Blue Ridge Parkway – NC
- DesignationAll-American Road (1996)
- Intrinsic QualitiesHistoric, Scenic
- LocationNC, VA
- Length252 of 469 total miles
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic roadway offering stunning long-range vistas and close-up views of the rugged mountains and pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. The Parkway meanders for 469 miles, protecting a diversity of plants and animals, and providing a variety of recreation opportunities for enjoying all that makes the Blue Ridge Mountains so special.
Story of the Byway
Long recognized as “America’s favorite drive,” the Blue Ridge Parkway follows the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina and Virginia, offering 469 miles of scenic views, 26 tunnels and a myriad of overlooks. The Parkway connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. It was envisioned as the first elongated national park providing automobile travelers access to some of the most spectacular natural scenery in the United States. Initial construction funds for the Parkway were allocated under the authority of the National Industrial Recovery Act on June 16, 1933, with National Park Service administration authorization on June 30, 1936.
The Parkway averages 3,000 feet above sea level and embraces large recreational and natural history areas and Appalachian cultural sites. From its lowest point at the James River in Virginia (649 feet) to the highest point at Richland Balsam in North Carolina (6,053 feet), the Parkway winds through six mountain chains in the Appalachians. Beginning at Rockfish Gap, Virginia, the first 355 miles follow the Blue Ridge Mountains. Near Asheville, North Carolina, the Parkway meanders through the Black Mountains, the Craggies, the Pisgahs, and the Balsams, ending at the Great Smokies. The varied elevations and aspects offer unique habitats which support rare and endangered plants and animals; the Parkway ranks in the top five national park units in the United States in terms of biodiversity.
The Parkway has over 85,000 acres of natural resources and a great range of recreational opportunities for visitors to explore and enjoy from hiking, bicycling and birdwatching to picnicking and exploring historic structures along the route. Visitors enjoy viewing the numerous waterfalls located on or near the Parkway. And if you’re lucky, you may spot a black bear in its native habitat, the purple blooms of the Catawba rhododendron lining the roadway and trails, or the varied hues of deciduous leaves at their peak color in the fall. Nearby National Forests, parks and other recreation areas abound, with direct access to many trails including the famed Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
Eight campgrounds, two lodges and several restaurants offer lodging and dining opportunities with many more options available in the cities and towns that dot the landscape. Numerous visitor centers along the Parkway provide information, access to trails, souvenirs, and local crafts to remind visitors of their trip. To complement the drive, heritage music, museums, attractions, events, shops and further recreational activities like boating, swimming, and rappelling, are offered in the communities near the Parkway.
The Blue Ridge Parkway continues into North Carolina from the rolling Virginia countryside toward the town of Blowing Rock with periodic elevation gains and losses. Then on to Asheville where the Parkway skirts the city and dips along the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests, swinging northwest toward the terminus in Cherokee, North Carolina at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Points of Interest
Folk Art Center
Folk Art Center has galleries of traditional and modern Southern Appalachian crafts with a library and gift shop.
Crabtree Falls is accessed by one of two moderate to strenuous routes: 1.8 Miles (round-trip to the falls and back) or 2.5 to 3 Miles (round trip for the whole loop) depending on which route you take to the 60-foot falls.
Located near the Virginia state line, Cumberland Knob is the site where construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway began in 1935. It was the first recreation area opened to the public and remains a favorite destination for both locals and visitors.
Museum of North Carolina Minerals
Milepost 331. The Museum features infomration on the mineral and gem resources of North Carolina, including the Spruce Pine Mining District and its vital role in the economy. The Museum also features regional information at the Mitchell County Visitor Center.
Bryson City and the NC Mountains
Start your day in Bryson City at a local diner. There are many wonderful options for breakfast to fuel you up before you begin your journey. Just 5 minutes from town, you find the Deep Creek Recreation Area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – known for waterfalls, trails, swimming, tubing, and fly fishing. The Waterfall Loop Trail is 2.5 miles of easy hiking, with 2 miles on an old logging road. The Park has no entrance fee, but summer tube rentals are $6 for a whole day of play on the water. If you’ve packed a lunch, you’ll find a perfect picnic spot on the creek, or head back to town for many great lunch options. There is something for everything in this town, including those with dietary needs.
For a different way to see the Smokies, rent a pontoon boat from a marina or take a guided lake tour for the afternoon (or at sunset) and look up at the mountains from the surface of Fontana Lake, home of the largest dam east of the Rockies. Minimal shoreline development means unobstructed views and easy cruising. Look for eagles and other wildlife; tie off and take a swim. Bring your dog for a pet-friendly experience.
Return to Bryson City for dinner. Keep an eye out for restaurants that feature the local rainbow trout. Once you explore all of Bryson City, you’ll feel a calling to come back!
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