photograph by David Stanley


Jutting from the ancient landscape, The Blowing Rock is billed as “the oldest travel attraction in North Carolina.” In the fall, visitors flock to this splendid rock formation for the spectacular views of autumn foliage, as well as the unique wind patterns that the gorge creates.


The rock itself doesn’t slide, but the water skimming over this wide, 60-foot slope never stops. Which means that although the lifeguards leave and the bathrooms close after Labor Day, the coldest tourist attraction in North Carolina stays open all year long.

Depending on the winds, light objects can float up through the air that rises from the valley. In winter, folks have even observed snow “falling” up.
The water temperature at Sliding Rock never exceeds 60 degrees; in winter, the falls even ice over occasionally.
The Blowing Rock has an observation tower (with a railing) that’s open to the public for a small fee.
Two observation decks are located at the top and bottom of Sliding Rock, so you can watch the sliders slip and shriek without ever putting a toe in the water.
Wind updrafts here have been clocked in excess of 70 mph.
Despite the cold, daring souls have been spotted sliding in March.
Legend has it that an Indian princess, grieving for her lost love, stood atop The Blowing Rock praying for his return, and he was wafted back into her arms by the winds.
A water park before water parks were a thing, Sliding Rock is completely natural. Still, there are restrooms and changing rooms, in case your pants wear out.
At 3,700 feet above sea level, the rock is located on U.S. Highway 321, in the town of Blowing Rock.
Fed by Looking Glass Creek, Sliding Rock is located on U.S. Highway 276 in Pisgah National Forest near Brevard.
Charlie Sellers is the operator of The Blowing Rock. His grandfather Grover Robbins Sr. started the attraction in 1933 when he was mayor of the town of Blowing Rock.
Mark File covers 16 counties in western North Carolina in his online guide He has visited and photographed Sliding Rock at least 20 times, in every season.

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Susan Stafford Kelly was raised in Rutherfordton. She attended UNC-Chapel Hill and earned a Master of Fine Arts from Warren Wilson College. She is the author of Carolina Classics, a collection of essays that have appeared in Our State, and five novels: How Close We Come, Even Now, The Last of Something, Now You Know, and By Accident. Susan has three grown children and lives in Greensboro with her husband, Sterling.