The highest visitor center on the Blue Ridge Parkway has excellent views in multiple directions. It also has a short trail to the top of Waterrock Knob.
At the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, almost at the literal end of the parkway, is the enhanced overlook at the visitors center at Waterrock Knob. At an elevation of 5,820 feet, Waterrock Knob is the highest visitors center on the Parkway. The overlook offers substantial views in multiple directions and has a short 6/10’s of a mile trail that leads to the top of Waterrock Knob which, at 6,273 feet, is the highest point on the Parkway. Waterrock Knob’s unique location and views make it a great spot for catching a sunrise or sunset.
Waterrock Knob is located at milepost 451.2, about 18 miles from the end of the parkway. It is easily reached from either highway 19 between Maggie Valley and Cherokee, or highway 74 between Waynesville and Sylva. It is well marked on the Parkway and has a dedicated road from the Parkway leading up to the very large and spacious parking area. Note that the Parkway may experience seasonal closures when there is snow or ice. Waterrock Knob is about 45 minutes from Bryson City North Carolina or an hour from Asheville North Carolina. There are restroom facilities at the overlook.
Waterrock Knob Overlook has something for everyone. There are great views, in multiple directions, right from the parking area along with informative signboards. There are also a number of picnic tables, restrooms, and a small visitor center with displays and a gift shop. The visitor center is open seasonally usually from mid-April through October.
For the best view at Waterrock Knob, you will want to take the short but steep trail to the top of the knob. The trail starts at the back of the parking area opposite the visitor center and climbs briskly. It is paved for about half the trail but is generally in good condition the entire 6/10’s of a mile climbs to the summit. The mountains-to-sea trail borrows a very small piece of the trail intersecting twice on the climb up the knob. At about the half-way point, there is a small overlook that provides some nice views and a good spot to catch your breath.
Continuing up the stairs on the dirt trail will eventually get you to the summit of Waterrock Knob where you will find the best views. On good days the views seem to be almost endless. The top of the knob is flat and somewhat spacious. There is also a small bench where you can sit, relax and enjoy the wonderful view.
When you have finished enjoying the summit of Waterrock Knob, hike safely back down to the parking area.
There is also 1/2 mile rugged trail from the summit of Waterrock Knob that leads to the next peak, Browning Knob. This summit is a little more remote, less visited, and has airplane wreckage just below the summit. If you want to explore this peak, please watch our episode on Browning Knob.