One of the most scenic roads in America, the parkway connects Shenandoah National Park with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It starts at Rockfish Gap, Virginia, intersecting Skyline Drive, and winds southwest through Virginia into mountainous western North Carolina.
Drivers marvel at the picturesque views along the route of the Black Mountains, Great Craggies, Pisgahs, Great Balsams, and the Great Smokies. Along the way, travelers will find campgrounds and hiking trails, glimpses of small-town Appalachian life. Like a living museum, the parkway is filled with the history of its unique, pioneering families. Mountain culture, music, and art is preserved throughout the region.
The Blue Ridge Parkway was constructed from 1935 to 1987, 52 years total. The last section to be completed was the Linn Cove Viaduct, near Grandfather Mountain and was completed in 1987. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs from Shenandoah Valley’s “Skyline Drive” in Virginia to U.S Highway 441, just outside of Cherokee, North Carolina, a total of just over 469 miles.
When the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway began in 1935 no one could have guessed that it would capture the hearts of America’s drivers and be included in nearly every list of America’s most scenic roads.
The cliff-hugging road offers sweeping views, fascinating and diverse flora and fauna, geologic wonders and a myriad of recreation opportunities. Spectacular in any season, the Parkway is renowned for its fall foliage which displays a vivid palette of color. Sections of the Parkway may be closed in winter; it is advisable to check for up-to-date road conditions before heading out.
This scenic drive begins in Rockfish Gap, Virginia. To reach Rockfish Gap, take exit 99 from I-64. From Rockfish Gap, the road climbs offering expansive vistas as it weaves through unparalleled natural beauty. Take advantage of more than 200 overlooks along the Blue Ridge Parkway each one offering its own glimpse of treasure.
Along the southern portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway is where you’ll have the best views and experience the largest accumulation of tunnels. The Blue Ridge Parkway’s tunnels were created from blasting through solid rock. There are a total of 26 tunnels along the parkway in all, with 25 of them located in North Carolina and one located in Virginia.
Blue Ridge Parkway views are often the main reason for a visit. With elevations of up to over 6,000 feet above sea level, the views can go on for days and days. The parkway’s highest peak, Richland Balsam Mountain stands at 6,035 feet above sea level, just past/near milepost 431.
The Blue Ridge Parkway’s mileage system is made up of “mileposts.” These mileposts are located on the right-hand side of the south-bound lane and located on the left-hand side of the north-bound lane. They are concrete “posts” and have blue numbers etched into them.
Using the mileposts is great way to navigate along the parkway to find the wonderful points of interest like: hiking trails, waterfalls, camping opportunities, overlooks, picnic areas, etc.
The parkway connects Shenandoah National Park, near Waynesboro, Virginia (milepost 0), with Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near Cherokee, North Carolina (milepost 469). There are entrances and exits at all major highways. In Virginia, interstates 64, 81, and 77 all have directions for accessing the parkway; the same is true for interstates 40 and 26 in North Carolina. The border between Virginia and North Carolina is at milepost 217.
Each season along the Blue Ridge has its own beauty with pink wild rhododendrons lining the roadway and carpets of wildflowers filling the forests in spring and summer. Then, autumn brings a brilliant patchwork of red, yellow, rust, and green. Winter presents a completely different panorama of quiet, snowy landscapes.
Following the trail of the Blue Ridge Parkway had taken us to some memorable places, but like all first-time travelers on this unique American road, we had sampled just a few of the many treats that await travelers there. We look forward to exploring the area in greater depth in the future.
The idea is to fit the Parkway into the mountains as if nature has put it there.
—Stanley Abbott, Chief Landscape Architect for the Parkway