This route follows the Appalachian Mountain chain from the Shenendoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park-a distance of 469 miles. There are frequent turnouts for mountain vistas, waterfalls, picnic areas, and visitor centers. Much of the Parkway is closed in winter. The speed limit is strictly limited to 45 miles per hour or less, and trucks are prohibited. The South Section Auto Tour covers the last 175 miles of the parkway beginning at the visitor center at Linville Falls. The parkway passes through a series of gaps, meadows, tunnels, and scenic overlooks. Points of interest include the Museum of North Carolina Minerals, the Folk Art Center and Craggy Falls. A popular sidetrip is a visit to the Vanderbilt’s magnificent Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.
As important as the Newfound Gap Road is to the GSMNP, the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of those vital arteries of traffic in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The drive from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia to Cherokee, NC is one of the most miraculous drives you can take on the east side of the Mississippi River. All along the Blue Ridge Parkway you will find towns such as Asheville, Maggie Valley, and Cherokee that are the epitome of the small little mountain town in the Smokies. The Blue Ridge Parkway also offers access to some areas of the GSMNP that you can’t get to from any other point. Work began on the Blue Ridge Parkway in 1935 and it took until 52 years to be completed.
Here are some of the highlights along the Smokies end of the Blue Ridge Parkway:
- Milepost 469 – The Blue Ridge Parkway intersects with US 441 in Cherokee, NC
- Milepost 458.2 – Heintooga Overlook – Mile-high overlook
- Milepost 422.4 – Devil’s Courthouse
- Milepost 417 – Looking Glass Rock
- Milepost 408.6 – Mount Pisgah – part of the Biltmore Estate
- Milepost 384 – The Blue Ridge Parkway Visitors Center
- Milepost 382 – The Folk Art Center
- Milepost 355.4 – Mount Mitchell State Park
- Milepost 331 – Museum of North Carolina Minerals
- Milepost 304.4 Linn Cove Viaduct
- Milepost 285.1 – Daniel Boone’s Trace
Whether you call it the Moses Cone Manor, Flat Top Manor, the Moses Cone Memorial Park or the Parkway Craft Center, the former home of Moses Cone that seats along the ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains is a majestic piece of architecture that has stood the test of time. Moses Cone was a textile entrepreneur that created countless jobs in the area during his heyday. The home itself was given to the National Park Service after his death but it is certainly something that he himself would have loved to have seen done. Nowadays a visit to the Moses Cone Manor lets you see the handy work of countless crafters and artisans of the Southern Highlands Craft Guild.
Moses Cone was a huge name in the textile industry during the 19th century. He and his brother Cesar started their careers as traveling salesmen. The brothers found that their knowledge of dry goods from their time on the roads gave them a foothold in the textile industry. Eventually, Cone moved his operations to Greensboro North Carolina. The people of the highlands of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains had need of plain durable clothing. Cone started manufacture denim and other such fabrics to be used by companies like Levis that made clothes that the people of the area needed and loved. While he made his money through the textiles industry, he also gave back to the area through job creation and through his philanthropic actions.
He also built a home on top of the mountains, Flat Top Manor. The home takes its name from the proximity of Flat Top Mountain. Built at the turn of the century, the Flat Top Manor was finished in 1901. It has 23 rooms and measures in at 13,000 square feet. Built in the Victorian Neo-Colonial style, large white columns surround the front of the house. Dormers up top and leaded glass in ever window make this a wonderful example of this style and because it is open to the public throughout the year, people get to roam though the halls and experience the home much the way that it would have been when it was built.
Flat Top Manor is also known as the Parkway Craft Center. It is home to one of the exhibits of the Southern Highland Craft Guild. With craft demonstrations daily and a wonderful gift shop, this is a huge stop for tourist visiting the area. Each year, more then 200,000 visitors come to the Parkway Craft Center to see the crafts that are for sale, learn more about the crafters and the crafts that are being made and of course, to visit the home itself. Next time you are traveling the blue Ridge Parkway, stop at Milepost 294 and visit the home of Moses Cone: Flat Top Manor.
Moses Cone Manor
667 Service Road
Blowing Rock, NC