The Blue Ridge Parkway

Arguably one of the most scenic drives in America, the Blue Ridge Parkway combines engineering ingenuity with natural wonder. Spanning over 469 miles, this scenic byway winds its way through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in North Carolina and Virginia, offering travelers a sampling of the beauty and diversity of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In this blog post, we’ll explore answers to the most common questions asked about the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina

What is the Blue Ridge Parkway?

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469 mile scenic National Parkway renowned for its stunning mountain overlooks, natural aesthetic, and rich cultural heritage. It stretches from the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, slicing through the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

 

To begin your drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’ll start at Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro, Virginia, where it connects with the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. From there, it winds its way southward through Virginia and North Carolina, eventually terminating at Oconaluftee in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, North Carolina.

 

Prepare for your drive by fueling up in town before hitting this highway. Although there are multiple exits off the Blue Ridge Parkway to restock your supplies, you won’t find any gas stations along the main road. This was purposefully designed in order to preserve the natural beauty of the region.

Who Built the Blue Ridge Parkway?

The construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway was a monumental undertaking that began during the Great Depression as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal initiatives. The project was overseen by the National Park Service and the Public Works Administration, with thousands of workers, including Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) members, laboring tirelessly to create this scenic roadway. Notable figures involved in its planning and execution include landscape architect Stanley Abbott and engineer Stanley W. Auman.

 

Construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway began in 1935 and continued in phases over the next several decades. The final section was completed in 1987, marking the finale of this ambitious project that aimed to preserve and showcase the natural beauty of the Appalachian region.

 

What makes the Blue Ridge Parkway special is the ability to combine man-made engineering with nature-made scenery. While driving the length of this enchanting highway, you’ll notice how the road hugs the natural curves of the Blue Ridge Mountains. To help preserve the unspoiled beauty of the area, while still giving access to vehicles, engineers planned and executed this highway to mold into the mountains. In order for the road to blend seamlessly into these historic mountains, you’ll find yourself faced with twists, turns, and tunnels blasted directly under the mountains!

Why Does the Blue Ridge Parkway Close?

Blue Ridge Parkway tunnel

The Blue Ridge Parkway occasionally closes due to various factors, including inclement weather, maintenance work, and safety concerns. Winter weather, in particular, can lead to temporary closures, as snow and ice make driving conditions hazardous, especially at higher elevations. There are no exact dates when the Blue Ridge Parkway closes and reopens every year, but it’s almost a guarantee that you will find this road blocked off during the months of January and February.

 

In addition, park rangers may decide, at their discretion, if the Parkway needs to be evacuated and blocked with very little warning. Although the weather may seem ideal on certain sections of the road, potential incoming severe weather will lead to the Parkway being shut down for safety measures.

 

Keep in mind that when the Blue Ridge Parkway does start to become available to motorists every spring, certain sections will still be closed off. The Craggy Gardens section (Milepost 364.4 – 367.6) is notoriously early to close and late to open every year due to the unsafe weather conditions which tend to linger due to the higher elevation of this area.

 

Landslides, fallen trees, and rockslides are also common occurrences that may necessitate closures for visitor safety and road repair.

Who Can Use The Blue Ridge Parkway?

The Blue Ridge Parkway is open to all visitors, regardless of age, nationality, or residency. It is a public roadway maintained by the National Park Service and is accessible to motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. Additionally, the parkway provides opportunities for various recreational activities, including hiking, picnicking, wildlife viewing, and scenic drives. In fact, there are 272 overlooks along the 469 mile highway where visitors can take a break to sightsee, picnic, or snap an epic selfie!

 

All visitors are asked to respect the rules and regulations established for their safety and the preservation of the natural environment. For more information on how to preserve the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, follow the 7 principles of Leave No Trace.

Which Part of the Blue Ridge Parkway is the Best?

Choosing the “best” part of the Blue Ridge Parkway is like trying to choose your favorite child. Each section has unique aspects where it really shines. Each visitor will have differing opinions on which section is the best; however, some sections are particularly popular for their scenic beauty and recreational opportunities.

 

One particular section that receives a lot of attention is the stretch between Asheville, North Carolina, and the Cherokee Indian Reservation. Here. you’ll find sweeping mountain views and access to attractions like the Folk Art Center and Mount Mitchell State Park, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. Additionally, the area around Grandfather Mountain offers stunning vistas and opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, and photography.

 

Although the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway is awe-inspiring, an area not to be missed is the Linn Cove Viaduct. Located at Milepost 304.4, this seven mile section was the final piece of the construction puzzle. Completed in 1987, the construction was put on hold for 20 years while various stakeholders collaborated to create the road while preserving the fragile ecosystem of the area. Once you set your gaze on the Linn Cove Viaduct, you will see how the road actually hugs the side of Grandfather Mountain. The ingenuity of this masterful construction has become internationally renowned in the engineering world.

Final Thoughts

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most iconic roadways to traverse American soil. It is 469 miles of Appalachian beauty that will leave you with a deeper appreciation for these historic hills. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, history buff, or simply someone in search of awe-inspiring mountain views, a drive along this roadway is something that will not be soon forgotten. 

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