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The Blue Ridge Parkway - Route Highlights

Blue Ridge Mountains

Motorhome tour highlights
(Click on a title or scroll down)

yellow arrow Click Here for VIRGINIA HIGHLIGHTS
yellow arrow Click Here for NORTH CAROLINA HIGHLIGHTS
Go Blue Ridge Card - Blue Ridge Parkway Activities

Are you planning a trip to the THE BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY? The Blue Ridge Parkway offers a delightful, scenic and often breathtaking tour. But why take my word for it? You can read hundreds of reviews from real travelers on TripAdvisor. Get the truth. Then go.

The scenic beauty of the has Blue Ridge Parkway has earned it the designation as an All American Road. In its restored glory, the parkway has become one of the most visited sites of the National Park system.

Once, these mountains were home to the Cherokee. After they were transferred to their new homes on the Oklahoma reservation, the farmers and settlers who took their place found that surviving in their mountain environment was far from simple. They had to hunt exhaustingly and farm a difficult terrain to extract the very rudiments of an existence.

Today, the settler/farmers of previous times have mostly left. The dwindling supply of game, the difficult farming terrain, the absolute remoteness and the harsh winters all took their toll and contributed to their departure.

After numerous years of extensive logging and over-farming, the scenic beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains has been restored. Together with the cultural remnants of the departed hill people, The Blue Ridge Parkway, part of the Appalachian chain, has become one of the most visited sites of the National Park Service. It has been designated an ALL AMERICAN ROAD by Congress.
Starting at Front Royal in Virginia, the parkway flows for over 400 miles from Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, N.C.

Starting as a depression-era public works project, the monumental undertaking took over 50 years to complete, pioneering enduring standards for parkway design and engineering along the way. It is the nation's first and longest rural parkway. Designed to simulate a natural park-like environment, the 469 miles of "America's Favorite Drive" winds its way through mountain meadows and past seemingly endless vistas, blending naturally into the surroundings of split rail fences, old farmsteads and historic structures that complement the spectacular views of distant mountains and valleys.
The Parkway incorporates several recreation areas, some exceeding 6,000 acres. These parks have visitor centers, camp grounds, picnic areas, trails and, in many instances, concessionaire-operated lodges, restaurants, gas stations and other facilities. Nine developed sites along the Blue Ridge Parkway provide food, lodging, information, restrooms, hiking and interpretation. Campgrounds are open from May to November with fees charged on a per night basis, which includes two adults. Children accompanied by an adult camp free. Drinking water, RV dump stations and restrooms are provided. None of the campgrounds are equipped with showers, electrical hook-ups or laundry services. Winter camping is occasionally available.

The Humpback Rocks Visitor Center at milepost (MP) 5.8, the first of 13 visitor centers on the parkway, is a great place to start your drive. The rangers will happily load you up with a stack of maps and recommend places to see as well as current road and weather information. They will most likely also advise you to take the ¼ mile self-guided tour of the restored 19th century mountain farm. If you time it right you will find colorful characters in period costumes in the farm buildings, who will cheerfully explain the difficulties of 19th century existence in the mountains. You will also learn that this drive is not for hurrying - the speed limit is 45 mph, less in some places, so take your time to discover and savor the subtlety as well as the grandeur of this special place. There are more than 200 overlooks where you can enjoy panoramic vistas, but unless specified otherwise you can park on shoulders as well. Usual care should be taken so as not to endanger yourself and others.

Spring Colors

Blue Ridge Mountains

Autumn blooms

Blue Ridge Mountains

An especially good time to explore the parkway is in the fall, after the summer throngs, like the homesteaders of old, have vanished. That is the time when the autumn leaves turn the mountains into a spectacular color show, and the best campsites are vacant, awaiting your visit.

Parkway Highlights

Wildlife is a especially abundant and a delight to behold. When the sun is high, groundhogs sit erect, and chipmunks and squirrels chatter away. After nightfall nocturnal animals such as skunks, foxes, opossums, and raccoons may be seen along the roadsides. Look for white-tailed deer and black bear in the early morning or evening. Salamanders - less conspicuous but often more colorful - thrive in the moisture rich environment. Many different bird species can be seen during the spring migration season.

Flaura abounds as well. You will find yourself constantly surrounded by trees. In the spring, tuliptrees, serviceberry, and others produce a beautiful array of blooms. Flowering shrubs put on a vivid display rivaling the display of trees in the fall. In the fall the leaves burst into color. Dogwood, sourwood, and blackgum turn deep red. Tuliptree and birches turn yellow, sassafras a vivid orange, and red maples add a multicolored brilliance. The massive oaks turn russet and maroon and the mountain ash berries turn bright red, an excellant food for wintering birds. Evergreens include Virginia pine, white pine, hemlock, spruce, and fir.
Because of the range in elevation, from 649 to 6,047 feet, springtime blooming occurs at different times and places - somewhat earlier in Virginia than in North Carolina. Flame azalea is at its best south of Roanoke to Rocky Knob about mid-May and in the high mountains west of Asheville about mid-June. Mountain laurel blooms along Otter Creek in mid-May and elsewhere on the Parkway in the first two weeks of June. Dense thickets of catawba rhododendron turn purple north of Peaks of Otter to Onion Mountain and along the bluffs of Doughton Park the first week of June and in Craggy Gardens and through the Balsams after mid-June. Various wildflowers begin to bloom in April and continue through fall.

Route Closures

Due to serious damage in 2004 from Hurricane Frances, then again by Hurricane Ivan, many areas along the parkway were closed until the spring of 2005, with two areas that were not fully repaired until the spring of 2006.

At one area, just north of Mount Mitchell, the road was completely washed out during the storms. Although repair crews managed to open this section by May 2005 as a gravel road, it sunk eight feet (nearly 2.5 meters) again after heavy rains from Tropical Storm Arlene in June. It has since been reopened. The other closure, just south of Linn Cove and the Linn River extending south to the Bear Den overlook, was caused due to severe erosion from flooding, but has also been repaired.

Other damage, including the flooding of the visitor center at the Linn River, has been repaired, and all other facilities are open for the season.

It is also not unusual for small sections of the Parkway to be temporarily closed to repair damage caused by the cold winter climate of the mountains. Detours caused by these closures are well-marked, and are arranged to cause as little disruption as possible.

Parkway Contact Details


For current road and weather conditions dial (828) 298-0398. (it's a recorded message).


To report criminal activity, fires, accidents, or other emergencies, call 1-800-PARKWATCH


U.S. National Park Service
Blue Ridge Parkway
199 Hemphill Knob Road
Asheville, NC 28803
(828) 271-4779

bullet For a listing of tunnel heights along the parkway, visit www.nps.gov/archive/blri/tunnels.htm

Blue Ridge Mountain reviews from real travelers



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