Blue Ridge Parkway route map
|Length||469 mi (755 km)|
|Existed||June 30, 1936-present|
|Blue Ridge Parkway|
|North end||in Rockfish Gap, VA|
|South end||in Swain County, NC|
|States||Virginia, North Carolina|
IUCN category V (protected landscape/seascape)
The parkway near Grandfather Mountain
|Location||North Carolina & Virginia, USA|
|Nearest city||Asheville, NC & Roanoke, VA|
|Area||93,390 acres (377.9 km2)|
|Established||June 30, 1936|
|Visitors||14,976,085 (in 2019)|
|Governing body||National Park Service|
|Website||Blue Ridge Parkway|
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a National Parkway and All-American Road in the United States, noted for its scenic beauty. The parkway, which is America's longest linear park, runs for 469 miles (755 km) through 29 Virginia and North Carolina counties, linking Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It runs mostly along the spine of the Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains. Its southern terminus is at U.S. Route 441 (US 441) on the boundary between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina, from which it travels north to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. The roadway continues through Shenandoah as Skyline Drive, a similar scenic road which is managed by a different National Park Service unit. Both Skyline Drive and the Virginia portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway are part of Virginia State Route 48 (SR 48), though this designation is not signed.
The parkway has been the most visited unit of the National Park System every year since 1946 except four (1949, 2013, 2016 and 2019). Land on either side of the road is owned and maintained by the National Park Service, and in many places parkway land is bordered by United States Forest Service property. The parkway was on North Carolina's version of the America the Beautiful quarter in 2015.
Begun during the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the project was originally called the Appalachian Scenic Highway. Most construction was carried out by private contractors under federal contracts under an authorization by Harold L. Ickes in his role as federal public works administrator. Work began on September 11, 1935, near Cumberland Knob in North Carolina; construction in Virginia began the following February. On June 30, 1936, Congress formally authorized the project as the Blue Ridge Parkway and placed it under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. Some work was carried out by various New Deal public works agencies. The Works Progress Administration did some roadway construction. Crews from the Emergency Relief Administration carried out landscape work and development of parkway recreation areas. Personnel from four Civilian Conservation Corps camps worked on roadside cleanup, roadside plantings, grading slopes, and improving adjacent fields and forest lands. During World War II, the CCC crews were replaced by conscientious objectors in the Civilian Public Service program.
The parkway's construction created jobs in the region, but also displaced many residents and created new rules and regulations for landowners, including requirements related to how farmers could transport crops. Residents could no longer build on their lands without permission, or develop land except for agricultural use. They were not permitted to use the parkway for any commercial travel but were required to transport equipment and materials on side roads.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians were also affected by the parkway, which was built through their lands. From 1935 to 1940, they resisted giving up the right-of-way through the Qualla Boundary, and they were successful in gaining more favorable terms from the U.S. government. Specifically, the revised bill "specified the parkway route, assured the $40,000 payment for the tribe's land, and required the state to build [a] regular highway through the Soco Valley". (The highway referred to is part of U.S. Route 19.) Cherokee leaders participated in the dedications when the Cherokee sections opened in the 1950s.
Construction of the parkway was complete by the end of 1966 with one notable exception. The 7.7-mile (12.4 km) stretch including the Linn Cove Viaduct around Grandfather Mountain did not open until 1987. The project took over 52 years to complete.
This section needs to be updated.December 2020)(
The bridge above Interstate 26 is set to be replaced in a widening project for that interstate that will begin in September 2019. The new bridge will be built just to the south of the existing bridge, so there are no foreseeable closures associated with the bridge replacement.
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Flowering shrubs and wildflowers dominate the parkway in the spring, including rhododendrons and dogwoods, moving from valleys to mountains as the cold weather retreats. Smaller annuals and perennials such as the daisy and aster flower through the summer. Brilliant autumn foliage occurs later in September on the mountaintops, descending to the valleys by later in October. Often in early-to-middle October and middle to late April, all three seasons can be seen simply by looking down from the cold and windy parkway to the green and warm valleys below. October is especially dramatic, as the colored leaves stand out boldly and occur mostly at the same time, unlike the flowers.
Major trees include oak, hickory, and tulip tree at lower elevations and buckeye and ash in the middle, turning into conifers such as fir and spruce at the highest elevations on the parkway. Trees near ridges, peaks, and passes (often called gaps or notches) are often distorted and even contorted by the wind, and persistent rime ice is deposited by passing clouds in the winter.
The Blue Ridge Parkway has also been a corridor for the spread of many invasive species, including oriental bittersweet, privet, and multiflora rose.
The parkway runs from the southern terminus of Shenandoah National Park's Skyline Drive in Virginia at Rockfish Gap to U.S. Route 441 (US 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 without approval from the Park Service Headquarters, near Asheville, North Carolina. The roadway is not maintained in the winter, and sections that pass over especially high elevations and through tunnels are often impassable and therefore closed from late fall through early spring. Weather is extremely variable in the mountains, so conditions and closures often change rapidly. The speed limit is never higher than 45 mph (72 km/h) and lower in some sections.
The parkway uses short side roads to connect to other highways, and there are no direct interchanges with Interstate Highways,[a] making it possible to enjoy wildlife and other scenery without stopping for cross-traffic. Mileposts along the parkway start at zero at the northeast end in Virginia and count to 469 at the southern end in North Carolina. The mileposts can be found on the right-hand side of the road while traveling southbound on the parkway. Major towns and cities along the way include Waynesboro, Roanoke, and Galax in Virginia; and in North Carolina, Boone and Asheville, where it runs across the property of the Biltmore Estate. The Blue Ridge Music Center (also part of the park) is located in Galax, and Mount Mitchell (the highest point in eastern North America) is only accessible via a state highway (NC 128) from the parkway at milepost 355.4.
The Blue Ridge Parkway tunnels were constructed through the rock--one in Virginia and 25 in North Carolina. Sections of the parkway near the tunnels are often closed in winter. Because groundwater drips from above with freezing temperatures and a lack of sunlight, ice often accumulates inside these locations despite above-freezing temperatures in the surrounding areas. The highest point on the parkway (south of Waynesville, near Mount Pisgah in North Carolina) is 6,053 feet (1,845 m) above sea level on Richland Balsam at milepost 431 and is often closed from November to April because of inclement weather such as snow, fog, and even freezing fog from low clouds. The parkway is carried across streams, railway ravines and cross roads by 168 bridges and six viaducts.
It is not unusual for small sections of the parkway to be temporarily closed to repair damage caused by the cold winter climate of the mountains or for other maintenance. Detours caused by these closures are well marked and are arranged to cause as little disruption as possible, though maintenance such as repaving only warrants a stop/slow switch with a one-lane-only restriction.
Due to serious damage in 2004 from Hurricane Frances, then again by Hurricane Ivan, many areas along the parkway were closed until the spring of 2005, with two areas that were not fully repaired until the spring of 2006.
|Virginia||Augusta||Rockfish Gap||0.00||0.00|| to - Charlottesville, Waynesboro|
Skyline Drive north - Shenandoah National Park
|One-quadrant interchange plus connector road; northern terminus of parkway; I-64 exit 99|
|Reids Gap||13.7||22.0||(Beech Grove Road / Reeds Gap Road) - Waynesboro|
|Nelson||||16.0||25.7||(Campbells Mountain Road) to||Unpaved road|
|||16.1||25.9||(Love Road) - Sherando Lake|
|Tye River Gap||27.1||43.6||- Montebello, Steele's Tavern||One-quadrant interchange|
|Rockbridge||Humphreys Gap||45.5||73.2||- Buena Vista, Amherst||One-quadrant interchange|
|Amherst||Otter Creek||61.3||98.7||- Natural Bridge, Lynchburg||One-quadrant interchange|
|Bedford||||63.9||102.8||- Big Island, Glasgow||One-quadrant interchange|
|Peaks of Otter||85.9||138.2||south - Bedford||North end of SR 43 overlap; north end of VDOT maintenance of SR 43 (southern segment)|
|Bearwallow Gap||90.9||146.3||north - Buchanan||Two-quadrant interchange; south end of SR 43 overlap; south end of VDOT maintenance of SR 43 (northern segment)|
|||105.9||170.4||(US 221) - Bedford, Roanoke||Two-quadrant interchange|
|Roanoke||||112.3||180.7||- Stewartsville, Vinton, Roanoke, Booker T. Washington National Monument||Two-quadrant interchange|
|||115.2||185.4||Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center, Virginia's Explore Park (Roanoke River Parkway)|
|||120.5||193.9||Mill Mountain Park & Zoo, Historic Roanoke Star, Downtown Roanoke (Mill Mountain Parkway)|
|||121.4||195.4||- Rocky Mount, Roanoke||Two-quadrant interchange|
|Adney Gap||136.0||218.9||Connector road|
|Floyd||||159.3||256.4||(Shooting Creek Road)||Former SR 109|
|Tuggle Gap||165.1||265.7||- Floyd, Stuart||One-quadrant interchange|
|||174.0||280.0||(Conner Grove Road)||former SR 102 north|
|||174.1||280.2||(Woodberry Road)||former SR 102 south|
|||174.2||280.3||(Buffalo Mountain Road)|
|Patrick||Meadows of Dan||177.7||286.0||(via US 58 Bus.) - Stuart, Hillsville||Parkway and US 58 grade-separated; two-quadrant interchange with US 58 Bus.|
|Willis Gap||192.1||309.2||(Willis Gap Road)|
|Carroll||||199.0||320.3||(Lightning Ridge Road)|
|Fancy Gap||199.4||320.9||to - Mt. Airy, Hillsville||Two-quadrant interchange|
|Grayson||Low Gap||215.7||347.1||- Mt. Airy, Galax||One-quadrant interchange|
|North Carolina||Alleghany||||217.2||349.5||- Sparta, Mt. Airy||One-quadrant interchange|
|||229.6||369.5||- Roaring Gap, Sparta||Two-quadrant interchange|
|||248.0||399.1||- North Wilkesboro, Laurel Springs||One-quadrant interchange|
|Ashe||Miller Gap||258.7||416.3||Trading Post Road - Glendale Springs|
|Horse Gap||261.2||420.4||- North Wilkesboro, West Jefferson||Two-quadrant interchange|
|Watauga||Deep Gap||276.5||445.0||- Boone, Wilkesboro, North Wilkesboro||One-quadrant interchange|
|||280.9||452.1||Old US 421||Connector road|
|||290.8||468.0||Green Hill Road|
|||291.9||469.8||/ - Blowing Rock, Boone||Two-quadrant interchange|
|Avery||||294.6||474.1||- Linville, Grandfather Mountain||One-quadrant interchange|
|||312.1||502.3||- Pineola, Morganton||One-quadrant interchange|
|||316.4||509.2||Linville Falls Road - Linville Falls|
|||317.5||511.0||- Linville Falls Community||One-quadrant interchange|
|Mitchell||Gillespie Gap||330.8||532.4||- Spruce Pine, Marion||One-quadrant interchange|
|||333.9||537.4||- Little Switzerland||One-quadrant interchange/connector road hybrid|
|Yancey||Buck Creek Gap||344.1||553.8||- Marion, Burnsville||One-quadrant interchange|
|Black Mountain Gap||355.4||572.0||- Mount Mitchell State Park|
|Buncombe||Bull Gap||375.7||604.6||Elk Mountain Scenic Highway - Weaverville||To Vance Birthplace|
|Craven Gap||377.4||607.4||south (Town Mountain Road)|
|Asheville||382.6||615.7||(Tunnel Road) - Black Mountain, Asheville||Two-quadrant interchange|
|||384.8||619.3||to / - Asheville||Two-quadrant interchange|
|||388.8||625.7||- Hendersonville, Asheville, NC Arboretum||Two-quadrant interchange|
|||393.6||633.4||to - Asheville, Hendersonville||One-quadrant interchange|
|Henderson||Elk Pasture Gap||405.6||652.7||north - Candler|
|Haywood||Wagon Road Gap||411.8||662.7||- Brevard, Waynesville||One-quadrant interchange|
|Transylvania||Beech Gap||423.3||681.2||One-quadrant interchange|
|Haywood||Balsam Gap||443.5||713.7||/ - Waynesville, Sylva||One-quadrant interchange|
|Soco Gap||455.7||733.4||(Soco Road) - Cherokee, Maggie Valley||Two-quadrant interchange|
|Jackson||Wolf Laurel Gap||458.2||737.4||Balsam Mountain, Black Camp Gap, Masonic Marker (Heintooga Ridge Road)|
|Swain||Ravensford||469.1||754.9||- Cherokee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg||Southern terminus of parkway|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi|