Everything about Blue Ridge Parkway
How can you ignore the USA’s most-visited National Park, which also happens to be the world’s longest and narrowest? Of course you can’t – this 755-km (469-mi) National Parkway and All-American Road must not be missed, running as it does through the famously scenic Blue Ridge mountain chain, part of the Appalachians. The road was a 1930s job-creation project in the states of Virginia (Milepost 0) and North Carolina (Milepost 469), though not finally completed as a throughway until 1987.
The effort was worthwhile – the scenery is stunning (those mountains really are a study in misty blues!), whilst the road passes through unspoiled lands maintained by the National Park Service and the US Forest Service. There are 26 tunnels along the way, together with six viaducts and 168 bridges that carry the parkway across ravines, rivers and across roads to ensure an uninterrupted journey. The Parkway starts at Rockfish Gap, Virginia, from the terminus of Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive (itself a rewarding journey). It ends in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, North Carolina. Towns where you can stop off include Waynesboro, Roanoke and Galax in Virginia, or Boone and Asheville in North Carolina.
A drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway is a memorable experience, but to make the most of this unique landscape it really is necessary to stop frequently and explore some of the numerous side roads and trails which often lead to stunning vistas that change according to the seasons, with a variety of trees, colourful foliage and flowers to be enjoyed, especially in spring and autumn. There are also plenty of interesting heritage sites to remind the traveller of the simple lives those hardy mountain families once led.
Best highlights of Blue ridge Parkway
The Mabry Mill by Its tranquil pool at Milepost 176.1, where a trail leads to this vintage gristmill, sawmill and blacksmith shop where old-time skills are demonstrated throughout
The Blue Ridge Music Center at Milepost 213 near Galax, Virginia – a museum and concert centre with a busy summer schedule, mainly of country music.
Mount Mitchell – the highest point in eastern North America, reached via a road off the Parkway at Milepost 355.4…what a view!
The Folk Art Centre at Milepost 382, for sales and exhibitions of traditional and contemporary Appalachian crafts, with three galleries, a library, book store and interpretive programmes
What you should know
Frontiersman Daniel Boone blazed a pioneering trail to the west that crosses the Parkway near Milepost