The Blue Ridge Parkway is 469 miles long and passes through the Appalachian Mountains, from the Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is America’s longest scenic highway and travels through North Carolina and Virginia! If you decide to traverse the whole highway you will find over 200 scenic overlooks, 26 tunnels, waterfalls, swimming holes, forests and hiking trails. In the springtime you will find spectacular vistas of wildflowers and wild rhododendrons, and fall brings many visitors to see the wild array of autumn colors. In near by towns, you can enjoy many activities including bluegrass music, swinging bridges, scenic train rides, country stores, and farmer’s markets, Many historical attractions along the way include the famous Biltmore Estate, Andy Griffith’s Mayberry and Cherokee history. For the outdoor enthusiasts you may site elk, black bears, and wild turkeys during your hiking travels or sometimes even from your car.
History of the Blue Ridge Parkway
Construction began on the parkway in 1935 at Cumberland Knob as a New Deal-era project under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Fifty-two years later, in 1987, travelers were finally able to drive the entire route. The original budget for the road was $16 million. Stanley Abbott, a New York landscape architect, was hired to oversee the project that would connect a chain of parks. Most of the construction was done by private contractors with a variety of New Deal public works programs also employed, including the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Emergency Relief Administration (ERA), and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
Today, the incredible Blue Ridge Parkway carries you through mountain spurs and ridges and 26 tunnels!
Tips along the way
- If you want to drive the full parkway we recommend 3-4 days of travel with Cherokee, Asheville, Blowing Rock, Mt. Airy or Roanoke making good nighttime stops.
- Since internet is spotty on the parkway be sure to plan your day with mile markers the night before when you have internet in the larger cities or towns.
- This is a meandering drive with plenty of turns and stops. The speed limit is capped at 45 mph.
- Consider flying into Charlotte, NC or Washington, D.C. as your starting point.
- Fall is the most popular time to visit the parkway. We find that our favorite time is either early or late summer as the days are warm and there are far less crowds.
- There are no gas stations or eateries on the parkway. Each day plan your stops for gas, food and lodging. We like to plan to pick up a picnic lunch each morning as there are plenty of picnic areas to enjoy the views.
- If you are planning your trip around fall foliage check out this Blue Ridge Fall Foliage Forecast.
- There are so many things to do on the Blue Ridge Parkway. If time allows, you could easily spend a week checking out all the small towns and activities along the way.
- We like to use Google Maps in planning our itinerary. Google maps allows you to be your own tour guide with GPS navigation into bookmarked attractions, which is especially useful when you don’t have internet.
- Pay attention to the stone marker mileposts that are located along the side of the Blue Ridge Parkway indicating the number of miles traveled and location. The zero milepost marker is at Rockfish Gap immediately south of Shenandoah National Park.
Our favorite stops on the Parkway
Starting from the western most part of the parkway in Cherokee, we like to highlight our favorite stops by mile makers when possible:
- Go for a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad– the passenger excursions take you from a historic depot in Bryson City through the beautiful countryside of Western North Carolina. There is something mighty special about riding on a train.
- Check out the views at the Caney Fork Overlook, Milepost 428
- Slide down the waterfall at Sliding Rock in Pisgah Forest, Milepost 412
- Check out Looking Glass Falls in Pisgah Forest Located off Highway 276
- Don’t miss the barbecue at Hawg Wild in Brevard.
- Jump in on the swimming hole at Skinny Dip Falls, Milepost 417
- Tour the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, Milepost 388.8
- Visit the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center, Milepost 384. It’s filled with useful information
- Stop by the Folk Art Center, Milepost 382 It’s filled with history and souvenirs to take home.
- Hike the trail to the ruins of the Rattlesnake Lodge, Milepost 375
- Take the Craggy Knob Trail to see where The Hunger Games was filmed, Milepost 364. We love this trail and wrote a full blog about it here.
- Check out the waterfall trail at Glassmine Falls Overlook, Milepost 361
- Explore the 3-mile hike to Crabtree Falls, Milepost 340
- Take a black light mine tour at Emerald Village, where you will find a group of gem, mining, and historical attractions nestled deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Milepost 334
- Enjoy the views over the water of Linville Falls, Milepost 316
- Have you ever walked across a swinging bridge? Let your adventure side run wild and walk across the mile-high Swinging Bridge at Grandfather Mountain, Milepost 305
- Hike to the bridge at Wilson Creek to view the cascading water, Milepost 303
- Check out the Parkway Craft Center at Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Mileposts 292-295 near Blowing Rock.. hiking
- Ride the Tweetsie Railroad in Boone, Milepost 292.1
- Stop by the Blowing Rock at Milepost 291.9 and imagine the series, The Mitford years that was written here.
- Enjoy the view from the Devil’s Garden Viewpoint, Milepost 235.7
- Visit Brinegar Cabin, a 1930’s homestead, Milepost 239
- Enjoy the Mid-Day Mountain Music at the Blue Ridge Music Center, Milepost 213
- Step back in time to Andy Griffith’s Mayberry. If we are a certain age, we all remember the Andy Griffith’s show. Stop by this museum in Mt. Airy to relive past memories. Milepost 200
- Listen to Bluegrass on The Crooked Road Music Trail. Check out the schedule here Milepost 177.7
- Eat an old fashion breakfast and take a photo of the waterwheel at the Mabry Mill, Milepost 176.1.
- Visit the little zoo at Mill Mountain Parkway and hike the trail to see the Mill Mountain Star, Milepost 120.4
- Enjoy a glass of cider at Apple Orchard Mountain Overlook and enjoy a hike afterwards, Milepost 76.5
- Walk the .4-mile Trail of Trees loop at James River Visitor Center, Milepost 63.7
- Check out the the Natural Bridge, Milepost 61.6
- Walk to the base of Crabtree Falls, Milepost 27
- Photograph the Shenandoah Valley from Ravens Roost Overlook, Mile post 10.7
- Check out the Outdoor Farm Museum at Humpback Rocks Visitor Center, Milepost 5.8
Come Stay With Us
The Sourwood Inn is located in the mountains of Asheville and just a few miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Marker 376. All of our 12 lodge rooms have picturesque views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from your private balconies. Our inn is known for our Farm Direct dining that includes a bountiful breakfast buffet served each morning and price fix dinners served Thursday through Sunday. Advanced reservations for dinner is needed as our dining room has become popular with locals and repeat guests. Book your stay with us today while you plan your Blue Ridge Parkway adventure!