The small town of Blowing Rock, North Carolina has long been a beloved stop for many a road tripper traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway through the High Country of western North Carolina.
But what about the famous Blowing Rock attraction itself? Is Blowing Rock worth visiting, or is it just an overrated attraction in an otherwise wonderful town? We’ll look at the lore, the cost, the access, the views, and other things to do for a complete overview of everything you need to know about the Blowing Rock.
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The Legend of The Blowing Rock: Fact and Fiction
The town of Blowing Rock, NC is named after the site known as The Blowing Rock. These are two separate entities though. The Blowing Rock site is located in the town of Blowing Rock, but the rock was there first.
This can get confusing for those that have never heard of Blowing Rock, either the town or the rock. (See what I mean? 😆)
The Blowing Rock itself was the center of a Native American legend even before it became a European settlement or a tourist attraction. This natural phenomenon where the snow falls up has sparked curiosity in humans for hundreds of years, so naturally it eventually became a tourist attraction.
The Blowing Rock is a naturally occurring geologic formation. The Blue Ridge Mountain cliffside rises thousands of feet above the Johns River Gorge below.
Over time, the cliff was eroded and formed into a sort of funnel. When strong winds from the river gorge below hit the cliff wall, it’s forced upward through the funnel and has enough force to make light objects float upward.
The most magical way to experience this is during a snowfall. Snow will “fall upward” as the wind from the gorge below whisks the icy precipitation up and over the cliffside. Any other time of year, toss a leaf over the side and it’ll be promptly returned to you!
Indigenous Native American tribes had their own explanation for this phenomenon.
The Legend of Blowing Rock
Legends and folklore are often formed to explain scientific situations before humans were able to comprehend science. That is exactly what happened at The Blowing Rock.
How do you explain the snow falling up when everything else in nature has taught you that it should be falling down?
According to the site’s website, Native American legend tells of two lovers from different tribes.
A Chickasaw woman and a Cherokee man fell in love.
One day, the man saw a red sky and felt it was a sign he was being called back to his tribe and had to leave his Chickasaw bride behind. The woman begged him not to leave, and so the man ran off the side of the cliff rather than decide between his love and his duty to his tribe.
The woman was distraught and prayed to the Great Spirit to bring her love back. And one day, under another red sky, the man was suddenly blown back up over the cliff and returned to the woman unharmed. Ever since, there has been a steady wind that blows up the cliff.
It’s a poetic love story, and also neatly explains the unusual wind pattern at this particular location as divine intervention from the Great Spirit.
Getting Our Bearings: Where is Blowing Rock?
Now that we know the story behind Blowing Rock, how do we get there so we can check it out for ourselves?
The town of Blowing Rock, NC is in the mountainous western tail of North Carolina, known as the High Country.
The Blowing Rock site is a cliffside just south of town.
The town is only 15 minutes south of Boone, NC or a 1.5-2 hours’ drive from Winston-Salem, Charlotte, or Asheville.
If you’re flying in from out of state, your best bet for flight options and flexibility is the Charlotte, NC airport (CLT).
How to Get to the Blowing Rock Site
Take US Route 321 south, away from town and away from Boone, and turn right onto The Rock Road.
Don’t miss the turn off onto The Rock Road. There are a few, but not a lot of, places to turn around after that as US 321 continues through the Blue Ridge Mountains.
How Much Does It Cost to Visit Blowing Rock?
The Blowing Rock site is privately owned land, not a state-owned or federally protected area. The site is well-maintained and includes a gift shop and a small museum. The owners charge a very small and reasonable fee to cover operating costs.
Entry fees and hours of operation depend on the season. Summer rates apply from April through Thanksgiving. Winter rates apply Thanksgiving through March and are $1-$2 cheaper. Summer rates are as follows:
- Adults are $9
- Kids Ages 5-12 are $3
- Ages 5 and under are free
Discounts are available for seniors, military, and students with ID.
The Blowing Rock site is open every day, weather permitting, April through December. January through March is the worst weather and fewest visitors, so the site closes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
When to Visit Blowing Rock
Hands down, the best time to visit Blowing Rock is in the fall. Temperatures are crisp and cool, and the Blue Ridge Mountains turn every fall shade of orange, yellow, and red for spectacular views. As expected though, this is also one of the busiest times to visit.
For smaller crowds visit in the winter, preferably around a snowfall so the mountain views are still beautiful, and you may be lucky enough to experience the famous upward-falling snow.
Summer is another popular time for a visit, but crowds and the heat can get intense. Be prepared for both if you have to come during summer.
Exploring The Blowing Rock Site
I’ve seen many travel sites that describe “the Blowing Rock hike”. Let me clarify that this is not really a hike. The pathways have very little elevation change, are paved, and are no more than a quarter mile total in length.
Begin your visit in the Blowing Rock main building. Purchase tickets, but do your souvenir shopping on your way out so you don’t have to carry anything around with you as you explore the rest of the site.
The Blowing Rock is the first stop on the trail once outside of the gift shop building. Climbing the rock is allowed to get that famous photograph, but keep in mind it is climb at your own risk. Be careful!
Toss a leaf over to see it float right back up, but please refrain from throwing anything heavy over the edge. It’s a wind anomaly, not a gravitational anomaly. Rocks won’t beat gravity.
Continuing on to the Gorge View Annex building, grab snacks or use the restrooms. The trail then diverges: either continue straight onto the Observation Tower for panoramic views of the mountains and the gorge below, or turn right to explore the Nature Trail.
The nature trail loops under the observation tower, through a picnic area, and back to the annex building. The Annex also has a small museum of the history of the Blowing Rock tourist attraction.
The Blowing Rock is touted as the state’s oldest tourist attraction. In the museum you’ll find old signs, lots of photographs, and artifacts from the original resorts.
Once done at the Annex, continue back the way you came, turning right into the gardens for a small waterfall and another small overlook, until coming back to the exit through the gift shop in the main building.
Is Blowing Rock Worth Visiting?
The small entrance fee and easily accessible paths combined with the gorgeous views and the fun geologic anomaly make this site worth a quick visit.
There is not enough here at the Blowing Rock site to warrant a full day trip for just this site, but there are plenty of other things to do in the town that would round out a perfect day trip to Blowing Rock, NC.
Not to mention Boone, NC is just 15 minutes to the north and worth a visit of its own. The Blue Ridge Parkway also passes through town, and Asheville is just 2 hours’ drive down the parkway. Grandfather Mountain with its famous Mile-High Suspension Bridge is a short 30 minute drive to the southwest along the Parkway.
Final Thoughts: Blowing Rock is worth visiting, and not to be missed in the fall!
While the Blowing Rock site may not be a full-day activity, it is worth a quick visit to see this fun natural anomaly for yourself!