Travel US Destinations

Sunrise locations of Western North Carolina

You’re here because you’re trying to find the best spot to catch the sun rise above these magical mountains, that surround us here in Western North Carolina. Catching a sunrise (and sunset) is essential when visiting the area. Whether you are staying in Asheville, Waynesville, Maggie Valley, or anywhere in-between, these locations below are a must see on your trip to the Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains .

While catching the sun works its magic is a must see when visiting the area, its also a little tricky.. why? Because there’s a few big ole mountain peaks in the way. DUH! Thats why finding the perfect location is key. You want to have unobstructed views of the big ball of fire peaking up over the horizon, don’t you?

I’m here to help! I recently moved to Western North Carolina and have been on the hunt to find the best locations to watch sunrise in the Blue Ridge mountains. Lucky for you, I’m down to share this list of my favorite spots.

Sunrise:

Waking up to catch the sun peak up over these luscious mountains is the best start to any day. The empty blue ridge parkway makes for the most peaceful drive up the mountain. Settling in at the overlook with the best view of the painted skies. Seeing magical happen before your eyes, another day, another gift. Getting started on an early morning hike, before the rest of the world wakes up. Pure Bliss.

I hope you get to witness the most magical sunrise (and sunset) on your trip out here!

Licklog Ridge Overlook

From the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance in Waynesville, this overlook is only about 35 minutes. If you are coming from Asheville, it’s about an hour away. LickLog is the perfect overlook to start your early morning on the Blue Ridge parkway.

Licklog Ridge has the most gorgeous viewpoint to watch the sunrise. Bring a few extra layers, a cup go coffee, some breakfast, and go have your mind be blown by mother natures beauty.

I love starting here at Licklog Ridge Overlook because Cowee Mountain Overlook is just a few miles away, and also has incredible views. From there you can head to Black Balsam Mountain to enjoy an early morning hike.

Cowee Mountain Overlook

Cowee Mountain Overlook has the most open views in this area of the BRP (Blue Ridge Parkway). We have seen some whimsical cloud inversions just after sunrise here.

This overlook faces West so you don’t get as much of a sunrise, but you do get those pink and purple hues painting the sky. Maybe consider Cowee for sunset too!

Black Balsam

If you want to hike up to a viewpoint to watch the sunrise, this is the spot with 360 views that you must add to your itinerary!

There are quite a few amazing hikes in the area, all showcasing nothing but incredible views..BUT we are here for sunrise views. My reccomendation would be to hike Art Loeb trail to Black Balsam Knob. You can look this hike up on AllTrails to get directions, but there are two areas you can park. The parking lot at the end of the road, or if I’m going for sunrise I like to park on Black Balsam Rd about .5 miles before the lot. You will most likely see cars there, if not you’ll see the trailhead.

It does tend to be pretty windy and cold up there for sunrise, be sure to wear all the necessary layers to keep yourself warm.

A few of my other favorite hikes in the area are Sams Knob ,and Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain Loop.

Mount Mitchell State Park:

Did you know Mount Mitchell is the highest peak East of the Mississippi?! An ABSOLUTE must see at sunrise.

  • Mount Mitchell is located just off the BRP
  • There is a huge parking lot with restrooms
  • Many hikes to choose from that leave from the parking lot
  • It’s a .4 mile paved trail to the summit from the parking lot
  • Make sure to have maps downloaded as cell service is spotty
  • About 1.5 hours miles from Asheville. About 2 hours from Waynesville

After watching the magical happen, we hiked Deep Gap Trail to Mount Craig. We only went about 2 miles in and 2 miles back, but the entire trail is 8.6 miles roundtrip.

Make sure to get here at least 30 minuets before the sun is set to rise, otherwise you will miss the best parts of the sky being painted those deep pinks and oranges. Yes, this means waking up in the middle of the night to drive two hours, but I promise you… WORTH IT!

Expect to see others, yes even at the crack of dawn there will most likely be a few others enjoying the views.

Need soething to do for the rest of the day since you started so early? Check out Crabtree Falls and Little Switzerland!

Rough Ridge Overlook

With astounding views of the famous Linn Cove Viaduct, this overlook is a crowd pleaser.

Rough Ridge Overlook is a popular one, for good reason. I mean look at the views!

Considering you know you will most likely be sharing this lovely rock with others. make sure you get there early to get your watching spot. And be sure to wear layers! It was so cold and windy when we went my hat almost blew off!

If you part at the Rough Ridge Overlook lot and hike up its a 1.2 mile hike. If you are feeling a little adventurous, or the parking lot was full you can park at Wilson Creek Overlook and hike in. We parked at the Wilson Creek Overlook and it was a lovely out and back hike, even in the dark one way ;)

Pounding Mill Overlook

With breathtaking views of looking glass rock, this overlook can’t be beat. Located in Pisgah National Forest, at mile marker 413.2. It hard to believe that you can pull over on the side of the road in various locations on the BRP and catch views like this.

Just 30 minutes away from this overlook are two of my favorite hikes in the area, Johns Rock, and Looking Glass Rock. Both rewarding you with stunning views from massive ledgy rocks.

Clingmans Dome Observation Tower

Being the tallest point in the Smokies, Clingmans Dome Observation Tower is one of the most popular spots to catch sunrise in Smoky Mountain National Park.

With that being said, GET THERE EARLY! and really.. be prepared for crowds, camera tripods, photoshoots, and all the madness that a touristy spot brings. Yes, it’s still worth it, even with all the chaos.

Clingmans Dome is located just minutes from the North Carolina Tennessee boarder. Walk up about .7 miles to the top of the observation tower. It may sound like a short walk, but let me tell you… it is steep. Take your time, and take breaks along the way if you need to!

So where ya headed?

I hope this blog was helpful in helping you pick a spot (or two) to catch a dreamy sunrise on your trip to Western North Carolina. If you want to see more must see destinations in the area, check out my instagram @cloudstodirt where I share nothing but hikes and views!

A few little pointers from someone who has caught many *cold* sunrises in the area…

  • LAYERS- bring more than what you plan to hike in. Its always colder than you expect
  • Snacks and coffee- because no one like a hanger hiker
  • Aim to arrive at location at least 30 minutes before the sun is set to rise
  • Bring head lamp/flashlight if hiking to location
  • If you are going for photos, bring a tripod-no one likes a shaky pictures
  • Have faith- the clouds may seem like they are going to steal the show ( and they might!) but I’ve driven for so many sunrises where we felt like we were going to see anything, then BAM the most vivid magical skies appear…. and then sometimes they don’t LOL Mother Nature
  • Don’t forget your sunnies!