The Blue Ridge Parkway scenic drive is one of America’s most beautiful journeys and an icon of the East Coast. This road was initially built to connect the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Now, people can benefit from the iconic drive and all the history, culture, and nature it offers, even if they aren’t there for the parks.
About the Blue Ridge Parkway
This route is an ecological marvel with a range of climates and wildlife. It’s full of museums, festivals, and events; although, nothing quite compares to the stunning views of the natural scenery. As America’s longest linear park, this road is 469 miles of adventure.
Driving the Route
The Blue Ridge Parkway scenic drive includes some curves and mountainsides, though it’s not a difficult drive. It’s meant to be a relaxing scenic experience. It has some snowy sections in higher elevations, but it’s also mainly in Virginia and North Carolina and benefits from moderate southern weather.
If you’re planning to take the Blue Ridge Parkway scenic drive anytime soon, you should know what to expect. Use our guide to help you map out your path.
Ridge Region: Mile 0-106
The Ridge Region is the first section of this road, and it starts in Afton, Virginia. This is especially convenient for anyone visiting Shenandoah National Park because the road picks up where the park ends. This region is full of parks and history, and even has access to the Appalachian Trail close to mile 106.
Stop and See:
This infamous route runs through the Jefferson and George Wasington national forests and the early American settlements at Humpback Rocks. You also get to see Natural Chimney Regional Park, which shows some impressive rock formations. There’s even one of the natural world wonders: the Natural Bridge of Virginia.
This route is full of historical monuments, such as the D-Day Memorial. Staunton has recreated Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, perfect for lovers of the arts. You can also check out a music festival at Glen Maury Park or the many wineries in this area.
Plateau Region: Mile 106-217
This section of the Blue Ridge Parkway scenic drive is much more rural, giving people time to appreciate the vibrant landscapes as they drive. This area provides historical sites and traditional music that shows how people have used this land over time. The Plateau Region takes travelers to the edge of Virginia and into North Carolina.
Stop and See:
You can walk along Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail or the Montgomery County Artisan Trail. Explore the Booker T. Washington National Monument or New River Trail State Park. Stop for pictures at the gorgeous Mabry Hill, or stay for a night at the Rocky Knob campground.
There are NASCAR races in Martinsville, along with races at both Fork Mountain Raceway and Lake Sugar Tree Motorsport Park. Once you hit Carroll County, you can see three of the road’s biggest attractions: Floyd Country Store, Blue Ridge Music Center, and the Rex Theater. If you happen to be on this road in August, you can also check out the Old Fiddlers Convention in Galax, Virginia.
Highlands Region: Mile 217-340
This region begins at the North Carolina state line and extends all the way to Crabtree Falls. This beautiful drive showcases Linville Falls, along with some Native American legends. Whether you want to see waterfalls or Christmas tree farms, historic courthouses or thriving vineyards, this region will not disappoint.
Stop and See:
You can drive through Grandfather Mountain, an international biosphere reserve and ecologically diverse ecosystem. Visitors can also explore Blowing Rock or the Cone Manor, as well as the many hiking trails, parks, and vineyards. There are art and craft festivals, along with good food and music.
There’s no shortage of museums along the Blue Ridge Parkway scenic drive, and this section includes the Andy Griffith Museum. There are also plenty of music festivals and furniture stores, with “20 miles of furniture” in Caldwell County. West Jefferson has their Christmas in July festival and in Banner Elk, they celebrate the Wooly Worm festival. If you’re in town for the holidays, you can celebrate Oktoberfest or Sugarfest.
Pisgah Region: Mile 340-469
This region is known for its picturesque forests and storybook charm. It’s also the location of the Blue Ridge Parkway headquarters, home to several American legends over the years. This region also has the most Native American history, with the end of this historic road in Cherokee.
Stop and See:
Warm up in Madison County’s Hot Springs and visit Chimney Rock State Park. Additionally, there’s the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, state forests, theaters, and wineries. You can also enjoy the 250 waterfalls of Pisgah National Forest.
History buffs will appreciate the historic Jackson County courthouse. This road ends in Cherokee, home to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. Visitors can also appreciate the Festival of Native Peoples, as well as other exhibits and events dedicated to preserving Native American culture.
Traveler’s Tip: Take a little extra time at the end of your drive and spend a perfect day in Cherokee, NC.
What Time of Year Is Best for the Blue Ridge Parkway Scenic Drive?
This road is most popular in the summer, which makes sense since that’s going to be the easiest weather to drive in. However, you can also consider a different season if you want to see the leaves change in the fall or go skiing in the winter. It all depends on your personal interests and what kind of vacation you’re looking for.
How Long Does It Take to Drive the Entire Route?
The entire drive takes 10-12 hours; however, it should take a few days to explore everything. If you’re going to take a vacation, you don’t want to rush. Take the week off and enjoy everything this iconic road can offer.
Is It Worth Driving All 469 Miles?
The East Coast is full of historical monuments and breathtaking views, and the Blue Ridge Parkway is proof of that. And sure, you might be interested in some parts of the trail more than others. So if you’re short on time, or just really want to spend your whole weekend hiking instead of hitting all the tourist attractions, don’t feel guilty for not getting from start to finish.
But with views like these, not to mention the incredible history and culture there, driving the entire 469 miles is worth a shot.
From start to finish, this road is full of beauty. Parks, forests, monuments, and museums make up the perfect route for people seeking a peaceful vacation. If you ever find yourself in the Southeast corner of the United States, the Blue Ridge Parkway scenic drive is an educational and adventurous area to have fun.