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Not too way back whereas touring across the east coast in our camper van, we determined to take a number of days and eventually discover a part of the well-known Blue Ridge Parkway—and to say the drive was wonderful is an understatement. The Parkway, established in 1936, spans 469 miles of North Carolina and Virginia–from the Nice Smoky Mountain Nationwide Park to Shenandoah Nationwide Park.
Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway offers you an unimaginable have a look at what makes this area of the US so particular. After our journey, we undoubtedly perceive why it’s often known as “America’s Favourite Drive.” We beloved it a lot that we needed to write down this text to share a few of our suggestions and enable you to plan your personal journey on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Blue Ridge Parkway Journey Information
When to Go to Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is usually open and accessible all 12 months spherical, and every season gives a novel and exquisite expertise. Nevertheless, you’ll need to contemplate climate circumstances throughout the totally different instances of 12 months to find out if you’d prefer to discover the Parkway.
There’s a massive vary of elevation alongside the Parkway, from just below 650 toes to over 6,000 toes. With the various elevation comes totally different climate relying on the season and site.
Spring is usually the season with essentially the most unpredictable climate, particularly throughout the month of March. In case you’re traversing the Parkway throughout spring, anticipate extensive swings in temperature and common precipitation (together with snow).
Summer season months see warmth and humidity alongside Blue Ridge, though the excessive elevation of many areas gives a pleasant cooling impact. Rain and thunderstorms are additionally frequent throughout summer season, and excessive winds can generally result in street closures as a result of downed bushes.
Fall is the driest season on the Blue Ridge Parkway. With heat days and cooler nights, it may be one of the crucial nice instances of 12 months to discover America’s Favourite Drive, particularly if you happen to’re in search of out the gorgeous colours of the altering leaves.
Winter brings snow and ice to the area (usually beginning in November), particularly on the Parkway’s larger elevations. This will trigger components of the path to be shut down so you need to plan forward and maintain a detailed eye on the forecast. Whereas there are sections of the Parkway which can be gated and may subsequently be closed off throughout harmful circumstances, different components are ungated so it is going to be as much as you to find out if it’s protected to proceed. Additionally remember the fact that the Parkway’s campgrounds are all closed throughout winter months so that you’ll want to seek out different lodging if you happen to go throughout the offseason.
You might also encounter building or upkeep initiatives (just like the clearing of vegetation on the aspect of the street) alongside the Parkway all year long which may result in closures and delays. We suggest checking the Nationwide Park Service web site for present street circumstances earlier than heading out. We additionally encourage you to cease by one of many customer facilities alongside the Parkway to talk with the rangers who can mark a map with any present closures (that is what we did in the beginning of our journey and it was very useful).
Issues to Do Alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway
Whereas some might imagine the Blue Ridge Parkway is only a technique of getting from one level to a different, that couldn’t be farther from the reality. There’s a ton to see and do alongside this historic route and you may spend days exploring it. Listed below are simply a number of the factors of curiosity we skilled, and a few others that you could be need to add to your itinerary.
Benefit from the Drive
This can be an apparent one, however merely driving alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway and taking within the surrounding magnificence is a vacation spot in itself. Whilst you might not have time to do the complete Parkway or make many stops alongside the way in which, you’ll be able to take pleasure in smaller sections by means of totally different entry factors alongside the route which you’ll find on the Parkway map.
For our journey, we picked up the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville, NC (at milepost 384 to be actual) and took it north to mile marker 0 close to Shenandoah Nationwide Park. Whereas we wished we’d had time to drive the complete Parkway, the chunk we did do was value each mile and we look ahead to doing the remainder of it sooner or later.
No matter the place you begin your Blue Ridge Parkway drive, it’s value making a cease on the Customer Heart and Headquarters in Asheville, North Carolina to study extra in regards to the Parkway, take a break and converse with the park rangers for suggestions and ideas.
Remember the fact that driving every 30 miles on the Parkway usually takes about an hour, with a most velocity restrict of 45 mph. There are additionally no fuel stations alongside the Parkway itself, however there are locations to gas up within the surrounding communities. We averaged about 11 miles per gallon alongside the Parkway in our camper van because of the winding nature of the street and its steep grades.
In case you’re driving an RV, you’ll additionally need to verify the heights of the Parkway’s 26 tunnels (which account for 36% of all street tunnels present in U.S. nationwide parks) to make sure your rig can match by means of them. If the clearance isn’t excessive sufficient on your automobile, you’ll be able to all the time hop off the Parkway to keep away from the tunnels and get again on additional down the street. We additionally encountered periodic tree branches that protrude into the roadway. They had been excessive sufficient to not impede most smaller automobiles, however we needed to navigate round some in our RV.
There are over 300 scenic overlooks the place you’ll be able to pull over to soak within the unimaginable views that make this far more than a typical roadway. We discovered ourselves feeling further fortunate to be driving in our Class B van which has a roof deck, permitting us to climb on high of the van for much more of a hen’s eye view. Regardless of how a lot of the Parkway you drive, or what number of (or few) stops you’re in a position to make alongside the way in which, we assure the drive is likely one of the greatest you’ll ever take.
Security Suggestions: Remember to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway with care. The velocity restrict is usually 45 mph (however drops to 25 in some areas). There are additionally some steep grades, slim street shoulders, and plenty of curves that require attentive driving. We additionally noticed an excellent variety of deer bouncing throughout the street throughout our drive, so pay attention to animals crossing as properly. The Parkway was constructed for motorists, so there are not any bike lanes. Biking must be achieved with excessive warning and drivers ought to all the time pay attention to cyclists sharing the slim street.
Get Artful on the People Artwork Heart
There are lots of locations to cease and discover alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway and we made it simply over a mile on our journey earlier than making our first cease on the People Artwork Heart (at milepost 382). The middle is a superb place to study and see Appalachian arts and crafts. You may even watch the artists themselves doing demonstrations of their work. Many of the gadgets inside are on the market so you’ll be able to take residence a chunk of the native handmade artwork if you want. We discovered it to be very spectacular and suggest stopping by to test it out.
Stand On the Highest Level East of the Mississippi
One other must-stop location for us alongside the Parkway was Mount Mitchell, the very best peak east of the Mississippi River (at an elevation of 6,684 toes and positioned at milepost 355). Regardless of being a bit overcast and foggy that top up, the views had been gorgeous and we had been glad we took the time to get out of the van and stroll to the height. Mount Mitchell additionally has a seasonal Pure Historical past Museum, restaurant, picnic areas and tenting (a few of these are open seasonally, so verify working hours earlier than visiting).
Rock Out on the Mineral Museum
One other spotlight of our journey was the Museum of North Carolina Minerals, positioned at milepost 331. We (particularly Kait) love rocks and it was good to study in regards to the space’s wealthy mineral assets and mining historical past on the museum. There are additionally some cool interactive displays that discover the creation of the Blue Ridge Mountains which gives you a larger appreciation of the geologic wonders you’ll see as you drive the Parkway.
Benefit from the Serenity (and Breakfast) of the Mabry Mill
We had learn in a information e book that the Mabry Mill (positioned at milepost 176) is one of the crucial picturesque locations alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway, so after passing it alongside our route, we determined to name an audible and rapidly discovered a campsite close by so we may go to the mill the next day. It was properly value stopping for.
We loved a implausible breakfast of biscuits and gravy and one of the best candy potato pancakes we’d ever had on the mill restaurant. We then walked the postcard-worthy grounds and noticed the unique sawmill and blacksmith store that also stand at present. There are additionally cultural demonstrations and Sunday afternoon music and dancing throughout sure seasons. Bear in mind that the mill isn’t open all 12 months spherical so that you’ll need to verify the working hours earlier than making a cease right here.
Hit the Trails
There are over 369 miles of climbing trails alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway, too many to listing right here. Regardless of your degree of expertise or how a lot time you have got, you’re certain to seek out loads of hikes to do if you wish to get out and stretch your legs. Two of the paths we skilled on our journey had been Linville Falls (a considerably strenuous hike all the way down to a roaring waterfall the place you’ll be able to dip your toes within the refreshing water) and the Cascades Path (a better, leisurely loop resulting in Falls Creek). Different well-liked trails to take a look at embody Peaks of Otter, Cumberland Knob, and Crabtree Falls.
And A lot Extra…
With 469 miles of Parkway, there are just too many factors of curiosity to cowl on this article, so that you’ll need to do your analysis to decide on what stops you’d like so as to add to your itinerary. Listed below are just some extra highlights we suggest:
- The Orchard at Altapass (at milepost 328), a 100+ year-old orchard the place we stopped to get some scrumptious native apples and take some enjoyable images.
- Moses H. Cone Park (at milepost 294), a powerful property constructed by a textile magnate the place you’ll be able to tour the manor, soak in lovely views of the valley under, and stroll miles of winding carriage trails.
- Blue Ridge Music Heart (at milepost 213), the place you’ll be able to take pleasure in reside performances and study in regards to the music that’s embedded within the historical past of the mountains on the “Roots of American Music” exhibit.
- Humpback Rocks (at milepost 5.8), providing hikes to excessive rock outcroppings and historic farm buildings that gives you a way of life in Appalachia throughout the late 1800s.
Take a look at our Blue Ridge Parkway journey video to see extra of what we did on our journey.
The place to Keep
Given the character of the Blue Ridge Parkway and its proximity to many communities alongside the way in which, there are many choices for staying in a single day relying on what you’re searching for…from resorts and lodges, to developed campgrounds and backcountry tenting.
Blue Ridge Parkway Tenting
There are eight campgrounds alongside the Parkway itself which can be open from Might by means of October (they shut down throughout winter months). The entire campgrounds have potable water, flush bogs, and a dump station (observe that showers are solely accessible at Julian Worth and Mount Pisgah campgrounds). Advance reservations will be made for all campgrounds as much as 6 months upfront, in any other case spots are first come, first served.
We made a last-minute determination to remain on the Rocky Knob Campground (at milepost 167) throughout our journey and had been fortunate to seek out the campground pretty empty, permitting us to snag a spot the day of. Since Rocky Knob isn’t one of many campgrounds with showers, we showered inside our van and loved a calming night time and gradual morning there. We’d suggest spending an evening right here if you wish to discover Mabry Mill or different surrounding points of interest.
The Parkway additionally has three backcountry campgrounds if you happen to’re searching for a extra primitive tenting expertise. Permits are required to camp within the backcountry and are issued on a first-come, first served foundation. You may get a allow on the campgrounds themselves from June by means of October. From November by means of Might, permits can be found on the corresponding District Workplace. There are limits to how many individuals can camp within the backcountry, so advance reservations are advisable.
In fact there are many different campgrounds and RV parks within the communities that encompass the Blue Ridge Parkway, in addition to companies the place you’ll be able to keep in a single day in your RV. We spent our first night time in a neighborhood Walmart parking zone which was surprisingly quiet and peaceable.
If tenting isn’t your factor, there are additionally two lodges on the Blue Ridge Parkway: Peaks of Otter Lodge in Virginia (at milepost 86) and Pisgah Inn in North Carolina (at milepost 408.6). Each lodges are open seasonally so make sure you verify their working calendar and make advance reservations if you happen to can.
Lodges, Motels & Extra
If the campgrounds and lodges on the Parkway are full or don’t fit your wants, the communities close by provide a wide range of resorts, motels, mattress & breakfasts, resorts, and different lodging, so that you shouldn’t have any bother discovering a spot to remain.
Our journey on the Blue Ridge Parkway was unforgettable. Driving from milepost 384 to milepost zero gave us an excellent style of the pure and cultural great thing about the Appalachian area. We may have spent many extra days driving the remainder of the Parkway and exploring all the stops alongside the way in which, and may’t wait to do extra of it sooner or later. There’s actually one thing for everybody on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and we encourage you to find your favourite components of America’s Favourite Drive by experiencing it for your self.