Recently we traveled to Spruce Pine, NC, nestled halfway between Asheville, NC and Boone, NC in the Western Appalachian Mountains. This beautiful area rests 2900 feet above sea level with easy travel to Grandfather Mountain to the North and Mount Mitchell to the South At least in the summertime. There is also easy access to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The easiest way to get to Spruce Pine is via NC Highway 226. Beware that this is a steep grade up and it was a challenge to get back down the mountain on this road with our rig. We used up a lot of brakes even being in the lowest gear. There are warning signs before you descent and make sure you take the opportunity to review them when traveling in a large vehicle such as an RV. This reminds me that there are a lot of natural outcroppings along the highway.
For this trip we stayed at Bear Den Campground, a handful of miles north of Spruce Pine directly off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. While you may use your GPS to get to the general area, I wouldn’t recommend using it to get you to the campground. By following ours we ended up on the wrong side of the highway a few miles from the actual campground and drove in circles for a bit. Also make sure you research this campground in advance and note the milepost information they provide. Apparently due to parkway restrictions on signs, there is no obvious sign to the entrance of Bear Den. There is a post with a vertical sign on it that is not too easy to spot.
Once you turn onto the entrance road, beware that it is one lane in many places and since it is primarily dirt and gravel it can also be rough at times. After you make it through that challenge for about 1/2 a mile hoping to not meet any vehicles it opens up to the entrance to the campground. Many of the interior roads are narrow with tight turns so if you are towing a care, I recommend unhooking it at the office and driving it to your campsite.
The sites are nicely spaced although not necessarily level. A nice natural area between the sites gave us a slight sense of isolation, perfect for in a mountain trip. The campground appears to be well maintained and the friendly staff are professional. To that end, we were given a friendly notice one night when high winds were expected so we could take the necessary precautions to prevent any damage to our equipment.
They have a nice playground for the kids.
While driving up the Blue Ridge Parkway on the way to the campground you will pass the Orchard at Altapass. Not only will you find fresh fudge, apples and souvenirs, they also feature live music on many weekends beginning in the spring until late fall.
We took the opportunity to drive up to the top of Mount Mitchell, the highest point East of the Mississippi river. It is a nice pleasant drive to the top with a restaurant along the way.
There is usually plenty of parking so the restaurant is a good place to stop and check out the views even if you’re not going to get some food.. We did eat at the restaurant on the way back down and we found the food to be ok.
There were a lot of bright, gorgeous, fall colors and even some clouds for a bit of mystery.
Once you get near the top there is parking and then a steep climb on a newly paved path to get to the summit. The reward is worth the climb even if it is a cloudy day.
Be careful on the way back down that steep path.
Mount Mitchell is about 45 minutes south of Bear Den Campground along the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are numerous great views and pull-outs along the way.
It is also worth exploring north through the Blue Ridge Parkway. You never know what you’ll see along the way..
You will want to check out the Lynn Cove Viaduct which was the last part of the parkway to be completed. There is a parking lot near here with a Ranger station.
If you do like to explore, make sure you are always prepared. You never know what is around the corner.
For the more adventurous, there is a side road nearby where you can catch a glimpse of a train…
winding through the mountains…