Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

In A Nutshell

Frequently Asked Questions


I'm not accustomed to driving in the mountains... how can I be safe? First of all, obey the speed limit and make use of the overlooks to enjoy the scenery and let other drivers get by. The Parkway is a bit steeper than most roads and the curves can sometimes "tighten" as you get into them. There are built-in distractions such as beautiful vistas, interesting cabins, bicyclists, and wildlife... watch out for them all! A good rule to keep in mind is "enjoy the view, but watch the road!"

When and where can I see the best fall leaf color? Typically, the Blue Ridge Parkway experiences the much anticipated change in fall foliage around the middle of October. Many factors, however, contribute to variations in when and where colors will peak. The Parkway stretches almost five hundred miles north to south, meanders from the east to west facing slopes, and, most importantly, varies in elevation from just under 650 feet at James River in Virginia, to over 6,000 feet south of Mt. Pisgah in North Carolina. Many visitors have been frustrated trying to go to one spot on one day in October, hoping to find the leaves in full color. A far better plan is to drive some distance on the Parkway, changing elevations and north-south orientation. Any one who does this around mid to late October will catch at least some of the pretty color that we're famous for.

Can I picnic along the roadside? In most places, picnicking is allowed on the roadside. This is a long-standing Parkway tradition, but you must be pulled completely off the road and please avoid soggy areas or ditches if we've had an abundance of rain. North of Asheville, NC, the Parkway goes through the city watershed and off-road parking is not permitted where indicated by signs.

Can I reserve campsites on the Parkway? At our three most popular campsites, Mount Pisgah, Price Park, and Linville Falls, reservations can be made on-line at recreation.gov or by calling 1 877 444 6777.

Why aren't there any more signs showing what is available off of the Parkway? Part of the beauty and enjoyment of the Parkway is limited access and no commercial signs or vehicles. Short drives off of the Parkway into any nearby community will allow you to experience the charm and delight of the region.

Where, exactly, is the Blue Ridge? The Blue Ridge is part of the entire eastern Appalachian Mountains and is generally described as stretching from north Georgia into Pennsylvania. From Milepost 0 at Rockfish Gap, VA to Milepost 355 near Mount Mitchell State Park, NC, the Parkway lives up to its name by following the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, averaging about 3,000 feet in elevation, and occasionally dipping down into the coves and hollows or crossing low-elevation water gaps. At Mount Mitchell, the Parkway veers westward through the Black Mountains, then into the Craggies before descending toward Asheville. From there, the road climbs to elevations over 6,000 feet in the Balsam Mountains before entering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee.

What is the difference between the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway? The Skyline Drive is the 105 mile scenic road through Shenandoah National Park. At Afton Mountain, Virginia, the Skyline Drive heads north and the Blue Ridge Parkway heads south. Look for Milepost 0 on the bridge over U.S. 250.

When do facilities open and close for the season? The Folk Art Center in Asheville, the Museum of North Carolina Minerals at Spruce Pine, and the Peaks of Otter Lodge and Restaurant north of Roanoke are open year round. Other facilities, including visitor centers, campgrounds, and picnic areas, begin opening on a staggered schedule in late April and stay open through the fall leaf color.

Why can't we pick flowers or gather wood along the Parkway? National park areas are set aside to preserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects for the enjoyment of all visitors. From the smallest flower to the trees that fall in the forest are part of the ecosystem of the region that we are charged with protecting. Thanks for doing your part!

Is the Blue Ridge Parkway a national park? The National Park Service administers a variety of kinds of areas. Some of these are "parks", some are called "seashores", some are called "monuments" or "historic sites", and some are called "parkways." We wear the same uniform and operate under basically the same rules as Yellowstone, Gettysburg, or Cape Hatteras. Our agency web site at http://www.nps.gov will give you the entire list!

How do I know if there is threatening weather or road closures along sections of the Parkway? The park information line, (828) 298 0398, is the most up-to-date source for road closures by section and access to Parkway weather reports. Check your favorite weather-related web site before coming to visit. Have a few emergency supplies handy just in case the weather catches you by surprise.

Is there a fee for traveling the Parkway and can I use my National Park Pass while here? There is no entrance fee for traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway, but camping fees are reduced for those with the Golden Age or Golden Access pass. A new pass for all federal recreation areas is available in 2007. Information on the America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass- Access Pass can be found at www.recreation.gov.

What can I do to help protect the Parkway? Most of all, obey rules and regulations, and make your visit as "low impact" and responsible as possible. You may want to touch base with the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, or the Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway, organizations that work full time helping the Parkway stay the way it is. They would love to hear from you!

Is hunting allowed along the Parkway? No hunting is allowed on Parkway lands, but with a special permit, access to hunting on U.S. Forest Service lands is allowed from designated places along the Parkway. Check at ranger stations for a Hunter Parking Permit.

What is a "descending radius curve" that visitors are cautioned about some places along the drive? Most highways have curves with a standard radius that never changes. In other words, you do not have to adjust your steering through the curve. A descending radius curve may "tighten" as you go through it. This is a design feature of the Parkway, but requires some extra care.

When was the Parkway built and how long did it take to get the job done? Groundbreaking took place in September 1935 and the work was contracted and completed in "sections." By World War II, about one-half of the road was completed and by the 1960s, all but one section was opened to the public. In 1987, the last section was completed around Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, including the Linn Cove Viaduct at Milepost 304, an environmentally sensitive, award winning bridge.

Why is the Blue Ridge "blue"? According to "A Naturalist's Blue Ridge Parkway" by David Catlin, "it can be legitimately claimed that trees put the "blue" in Blue Ridge, for hydrocarbons released into the atmosphere by the forest contribute to the characteristic haze on these mountains and to their distinctive color." The entire Appalachian Chain is extraordinarily diverse and rich in its vegetation, so there is perhaps more "blue" to the Blue Ridge and more "smoky" to the Great Smoky Mountains.

Will I have any problem getting my recreational vehicle through the Parkway tunnels? There are twenty six tunnels along the Parkway, one in Virginia and the others in North Carolina, mostly south of Asheville. Check tunnel heights and lengths here.

How do I get the best photographs along the Parkway? No photographs adequately capture what you see with your eye from the Parkway's many overlooks, but here are a few tips that may help you out. Early morning or late afternoon sun is much better than mid-day when colors appear to be "washed out." Keep the sun at your back and have someone in your family or group in the picture as a way to personalize your visit.

Why can't I see long distances off of the Parkway like I used to years ago? From the earliest descriptions of the Appalachian Mountains, observers have noted the blue color and haze that radiates off of these mountains because of the rich vegetation. Much of the haze we see today is also associated with pollution from a variety of sources in the eastern United States. Over three quarters of the pollutants come from coal-fired power sources. Air pollution does not respect the boundaries of national forests and national parks.

What is the difference between National Forests and National Parks? The Parkway travels through four U.S. National Forests, the Jefferson and George Washington in Virginia, and the Pisgah and Nantahala in North Carolina. National Park areas under the Department of the Interior, have a primary responsibility to conserve all of the park resources for the enjoyment of visitors. National Forest areas under the Department of Agriculture, are multiple use areas where trees are planted and harvested and lots of recreational opportunities, including hunting, are allowed.

Why aren't Beavers and their dams removed? When European explorers first traveled through the Southern Appalachians, beavers inhabited virtually every stream and river. Their engineering efforts provided food, shelter and safe habitat for other species. When fur traders trapped the last beaver in the late nineteenth century, a vital component of the natural ecosystem of these mountains was eliminated. Beavers were re-introduced in the 1930s - 1950s and have increased the biological diversity in many Parkway areas. Management efforts by park staff are aimed at protecting the role of the beaver and maintaining the recreational opportunities for the visiting public.

Who built the Parkway? The Parkway was an idea born out of the Great Depression and part of its purpose was to put as many people as possible to work. Private contractors, the state and federal highway departments, Italian and Spanish immigrant stonemasons, and thousands of Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees did the work.

 

Operating Hours & Seasons

OPENINGS/CLOSINGS SPRING 2008

CAMPGROUNDS

Linville Falls 04/04/08, all other campgrounds open 5/16/08. All Parkway campgrounds close 11/03/08.

PICNIC AREAS

Price Park Open Year-round (Full Service Restrooms and Water Fountains open April 30). Peaks of Otter 04/04/08-11/17/08 (Lower loop only. Upper loop closed for dam project construction.) Humpback Rocks 04/04/08 -11/17/08 (Port-a-Johns will be used April 4 to May 9 and November 3 to November 17 at Humpback Rocks and Peaks of Otter Picnic Grounds). Linville Falls 04/04/08-11/03/08. All Other Parkway Picnic Areas 05/09/08-11/03/08.

VISITOR CENTERS

Humpback Rocks- April 25 - May 23, 7 Days a Week - Closed for Lunch (12-1). Open daily from May 24-November 2.

James River - May 24-November 2.

Peaks of Otter April 25- May 23, 5 Days a Week, Closed Wed & Thurs. Open daily May 24 - November 2.

Explore Park Visitor Center (operated by Roanoke County) open daily April 1 - October 31.

Rocky Knob - Open weekends May 10,11,17, and 18. Open daily May 24-November 2.

Blue Ridge Music Center - May 3 - May 23, 5 Days a Week, Closed Mon & Tues. Open daily May 24-November 2.

Moses Cone - National Park Service information desk and bookstore open weekends April 11,12,13,18,19, and 20. Open daily April 25-November 2. Craft Center open March 15-November 30.

Linn Cove - Open daily April 25 - Nov. 2.

Linville Falls - Open weekends April 5,6,12,13,19, and 20. Open daily April 25 - November 2.

Museum of North Carolina Minerals - Open Year Round (Closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years Day).

Craggy Gardens closed for the 2008 season due to rock slide and road failure.

Folk Art Center - Open Year Round (Closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Years Day).

Blue Ridge Parkway Destination Center Open Year Round (Closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Years Day).

Waterrock Knob - Open daily April 25 - October 31.

CONCESSIONS FACILITIES

Otter Creek Restaurant and Gift Shop -Open May 7 - October 26

Peaks of Otter Lodge/Restaurant/Lounge/Gift Shop - Lodge, Restaurant and Gift Shop open year-round. Peaks Country Store and Sharp Top Bus open weekends May 9,10,11,16, 17,18,23,24, and 25. Open daily May 30-October 26. 30 - October 26.

Rocky Knob Cabins-Open April 26-November 3.

Mabry Mill Restaurant/Gift Shop - Open April 26 - November 3.

Bluffs Lodge/Restaurant/Gift Shop - Open April 26-November 3.

Price Park Lake Boat Rentals - Open weekends May 17-18, daily May 24-September 1, and weekends between September 6 and October 26.

Crabtree Meadows Snack Bar/Gift Shop/Camp Store - Open daily April 26 - October 26.

Northwest Trading Post Gift and Craft Shop - Open April 26 - November 30 (closed Thanksgiving Day).

Parkway Craft Center at Moses Cone Manor House - Open March 15 - November 30 (closed Thanksgiving Day).

Folk Art Center - Open year-round except New Year's Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas

Pisgah Inn/Restaurant/Gift Shop/Country Store - Open March 27 - November 3.

 

Directions

The Parkway connects Shenandoah National Park near Waynesboro, VA (Milepost 0) with Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, NC (Milepost 469). There are entrances and exits at all major federal and state highways and part of a Parkway experience is getting into the towns and communities of the region. Asheville and Boone, NC and Roanoke, VA are the largest cities along the way. In Virginia, Interstates 64, 81, and 77 all have directions for accessing the Parkway. The same is true for Interstates 40 and 26 in North Carolina.

Parkway Announces 2008 Spring Openings

Visitor facilities along the Blue Ridge Parkway will be opening for the season beginning in April. A new Park Service building near Asheville, the Blue Ridge Parkway Destination Center, has been open to the public since December. There will be a grand opening ceremony on Monday, April 14.

The concession at Mt. Pisgah will open on Thursday, March 27, weather permitting; and the Parkway Craft Center at the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park near the town of Blowing Rock will begin operations on Saturday, March 15.

In an announcement today, Superintendent Phil Francis noted that the picnic areas at Peaks of Otter, Humpback Rocks and Linville Falls will begin operation on Friday, April 4. These are in addition to the picnic area at Price Park, which is open year-round. All other Parkway Picnic Areas will be open on May 9. Linville Falls Campground will open on Friday, April 4, (the fishing season begins that date) while all other Parkway campgrounds will open Friday, May 16. Some sites at Mt. Pisgah, Linville Falls and Price Park Campgrounds can be reserved (for arrival dates beginning May 23 or later in the season). For more information, visit www.recreation.gov on the Internet or call toll-free (877) 444-6777. To reserve your camping space via www.recreation.gov, the fee is $19.00. A number of individual sites at these campgrounds and all sites at the remaining six Parkway campgrounds will still be available as first-come, first-served. The daily camping fee for 2008 for all "first-come" campers is $16.

Seasonal openings announced today are in addition to year-round operations at the Peaks of Otter lodge and restaurant near Bedford, VA., the Folk Art Center, the new Destination Center at Asheville, N.C., and the Museum of North Carolina Minerals near Spruce Pine, N.C. A schedule for all visitor centers follows. Some begin with weekends or a 5-day-a-week schedule through late May. As an exception, the Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent and Eastern National decided that the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center be closed for the 2008 season. That section of the motor road (at Milepost 364.5) will be closed for repair due to a slide. The area closest to the slide is particularly unstable and is closed even for hikers, bicyclists and other activities.

From Asheville, a visitor driving north on the Parkway can travel as far as the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area, which is found at Milepost 367.6. That picnic area will open on Friday, May 9. At the present time in North Carolina, MP 355 (the entrance of Mt. Mitchell State Park) to MP 375 at Bull Gap is closed due to ice in the tunnels and debris on the roadway. After the debris is cleared from the section north of Bull Gap and there is no ice on the road, the closure will be the section from Craggy Gardens just north of the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area (MP 367.6) to the south side of Mt. Mitchell (MP 355). Access to Mt. Mitchell State Park will continue to be from the north only, meaning visitors will have access to the Blue Ridge Parkway at Highway 80, Highway 226A, or Highway 226 (the most used detour route). The Parkway is subject to springtime snow and ice, and temporary closures are still possible. For information on current road conditions, call (828) 298-0398.

Beginning in June, Ranger-led campfire programs, nature walks and other interpretive services will be offered at campgrounds, visitor centers and selected locations along the Parkway. Weekly schedules will be posted. In addition, the summer concert series at the Blue Ridge Music Center will be offered on Saturday evenings June to early autumn. The series is provided through the partnering organization, the National Council for the Traditional Arts. For information about specific performances, visit www.ncta.net on the Internet.

Rangers are continuing to emphasize traffic patrols, especially on weekends, to reduce accidents. Motorcyclists are urged to exercise special caution.

OPENINGS/CLOSINGS SPRING 2008

CAMPGROUNDS

Linville Falls 04/04/08, all other campgrounds open 5/16/08. All Parkway campgrounds close 11/03/08.

PICNIC AREAS

Price Park Open Year-round (Full Service Restrooms and Water Fountains open April 30). Peaks of Otter 04/04/08-11/17/08 (Lower loop only. Upper loop closed for dam project construction.) Humpback Rocks 04/04/08 -11/17/08 (Port-a-Johns will be used April 4 to May 9 and November 3 to November 17 at Humpback Rocks and Peaks of Otter Picnic Grounds). Linville Falls 04/04/08-11/03/08. All Other Parkway Picnic Areas 05/09/08-11/03/08.

VISITOR CENTERS

Humpback Rocks- April 25 - May 23, 7 Days a Week - Closed for Lunch (12-1). Open daily from May 24-November 2.

James River - May 24-November 2.

Peaks of Otter April 25- May 23, 5 Days a Week, Closed Wed & Thurs. Open daily May 24 - November 2.

Explore Park Visitor Center (operated by Roanoke County) open daily April 1 - October 31.

Rocky Knob - Open weekends May 10,11,17, and 18. Open daily May 24-November 2.

Blue Ridge Music Center - May 3 - May 23, 5 Days a Week, Closed Mon & Tues. Open daily May 24-November 2.

Moses Cone - National Park Service information desk and bookstore open weekends April 11,12,13,18,19, and 20. Open daily April 25-November 2. Craft Center open March 15-November 30.

Linn Cove - Open daily April 25 - Nov. 2.

Linville Falls - Open weekends April 5,6,12,13,19, and 20. Open daily April 25 - November 2.

Museum of North Carolina Minerals - Open Year Round (Closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years Day).

Craggy Gardens closed for the 2008 season due to rock slide and road failure.

Folk Art Center - Open Year Round (Closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Years Day).

Blue Ridge Parkway Destination Center Open Year Round (Closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Years Day).

Waterrock Knob - Open daily April 25 - October 31.

CONCESSIONS FACILITIES

Otter Creek Restaurant and Gift Shop -Open May 7 - October 26

Peaks of Otter Lodge/Restaurant/Lounge/Gift Shop - Lodge, Restaurant and Gift Shop open year-round. Peaks Country Store and Sharp Top Bus open weekends May 9,10,11,16, 17,18,23,24, and 25. Open daily May 30-October 26. 30 - October 26.

Rocky Knob Cabins-Open April 26-November 3.

Mabry Mill Restaurant/Gift Shop - Open April 26 - November 3.

Bluffs Lodge/Restaurant/Gift Shop - Open April 26-November 3.

Price Park Lake Boat Rentals - Open weekends May 17-18, daily May 24-September 1, and weekends between September 6 and October 26.

Crabtree Meadows Snack Bar/Gift Shop/Camp Store - Open daily April 26 - October 26.

Northwest Trading Post Gift and Craft Shop - Open April 26 - November 30 (closed Thanksgiving Day).

Parkway Craft Center at Moses Cone Manor House - Open March 15 - November 30 (closed Thanksgiving Day).

Folk Art Center - Open year-round except New Year's Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas

Pisgah Inn/Restaurant/Gift Shop/Country Store - Open March 27 - November 3.

Fees & Reservations

There is no fee to travel the Blue Ridge Parkway and entrances and exits are available at intersections with all major highways. Taking short side trips into the many communities along the Parkway route is an excellent way to explore this region of the country.

There is a charge for camping ($16 per site) and those visitors with Golden Age or Golden Access Passports or the new Interagency Senior or Access Pass pay a reduced camping fee.

For organized activities such as sporting events, ceremonies or large group gatherings, a Special Use Permit may be necessary. Commercial Filming of any type also requires a permit.