Cowee Mountain Overlook is located at Milepost 430 of the Blue Ridge Parkway. At 469 miles long, the parkway is the longest linear park in America, running through 29 counties in Virginia and North Carolina along the Blue Ridge of the Appalachian Mountains. The parkway was named the most-visited site in the park system this year, according to the National Park Service.
Cowee Mountain Overlook offers a photographer’s sanctuary because of its breathtaking panoramic views of mountain ridges. Blue Ridge Parkway offers plenty of spots for roadside picnics, breathtaking vistas and easy to difficult hiking trails. Using the milepost system, you can easily find points of interest along the way.
Climate depends on latitude, elevation and topography, and varies from one point to the next on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Weather conditions on the parkway can be both extreme and fast-changing. Rain and fog occur routinely throughout the year. Rain showers are constant in summer, abate in fall, turn to periodic snow in winter, and increase again in spring.
During fall, the temperature begins to drop in August and rain begins to subside in September. Cooler, dryer days are initial signs that the fall color change is approaching. Toward October, temperatures drop, allowing for hoarfrost and light snowfall to occur. Fall foliage color usually peaks in the last two weeks of October, and leaves begin to fall in late October or early November.
With over 200 overlooks, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers plenty of opportunities to take in the scenery. Cowee Mountain Overlook tops my list for taking in a sunset in these parts of North Carolina. It’s one of the most-visited and photographed sites for photographers and sightseers.
Located along the roadside, with ample parking space, are spots for setting up your tripod. You’ll notice cars piling up and camera tripods set up in rows an hour before sunset. This spot offers 180 degrees of panoramic vistas of mountain ridges. Composing your image will come easy since the view isn’t limited to photographing mountain ridges or crepuscular rays beaming from the mountains.
My favorite spot allows me three distinct spruce firs as my subject, with the valley in the background providing endless ridges. Each sunset here offers a different atmospheric feel. From fog to sun rays beaming from the horizon or storm clouds moving over the ridges, to soft light projecting blue casts on the mountains from which Blue Ridge Parkway derived its name. This overlook is usually busier during the fall season. The valley provides a burst of colors ranging from red to orange and yellow, blanketing the entire scene.
The foliage-viewing season runs from the end of September to late October. During October, visitors jam the highway to get a glimpse of scarlet sourwoods, golden poplars on display before a green canvas of southern Appalachian conifers. Another great time to visit is during spring, as you’ll have a different feel with young buds blooming that are majestic to photograph.