The Blue Ridge Parkway is a National Parkway and All-American Road in the U.S., noted for its scenic beauty. It runs for 469 miles (755 km) through the famous Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains. Land on either side of the road is maintained by the National Park Service and in some stretches, by the United States Forest Service.
Begun during the administration of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the project was originally called the “Appalachian Scenic Highway.” Work began on September 11, 1935 and took over fifty-two years to complete, the last stretch (near the Linn Cove Viaduct) being laid around Grandfather Mountain in 1987.
Twenty-six tunnels were constructed through the rock, one reason parts of the Parkway are often closed in the winter. (Due to dripping groundwater from above, freezing temperatures, and the lack of sunshine, ice often accumulates inside these areas.) The highest point on the Parkway (between Asheville and Waynesville, in North Carolina) is 6053 feet or 1845m AMSL on Richland Balsam Mountain. The Parkway is carried across streams, railways, ravines and crossroads by 168 bridges and six viaducts.
The Parkway runs from the southern terminus of Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive in Virginia to U.S. 441 at Oconaluftee in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, North Carolina. There is no fee for using the Parkway, however commercial vehicles are prohibited, except for tour buses. The roadway is not maintained in the winter, and weather is extremely variable in the mountains, so conditions and closures often change rapidly.
The Parkway uses short side roads to connect to other highways, and there are no exits to the Parkway from interstates, making it possible to enjoy wildlife and other scenery without stopping for cross-traffic. Mileposts along the Parkway are numbered the reverse of most in the U.S., beginning in the northeast and running to the southwest. Also, unlike virtually all other roads in the U.S., the mileposts do not reset to zero when the road crosses a state line. Major towns along the way include Waynesboro, Roanoke, and Galax in Virginia; and in North Carolina, Boone and Asheville.
The Parkway information line at (828) 298 0398 is the best up-to-date list of road closures and other park-related information.
Blue Ridge Parkway Photo Gallery
Other Blue Ridge Parkway Resources
- National Park Service – Blue Ridge Parkway
- Blue Ridge Parkway Association
- Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation
- Virtual Blue Ridge Parkway
Local Blue Ridge Parkway Attractions
- Moses H. Cone Memorial Park
- Julian Price Memorial Park
- The Cascades at Jeffress Park
- Grandfather Mountain