Known as America’s Favorite Scenic Drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway is in a league of its own. As part of the National Park Service, the Parkway consists of 469-miles of weaving road that offers the grandest views of the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains. This gorgeous drive connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.
Along the way, you’ll catch breathtaking views of some of the highest peaks east of the Mississippi River, plus the best hiking trails in the area all with no cost to you. The Parkway runs right by Asheville making it an absolute must-do when you visit the area. Whether you are a current resident of Asheville or you are interested in making this gorgeous city your next home, read on to discover the history and current highlights of America’s favorite drive. Take a look!
The idea of the Blue Ridge Parkway arose during a time of great social change in America. Following the Great Depression, many engineers, architects and landscape professionals were left unemployed and thus, thousands of mountain area families were stricken with poverty. However, there was seed planted in the region as tourism increased due to the recent opening of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shenandoah National Park. There was opportunity in the idea of motoring vacations at this time as the automobile was becoming more widely available.
Parkway construction began late in 1935 after President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Virginia to work on the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park. He liked what he saw and soon approved the idea of creating a scenic parkway linking the two new National Parks. After much debate over location and funding, it was decided that the new parkway would run along the crest of the southern Appalachian mountains through Virginia and North Carolina.
The construction of the parkway was no easy undertaking as there were no maps available of the land, landowners were reluctant to the construction, weather conditions were brutal and the terrain combined with mountain wildlife added endless obstacles to the job. By the end, the parkway boasted over 200 parking areas, overlooks and developed areas where motorists could leisurely cruise and take in views of the mountains. Today, the parkway has seen well over 600 million visitors since its beginnings.
What’s In a Name
The Blue Ridge Parkway was, of course, named after the incredible Blue Ridge Mountains that it winds through, but you may be wondering where these hills got their name. This mountain range is known for having a surrounding blueish color haze when seen from a distance. This is actually caused by the trees atop the mountains. The trees release isoprene into the atmosphere which contributes to the characteristic haze around the mountains giving off their distinctive color.
Go for a Drive
As for enjoying the Blue Ridge Parkway today, the best thing to do is go for a simple scenic drive. Go for as long as you wish and enjoy the breathtaking views along the way. You’ll find plenty of photo ops as you cruise along the winding roads. Be sure to stop and get out of your vehicle at the overlooks to truly experience the magic of the crisp mountain air. With easy access and exit points from Asheville, you’ll have no problem enjoying the parkway on a regular basis.
Take a Hike
The Blue Ridge provides excellent access points for some of the best hiking trails in the United States. Whether you are interested in taking a short, easy hike for a view or a long, more challenging trek, the parkway has the perfect trail for you. You can choose from forested trails, open valley hikes and unbelievable trails to thundering waterfalls. There is no shortage of nature to be discovered along the parkway.
Pack a Picnic
Have an unforgettable picnic with loved ones along the scenic drive. There are hundreds of parking opportunities along the parkway where you and your family can set up a delicious meal on the go. You just can’t beat the view!
There are hundreds of excellent stopping points along the 469-mile parkway, but when venturing from Asheville there are a few that you simply won’t want to miss. Mount Mitchell is north of Asheville and boasts the title of tallest mountain east of the Mississippi River! In fact, you can take your car nearly to the summit. From the Mount Mitchell parking area it is only a half-mile to the reach the observation deck where you can enjoy the best long-range view in the region.
For a cultural experience, head south of Asheville on the parkway to visit the Folk Art Center. This popular stop offers you the opportunity to view and purchase authentic arts and crafts made by the people of the Blue Ridge region. The center also hosts craft demonstrations and various events throughout the year. To pick up a map, ask questions, purchase keepsakes or simply learn more about the parkway, visit the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center, both at milepost 382.
With so much to see and do along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’ll certainly need more time in the area! If you’re considering Asheville as your next home or you simply want to upgrade from your current residence in the area, let us assist you in your home buying and selling process. Troy Flack has been helping people just like you find their next Asheville home for over 26 years. Contact us today to begin working with our team of experienced and knowledgeable Asheville REALTORS®. We would be thrilled to help you find your next dream home to enjoy for years to come!