Everyone has seen “that” photo of the Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway, just like the one above. There have been photos from this location during stunning sunrises, peak of fall foliage colors, days with dramatic lighting, and beautiful summer days. But have you ever wondered just how these photographers captured this photo? Now you’ll know, you just have to keep reading.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the top scenic driving routes in the Southeastern United States, and probably the entire country. The 470 mile scenic route extends from Waynesboro, Virginia to Cherokee, North Carolina. The routes features dozens of parks, hundreds of scenic overlooks, and miles of hiking trails.
However, my favorite section of the Parkway is a 90 mile stretch from Boone to Asheville, North Carolina. Along this stretch are beautiful destinations like Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Julian Price Memorial Park, Grandfather Mountain, Linville Falls, and Mount Mitchell State Park. But out of all these, there is one in particular with a view featuring “that” photo: the Linn Cove Viaduct.
The Viaduct is an S-shaped bridge over a tricky terrain on the Parkway, and was the last section to be completed before the grand opening in 1987. Thousands of vehicles a year drive across the bridge while heading north or south along the scenic route. While many of these visitors will stop at the Linn Cove Viaduct Visitor’s Center, only a few will take the trail to the opposite end for “that” view.
The Visitor’s Center is a neat place to visit, even if you have no intention to hike this trail. The center features a small museum with a fascinating history behind the construction of this bridge, along with several videos and a scaled model of the construction in progress during the 1980s. There is also a gift shop with t-shirts, postcards, books, and trinkets. Finally, this center has a restroom facility that is sometimes few and far in between along the Parkway.
If you’re up for the hike, you’ll find the Tanawha Trail entrance at the far end of the parking lot. The Tanawha Trail is a 14-mile hiking trail between Julian Price Park and Beacon Heights around Grandfather Mountain. This particular section of the trail is the most strenuous, but well worth it for the journey.
The trail begins by passing underneath the Viaduct, then climbing above the bridge for a view from above. The trail dips and climbs a bit here and there, but for the most part you are above the bridge with a view looking down through the dense vegetation. It is only a half mile hike to the opposite end where you find the overlook.
The scenic overlook isn’t really a well-defined area with a deck and rail as most others. In fact, it’s about as simple and natural as it gets. At first, you won’t know you’ve even come upon it. If you pass the overlook, you’ll find yourself at the edge of the Parkway road on the opposite end of the bridge. Don’t worry; it’s actually easier to spot this overlook heading back. The overlook is actually a boulder. The boulder is about 8-10′ high and requires visitors to climb up a few steps, unless you’re an NBA athlete. “That” view everyone always photographs is taken from a perch atop the boulder, looking down on the Viaduct a few feet below.
It’s a fairly safe area to perch on dry days, but be careful nonetheless. It is certainly a place where someone can get hurt if they’re careless. But once you have found this location, you’ll be glad you took the short hike. Now, I challenge you to capture a photo that hasn’t been done a thousand times already. How will you do it?
View Photos: Blue Ridge Parkway Photo Gallery
There is an alternate route to reach this overlook. There is a small parking area on this end of the Viaduct, however only a few cars will fit here at once. This parking area is frequently full during beautiful days. If you can find a place to park here, the Tanawha Trail access is just a few feet from the end of the Viaduct and a few hundred feet from the parking area, immediately climbing up toward the overlook. Do not park on the edge of the Parkway outside this parking area; it’s not allowed, but it’s also dangerous because it constricts traffic driving through the area.