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Tips for Traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of America’s most beautiful, scenic drives, with plenty of appealing stops along the way. The Blue Ridge Parkway spans through Virginia and North Carolina, and it’s popular among road trippers and motorcyclists.

If you do decide to take a trip along the Parkway, be mindful of the fact that you are sharing the road with motorcyclists. 

Beyond that, the following are some things to know and tips for traveling the Parkway.

An Overview of the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Parkway is a beautiful, relaxing drive where you can get long-range views and closer up views of the mountains and fields of the Appalachian mountains. The Parkway runs for 469 miles, and you may also spot wildlife along the way. The National Parkway is an All-American Road in the U.S., noted for how scenically beautiful it is.

The Parkway is the longest linear park in America. It goes through 29 counties in Virginia and North Carolina, linking Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Primarily, it’s along the Blue Ridge Mountains, which is part of the Appalachian Mountains. 

Land on either side of the road is both owned and maintained by the National Park Service. There’s no fee for using the Parkway, but commercial vehicles have to get approval from Park Service Headquarters, located near Asheville, North Carolina.

The roadway isn’t maintained in the winter, so you have to be especially careful, and also, sections going through tunnels and over high elevations are closed from late fall to early spring. The speed limit is never more than 45 mph, and it’s lower in some areas.

Tips for Travel

As was mentioned, the speed limit in most areas of the Parkway is 45, and in some places, it’s 35. On tight turns, it’s 25 MPH. Don’t speed, both because it’s dangerous and because you want to take it slow and really enjoy what you see along the way. 

People are driving to enjoy the views for the most part, so it’s not uncommon for them to be going very slowly—below the speed limit even, or to pull off quickly when they spot a scenic overlook.

You will likely experience some rain and fog, so be especially careful and get plenty of gas before you get on the Parkway. There are stretches of the drive where there aren’t any gas stations for more than 50 miles.

You can pull over unless a sign tells you otherwise, and you can find great views not just at the designated overlooks but unmarked areas along the way too.

Depending on when you go, but especially in the fall, be prepared for some crowds. It’s a very popular area.

If you’re driving an RV, they are welcome on the Parkway, but you will encounter tunnels, so you need to make sure ahead of time that you won’t be taller than these tunnels in your vehicle.

Cell phone service is spotty, so plan your route and download your maps to be used offline.

We mentioned motorcycles above, but remember that you will see plenty of them, and you should watch out for them, as well as bicyclists. When you’re passing a bicycle, stay well enough behind them until you get a straight area. Don’t try to pass in a turn.

Where to Stop

There are so many places to stop, but to give you an idea of some of the popular options, consider the following:

  • The Natural Bridge is located at Milepost 61.6, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. It’s a 20-story naturally-occurring bridge, and there are 137 steps.
  • The Blue Ridge Music Center is at Milepost 213, and it’s an outdoor amphitheater with bluegrass shows. There’s also Mid-Day Mountain Music every day from noon to 4 p.m.
  • The Blowing Rock is in North Carolina, at Milepost 291.9 The attraction is named for the northwest wind that blows up from the rock. It’s a cliff hanging 3,000 feet over the Johns River Gorge. The town of Blowing Rock is charming and full of shops and dining and is also a great place to stop.
  • Linville Falls is at Milepost 316.3, and it’s a three-level waterfall that goes into Linville Gorge. This is open year-round, and three hiking trails will take you there.

Finally, Biltmore is a historic estate in Asheville, North Carolina. This is an area you should spend the night if you can, so you can tour the house and gardens. There’s also a farm and winery and 12 onsite restaurants.

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