Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Weekend Getaway: Blue Ridge Parkway

December 18, 2009, 9:43 am
Consistent with the overall cadence and rhythm of mountain life, the Blue Ridge Parkway is never a place to be in a hurry!  Slow paced, relaxing, and graceful describe the experience here. Early designers saw their task as “painting a ten league canvas with the brush of a comet’s tail.” Don’t think for a minute, however, that this just a driving vacation.  If you are looking for world class music, spend an afternoon at the Blue Ridge Music Center. Strap on your boots at the Peaks of Otter and climb the mountains that captured the interest of Thomas Jefferson.  Searching for examples of southern mountain craftsmanship at its finest?  The Folk Art Center in Asheville is the place for you.  Hike an ecological wonderland by testing your legs on the slopes of Grandfather Mountain.

Today, the 469-mile corridor that connects Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks is recognized not only as an engineering marvel, but as a wonderland of biodiversity, boasting species as diverse as practically any place on Earth. Wild turkey, black bear, and many exceptionally rare habitats await the observant and patient visitor, along with 150 headwater streams, 130 species of trees, and 115 kinds of nesting birds. The parkway winds through four national forests, five adjacent wilderness areas, and contains an impressive 47 natural heritage areas. Plan to spend an extended time here if you want the full experience!

The history is just as spectacular with Blue Ridge farming communities hugging the road’s edge for hundreds of miles, 19th century canal locks along the James River, and fine examples of America’s country home movement of the late 1800s. The rich Cherokee culture, Civil War earthworks and Revolutionary War pathways are among the compelling stories around every graceful curve.  Music is practically inseparable from these mountains, and visitors can find it played and perfected at many developed areas or on the front porches and corner stores of adjacent communities.  Don’t forget your fiddle and dancing shoes when you vacation here!

Rhododendron, mountain laurel, and flame azalea highlight the spring, and if you miss the early blooms in Virginia’s lower elevations, rest assured that you will get more opportunities in the higher country south of Asheville, NC.  Fall is the season when the parkway attracts the most attention.  Around mid-October, travelers, nature writers, photographers, and artists come here to enjoy the visual display of hardwoods turning their autumn colors.

The parkway’s year-long celebration of its 75th anniversary begins this fall.  This will be an event to remember with scores of neighboring communities planning their own activities to tempt parkway travelers.  There hasn’t been a better time to visit the parkway, catch the sweeping vistas across the mountains and valleys, and enjoy the hospitality that is so much a part of the Blue Ridge.