Blue Ridge Parkway, starts in North Carolina, at Great Smoky National Park, ending up in Virginia, at Shenendoah National Park. The parkway is famously named: “America’s Favorite Drive”, and is driven annually by thousands of people. With plenty of hiking trails, diverse recreational opportunities, and natural beauty set to awe, driving any length of the parkway is a fun, historic, and nostalgic activity.

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The park, originally known as the Appalachian Scenic Highway, was built during President FDR’s administration. Construction began in June of 1936 and was only 2/3rds of the way completed by 1942. It wasn’t completed entirely, from end to end, until 1987. One major factor of building the parkway was to try to jump start to economy by creating jobs through the construction, engineering and architecture related needs this type of project would require.

Permanent Attractions

Although the Blue Ridge Parkway is a road, it is also so much more than that. The road stretches 469 miles and visitors, no matter how long drivers stay on the parkway, they will experience history, culture, and fun!

Visitor Center - There are a few visitor centers, positioned along to the parkway to provide convenient access in both Virginia and North Carolina. Each center offers a glimpse into the history of the region, any local activities, as well as allowing visitors to get out of the car and stretch.

Fall leaf viewing - The most popular draw of visiting the parkway is coming during the autumn to experience the beauty of the leaves. The first thing to know is that the leaf changing season depends on the elevation - leaves at higher elevations tend to change faster than those at lower elevations. However, the leaves in general tend to peak in terms of color in October, usually from the middle to the end of the month. The best plan, for visitors who have time and plan ahead, is to try different elevations and just drive some.

Golfing - There are a handful of golf courses to try out for guests who enjoy the sport of golf and want to stretch their legs some during their drive! Check out Mountain Aire, Skyland, Olde Beau, and/or Blue Ridge courses, located throughout North Carolina and Virginia.

Hiking - Besides taking the scenic drives, the parkway offers a diverse selection of hiking trails for visitors who want to experience the scenery in a more direct way. There are at least one hundred different trails to try, of varying degrees of difficulty. The trails run alongside and occasionally cross the parkway itself, so they are easy to access. Some of them even lead visitors to historic sites. Guests should make sure to follow the marked trails to avoid crossing into any private land.

Fishing - For guests who enjoy fishing, there are many points where they can stop and check out the rivers, streams and ponds along the parkway. Be aware that a state fishing license is required, so visitors should be aware what state they are in before fishing. The majority of the bodies of water are considered “game fish’ waters, which means federal regulations apply.

Special Events

The special events are nearly endless on the parkway, due to the expansive nature of the parkway itself and how many miles it encompasses. The website maintains a complete database of events, including date, time, location, and any cost associated. It is recommended to check the calendar before a visit. Events can be anything from seasonally related (there is a national gingerbread house building competition in December, visits with Santa Claus, and rides on “The Polar Express”), to nationally recognized events (a favorite is the celebration of National Trails Day in June - originally dreamed up by the American Hiking Society) and musical events (featured every Friday is free bluegrass music, with a frequently changing line up of artists). There are also arts and craft shows, car and motorcycle shows (cruise ins are common up and down the parkway), and food festivals. Many of the events are offered free of charge.

Dining and Shopping

There is a large interactive map maintained on the website that links guests directly to the diverse variety of restaurant and dining options located along the parkway. From delis, to barbeque, to coffee houses, there is truly something for everyone. It is similar with shopping options. There is a nearly endless supply of gift shops, galleries, art shops, and general stores.

Blue Ridge Parkway, PO Box 2136, Asheville, NC, 28802-2136, Phone: 828-670-1924

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