The Blue Ridge Parkway
Winding its way between the Shenandoah National Park in the north and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the south, the Blue Ridge Parkway has some of the most beautiful terrain in the country. But the Parkway is more than a scenic drive -- it's a national park that features hiking trails, scenic overlooks, superb fishing holes, and plenty of natural beauty. Many visitors enjoy biking and bird watching on the Parkway, or they spend their time behind a camera's lens, capturing the colorful beauty of the hills and valleys.
Founded in 1935, the Parkway has long been popular with summer travelers. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited park in the nation, and many of those guests also take a jaunt along the Parkway. The road is dotted with unique and charming communities, set in dramatic stretches of wilderness.
The Parkway is 500 miles long and encompasses some of the oldest settlements of both pre-historic and early European times. Visitors can trace much of the history of Appalachian culture by observing overlook signs, visitor center exhibits, restored historic structures, and developed areas. Don't miss the Peaks of Otter Visitor Center museum in Virginia, the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center and Mountain Farm exhibit, and the Yankee Horse Ridge Parking Area near the Irish Creek Railway. A number of historic farms and homesteads dot the Parkway.
Sites Along the Way
The Blue Ridge Parkway runs from Virginia to North Carolina, connecting many famous attractions. The park begins in the north at Shenandoah National Park and travels through Roanoke, Virginia, past the Booker T. Washington National Monument, and into the North Carolina. There it passes near the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site and the beautiful mountain town of Asheville. As you drive the Parkway, you'll past through four national forests: the George Washington and Jefferson forests in Virginia and the Pisgah and Nantahala forests in North Carolina. Mount Mitchell State Park is another popular North Carolina side trip.
For many people, the summer blooms along the Parkway rival the flowers found anywhere else. Meadows of black eyed Susan, coreopsis, queen Anne's lace, and the bright orange butterfly weed brighten up any drive along the road. A few Catawba rhododendron may still be visible in the higher elevations of the Parkway in North Carolina.
The Parkway is particularly famous for its autumn displays, as the mountains put on a show of red, orange, copper, and gold. The first leaves to change are those of the deciduous trees on the highest elevations. Throughout the month of October, the leaf color changes gradually, beginning in the high mountains and concluding at the lower slopes and valleys.