Skip to main content

Blue Ridge Parkway - Rattlesnake Lodge Trail

Cynthia is a digital marketer, writer, and artist. She writes about a variety of topics, especially digital marketing, languages & culture.

The view, walking along the Mountains to Sea Trail heading toward Ox Creek Road.

The view, walking along the Mountains to Sea Trail heading toward Ox Creek Road.

Hikes Near Asheville

Love the forest? Love the mountains? I luckily live near both. I live near the Blue Ridge Parkway right outside of Asheville, NC. It’s one of my favorite places to bike, hike and drive.

The views and beauty are breathtaking.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is 469 miles long. As such, there are a lot of opportunities to get your fill of nature.

Hiking the Mountains Near Asheville

I will focus on a hike I did near Asheville, at milepost 374.4, right by Tanbark Tunnel. You can get there easily from Weaverville, NC via Ox Creek Road. Turn left onto the Parkway and stop just before Tanbark Tunnel. You can park on either side, with the trail on the north side of the road.

It’s an out-and-back trail, and is 2.2 miles long. Round-trip it is 4.4 miles – a good hike! It goes from the ruins of the Rattlesnake Lodge site to Ox Creek Road. If you start out from the Parkway (you can also start from Ox Creek Road going in the opposite direction), you’ll head mostly north.

It'll take you about 2.5 hours to complete the trail. It took me longer because I was caught up taking so many photographs!

Find More Trails on the Parkway

The Trail: Rattlesnake Lodge to Ox Creek Road

As you start out, a cascading stream greets you. Almost immediately, you’ll come to a fork. Take the left trail. You’ll start an ascent, but it’s not too steep.

Once you’ve traveled about ½ mile, you’ll come to the old, historic Rattlesnake Lodge site. The old rock walls and remnants of the old buildings are striking.

As you finish ascending, you’ll come to a “T”. Go left and you’ll head toward the main building remnants of the Rattlesnake Lodge. You’ll also be on the Mountains to Sea Trail.

The flora and fauna are quite diverse. In the spring and summer, hundreds of varieties of wildflowers bloom. Rhododendron, mountain laurel, oak, maple and other sorts of shrubs and trees abound on the trail.

Because the area is moist and humid, a number of varieties of mushrooms like to grow.

As you continue on the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST), you’ll notice that it smoothes out after Rattlesnake Lodge. It’s a well-traveled trail. Along the way on your left, you’ll be able to take in the beautiful vistas and valleys overlooking the Haw Creek community.

As you start nearing Ox Creek Road, you’ll start a gradual descent. You know you’re getting close when the descent turns into switchbacks. At the end of the switchbacks, you’ll see another fork. Head right toward the Ox Creek parking lot.

The parking lot will be your midpoint.

You’ll feel the ascent in your legs as you climb back up the mountain, but if you’re in reasonable shape, it won’t be bad at all. You’ll get to backtrack through the lush forest, rocky outcroppings; you’ll see once again all the beautiful plants, flowers and even animals that greeted you the first time through.

Blue Ridge Parkway at Ox Creek Road

More About Rattlesnake Lodge

Dr. Chase Ambler owned the lodge in the early 1900s. He had it built between 1903 and 1904 as a vacation home and would bring his family there during the breezy, mild North Carolina summers. As soon as school would let out, the Ambler family would stay at the lodge until it was time for the children to go back to school.

Workers used rocks and trees from the area to construct the buildings, furniture and other items. The larger logs on the property were made from chestnut.

This homestead reflected the needs and likes of the family. It had a swimming pool, tennis courts, a number of guest bedrooms, a large dining room, cabins for caretakers, a barn and stables. It also had a large yard with lush gardens for everyone to enjoy.

Dr. Ambler sold the property in 1920. Only a short time later, in 1926, it burned down, most likely due to a lightning strike.

Dr. Ambler loved the outdoors. He eventually helped create the southern chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club, that later became the Carolina Mountain Club. The CMC maintains the Mountains to Sea Trail near Asheville.

More About the Mountains to Sea Trail

The idea for the trail came about in the 1970s. Right now, it’s over 400 miles in length, extending through North Carolina and parts of Tennessee.

The trail is still under progress, however. When it’s finished, it will stretch nearly 1000 miles, starting at Clingman’s Dome in Tennessee all the way out to Jockey’s Ridge on the coast of North Carolina.

People who enjoy hiking – both for short hikes and longer backpacking trips – will have a lot of fun exploring the length of the MST. Even though all parts of the trail are not finished, hikers can still go on back roads and other paths to complete their through-trek of the MST.

Different jurisdictions maintain the trail. As mentioned above, near the Asheville section of the trail, the Carolina Mountain Club maintains the trail and Rattlesnake Lodge.

The area is so lush, plants seemingly grow right out of the rocks!

The area is so lush, plants seemingly grow right out of the rocks!

Safety Considerations

Even if you're going on a short hike, it's important to stay safe.

In the summertime – when I hiked this trail – it can get quite hot. Bring plenty of water. You must not drink from the streams.

Please be a good steward to the forest. Pack out what you bring in.

Be prepared for changes in weather. Bring rain gear or clothes to layer on, in case the temperature drops. For this particular trail, you’ll be at or around 4400 ft. above sea level.

Wear good shoes. The trails get rocky and difficult to maneuver at times. It’s best to have a sturdy pair of shoes.

Stay on the trail. It’s sometimes tempting to bushwhack – especially through the switchbacks – but it contributes to erosion and to the destruction of fragile plants.

For emergencies out on the Parkway, call 1-800-PARKWATCH.

© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun


Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on October 06, 2016:

Christy - you are DA SWEETEST! Thank you for coming by and for sharing! :D

Christy Birmingham from British Columbia, Canada on October 06, 2016:

Now this sounds like a GREAT place for a hike, C!! Let's do it :)

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on March 20, 2013:

Dale - I visited your blog. Fantastic! I'm following you there.

Tylermj23 - I really want to explore the Parkway up your way, too. I have been on most of it in NC as we used to live up near Boone, but still: it's still incredible, mile after mile. :)

Torrilynn - I'm addicted to hiking and biking. Thank you so much for all your wonderful comments.

torrilynn on March 19, 2013:


thanks for this hub

I love hiking here at the wildlife national park

that we have I feel that hiking is invigorating and very fun

thanks for sharing things that you can do in North Carolina

Voted up

tylermj23 from Roanoke, VA on March 19, 2013:

I recently moved to the Roanoke, VA area to start my new career. I absolutely love biking, hiking, and driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway from mile roanoke on to the southwest. I would love to venture on the Parkway near Asheville as I bet the scenery is even better down there. Thanks for you great and informative hub on this wonderful area of North America!

Dale Hyde from Tropical Paradise on Planet X on March 19, 2013:

Great, cclitgirl! I have sent you a message. :)

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on March 19, 2013:

Truthfornow - hehe, I grew up in Colorado, so I'm a "transplant" but I have fallen in love with this area. I wasn't sure about it at first because it is so different from the Rockies, but now, I've lived almost half my life in North Carolina. :D

Dale - hehe, the Parkway is so majestic. Old Fort is a fun little town. As for studying with Chief Two Trees, I admit I'd like to know more! Thank you. :)

Dale Hyde from Tropical Paradise on Planet X on March 18, 2013:

Wonderfully done! Yes, I have hiked the Parkway and have driven it as well. :) As a former resident of Old Fort, North Carolina, whilst studying with Chief Two Trees, I had the opportunities to spend days, if not weeks, enjoying the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Well done! Thanks for the memories. Voted up, interesting and useful. :)

Marie Hurt from New Orleans, LA on March 18, 2013:

I visited Ashville many years ago and remember it as being so beautiful. Thanks for such detailed information about all the hiking trails. I would love to go back to that area.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on March 18, 2013:

Thank you, Vicki. :) I didn't know you've been through Asheville before. :) It's a great place to live for sure.

Caseymel - that's great! I love these mountains so much, too. :)

Crystal Tatum - the Biltmore House is incredible, especially around Christmas. :) Thank you for your feedback.

Crystal Tatum from Georgia on March 18, 2013:

Sounds lovely. I've been to the Biltmore House in Asheville, but never explored the surroundings. Voted up and interesting and shared.

Melanie Casey from Indiana on March 18, 2013:

I am in Northern Virginia and we visit the Blue Ridge Mountains about a half an hour from our house. It is beautiful! We usually drive along Sky line drive and find trails. I love it!

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on March 18, 2013:

This is beautiful. I have actually been through Asheville on a college trip to Ridgecrest. Your photos are beautiful. How relaxing this place must be!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on September 06, 2012:

Happyboomernurse - the views on the! I have fallen in love with hiking/biking/driving the parkway. The beautiful scenery is just stunning. That mushroom is crazy, isn't it? Haha. Thank you so much for comin' by.

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on September 05, 2012:

I've driven along the Blue Ridge Parkway several times and even when riding in a car it's breathtakingly beautiful.

Loved your photos and the way you took the reader through a step by step tour of the Rattle Snake Lodge to Oxcreek Rd. Trail.

I also enjoyed reading the history of the lodge.

My favorite photo in the slide show was of the colorful mushroom.

Voted up, useful, awesome, beautiful and interesting.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on August 13, 2012:

Mr. Archer - you DO remember right. :) Yes, parts of it were filmed near the Biltmore Forest in Asheville. I LOVE this area and thank you so much for the compliments. I also hope that through my writing, it will help inspire people to keep all these areas pristine and beautiful because they are such treasures. Thank you so much!

Mr Archer from Missouri on August 13, 2012:

Gorgeous pictures, and beautiful words. If I remember right (which is rare!), I think the movie Last of the Mohicans was filmed in part in North Carolina. Just a magnificent area. You are blessed to live in such an area, and to have the talent to write about it.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on July 21, 2012:

Christy - I love hiking, too. I always discover something and I always feel refreshed after a great hike. :)

Christy Birmingham from British Columbia, Canada on July 20, 2012:

I LOVE hikes! So much fun and a great way to interact with nature. I vote up and awesome. Glad too that you included the note about safety.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on July 09, 2012:

Pavesvoice - thank you so much! I appreciate your feedback. I know Route 81! I used to live not too far from the Virginia border. I'm a transplant from Colorado, but I loved the beauty here in Western North Carolina the first time I saw it. :) The skyline is spectacular and wondrous, indeed! Cheers!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on July 09, 2012:

Hehe, Terrye - come on! You'll have to contend with a crazy yellow lab, but that's okay because he's only TOO happy to go hiking with you. Ha! Hubhugs to you!

Dennis L. Page from New York/Pennsylvania border on July 09, 2012:

Voted up, interesting and beautiful. This article hit upon everything to draw a reader into the gorgeousness of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Your pictures were exquisite. Ashville and the surrounding area is lovely. Driving down Route 81, south of Winchester, Virginia my wife and I always comment on the changing skyline as we witness the wonder on the outskirts of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on July 09, 2012:

On my way, CC! :) Can I stay at your house. The couch is fine. I'll only be there for a month. :) heheeh *hubhugs* :)

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on July 09, 2012:

Audra, aw shucks. After hubs like yours with the photos, I definitely have a new love of photography. :) It's wonderful attempting to catch some of the beauty I see. Thanks so much for stopping by!

iamaudraleigh on July 08, 2012:

Out by the old tennis courts and a black eyed susan are my favorite photos...great job!!! What great senery and beauty you saw when hiking in NC! It feels so good huh? There is nothing better! Great hub that brought me to a wonderful place! Voted up definitely!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on July 08, 2012:

kartika damon - thanks for stopping by! The Blue Ridge area is lovely for sure. Have a wonderful day! Cheers.

kartika damon from Fairfield, Iowa on July 08, 2012:

This part of the country is so beautiful - happy hiking and thanks for sharing!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on July 07, 2012:

alocsin - your comment made me chuckle. :D Desert shrubbery and suburban concrete, eh? Okay, I've been to SoCal and it's beautiful! I love it there - I might even consider moving there if I had a reason to. :D Thanks for coming by - cheers! You rock, Aurelio. :)

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on July 07, 2012:

It's great that you have such beautiful greenery near you. Here in Southern California, we have to contend with desert shrubbery and suburban concrete. Voting this Up and Beautiful.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on July 07, 2012:

Teaches, wow! I didn't know you lived in the Appalachians! That's great! The trails are beautiful and for you to have a mountain view - so lucky! :D Thank you for your kind feedback. Hubhugs!

Dianna Mendez on July 07, 2012:

You have brought back many memories for me. We lived at the foothills of the Appalacians for many years and hiked these trials often. The mountain view was one I could see from my home every morning. Your hub is well written and filled with adventure!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on July 06, 2012:

Sounds good, Bill! Looking forward to meeting you and Bev in person someday soon. :) Come on over! It's not so different from where you are - we get LOTS of rain. Hehehe.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 06, 2012:

I'm still not getting notified about everyone's have three I haven't read. I'm so sorry, Sis! This was a great hub; I would love to hike these trails some day. I'll tell you when I'm going to be there and you can be my guide.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on July 06, 2012:

Brenda - hehe, I think I've sacrificed life in the fast lane so I can be in these mountains. I grew up in the Rocky Mountains, but if I can't be in those mountains, I have to be here. :) It, indeed, is a beautiful place, full of history...and adventure. Thanks for stopping by.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on July 06, 2012:

Attikos - cool! I always love a great story like that. Write a hub about that! :) It is hauntingly beautiful. You reminded me of movie. Have you seen the "Songcatcher"? Not the one by Sharyn McCrumb (she wrote a book called the Songcatcher) but the movie. It's about being in the Blue Ridge Mountains...and the ballads that people made of the area. Great movie. I have to watch it once a year.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on July 06, 2012:

Bankscottage - could be in for a very interesting adventure if you decide to stick it out through the night. I dare you to get it on camera. ;) Hehe.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on July 06, 2012:

Attikos - you gave me some hub ideas - I always love "haunted stories."

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on July 06, 2012:

bankscottage - That's wonderful! I think you should do hubs about your day hikes with the AT. Congrats on doing that. Learning the history is always so fun to me, too. Thanks for stopping by ~ Cheers!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on July 06, 2012:

Efficient Admin - thanks for stopping by! I used to live up near Boone and would go over to Blowing Rock via the Parkway frequently. That, too, is a beautiful area. Pisgah forest is a great bet, too. Thank you again for the votes and kudos. Cheers!

brenda12lynette from Utah on July 06, 2012:

I am jealous you live so close to such beauty!! That hike sounds awesome, and your pictures are beautiful! Voted up and shared :)

Attikos from East Cackalacky on July 06, 2012:

I've been resting after lunch on the front step stone of a long gone cabin in the Blue Ridge and have had a powerful feeling I'm not alone. Once in a blue moon I even see a shadow, movement you can't quite pinpoint. I'm not sure they're really ghosts, but I'm not sure they're not, either. Let's just call our beloved Ridge hauntingly beautiful.

Mark Shulkosky from Pennsylvania on July 06, 2012:

Maybe ghosts. I've heard about them in Gettysburg and Savannah. That is why I day hike.

Attikos from East Cackalacky on July 06, 2012:

The Blue Ridge is filled with ghosts, isn't it, Bankscottage?

Mark Shulkosky from Pennsylvania on July 06, 2012:

Beautiful pictures. This looks like a great hike! I am day hiking the AT when I get a chance. I am just entering northern VA. 500 miles and I'll be there. I love learning about the history that goes with a hike. Every time I come upon an old road or foundation, I wonder why it was there and why it was abandoned.

Michelle Dee from Charlotte, NC on July 06, 2012:

I love the Blue Ridge and would love to hike this trail. I have been on the Moses Cone trail right off of BRP in Blowing Rock, and would love to hike in the Pisgah National Park one day as well. Great article, voted up and thanks for sharing those beautiful photos.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on July 06, 2012:

samsons1 - thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. :) I was definitely trying to capture the experience; I'm so glad you almost felt like you were there. That's a great compliment to a writer. :) Thanks again - cheers and blessings.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on July 06, 2012:

tsmog - that's awesome! I like to ski at Snowshoe from time to time. It's a beautiful place. Yes...Almost Heaven. :)

Sam from Tennessee on July 06, 2012: