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Blue Ridge Parkway
IUCN Category V (Protected Landscape/Seascape)
Location North Carolina & Virginia, USA
Nearest city Asheville, NC & Roanoke, VA
Coordinates 36°31′07″N 80°56′09″W / 36.51861°N 80.93583°W / 36.51861; -80.93583Coordinates: 36°31′07″N 80°56′09″W / 36.51861°N 80.93583°W / 36.51861; -80.93583
Area 93,390 (377.94 km²)
Established June 30, 1936
Visitors 17,882,567 (in 2005)
Governing body National Park Service
Blue Ridge Parkway route map
The parkway near Grandfather Mountain

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a National Parkway and All-American Road in the United States, noted for its scenic beauty. It runs for 469 miles (755 km), mostly along the famous Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains. Its southern terminus is on the boundary between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina, from which it travels north to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and becomes Shenandoah's Skyline Drive. Land on either side of the road is maintained by the National Park Service. The Parkway is not a National Park, but is a National Scenic Byway and All-American Road, and is the most visited unit in the United States National Park System. In many places, the park is bordered by land protected by the United States Forest Service.

Contents

History

Begun during the administration of U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt, the project was originally called the "Appalachian Scenic Highway." Most construction was carried out by private contractors under federal contracts under an authorization by Harold L. Ickes in his role as federal public works administrator. Work began on September 11, 1935 near Cumberland Knob in North Carolina; construction in Virginia began the following February. On June 30, 1936, Congress formally authorized the project as the "Blue Ridge Parkway" and placed it under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. Some work was carried out by various New Deal public works agencies. The Works Progress Administration did some roadway construction. Crews from the Emergency Relief Administration carried out landscape work and development of parkway recreation areas. Personnel from four Civilian Conservation Corps camps worked on roadside cleanup, roadside plantings, grading slopes, and improving adjacent fields and forest lands. During World War II, the CCC crews were replaced by conscientious objectors in the Civilian Public Service program.

Construction of the parkway took over 52 years to complete, the last stretch (near the Linn Cove Viaduct) being laid around Grandfather Mountain in 1987. The Blue Ridge Parkway tunnels were constructed through the rock -- one in Virginia and twenty-five in North Carolina. Sections of the parkway near the tunnels are often closed in winter. (Due to dripping groundwater from above, freezing temperatures, and the lack of sunlight, ice often accumulates inside these areas even when the surrounding areas are above freezing.) The highest point on the parkway (south of Waynesville, near Mount Pisgah in North Carolina) is 6053 feet or 1845 m above sea level (AMSL) on Richland Balsam Mountain at Milepost 431, and is often closed from November to April due to inclement weather such as snow, fog, and even freezing fog from low clouds. The parkway is carried across streams, railway ravines and cross roads by 168 bridges and six viaducts.

The parkway runs from the southern terminus of Shenandoah National Park's Skyline Drive in Virginia at Rockfish Gap to U.S. Route 441 at Oconaluftee in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, North Carolina. There is no fee for using the parkway, however commercial vehicles are prohibited without approval from the Park Service Headquarters, near Asheville, North Carolina.[citation needed] The roadway is not maintained in the winter, and sections which pass over especially high elevations and through tunnels are often impassable and therefore closed from late fall through early spring. Weather is extremely variable in the mountains, so conditions and closures often change rapidly. The speed limit is never higher than 45 mph (70 km/h) and lower in some sections.

Deep Gap in North Carolina
Parkway view from Little Switzerland, NC

The parkway uses short side roads to connect to other highways, and there are no direct interchanges with interstate highways, making it possible to enjoy wildlife and other scenery without stopping for cross-traffic. Mileposts along the parkway start at zero at the northeast end in Virginia and count to 469 at the southern end in North Carolina. The mileposts can be found on the west side of the road. Major towns and cities along the way include Waynesboro, Roanoke, and Galax in Virginia; and in North Carolina, Boone and Asheville, where it runs across the property of the Biltmore Estate. The Blue Ridge Music Center (also part of the park) is located in Galax, and Mount Mitchell (the highest point in eastern North America) is only accessible via a state road from the parkway at milepost 355.4.

The parkway has been referenced in popular culture, for example, in the Carbon Leaf song, "Blue Ridge Laughing".

Ecology along the parkway

Flowering shrubs and wildflowers dominate the parkway in the spring, including rhododendrons and dogwoods, moving from valleys to mountains as the cold weather retreats. Smaller annuals and perennials such as the daisy and aster flower through the summer. Brilliant autumn foliage occurs later in September on the mountaintops, descending to the valleys by later in October. Often in early to middle October and middle to late April, all three seasons can be seen simply by looking down from the cold and windy parkway to the green and warm valleys below. October is especially dramatic, as the colored leaves stand out boldly and occur mostly at the same time, unlike the flowers.

Major trees include oak, hickory, and tulip tree at lower elevations and buckeye and ash in the middle, turning into conifers such as fir and spruce at the highest elevations on the parkway. Trees near ridges, peaks, and passes (often called gaps or notches) are often distorted and even contorted by the wind, and persistent rime ice deposited by passing clouds in the winter.

Parkway highlights

(Much of this information comes from the official Blue Ridge Parkway map GPO:2003-496-196/40572 Reprint 2004)

Farm at the Humpback Rock
View from Ravens Roost, October 2006

Highlights in Virginia

"Smart View"
  • 154.5 Smart View is just that; go to the Trail Cabin built in the 1890s and you'll see "a right smart view," especially in early May when the dogwoods bloom.
Mabry Mill
  • 167 to 174 Rocky Knob rises like the cresting of a wave to overlook Rock Castle Gorge.
  • 176.1 Mabry Mill was operated by E.B. Mabry from 1910 to 1935. A trail leads you to his gristmill, sawmill, blacksmith shop, and to other exhibits. Old-time skills are demonstrated in the summer and fall.
  • 188.8 Groundhog Mountain is a good place to see different kinds of rural fences: snake, Post-and-rail, picket and buck. Picnic grounds and observation tower.
Pilot Mountain as seen from Virginia

Highlights in North Carolina

The Cascades along the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway crosses the North Carolina-Virginia state line at mile 216.9. The 1749 party that surveyed the boundary included Peter Jefferson, father of Thomas Jefferson.

The view from Craggy Gardens on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
  • 316.3 Linville Falls roars through the dramatic rugged Linville Gorge. Trails to overlooks.
  • 320.7 Chestoa View trail provides outstanding scenery.
  • 331 Museum of North Carolina Minerals interprets the state's mineral wealth.
  • 339.5 Crabtree Meadows & Crabtree Falls (North Carolina) Campground, Giftshop & Hiking Trails to Crabtree Falls.
  • 355.4 Mount Mitchell State Park, reached via N.C. 128, has a picnic area, lookout tower, and the highest point east of the Mississippi River.
  • 361.2 Glassmine Falls, an 800-foot (240 m) ephemeral waterfall visible from an overlook on the side of the parkway.
  • 363.4 to 369.6 Craggy Gardens in the Great Craggy Mountains appear covered with purple rhododendron in mid to late June. Craggy Pinnacle Trail and other trails (364.1 and 364.6); road to picnic area and trails (367.6).
  • 382 The Folk Art Center is the flagship facility of the Southern Highland Craft Guild. It offers sales and exhibits of traditional and contemporary crafts of the Appalachian region. Interpretive programs, three galleries, a library and a book store.
  • 384 The Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center is the newest attraction along the Parkway. The building itself is LEED- certified[1] and reflects the cutting edge of energy-saving technology. The Center houses a 70-seat theater showing an award-winning 24 minute film about the region. Information and orientation services are provided by the National Park Service and the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. Eastern National has a retail shop offering books, apparel and more. There are several exhibits, including a 22-foot interactive map of the entire Blue Ridge Parkway known as the "I-Wall" which provides multi-media information on places to visit on and around the Parkway. Other exhibits focus on the history and heritage of the Parkway and Western North Carolina. Open year-round from 9am-5pm.
  • 408.6 Mount Pisgah was part of the Biltmore Estate. The estate became home of the first forestry school in America and the nucleus of the Pisgah National Forest.
Blue Ridge Parkway in autumn near Looking Glass Rock
  • 417 Looking Glass Rock is visible from many spots on the Parkway starting at Mount Pisgah.
  • 418 East Fork Overlook. Located here are the headwaters of the Pigeon River. Yellowstone Falls is a short distance away and gets its name from the yellowish moss covering the rocks. You can find U.S. Forest Service trail access to Shining Rock Wilderness Trail system here.
East Fork Overlook from Blue Ridge Parkway
Black Balsam Knob, Graveyard Fields and Yellowstone Falls as seen at sunrise from Milepost 419.
  • 458.2 Heintooga Overlook spur road goes to a mile-high overlook 1.3 miles (2.1 km) from the parkway.
Sign marking the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, near Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Closures

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

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. These sections are now open.

Partners

(Much of this information comes from the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation's Partners page) The Blue Ridge Parkway is a National Park site and while its operations budget is funded by the United States Congress, it works with many partner organizations that have unique roles in supporting it:

  • The Blue Ridge Parkway Association is a membership organization that includes Parkway attractions, outdoor recreation, accommodations, restaurants, shops, and a variety of other services for the Parkway traveler;
  • The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is the primary and professional fundraising organization for the Blue Ridge Parkway.
  • The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, designated in 2003, recognizes the unique character, culture, and natural beauty of Western North Carolina;
  • Eastern National is the principle provider of quality educational products and services to the visitors to America's national parks;
  • The Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway primary mission is to mobilize and provide leadership for volunteers who assist with a wide variety of Parkway projects;
  • The National Council for Traditional Arts supports the Blue Ridge Music Center in Galax, Virginia;
  • The Southern Highland Craft Guild has galleries at the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park in Blowing Rock, North Carolina and at the Folk Art Center in Asheville, North Carolina;
  • Western Virginia Land Trust protects lands in southwest Virginia and promotes conservation and stewardship of the Blue Ridge Parkway in southwest Virginia.
  • Conservation Trust for North Carolina is a land trust that protects natural resources along the Parkway corridor; in 1996, Gov. Jim Hunt's "Year of the Mountains Commission" appointed CTNC to assume leadership in protecting the Blue Ridge Parkway’s natural and scenic corridor in North Carolina.

See also

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Blue Ridge Parkway (Gorm Sléibhe Mórbhealach)[1] is in the states of North Carolina and Virginia in the United States of America. The Parkway wanders 469 miles between Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, along a very scenic stretch of road.

  • National Park Service Headquarters, 199 Hemphill Knob Road, Asheville, NC 28803, (828) 271-4779, (Fax: (828) 271-4313).
  • Recorded Information Line: (828) 298-0398. Includes information on attraction, road or trail closures. Also updated Parkway weather (but check weather forecasts elsewhere as well).

History

Although the Blue Ridge Parkway is often seen primarily as a scenic byway with many natural attractions, it is also a cross-section of Appalachian mountain history. Stretching almost 500 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge mountains through North Carolina and Virginia, it encompasses some of the oldest settlements of both pre-historic and early European settlement. Overlook signs, visitor center exhibits, restored historic structures, and developed areas, all point out and explain the interesting history.

Native American Culture and Influence

The Cherokee Indians of North Carolina, and the Monacan, Saponi, and Tutelo Indians of western Virginia, were among the earliest inhabitants of the Blue Ridge, leaving artifacts and changes in the landscape as evidence of their existence. Many of the fields still visible at the base of the mountains date back centuries to ancient American Indian agricultural methods of burning and deadening the trees and underbrush to provide needed grazing and crop land. Mountain and river names along the Parkway also reflect the American Indian influence. The best place to learn about the pre-history of the Appalachian chain in Virginia is at the Peaks of Otter Visitor Center museum (milepost 85.9). Arrowheads and early tools found in the Peaks area are exhibited. In North Carolina, the Parkway enters the Cherokee Indian Reservation at milepost 457.7 and features an informational display on the reservation at the Lickstone Parking Overlook (milepost 458.9).

European Homesteads

There are many surviving examples of early European pioneer structures along the Parkway, beginning at Milepost 5.8 at the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center and Mountain Farm exhibit. The easy Mountain Farm Self-Guiding Trail takes you through a collection of 19th century farm buildings, and in the summer months there are often living history demonstrations. The Visitor Center exhibits represent the most complete effort at interpreting the Blue Ridge region with stories about early housing, community, entertainment, and transportation. At the Peaks of Otter (Milepost 85.9) there is a moderate loop trail leading to the Johnson Farm, in which generations of the Johnson family lived and worked with other members of the now-vanished community. Another structure of interest here is Polly Woods Ordinary, representative of the early days of tourism in the area. The Trail Cabin (Milepost 154.6), Puckett Cabin (Milepost 189.9), Brinegar Cabin (Milepost 238.5), Caudill Cabin (Milepost 241), and Sheets Cabin (Milepost 252.4) are all 19th-century log cabins illustrating the occasional isolated existence of mountain residents and the efforts of the original park planners to save log structures as opposed to other types of larger farm houses they found. The Jesse Brown Farmstead (Milepost 272.5) consists of a cabin, spring house, and the relocated Cool Springs Baptist Church.

Industries

Just about every form of 19th-century industrial development in the mountains has its story told somewhere along the Parkway. Yankee Horse Ridge Parking Area (milepost 34.4) has a short stretch of reconstructed narrow-gauge railroad track once known as the Irish Creek Railway, along with an exhibit on logging in the area. The James River Visitor Center (Milepost 63.6) has an exhibit on the ill-fated James River and Kanawha Canal, with a self-guiding trail to a restored lock dating from the mid-19th century. Mining operations in the Appalachians are remembered in place names such as Iron Mine Hollow (mile posts 96.2, 96.4) and at an exhibit in the North Toe Valley Overlook, Milepost 318.4. Of all the points of interest on the Parkway, perhaps Mabry Mill (Milepost 176.2) is the best known. The Mabry Mill Trail features a black smith shop, wheel wright's shop, and whiskey still, as well as the most photographed structure on the Parkway, Mabry Mill itself. As anyone who has traveled in the Appalachians knows, mountain crafts are one of the most popular attractions. Traditional crafts and music still thrive in the Blue Ridge mountains of today. Along the Parkway in North Carolina are several places to view and purchase locally made items, such as the Northwest Trading Post (Milepost 258.6), the Moses Cone Estate and Parkway Craft Center (Milepost 294.1), and the Folk Art Center (Milepost 382).

Modern Era

By the 20th century, the Blue Ridge was viewed as a desirable location for men of wealth to build retreats. The Moses H. Cone and Julian Price Memorial Parks (Mileposts 292 - 298) are examples of this. The Cone estate includes a turn-of-the-century manor house and 24 miles of carriage roads, while the Julian Price Park offers several short trails and a lake.

The most obvious modern contributor to the landscape is of course the Parkway itself, conceived and designed over 60 years ago as a scenic motor road and conservator of the natural and historical treasures of the Blue Ridge. Groundbreaking took place in September 1935 and the work was contracted and completed in "sections." By World War II, about one-half of the road was completed and by the 1960s, all but one section was opened to the public. Fifty Celtic laborers died during the construction, earning the nickname of Bealach Báis. In 1987, the last section was completed around Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, including the Linn Cove Viaduct at Milepost 304, an environmentally sensitive, award winning bridge. Today, the Blue Ridge Parkway is the most visited site in the National Park system.

Landscape

From Milepost 0 at Rockfish Gap, Virginia to Milepost 355 near Mount Mitchell State Park, North Carolina, the Parkway lives up to its name by following the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, averaging about 3,000 feet in elevation, and occasionally dipping down into the coves and hollows or crossing low-elevation water gaps. At Mount Mitchell, the Parkway veers westward through the Black Mountains, then into the Craggies before descending toward Asheville. From there, the road climbs to elevations over 6,000 feet in the Balsam Mountains before entering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee.

Along this route an unsurpassed diversity of climate, vegetation, and geological features are passed. The more than 81,000 acres (32,779 ha) of Parkway lands pass through a highland area of five degrees longitude and approximately 3 degrees latitude, making it the third largest unit of the National Park Service in terms of area covered. The Parkway includes 400 streams, including 150 headwaters. Forty-seven Natural Heritage Areas (areas set aside as national, regional or state examples of exemplary natural communities), a variety of slopes and exposures, and possibly 100 different soil types.

Flora and fauna

With an elevation range of 5,700 feet (1,737m) the Parkway provides a home for both southern species at the lower elevations and northern species on the mountaintops. Taking advantage of this diversity are 14 major vegetation types, over 1,200 vascular plant species (50 threatened or endangered), and almost 100 species of non-native plants. Nearly 100 species of trees grow along the Parkway, about as many as are found in all of Europe. Added to that are estimates of almost 400 species of mosses and nearly 2000 species of fungi. The wide variety of trees makes for a particularly colorful autumn landscape.

Purple rhododendrons bloom from early June around the Peaks of Otter in Virginia to the third week of June at Craggy Gardens in North Carolina. Any time between those dates, there are spots of this variety blooming. Larger white rhododendrons begin in mid to late June and bloom into July, primarily through Rocky Knob, Virginia. Flame Azalea, Pink Azalea or Pinxter Flower bloom early to late May in many Parkway areas. Mountain Laurel blooms mid to late June and into July in higher elevations.

Many species of animals live along the Parkway. Fifty-four different mammals, more than 50 salamanders and 40 reptiles can be found on Parkway lands. One hundred fifty-nine species of birds are known to nest here with dozens of others passing through during fall and spring migrations.

The Parkway's varied vegetative habitats, successive floral displays, autumn foliage, geological features, and animals are major attractions each year for 20 million visitors--the highest visitation in the NPS system.

Climate

The Parkway varies in elevation from just under 650 feet at Virginia's James River to over 6,000 feet south of Mount Pisgah in North Carolina. Weather can vary tremendously over these elevations. Keep abreast of weather conditions for the area you will be traveling in and be prepared with extra clothing or blankets if appropriate.

  • In North Carolina, Asheville and Boone are the largest cities along the Parkway. In North Carolina Interstates 40 and 26 have directions for accessing the Parkway.
  • In Virginia, Roanoke is the largest city along the way. In Virginia, Interstates 64, 81, and 77 all have directions for accessing the Parkway.

Fees/Permits

There is no fee to travel the Blue Ridge Parkway and entrances and exits are available at intersections with all major highways.

There is a charge for camping of $16 per site (2007) and those visitors with Golden Age or Golden Access Passports or the new Interagency Senior or Access Pass pay a reduced camping fee.

For organized activities such as sporting events, ceremonies or large group gatherings, a Special Use Permit may be necessary. Commercial Filming of any type also requires a permit.

Get around

The Parkway connects Shenandoah National Park near Waynesboro, Virginia at Milepost 0 (MP 0) with Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, North Carolina at Milepost 469 (MP 469). The Parkway is meant to be a leisurely drive; various overlooks and trails are great places to stop, stretch and learn about the area.

See

The Folk Art Center in Asheville, the Museum of North Carolina Minerals at Spruce Pine, and the Peaks of Otter Lodge and Restaurant north of Roanoke are open year round. Other facilities, including visitor centers, campgrounds, and picnic areas, begin opening on a staggered schedule in late April and stay open through the fall leaf color.

  • MP 0 The northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Connects here to Skyline Drive, which runs north 105 mi through Shenandoah National Park. Route 250 and I-64 go to Charlottesville to the east and Staunton to the west.
  • MP 1 Afton Overlook
  • MP 2 Rockfish Valley Parking Overlook
  • MP 3 Shenandoah Valley Overlook
  • MP 5 to 9.3 Humpback Rocks Visitor Center Has a self-guiding trail through a collection of antique Appalachian farm buildings. A hiking trail from the parking area (at mile 6.1) leads 0.75 mile to the Humpback Rocks. Picnic area.
  • MP 10 Dripping Rock Parking Area
  • MP 10 Rockpoint Overlook
  • MP 10.7 Ravens Roost Overlook Views of Torry Mountain and the Shenandoah Valley.
  • MP 12 Hickory Spring Parking Area
  • MP 14 Three Ridges Overlook
  • MP 16 Route 814 crosses. Sherando Lake 4.5 miles from the parkway. A recreation area in George Washington National Forest with swimming, picnicking, and camping. Fees.
  • MP 17.6 The Priest Roadside exhibit about hickory trees.
  • MP 19 Twenty Minute Cliff, roadside exhibit explains origin of name.
  • MP 20 The Slacks Overlook
  • MP 23 View Fork Mountain Overlook
  • MP 23 Bald Mountain Overlook
  • MP 26 Masons Knob Overlook
  • MP 26 Big Spy Mountain Overlook
  • MP 27.2 VA Route 56 crosses.
  • MP 29 Whetstone Ridge Overlook Food, phone.
  • MP 32 Stillhouse Hollow Parking Area
  • MP 34.4 Yankee Horse Ridge where a Union soldier's horse fell and had to be shot. A reconstructed spur of an old logging railroad is on the trail to Wigwam Falls.
  • MP 37.5 VA Route 605 crosses.
  • MP 38.8 Boston Knob Overlook Birds of the Parkway exhibit.
  • MP 43 View Irish Creek Valley
  • MP 45 White's Gap Overlook
  • MP 45 Chimney Rock Mountain Overlook
  • MP 46 View Buena Vista
  • MP 48 Indian Gap Parking Area
  • MP 49 View House Mountain Overlook
  • MP 52.8 Roadside display. The Appalachian Trail runs parallel to this section of the Parkway.
  • MP 53.1 Bluff Mountain Tunnel 630 ft long.
  • MP 54 View Rice Mountain
  • MP 55 White Oak Flats Overlook
  • MP 56 Dancing Creek Overlook
  • MP 58 to 63.6 Otter Creek Overlooks Otter Creek runs 10 miles to the James River. Otter Lake is at MP 63.1 with a handicapped-accessible dock. The Park Service runs a campground at MP 60.8 with sites for 42 tents and 26 trailers. Facilities include water, comfort stations with flush toilets and sinks but no showers or hook-ups. Enjoy the campfire circle where interpretive programs are given during the summer.
  • MP 63.7 US Rt. 501 crosses. Lowest point on Parkway at 670'.
  • MP 63.8 James River and Kanawha Canal Visitor Center A footbridge leads across the river to some restored canal locks and exhibits. A self-guiding trail along the river bluff.
  • MP 71 Onion Mountain's short loop trail leads through rhododendron and mountain laurel.
  • MP 73 View Terrapin Mountain Box turtle exhibit.
  • MP 75 Thunder Ridge Overlook
  • MP 76 View Arnold Valley Overlook
  • MP 76.5 Apple Orchard Mountain Overlook
  • MP 79 Sunset Field Overlook
  • MP 80 Onion Mountain
  • MP 80 View Black Rock Hill
  • MP 81.9 View Headforemost Mountain Tulip tree exhibit.
  • MP 83.1 Fallingwater Cascades can be seen along a 1.6 mile loop trail.
  • MP 86 Peaks of Otter Visitor Center Peaks of Otter Lodge and restaurant, campground, picnic area and historic farm. Trails ranging from less than a mile to more than four miles, with nearby access to Appalachian Trail. A shuttle bus provides service to Sharp Top. Fee.
  • MP 89 Flat Top Trail Overlook
  • MP 90 Upper Goose Creek Valley Overlook
  • MP 90 Porter's Mountain View
  • MP 92 Mills Gap Overlook
  • MP 92 Purgatory Mountain View
  • MP 93 Peaks of Otter Overlook
  • MP 93 Boblett's Gap Overlook
  • MP 95 Pine Tree Overlook
  • MP 95 Harvey's Knob Overlook
  • MP 96 Iron Mine Hollow Overlook
  • MP 96 Montvale Town Overlook
  • MP 97 Iron Mine Hollow
  • MP 97 Taylor's Mountain View
  • MP 100 The Great Valley Overlook
  • MP 101 Quarry Overlook
  • MP 107 N & W Railroad Overlook
  • MP 107 View Coyner Mountain
  • MP 110 Read Mountain Overlook
  • MP 110.6 Stewarts Knob Overlook
  • MP 113 View Roanoke Basin Overlook
  • MP 115 Roanoke River Gorge a short walk takes you to the overlook.
  • MP 115.1 Virginia's Explore Park, [2] depicts Virginia's role in westward expansion. Historic buildings, demonstrations and exhibits. Fee.
  • MP 120.4 Roanoke Mountain is a 3.7 mi side trip on a one-way loop road over the mountain for great views. Steep grades. Towed vehicles not permitted.
  • MP 121.5 US Route 220 crosses.
  • MP 123.2 Buck Mountain Overlook
  • MP 129.6 Roanoke Valley Overlook Views of Roanoke, Virginia.
  • MP 130 Lost Mountain Overlook
  • MP 130 Roanoke Valley Overlook
  • MP 133 Slings Gap Overlook
  • MP 134 Bull Run Knob Overlook
  • MP 135 Poor Mountain Overlook
  • MP 139 Cahas Knob Overlook
  • MP 144 Devil's Backbone Overlook Ridge drainage exhibit.
  • MP 145 Pine Spur Overlook
  • MP 154.5 Smart View Trail Cabin built in the 1890's. In early May the dogwoods bloom, but always a "right smart view". Picnic area.
  • MP 158 Shortts Knob Overlook
  • MP 159.3 VA Rt. 860 crosses.
  • MP 163.4 Rakes Mill Pond Turnout
  • MP 155.4 VA Rt. 8 crosses.
  • MP 168 The Saddle Overlook
  • MP 168 Rock Castle Gorge Overlook
  • MP 169 Rocky Knob Overlook
  • MP 177 Mabry Mill A trail leads you to a gristmill, sawmill, blacksmith shop, and other exhibits. Old hand skills are demonstrated seasonally.
  • MP 177.7 US Route 58 crosses near Meadows of Dan.
  • MP 185 Round Meadow Overlook
  • MP 189 View Pilot Mountain Overlook
  • MP 189 Groundhog Mountain See various types of fences: snake, post-and-rail, picket and buck. Observation tower, picnicking.
  • MP 190 Aunt Orelena Puckett Cabin.
  • MP 190.6 VA Route 608 crosses.
  • MP 193.7 VA Route 691, to Hillsville.
  • MP 194.7 VA Route 608 crosses.
  • MP 199.4 Turnoff connects with US 52 near Fancy Gap.
  • MP 203 Mt. Airy Granite Overlook
  • MP 204 View of Piedmont
  • MP 209.4 VA Route 89, 7 mi to Galax.
  • MP 214.3 Hostels International-Blue Ridge Mountains, 214507 Blue Ridge Parkway, Galax, +1 (540) 236-4962.
  • MP 216.9 State Line Virginia/North Carolina
  • MP 217.5 Cumberland Knob Visitor Center Great place for walks or hikes through lush woodlands or open meadows. Nearby Sparta, NC and Galax, VA offer off-parkway services.
  • MP 218.6 Fox Hunters Paradise, a short walk to a spot where hunters could hear their hounds baying in the valley below.
  • MP 238.5 Brinegar Cabin A vintage 1880 cabin.
  • MP 238 to 245 Doughton Park Campground. One of the best places to see deer. Back country campsites.
  • MP 248.1 NC Route 18, 2 mi to Laurel Springs.
  • MP 258.6 Northwest Trading Post Crafts from North Carolina's northwestern counties.
  • MP 258.6 NC Route 16, to Glendale Springs.
  • MP 260.6 Jumpinoff Rock, at the end of a short woodland trail, offers a beautiful view.
  • MP 264.4 The Lump Panoramic views of the forested foothills.
  • MP 272 E. B. Jeffress Park Self-guided trail to the Cascades. Another trail goes to an old cabin and church.
  • MP 276.4 US Route 421, 12 mi. from Boone.
  • MP 285 Daniel Boone's Trace Frontiersman Boone's road to the West crosses near here.
  • MP 291.9 US Routes 321 & 221, 2 mi. to Blowing Rock.
  • MP 292 to 295 Moses H. Cone Memorial Park Horse and hiking trails. Flat Top Manor houses the Parkway Craft Center.
  • MP 295 to 298 Julian Price Memorial Park. The largest campground on the Parkway is here. Interpretive programs, fishing, and boat rentals for Pice Lake. Extensive trails including the Tanawha Trail across the face of Grandfather Mountain.
  • MP 304.4 Linn Cove Viaduct, a design and engineering marvel, skirts the side of Grandfather Mountain. Visitor center and trails.
  • MP 305.1 US Route 221, 3 mi. to Linville.
  • MP 308 Flat Rock parking area. A walk to a dazzling view of Grandfather Mountain and Linville Valley.
  • MP 315 Camp Creek Overlook
  • MP 317.6 US Route 221; 6 mi from Spruce Pine.
  • MP 318 North Toe River Valley
  • MP 320.7 Chestoa View A .6 mi. easy trail with scenic views of verticle cliffs and forests below.
  • MP 331 Museum of North Carolina Minerals, 828-765-9483. Open every day 9AM-5PM. Renovated and expanded in 2002, educational exhibits on minerals and mining.
  • MP 333.4 Little Switzerland Tunnel 547 ft long.
  • MP 337 Deer Lick Gap Overlook
  • MP 339 Three Knob Overlook
  • MP 339.5 Crabtree Meadows Campground with both tent and RV sites, picnic area, restaurant/gift shop/camp store. Walk down to Crabtree Falls -- if you are prepared to hike back up.
  • MP 344.6 Twin Tunnel 240 ft long.
  • MP 344.7 Twin Tunnel 401 ft long.
  • MP 355.4 Mount Mitchell State Park, 2388 State Highway 128 (4.8 mi from Parkway), Burnsville, (828) 675-4611, [3]. Picnic area, lookout tower. Highest point east of the Mississippi River.
  • MP 361.2 Glassmine Falls Overlook, views of the 800 foot waterfall.
  • MP 363 Graybeard Mountain Overlook
  • MP 364.4 Craggy Pinnacle Tunnel 176 ft long.
  • MP 364.4 Craggy Gardens Visitor Center In mid to late June a sea of purple rhododendron. Craggy Pinnacle Trail and other trails are here at MP 364.1 - 364.6. Also a road to picnic area and trails at MP 367.6.
  • MP 365.5 Craggy Flats Tunnel 335 ft long.
  • MP 382 The Folk Art Center, [4]. Open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day. Jan-Mar 9AM-5PM; Apr-Dec 9AM-6PM. The flagship facility of the Southern Highand Craft Guild. It offers sales and exhibits of traditional and contemporary crafts of the Appalachian region. Intrepretive programs, three galleries, a library and book store.
  • MP 382.6 US Route 70, 5 mi. to Oteen & Asheville; 9 mi. to Black Mountain.
  • MP 384.7 US Route 74, 5 mi. to Asheville.
  • MP 388.9 US Route 25, 5 mi. to Asheville; 16 mi. to Hendersonville, 4 miles to Biltmore House, estate of George Vanderbilt.
  • MP 393 French Broad Overlook
  • MP 396 Walnut Cove Overlook
  • MP 397 Sleepy Gap Parking Area
  • MP 398 Chestnut Cove
  • MP 400 Bad Fork Overlook
  • MP 400.9 Ferrin Knob Tunnel No. 1, Trace Ridge 60 ft. long.
  • MP 401 Beaver Dam Gap Overlook
  • MP 401 Wash Creek Valley Overlook
  • MP 401.3 Ferrin Knob Tunnel No. 2 310 ft long.
  • MP 401.5 Ferrin Knob Tunnel No. 3 230 ft long.
  • MP 402 Stoney Bald Overlook
  • MP 403 Big Ridge Overlook
  • MP 403 Young Pisgah Ridge Tunnel 400 ft long.
  • MP 403.9 Fort Mountain Tunnel 350 ft long.
  • MP 404 View Hominy Valley Overlook
  • MP 404 Mills River Valley Overlook
  • MP 406.9 Little Pisgah Tunnel 500 ft long.
  • MP 407 Mount Pisgah Overlook
  • MP 407.4 Buck Springs Tunnel 380 ft long.
  • MP 408.6 Mount Pisgah Visitor Center At almost 5,000 ft elevation this is the highest developed area on the Parkway. Pisgah Inn, (828) 235-8228, has 52 rooms, a restaurant, and gift shop. Campground The concessions-operated campground at MP 408.7, has sites for 70 tents and 67 trailers. Facilities include water, comfort stations with flush toilets and sinks. No showers or hook-ups. Camp Store/service station/gift shop during summer. There is a 50-site picnic area at milepost 407.8. The area was originally developed as part of George Washington Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate. The estate became home of the first forestry school in America and the nucleus of the Pisgah National Forest.
  • MP 410.1 Frying Pan Tunnel 275 ft long.
  • MP 411.8 US Route 276 Four miles to The Cradle of Forestry in America. The first American forestry school, the Biltmore Forest School was established by G.W. Vanderbilt, and operated from 1898 to 1913. Today it continues to teach visitors about American forestry. Visitor center, exhibits, movie, and interpretive trails.
  • MP 417.4 Looking Glass Rock is known for it's sheer face comprised of exposed Whiteside granite. Although it looks impossible to climb, there are many rock climbers that come here for what is considered one of the most strenuous climbs in our area. Fortunately for hikers there are easier ways to the top.
  • MP 418.1 Graveyard Fields flat high mountain valley is located where the Yellowstone Prong of the Pigeon River originates.
  • MP 420.2 Shining Rock Wilderness is the largest wilderness in North Carolina with over 18,000 acres, 25 mi of trails and peaks over 6000 ft.
  • MP 420.2 Black Balsam Knob is a grassy knob with panoramic views just outside of the Shining Rock Wilderness in Pisgah National Forest. The Wilderness also includes Cold Mountain.
  • MP 422.1 Devils Courthouse Tunnel 650 ft long.
  • MP 422.4 Devil's Courthouse is a rugged exposed mountaintop rich in Cherokee traditions. A walk to the bare rock summit yields a spectacular view of Pisgah National Forest.
  • MP 423.5 Herrin Knob Overlook. A hiking trail goes around Tanasee Bald and Herrin Knob. Legend says that Tanasee Bald is the home of the mythical Cherokee giant Tsul 'Kalu.
  • MP 430 NC Route 215 Balsam Grove.
  • MP 431 Richland Balsam's Overlook Highest point on the parkway at 6,047 feet. A self-guiding trail takes you through a remnant spruce-fir forest.
  • MP 439.7 Pinnacle Ridge Tunnel 750 ft long.
  • MP 451.2 Waterrock Knob Visitor Center. Trail leading to the summit, comfort station, exhibits. A panorama of the Great Smokies and a great place to watch sunrises and sunsets.
  • MP 455.7 US Route 19, 5 miles to Maggie Valley.
  • MP 458.2 Heintooga Overlook A side road leads to a mile-high overlook 1.3 miles off the Parkway.
  • MP 458.8 Lickstone Ridge Tunnel 402 ft long.
  • MP 459 Lickstone Ridge Overlook
  • MP 459.3 Bunches Bald Tunnel 268 ft long.
  • MP 460 Bunches Bald Overlook
  • MP 461 Jenkins Ridge Overlook
  • MP 461.2 Big Witch Tunnel 348 ft long.
  • MP 461.9 Big Witch Overlook Home of the last important Cherokee medicine man, "Big Witch".
  • MP 464 Thomas Divide Overlook
  • MP 465.6 Rattlesnake Mountain No. 4 Tunnel 410 ft long.
  • MP 466.3 Sherill Cove No. 6 Tunnel 572 ft long.
  • MP 467 Raven Fork Overlook
  • MP 467 Ballhoot Scar Overlook
  • MP 468 Oconaluftee River Overlook
  • The National Park Service Parkway Event calendar shows events and ranger-led programs.
  • Hiking Both long and short trails are available on Parkway lands.
  • Fishing Fishing is allowed in Parkway lakes and streams with either a North Carolina or Virginia license.
  • Birdwatching
  • Photography

Eat

Seasonal restaurants at Otter Creek (MP 63), Mabry Mill (MP 176), Bluffs Coffee Shop (MP 242), and Crabtree Meadows (MP 340) offer local cuisine and the opportunity to extend your Parkway travels. Local cities and towns provide an expanded array of dining choices.

Sleep

Lodging

Four lodges along the Parkway provide accommodations from spring through the fall foliage season. Many Parkway travelers may find that getting off of the road and into the local towns and communities in the region is an enjoyable option for lodging as well.

  • The Peaks of Otter Lodge, milepost 86, 1-800-542-5927. The only year-round lodging on the Parkway offers dining, trails, fishing and seasonal interpretive programs at the park amphitheater.Located twenty miles north of Roanoke, VA.
  • Rocky Knob Cabins, milepost 174, (540) 593-3503. Open from May through the fall foliage season. Located near Meadows of Dan, Virginia, these are small, rustic cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the early days of Parkway construction.
  • Bluffs Lodge, milepost 240, (336) 372-4499. Open from May through the fall foliage season. Located at Doughton Park in North Carolina, this is one of the largest developed areas on the Parkway. Extensive hiking trails are available and the Bluffs Coffee Shop offers food service.
  • Pisgah Inn, milepost 408.6, (828) 235-8228. Open from early spring through the fall foliage season. Phone for reservations. Located south of Asheville, North Carolina, Pisgah Inn is the highest elevation lodging on the Blue Ridge Parkway at over 5,000 feet.

Camping

Fee is $16 for all campgrounds. Camping is only permitted in established campgrounds.

  • Otter Creek (MP 61) is located at the Parkway's lowest elevation near Virginia's James River. Sites for 42 tents and 26 trailers. Facilities include water, comfort stations with flush toilets and sinks. No showers or hook-ups.
  • Peaks of Otter (MP 86) near the Peaks of Otter Lodge, Abbott Lake, the restored 1930s Johnson Farm, and a magnificent trail system. A 144-site campground at the foot of Sharp Top mountain, with sites for 92 tents and 52 trailers or RV's. Facilities include water, comfort stations with flush toilets and cold running water sinks. No showers or hook-ups.
  • Roanoke Mountain (MP 120) with easy access to Virginia's Explore Park and the largest city along the Parkway corridor.
  • Rocky Knob (MP 167) with easy access to Rockcastle Gorge and just nine miles from Mabry Mill.
  • Doughton Park (MP 241) near Basin Cove, Bluffs Lodge, and an extensive trail system
  • Julian Price Park (MP 297) near Boone and Blowing Rock, North Carolina and close to the Moses Cone Estate. This is the Parkway's largest campground and reservations can be made for portions of this campgound on-line at RECREATION.gov or by calling 1-877-444 6777.
  • Linville Falls (MP 316) on the Linville River and with access to the trail system into Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. Reservations can be made for portions of this campgound on-line at RECREATION.gov or by calling 1-877-444 6777.
  • Crabtree Meadows (MP 340) near the Crabtree Falls Trail and within fifteen miles of Mt. Mitchell State Park.
  • Mt. Pisgah (MP 408) is the highest Parkway campground at almost 5,000 feet elevation. Formerly part of the Vanderbilt Estate and near the US Forest Service's Cradle of Forestry site. Reservations can be made for portions of this campgound on-line at RECREATION.gov or by calling 1-877-444 6777.
  • For emergency help dial 1-800-PARKWATCH.
  • Driving Obey the posted speed limit, drive especially slow during rainy or foggy conditions, and watch out for wildlife. Be alert for tight, spiraling curves that could catch you off guard. It is always a good idea to carry a few emergency supplies in the trunk of your car.
  • Large recreational vehicles Large RVs are popular means of travel on the Parkway, but be advised that going up or down steep grades can be slow. Pull over often to let faster moving traffic get by. You may want to check the heights of the Parkway's twenty-six tunnels (mostly south of Asheville) to ensure that your rig will negotiate all of them.
  • Bicycling Wear high visibility clothing, helmet and the required reflectors. Ride single file and well to the right of the lane. Especially during rainy or foggy conditions, watch out for automobiles.
  • Hiking Wear good hiking shoes, stay on designated trails, and carry a few emergency supplies along with adequate water. Be aware of any approaching weather systems and avoid ridgetops during thunderstorms. Let someone know where you are headed and when you plan to return.

Get out

The National Parks at each end of the Parkway--Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park--are logical next choices.

Be sure to visit some of the towns nearby the parkway to get a "real feel" of the region.

This is a usable article. It has information about the park, for getting in, about a few attractions, and about accommodations in the park. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!







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