After climbing (and descending) the requisite 499 steps to the top of Chimney Rock for a view of Lake Lure, head down the Great Woodland Adventure Trail or Four Seasons Trail for a stunning display of bright white and pale pink Carolina rhododendron blooms. The park is one of the best places in the state to see this variety.
About 20 miles northeast of Asheville, high up on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the open balds of Craggy Gardens showcase hundreds of pink and purple Catawba rhododendron blooms, which reach their peak in mid-June. For the best views, park at the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center at Milepost 364 and make the gradual uphill hike on the one-mile Craggy Gardens Trail.
For a moderately difficult, 1.5-mile round-trip hike, begin the Summit Trail at the picnic area near the entrance to the park. It soon joins up with the Rhododendron Trail, which, beginning in early June, winds through purple Catawba rhododendron flowers. Follow the path along a ridgeline leading to Luther Rock, a black volcanic rock outcropping with spectacular views of valleys and peaks beyond. Continue following the trail to arrive back at the picnic area.
A historic 1937 stone fire tower is the centerpiece of this bald overlooking Nantahala National Forest. For the best opportunity to see native rhododendron — and for a panoramic view of four surrounding states — climb the 53-foot tower. Here, the Appalachian and Bartram trails intersect, making the structure a famous destination for tired travelers who come to picnic and take in the vistas.
In June, you can admire Grandfather’s native blooms all month long thanks to a wide variety of elevations — a nearly 1,000-foot difference from the mountain’s base to its summit. The vivid pink and purple blooms of Catawba rhododendron frame the trails throughout early to mid-June. And later in the month, the paler pink Rosebay rhododendron blooms take center stage. Happy hiking!