Many motorcycle riders journey the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP). Riding the BRP in its entirety is a motorcycling rite of passage. The limited-access roller coaster of asphalt surrounded by nonstop scenic vistas is a rider’s dream. But if you just ride through and stop only for food, fuel, and lodging, you will have missed some of the most beautiful treats the mountains have to offer. Taking in a few side trips makes the journey an adventure to remember.
U.S. Route 276 heading south from the BRP toward Brevard, North Carolina, starts off as a seemingly sedate road. When you see the first sign indicating a slow speed curve ahead, it’s time to get ready for some twists and turns. For the next four miles, the good pavement and a nice mix of curves marked between 15–35 mph provide a fun ride to your first destination.
It’s easy to ride through the verdant green of the Pisgah National Forest and assume it has always looked so lush. However, more than 100 years ago much of the land was subject to deforestation and farming. When George Vanderbilt bought 125,000 acres around the site where he built Biltmore Manson, he hired Frederick Law Olmsted to design his gardens. It was Olmsted who advised Vanderbilt that his forest holdings needed management. That was the start of forest conservation in America. You can experience the story and history at the Cradle of Forestry. After learning about how the Pisgah National Forest was reborn, it’s time to continue the journey of discovery down U.S. Route 276.
While riding over a waterfall is rarely a good idea, this is one waterfall where you’re encouraged to enjoy the ride—without your motorcycle, of course. At the Sliding Rock Recreation Area, you can experience riding over a waterfall, ending with a brisk splash into an approximately 7-foot deep pool of cold mountain water. There are lifeguards on duty in-season, and there is a $2 fee to enter. It’s a good reason to pack a bathing suit and towel in your saddle bags.
After a cool dip at Sliding Rock, a short ride south on U.S. Route 276 brings you to Looking Glass Falls. Easily seen from the road, this 60-foot waterfall is accessible via walkway. There’s parking along the shoulder of the road, but it’s a busy area, so watch for traffic. You’re allowed to swim at your own risk in the deep pool at the bottom of the waterfall, or enjoy the cooling mist from the falls by the bank.
Further south on U.S. Route 276, you’ll find the Pisgah Ranger Station providing information about the bountiful recreation opportunities this national treasure offers.
Till next time, ride safe!