Blue Ridge Parkway Activity Guides:
Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge Parkway Overview
The Blue Ridge Parkway extends 469 miles along the crests of the Southern Appalachians and links two eastern national parksShenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains, crossing the North Carolina and Virginia state line at mile 216.9. The 1749 party that surveyed the boundary included Peter Jefferson, father of Thomas.
The parkway follows the Appalachian Mountain chain and provides seemingly endless views of many parallel ranges connected by cross ranges and scattered hills. From Shenandoah National Park the parkway follows the Blue Ridge, eastern rampart of the Appalachians, for 355 miles. Then, for the remaining 114 miles, it skirts the southern end of the massive Black Mountains, named for the dark green spruce and fir that cover them, weaves through the Craggies, the Pisgahs, the Balsams, and ends in the Great Smokies.
Trees, trees, trees are nearly everywhere. And come fall, many of them burst into color. Dogwood, sourwood, and blackgum turn deep red in late September. Tulip-trees and hickories turn bright yellow, sassafras a vivid orange, and red maples add their multi-colored brilliance. Finally various oaks put on a dash of russet and maroon. Evergreen trees include Virginia pine, white pine, hemlock, spruce and fir.
Flowering shrubs put on a springtime snow that rivals the display of trees in fall. Because of the range in elevation from 649 to 6,047 feet, peak blooming occurs at different times and placessomewhat earlier in Virginia than North Carolina. Flame azalea is at its best south of Roanoke to Rocky Knob about mid-May and in the high mountains west of Asheville about mid-June. Mountain laurel blooms along Otter Creek in mid-May and elsewhere on the parkway in the first two weeks of June. Dense thickets of catawba rhododendron turn purple north of Peaks of Otter to Onion Mountain and along the bluffs of Doughton Park the first week of June and in Craggy Gardens and through the Balsams after mid-June. Various wildflowers begin to bloom in April and continue into fall.
Wildlife is a delight to see along the parkway. When the sun is high, groundhogs sit erect and chipmunks and squirrels chitter and chatter. At night, skunks, bobcats, foxes, opossums, and raccoons may be seen along the roadsides. Whitetail deer and black bears are present but seldom seen Look for them in the early morning or evening. More than 100 bird species can be seen during the spring migration season.
The stories of the independent mountain people are told at many overlooks and facilities along the parkway, including Humpback Rocks, Peaks of Otter, Mabry Mill, Brinegar Cabin, Northwest Trading Post, and the Parkway Craft Center at Moses Cone Memorial Park. In the Asheville area, be sure to stop at the Folk Art Center for craft demonstrations and for general parkway information and trip planning.
For a more detailed description of the southernmost section of the highway, from Asheville to the Great Smokies, see "Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway."
- Travel Tips
- Mile 190+ - Mile 220+
- Mile 410+
- Skyline Drive to Mile 10+
- Mile 220+ - Mile 270
- Mile 0 - 80+
- Mile 10+ to Mile 50+
- Mile 270 - Mile 300+
- Mile 83.4 - 190+
- Mile 50 - Mile 80+
- Mile 300 - Mile 320+
- Mile 217 - 300+
- Mile 80+ - Mile 110+
- Mile 310+ - Mile 340+
- Mile 304.4 - End
- Mile 110+ - Mile 160+
- Mile 340+ - Mile 380
- Logistical Information
- Mile 160 - Mile 190+
- Mile 380+ - Mile 410+
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- Top Ten Hikes with Dogs
- Our favorite dog-friendly hiking trails will inspire you to get outside with your best furry-faced pal.
- Top Ten Unique National Park Lodges
- Rocky Knob Cabins, Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia
- Top Ten National Parks for Fall Foliage
- Great destinations for traveling leaf-peepers
- Top Ten Wildflower-Viewing Spots
- North Carolina
- Appalachian Trail
- Follow the foot trail that runs from the North Woods of Maine to Atlanta, Georgia
- North Carolina Mountains Outdoors
- Backyard for Big Kids
- Weekend Backpacker: Washington, D.C.
- Blue Ridge Parkway
- Wonderful Waterfalls
- of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains
- Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway
- High Mountain Wilderness Views in North Carolina - French Broad River to Mount Pisgah Picnic Area