Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the most scenic drives in USA

Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most scenic drives in the USA, meandering for 469 miles (755 km) and providing opportunities for enjoying all that makes this region of the country so special. The road runs along the famous Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains.

This beautiful, winding, and sometimes terrifying road spans across Virginia and North Carolina. It links the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the Shenandoah National Park and man, it will blow your socks off.

Is driving the Blue Ridge Parkway scary?

The road is totally paved and was completed in 1987. The drive encompasses miles of stunning views through twisty hair pin corners, high elevations and steep grades. In some places, the Parkway has steeper grades than normally found on highways. Without paying close attention, your speed can increase far more than you expect. The Parkway's road shoulders are narrow in places so that the meadows or forest edges grow close to the pavement. This is part of the beauty of the drive, but may require some extra attention. The Parkway speed limit is mostly 45 mph, but occasionally it will drop to 25 mph or 35 mph. Some of the tight curves on this mountain road do not have a consistent radius so that extra care needs to be taken, especially on motorcycles. Just as there aren't many straight lines in the natural world, the Parkway was designed with gentle curves and not many straight sections. This is part of what makes the road seem to lie gently on the land and it also requires some extra care while driving. 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. The Blue Ridge Parkway is open year round except for sections that may be closed due to ice and snow, storm damage, or for construction or maintenance activities. Many factors affect the removal of ice and snow, such as extreme temperatures, lack of sunlight in constantly shaded areas, or thawing and refreezing on bridges. This may cause some sections to be closed for extended periods in the winter. These sections are only opened when they are safe for travel. Some sections of the Parkway cannot be gated and closed, and visitors should exercise extreme caution when traveling in these areas during the winter. Weather-related closures can change quickly during the winter. It is best to call the information line both before and during your visit.

How long does it take to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway?

The drive is definitely worth it. There are many excellent photo opportunities here. Don’t forget your camera! Meandering 469 miles from Shenandoah National Park in the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, the Parkway follows the Appalachian Mountains and boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. A Blue Ridge Parkway experience is unlike any other, a slow-paced and relaxing drive revealing stunning long-range vistas and close-up views of the rugged mountains and pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. Allow 2-3 days to complete the whole drive with some stops on the way.

What an Interesting Drive

The first thing visitors might notice on the Blue Ridge Parkway is the lack of big rigs. That's because commercial trucking is banned on the road. There are some exceptions to the rule, however. If a trucker has to deliver goods to a business on the road they are permitted.

Drivers will also notice the parkway is very narrow in some parts and there are a lot of sharp curves. If a visitor is from a flat state like Florida, this might be slightly terrifying at first. However, there are plenty of areas that allow amateur mountain explorers to pull off and collect themselves. While they do that, they can enjoy the magnificent views of the Appalachians.

Checking Out the View

Visitors to the Blue Ridge Parkway will not be disappointed by the splendid scenery.

Waterfalls, waterfalls, and more waterfalls

Tourists who want to view cascading water, are going to be really excited. There are 12 waterfalls accessible off of the road. Below we've listed their names and locations.

  • Cascades: milepost 271.9
  • Wigwam Falls: milepost
  • White Rock Falls: milepost 19.9
  • Boone Fork Falls: milepost 296.4
  • Linville Falls: milepost 316.4
  • Crabtree Falls: milepost 339.5
  • Apple Orchard Falls: milepost 78.4
  • Douglas Falls: milepost 364.6
  • Fallingwater Cascades: milepost 83.1
  • Graveyard Fields Waterfalls: milepost 410
  • Glassmine Falls: milepost 361.2
  • Duggers Creek Falls: milepost 316.4

Oldest River

Milepost 199.5 of the Blue Ridge Parkway is home to the New River, which ironically is the oldest river in North America. It flows through West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina.

Animals, Plants, and Trees

In addition to rivers, waterfalls, vast forestland and beautiful scenic cliffs, the land along the Blue Ridge Parkway is full of animals. Visitors might see white-tailed deer frolicking in the woods. They could even run into a black bear, although, we hope those creatures stay away.

Wild turkeys, elk, beavers, river otters, and many other animals can all be found in the habitats surrounding the parkway.

In addition to the abundant wildlife, the Appalachians are home to more than 1,400 species of vascular plants. There is even a bloom calendar that allows visitors to check out the best time of the year to find specific plants.

Take a Drive

Everyone should try to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway at least once in their lifetime. If they don't want to drive the entire span, stopping off in a city like Asheville, North Carolina is a great idea.

Visitors to the city can get onto the parkway, check out some waterfalls along the way and then hop off. In the fall, the parkway looks like it's on fire as the leaves of the trees change from green to vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows. It's magnificent.

Just remember, if you visit, make sure you follow the speed limit posted on the highway and respect other drivers. Be safe and have fun!


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