Blue Ridge Parkway

Overview

Introduction

This beautiful 470-mi/750-km drive begins in Virginia at the southern end of Shenandoah National Park (the scenic road through the park is called Skyline Drive). It ends at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the North Carolina-Tennessee border. In between, it touches many mountain ranges (from the Smokies to the Shenandoahs) but basically stays in the Blue Ridge Mountains, on the eastern side of the Appalachians. It's been called "America's Most Scenic Highway."

Along the way, visitors will find historic sites, spectacular scenery, displays of mountain culture, and charming inns and restaurants. It's best to drive the parkway in the fall (for the foliage) and spring (wildflowers in April), but any time between May and October is good, when most of the accommodations and visitor facilities are open.

Drive the whole route, if possible, but be aware that the parkway doesn't make for particularly fast traveling: The speed limit is less than that of the interstates, and the road tends to wind up and down mountains rather than skirting them, as most highways do. The biggest cause of delay, however, are the hundreds of scenic turnoffs and other sights that you simply won't be able to resist. Allow at least three days to complete the full route, but it's well-invested timeā€”the drive is truly gorgeous.

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