The Blue Ridge Parkway extends 469 miles through the southern Appalachians of Virginia and North Carolina, linking Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountain National Parks along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Designed as a "scenic drive", the Parkway provides both stunning scenery and close-up looks at the natural and cultural history of the mountains.
Blue Ridge Parkway
400 BB&T Bldg.
Asheville, NC 28801
Telephone 1-800-PARKWATCH (727-5928)
The Parkway passes through western Virginia and North Carolina, with access from several major highways and cities. Asheville, NC, and Roanoke, VA, are the largest metropolitan areas along the Parkway.
OPERATING HOURS, SEASONS:
The Parkway motor road is open year-round, although severe weather may close many sections during the winter months. Visitor centers are generally open from May through October, and campgrounds from April through October. All lodges and facilities close during the winter, with the exception of the Peaks of Otter Lodge and the Linville Falls and Otter Creek campgrounds.
CLIMATE, RECOMMENDED CLOTHING:
The Parkway ranges from 650 feet above sea level to over 6,000 feet, so expect rapidly changing weather conditions. The weather is generally mild, but summertime temperatures can reach the 90's and winter can produce extended periods with single digit temperatures, ice, wind, and snow.
Approximately 17 million people per year people travel the Parkway, making it the most visited site in the National Park System. The greatest visitation is during summer holidays and during the fall color season in mid-October.
The motor road is marked every mile by concrete mileposts beginning at MP 0 near Shenandoah NP and ending at MP 469 at Great Smoky Mountain NP. The winding nature of the road may make it difficult for large recreational vehicles, but all personal vehicles, motorcycles, tour buses and bicycles are allowed. No commercial traffic is permitted!
FEES, COSTS, RATES:
There is no fee for travelling on the Parkway, or for visitor centers and picnic areas. Camping fees are $10.00/night for families or groups with two adults, plus $2.00 for each additional adult over age 18.
FACILITIES AND OPPORTUNITIES:
These facilities are spaced out along the entire length of the Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia:
Visitor Centers: There are eleven visitor centers along the Parkway, five in Virginia and six in North Carolina. Each is designed to provide information on the activities and facilities in the area, as well as providing general information about the Parkway. Concession operated lodges/cabins/restaurants: There are four concession operated lodges and cabins along the Parkway, along with seven restaurants, four service stations and other facilities.
Campgrounds: The nine campgrounds have tent pads, trailer sites, picnic tables, fire pits, lantern posts, dump stations, and comfort stations with cold running water sinks. There are no hook-ups or shower facilities. Camping is allowed only in designated areas.
Picnic areas: There are picnic tables in all developed areas, as well as tables at some overlooks along the motor road.
Handicap access: All Parkway campgrounds have at least one accessible site, and all visitor centers and lodges are accessible. In addition, there is a wheelchair accessible fishing dock at Otter Lake and a wheelchair accessible trail at Linville Falls.
Private facilities: Private campgrounds, restaurants and hotels may be found in many of the communities and towns that adjoin the Parkway.
RECOMMENDED ACTIVITIES, PARK USE:
Overlooks and trails offer breaks during a drive, and there are ranger programs at most developed areas during the summer and autumn months. The Parkway provides wonderful opportunities for:
Hiking - The Parkway offers 100 trails ranging from short "leg-stretcher" walks to the Appalachian Trail.
Wildflowers & Fall Colors - The variety of the mountain environment makes the Parkway an excellent location for both wildflower walks in the springtime and brilliant leaf color in the autumn.
Photography - The combination of historical and natural areas make the park an excellent destination for photographers.
Historical and Cultural Demonstrations - Several developed areas offer hands-on demonstrations of mountain life and culture, including Humpback Rocks, the Johnson Farm and Mabry Mill.
Ranger Guided Walks and Evening Programs - During the summer season, most developed areas offer evening programs, or more traditional campfire programs, along with guided walks and special programs.
Traditional mountain music programs - At Roanoke Mountain, Rocky Knob, The Folk Art Center and probably somewhere else, the Parkway celebrates its mountain culture through mountain music events.
Birdwatching - Because the Appalachian Mountains shape the flyway for most eastern migratory birds, the Parkway is an excellent place for both birdwatching and autumn migratory bird counts.
Bicycling - The slow pace of bicycling on the motor road may be one of the best ways to enjoy everything that the park has to offer. Bikes are prohibited on all trails, however.
No reservations are taken on the Parkway, except at lodging facilities operated by the concessionaires. Special permits are required for hunter access, hang gliding, commercial activities, weddings, etc. These can be obtained through Parkway headquarters in Asheville, NC.
BASIC VISIT RECOMMENDATIONS:
Plan to travel slowly. The Parkway speed limit is 45 mph (35 mph in developed areas), and you should allow time for frequent stops to enjoy the park. To travel the Parkway safely from Shenandoah to Great Smokies will take a full day and a half of driving.
SPECIAL EVENTS, PROGRAMS:
There are evening programs, ranger guided walks, historical and cultural demonstrations, and music programs scheduled at the developed areas from June until October. In addition, the Parkway offers Parks As Classrooms programs to students during the school year.
Be prepared for variable weather, with sudden summer thunderstorms, winter snow, or fog year round. Much of the Parkway spends is on the crest of the mountain range, so be aware of changing weather. Also beware of animals on the road, and drive cautiously to avoid seeing our wildlife too closely!