Blue Ridge Parkway | PARK AT A GLANCE

Blue Ridge Parkway's Linn Cove Viaduct

Blue Ridge Parkway’s Linn Cove Viaduct

The Blue Ridge Parkway runs 469 miles through the Appalachian Mountains from Waynesboro, Virginia, to Cherokee, North Carolina, connecting Shenandoah National Park with Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Parkway is open to private passenger vehicles and motorcycles only. There are no stop lights or stop signs on the entire stretch of road, though there are plenty of exit roads that lead to towns were travelers can purchase gas and food and find hotels, bed and breakfast inns, and private campgrounds. The Parkway runs though the major cities of Roanoke, Virginia, and Asheville, North Carolina, but most of the route passes through rural areas. The speed limit is 45 MPH.

Most facilities such as visitor centers, historic sites, and campgrounds are open from April or May through the end of October, though a few are open year-round. For an up-to-date schedule on facility operating hours, visit the official Blue Ridge Parkway Operating Hours and Seasons web page. The Parkway itself is open for driving year-round with the exception of sectional road closures due to snow and ice during the winter. The National Park Service maintains a Real-Time Road Closure map, so be sure to check it out if you plan on driving on the Parkway during the winter season.

Attraction and visitor facility locations are referenced by Mile Post (MP) numbers. Mileage is tracked from 0 at the northern entrance to 469 at the southern entrance. You will see mile posts along the Blue Ridge Parkway just as you see mile posts on interstates and other highways.

There are over a dozen visitor centers along the Blue Ridge Parkway. While the physical size of the facilities varies, the same information brochures and magazines can be obtained at all. The main visitor center is the Blue Ride Parkway Visitor Center at MP 384 near Asheville, North Carolina.

There are no fees to drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The only fees are for camping or staying in one of the two lodges.

Funding for the Blue Ridge Parkway was approved by Congress in 1933. Construction began in 1935 near the North Carolina and Virginia border, and by 1967 all but 7.5 miles of the road was completed. The unfinished section involved the Linn Cove Viaduct (MP 304), the first bridge of its kind in the United States. The viaduct was completed in 1987, thus ending the 52-year project. Up until that time the focus of the National Park Service was on completing construction, whereas today it is concerned with maintaining and upgrading facilities and services to ensure a satisfactory visitor experience.

When the idea for the Blue Ridge Parkway was conceived in the early 1930s, one of the most popular leisure-time activities was going for a drive, known as “automobile touring.” Cars had been around since the late 1800s, but it took many years for technology to develop so that automobiles were both affordable and reliable. A trip along the Parkway was the highlight of the year for families for many generations, and despite the fact that attendance has been dropping since 2002, it consistently ranks as the most visited National Park. You can combine all of the visitors to Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon and still not match the number of people who travel down the Blue Ridge Parkway each year. Nearly 16 million people enjoyed the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2022, making it Number 1. Today, the main activity enjoyed on the Parkway is driving for pleasure, just as it has always been.

However, the Blue Ridge Parkway is more than just a driving experience, and it is more than just a road. The park consists of 82,000 acres of Federal land and includes 91 historic structures, 26 tunnels through the mountains, 281 overlooks, and 1,300 spots with scenic views. Along the route you will encounter human history and plenty of opportunities to get out of your car and get some exercise on one of the over 120 trails in the park. You will find short “leg-stretchers” as well as longer trails for the more serious hiker. The Appalachian Trail and the Mountains to Sea Trail crisscross the Parkway, and there are numerous parking areas for those who want to access these trails. In addition, there are over a dozen large picnic areas, plus many of the scenic overlooks have a table or two. There are even eight campgrounds and two lodges that can accommodate overnight travelers. The Blue Ridge Parkway appeals to everyone from the Couch Potato whose ultimate aspiration is to drive the entire 469 miles, to the athlete who dreams of hiking the Appalachian Trail or climbing Mount Everest. It was designed for the masses and still retains the moniker, America’s Favorite Drive.

Blue Ridge Parkway near Mile Post 136

Blue Ridge Parkway near Mile Post 136

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Last updated on November 30, 2023
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