there are many overlooks on the Parkway, time of year and amount of vegetation can lead to obstructed views of the mountains and features below them. Fortunately, if you’re driving down the Parkway, there are so many opportunities to pull over and snap a photo that if one isn’t perfect, the next one likely will be!
Raven Fork Overlook
Photo by Deborah Dancer
At milepost 467.9 you’ll find the Raven Fork Overlook. To the west is the Qualla Boundary’s Raven Fork freestone creek, which is stocked with rainbow, brown, and brook trout, Donaldson strain rainbow trout, and palomino trout. A mile downstream, Raven Fork meets the Oconaluftee River. This creek may be hard to spot from this point, but the foliage can’t be missed.
Thunder Struck Ridge Overlook
Photo by Jeff Wetherington
At milepost 454.4, about 20 minutes east of Cherokee in Maggie Valley, you’re in for a beautiful landscape view. At an elevation of 4,680 feet, the Ridge lies under the overlook.
Big Witch Overlook
Photo by Karen Meredith Lueck
Named after a famous Cherokee medicine man who died in 1898 at age 90, Big Witch Overlook is at milepost 461.9. Since eagle feathers were used in ceremonies, Big Witch’s job was to kill the eagle.
Waterrock Knob Overlook
Photo by Brian Smith
As the second highest point on the Parkway, Waterrock Knob Overlook (milepost 451.2) is worth a visit. If you’re looking for a quick hike, there is a one-mile roundtrip trail to the top of Waterrock Knob, which was named after the stream where hunters and farmers collected water. Whether you’re there in time for sunrise or sunset, the circular parking lot means you can see both east and west views. Take in the grandeur of the Plott Balsam and Great Balsam mountain ranges. Grab more info (and a souvenir) at the Visitor Center here.
Richland Balsam Overlook
Photo by Angi English
Less than an hour east of Cherokee, near Waynesville, you’ll find Richland Balsam Overlook and the highest point on the Parkway at 6,053 feet. The 1.5-mile self-guided loop leads visitors through a spruce-fir forest. Enjoy the smells of Fraser fir and red spruce. Trust us, it’s worth the drive.
As always, safety is our primary concern. Please use caution when visiting overlooks and keep a safe distance from the ledge.
Can’t Get Enough?
If a day trip doesn’t quite cut it, then we invite you to stay longer! We offer many different accommodations.