Camping under the October Sky: Julian Price Campground, NC
Everything you've ever heard about the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway is only made better with the turn of the seasons. October, with its cooler temperatures and lower humidity, ratchets up the vibrance of an already beautiful time of the year for camping and hiking in western North Carolina.
Julian Price Campground
Nestled comfortably between the towns of Blowing Rock and Linville, Julian Price Campground at milepost 297 cuddles up with Price Lake and makes for a great camping location. Julian Price Memorial Park– 4,200 acres – was a gift to the National Parks Service (NPS) from the founder of the Jefferson Pilot Standard Life Insurance Company not long after his death in 1947. Combined with the adjacent Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, it encompasses the largest undeveloped area set aside for public exploration on the entire Blue Ridge Parkway.
O suns and skies and clouds of June,
And flowers of June together,
Ye cannot rival for one hour
October’s bright blue weather;
~Helen Hunt Jackson
Maintained by the NPS, the Julian Price Campground has 197 sites spread over 5 loops on both sides of the parkway. Loop A is on the 47-acre Price Lake and also contains 3 premier campsites – 9, 10 and 19. These three are lakefront with unobstructed views and lake access.
Two Hiking Trailheads at Julian Price Campground
Price Lake Loop Trail
Two excellent hike trailheads are located within the Julian Price Campground boundaries. The easier of the two is the Price Lake Loop Trail which departs Price Lake Overlook (milepost 296.7) and continues 2.2 miles along a well-worn and mostly flat trail around the lake. The rolling Blue Ridge mountains and sparkling Price Lake are perfect backdrops for a relaxing picnic or sunset stroll.
Boone Fork Trail
Want to introduce your team to a longer trek? The Boone Fork Trail (BFT), a 5.5 mile loop starting in Julian Price Campground, would be an ideal candidate. The miles tick by surprisingly fast as the trail takes you through green tunnels of rhododendron, scrambles up and down house-sized boulders, and navigates a dozen or so water crossings – both big and small.
This moderate to strenuous trail is well-marked as it rambles through a variety of mountain ecosystems. Start the Boone Fork Trail clockwise from loop B which begins with a warm-you-up climb through tunnels of rhododendron before it hooks up with the Mountains-to-Sea Trail for a ridge-line trace. Then start a long, slow descent through mountain laurels to the Boone Fork River. Keep a sharp eye out for snakes, and ears open for bear. While not required, a side arm of bear spray would not be a bad idea.
The gentle assent from the river bottom, accented by a few ladders, finishes in the swampy bog of an old lake bed before ending back at camp. If you leave around 8am, you'll easily finish in time for lunch either back at camp or at the streamside Price Park Picnic Area, conveniently located near the finish line.