Blue Ridge Parkway
Sites along the Blue Ridge Parkway
Yes, it's a road, a parkway, a path through some of the nation's most beautiful scenery and a jumping off point to history.  And it comes as sort of a shock to most when you state that the Blue Ridge Parkway is the most visited National Park unit (hard to say a site, because it includes a whole bunch of them) virtually every year.  Over 15 million people saunter down the parkway through Virginia and North Carolina to visit the history, to see the changing of fall colors (mid-October is usually the best time to see those colors, but it varies along the route), and to step back into a time when a ride down the road didn't include four or six lanes, or driving at maximum speed so that you could get to your destination sooner.  On the Blue Ridge Parkway, your destination, many times, is the drive and the road itself. Go slow and take in the sights.

Prior to World War I, entrepreneurs began work on the scenic road as a private means to boost business.  Today it includes almost five hundred miles weaving through the heritage of the Appalachian region from Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  There are so many different visitor centers, cabins, mills, farms, and other vistas to see along this extraordinary journey that you could take a day to see some or weeks to explore them all.  The opportunities are aplenty, from hiking to camping, birdwatching, nature walks, and more.  They cover the lowlands around the James River, only 650 feet above sea level, and rise to 6,050 feet in the mountains of North Carolina.  The parkway travels through four national forests; Jefferson, George Washington, Pisgah, and Nantahala. And if you love tunnels, there are twenty-six of them along the way.  Check for height requirements if your vehicle warrants.  Photos above, NPS.


Things You Should Not Miss

1. Take a ride.  You thought we were going to say anything else.  The main purpose of your journey down the Blue Ridge Parkway is to take a leisurely ride down the beautiful path it takes along the mountains, and valleys, of the Virginia and North Carolina landscape. Along the way there will be plenty to see, and visitor centers to stop at.  But enjoy the ride.  If you've really got to be going somewhere fast, take another route.

2.  Check in at one of the many visitor centers and attractions.  Many of the locations have walks and talks on their specific topics that are a treat to listen to.

What is There Now

Visitor Centers - There are five visitor centers in Virginia and six visitor centers along the parkway in North Carolina.  Other attractions along the way include visitor services as well.

Virginia
Humpback Roads Visitor Center - Milepost 5.8. Includes museum of 19th century logged buildings, and access to the Appalachian Trail.

James River Visitor Center - Milepost 60.  Area includes restored canal locks, hiking trails along Otter Creek, and a restaurant.

Peaks of Otter Visitor Center - Milepost 86. Area includes 1930s restored Johnson Farm, Appalachian Trail access, the Jefferson National Forest, and other trails.

Rocky Knob Visitor Center - Milepost 167. Included in area is the Mabry Mill, a working grist mill.

Blue Ridge Music Center - Milepost 215.  Visitor Center, Amphitheatre, and Museum.

North Carolina
Moses H. Cone Memorial Park Visitor Center - Milepost 295. Visitor and Craft centers.

Linville Falls Visitor Center - Milepost 317.  Acess to the first and most popular wilderness area in the USA.

Museum of North Carolina Minerals - Milepost 331.  Visitor center and museum on geology.

Craggy Gardens Visitor Center - Milepost 364.

Folk Art Center/Visitor Center - Milepost  380.  Near Asheville and the park headquarters.

Waterrock Knob Visitor Center - Milepost 451.  Visitor Center near the park's highest elevation.  Close to the Cherokee Reservation and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Lodging and Camping

The Blue Ridge Parkway includes four lodges and nine campgrounds.  There are also many other lodging and camping opportunities in the towns just off the road.

Lodging
Peaks of Otter Lodge, Milepost 86.  Year round.  Includes seasonal programs.
Rocky Knob Cabins, Milepost 174.  May through fall season.  Small rustic cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Bluffs Lodge, Milepost 240, Doughton Park.  May through fall season.  Hiking trails.
Pisgah Inn, Milepost 408.6.  Spring through fall season. At 5,000 feet elevation.

Camping
Otter Creek, Milepost 61.  Near James River.
Peaks of Otter, Milepost 86.  Near Abbott Lake and Johnson Farm.  Great trails.
Roanoke Mountain, Milepost 120.
Rocky Knob, Milepost 167.  Near Rockcastle Gorge.
Doughton Park, Milepost 241.  Near Basin Cove.
Julian Price Park, Milepost 297.  Largest campground on parkway.
Linville Falls, Milepost 316.  Along Linville River.  Trail system.
Crabtree Meadows, Milepost 340.  Near Crabtree Falls Trail.
Mt. Pisgah, Milepost 408.  Highest elevation campground. Fomerly part of the Vanderbilt Estate.

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Blue Ridge Parkway Links

Blue Ridge Parkway


Nearby Attractions

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
North Carolina Tourism
Virginia is for Lovers Tourism
Eastern Band of the Cherokee

Blue Ridge Parkway Then and Now

Farm along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway Then

Land along the Blue Ridge Parkway- When you look down from the road, you'll see a variety of landscapes, some of which seem very similar to those shown in the 1940 photo of a farm along the parkway.  Photos above and below, LOC.

From the history of the Indian tribes in the area; Cherokee, Monacan, Saponi, and Tutelo, to the European settlements.  You can see the historic remnants of those settlements all along the road from Johnson Farm at Peaks of Otter, the Jesse Brown Farmstead, and the cabins of Puckett, Brinegar, Caudill, and more.  There are industrial history locations as well, with the Mabry Mill, for example, showing a blacksmith shop, whiskey still, and the mill.

Blue Ridge Parkway Mill

Blue Ridge Parkway Now

Sites along the Blue Ridge Parkway


Blue Ridge Parkway Historic Buildings
- The land along the parkway has been home to settlers, mountaineers, Indian tribes, and vacationers for many years.  Along the path you can see grist mills, farm houses, cabins, and other historic buildings.  The parkway and its buildings, plus vistas, provide a panoply of Appalachian history.  Photo courtesy NPS.

Other Natural Features Along the Parkway (North to South) - Sherango Lake, Crabtree Falls, Tye River Gap, Wigwam Falls, the James River, Cave Mountain Lake, Fallingwaters Cascades, Sugarloaf Mountain, Stewarts Creek Wildlife Management Area, Fox Hunters Paradise, Cascades Trail, Daniel Boone's Trace, Linn Cove Viaduct, Mount Mitchell (the highest point east of the Mississippi River at 6,684 feet high), Lake Powhatan, Cold Mountain, and so many more its almost impossible to list.

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Visitor Statistics

Blue Ridge Parkway
15,205,059 visitors

#1 Most Visited National Park Unit



Park Size

Blue Ridge Parkway

83,629 acres (Federal)
93,872 acres (Total)

Source: NPS, 2012 Visitor Statistics; Visitor Rank among 367 units.



Blue Ridge Parkway Entrance Fees

Free


Fees subject to change without notice.



Blue Ridge Parkway Weather

The weather along the 500 miles of parkway varies widely due to the change in elevation from the James River lowlands to the mountain ridges. Check you local weather report for the most current conditions.



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