You can't go wrong looking out on any season from the 1. Mile-High Swinging Bridge or the ladder-climbing trails that cross the crest of Grandfather Mountain State Park. The Grandfather Mountain portion of the Parkway boasts some of the area's earliest color. Check out options 2 and 3 below.
At Milepost 304.8, this parking area seems bordered by trees, but stroll the side of the Parkway a hundred feet north and "Wow!" You're looking way down on the Pisgah National Forest's multihued ridges from 4,286 feet. Or park at Milepost 302.8 and take the short walk from Rough Ridge Parking Area to amazing boardwalk vistas.
Also on Grandfather's flank, the moderate Beacon Heights Trail, at Milepost 305.2, is an easy walk to a great view. It's just 0.3-mile (about 0.7-mile round-trip) to rocky domes that also look down on Pisgah National Forest's rippling lowlands.
In Blowing Rock, pull into the Bass Lake Parking Area of Moses Cone Park from US 221 and the lake can be a dazzling fall experience. Some people just pull out folding chairs and soak up the scenery. Others walk the easy mile-around the lake. In winter, the lake is often frozen and cross country skiers glide along. If you want to look down on the scene, drive to Cone Manor (Milepost 294.0) and survey the vista from the porch or trail out front.
At Milepost 290.4 north of Blowing Rock, the expansive view from roadside Thunder Hill Overlook plummets east to the Piedmont from 3,795 feet. For a breezy, even bigger picture perspective, cross the Parkway to the nearby hilltop. (Or try a "best-kept-secret" in Blowing Rock-The Blowing Rock, a major High Country attraction. One of the state's classic travel destinations, with inspiring views.)
Talk about "best kept secrets." This 5,500-foot mountain, a recent state park just 11 miles north of Boone, has a newly completed 2-mile trail (moderately strenuous, but gradual) that reaches a knock-your-socks-off summit view. North lies Virginia's highest peak, Mount Rogers. Mount Mitchell, East's loftiest, soars to the south, along with Grandfather Mountain and the East's highest ski areas, Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain. This park is all about winter, so bring your snowshoes then!
Boone's paved greenway trail winds into a hidden valley. When the town disappears, hikers and bikers are surrounded by colorful scenes as they wander along the South Fork of the New River. This perfect family destination offers many picnic sites and even the historic ruins of the early 1900s first hydroelectric generation station in the northwestern mountains.
This less-visited overlook hides just beyond Doughton Park's Bluffs Lodge (the overnight facility is closed). Turn in at Milepost 241.1 and park beyond the lodge where it's a short stroll to a view into dramatic Basin Cove with its tiny cabin far below. Start at the same spot for a moderate 1-mile (2-mile roundtrip) climb to Fodder Stack-a craggy summit vista above the deep valley.
About an hour away from the Boone Area at Milepost 349.9 the Mount Mitchell Overlook spans the north slope of the entire Black Mountain Range of which Mount Mitchell is the highest. From an elevation of 4,825 feet, the massive peaks tower nearly 2,000 feet higher (up to 6,684 feet). In fall, you might even see hoarfrost or snow streaking the summits. There's a great view from the summit too, the climax of Mount Mitchell State Park. (This part of the Parkway can be closed in late fall and winter due to snow and ice.)
Zoom in close on the map below (use the plus sign and directional arrows at upper left, or repeatedly double click near, but not on, the map symbols). You can literally see the parking lots for Parkway destinations in this guide. Click any map symbol and information-packed balloons pop up to describe locations all along the route. In the map balloons, click "Directions" to add your address and get step-by-step directions to Parkway locations from wherever you are. Start in the north, follow the road south, for a local's introduction to your own Boone-area Parkway adventure.