Virginians know that a drive through the state’s scenic valleys, age-old mountains, and sweeping landscapes could rival any drive in the entire world. Nowhere does that prove to be more true than along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The portion of this 500-mile scenic drive that resides in Virginia offers an unforgettable panorama of rolling peaks, breathtaking color, and fresh mountain air.
Natural beauty and the Blue Ridge Parkway go hand in hand. The parkway constitutes America’s longest linear park, winding its way through several of Virginia’s counties as it spans the Blue Ridge Mountains. The southern end of the route is located near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and the northern end runs all the way to Shenandoah National Park, where it then makes its way to Skyline Drive.
The intention of the parkway was to connect the very famous national parks mentioned above. In fact, this drive alone essentially attracts more visitors than any other national park unit in the country. In its early years, the parkway was known as the Appalachian Scenic Highway. Construction began in 1936, simultaneously creating jobs and restricting regulations for nearby landowners. By 1966, majority of the current parkway had been completed.
The mountains are the true draw to the Blue Ridge Parkway, although wildlife makes an equally stunning presence. During the spring, the nearby woods are covered with wildflowers, rhododendrons and dogwoods. As summer rolls in, daisies and other perennials become abundant. Finally, with the fall comes the true explosion of colors, as the leaves blaze with reds, golds, and oranges from tulip trees, hickories and oaks.
The drive features several tunnels, constructed through rock. While there’s just one in Virginia (Bluff Mountain Drive), North Carolina has an impressive twenty-five. The drive is accessible nearly all year round, with the exception of times in winter where snow and ice is especially problematic. Because conditions can change so quickly in the mountains, it’s always best to take the drive slowly. This is also the best way to appreciate the surrounding scenery.
There are many scenic overlooks and fascinating features to the drive. At Mile 5, drivers can take a self-guided tour through a series of authentic Appalachian farm buildings. This is also near one of the more famous hiking trails known as Humpback Rock. Mile 176.1 is the location of Mabry Mill, one of the most photographed scenes in all of Virginia. This historic mill operated from 1935 and makes for a charming place to dine.
So whether you have a few spare hours or an entire day, a trip to Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway will be an escape to a mountain-filled haven. Be sure to bring your camera and really take in all that the drive has to offer.
We’d love to hear from you! What have you experienced along the Blue Ridge Parkway? For more unforgettable drives, be sure to check out these
19 Scenic Country Roads In Virginia.