Here are some frequently asked questions that Park Rangers get about the Parkway (and the answers!):
I'm not accustomed to driving in the mountains... how can I be safe?
Here are some things about driving the Parkway that will help ensure a safe visit. First of all, obey the speed limit and make use of the overlooks to enjoy the scenery and let other drivers get by. The Parkway is a bit steeper than most roads and the curves can sometimes "tighten" as you get into them. There are built-in distractions such as beautiful vistas, interesting cabins, bicyclists, and wildlife... watch out for them all! A good rule to keep in mind is "enjoy the view, but watch the road!"
Is there a toll or fee?
The Parkway is part of the National Park Service and FREE for all to enjoy. All of the hiking trails and attractions on the Parkway are also free. No commercial vehicles are allowed.
When is it open?
The Parkway is open 24 hours a day, every day. However, sections close in winter months due to snow and ice. Most of the Parkway is not plowed or treated with chemicals after a snow, so higher elevations are frequently closed in November through March. Road closures and conditions, along with weather reports, are available by calling the Parkway information line at (828) 298-0398. If the Parkway is closed for snow, it is still open for walking or cross country skiing!
Are there places to stop along the Parkway?
Yes, the frequent overlooks have space for parking while you enjoy the views or a nearby hiking trail. See a complete list of Parkway overlooks.
Can I picnic along the roadside?
In most places, picnicking is allowed on the roadside. This is a long-standing Parkway tradition, but you must be pulled completely off the road and please avoid soggy areas or ditches if we've had an abundance of rain. North of Asheville, NC, the Parkway goes through the city watershed and off-road parking is not permitted where indicated by signs.
Where do I buy gas?
No gasoline is available on the parkway. Gas is available not far off the Parkway at any of these US or State Highway Intersections in North Carolina near Asheville.
NC 181 — Exit at Parkway Milepost 312
US 221 — MP 317.5
NC 226 — MP 330.9
NC 226A — MP 334
US 70 — MP 382.4
US 74A — MP 384.7
US 25 — MP 388.1
NC 191 — MP 393.6
US 276 — MP 411.9
US 74/23 — MP 443.1
US 19 — MP 455.7
When and where can I see Rhododendron in bloom?
Catawba Rhododendron (R. Catawbiense) is the purple variety that blooms from early June around the Peaks of Otter in Virginia to the third week of June at Craggy Gardens in North Carolina. Any time between those dates, there are spots of this variety blooming. Rosebay Rhododendron (R. Maximum) is the larger white variety that begins in mid to late June and blooms into July, primarily through Rocky Knob, VA. Flame Azalea (calendulaceum), Pink Azalea or Pinxter Flower (nudiflorum), bloom early to late May in many Parkway areas. Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) blooms mid to late June and into July in higher elevations.
Why aren't there any more signs showing what is available off of the Parkway?
Part of the beauty and enjoyment of the Parkway is limited access and no commercial signs or billboards. Short drives off of the Parkway into any nearby community will allow you to experience the charm and delight of the region.
Where, exactly, is the Blue Ridge?
The Blue Ridge is part of the entire eastern Appalachian Mountains and is generally described as stretching from north Georgia into Pennsylvania. From Milepost 0 at Rockfish Gap, VA to Milepost 355 near Mount Mitchell State Park, NC, the Parkway lives up to its name by following the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, averaging about 3,000 feet in elevation, and occasionally dipping down into the coves and hollows or crossing low-elevation water gaps. At Mount Mitchell, the Parkway veers westward through the Black Mountains, then into the Craggies before descending toward Asheville. From there, the road climbs to elevations over 6,000 feet in the Balsam Mountains before entering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee.
What is the difference between the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway?
The Skyline Drive is the 105 mile scenic road through Shenandoah National Park. At Afton Mountain, Virginia, the Skyline Drive heads north and the Blue Ridge Parkway heads south. Look for Milepost 0 on the bridge over U.S. 250.
When do facilities open and close for the season?
The Folk Art Center in Asheville, the Museum of North Carolina Minerals at Spruce Pine, and the Peaks of Otter Lodge and Restaurant north of Roanoke are open year round. Other facilities, including visitor centers, campgrounds, and picnic areas, begin opening on a staggered schedule in late April and stay open through the fall leaf color.
Why can't we pick flowers or gather wood along the Parkway?
National park areas are set aside to preserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects for the enjoyment of all visitors. From the smallest flower to the trees that fall in the forest are part of the ecosystem of the region that we are charged with protecting. Thanks for doing your part!
Is the Blue Ridge Parkway a national park?
The National Park Service administers a variety of kinds of areas. Some of these are "parks", some are called "seashores", some are called "monuments" or "historic sites", and some are called "parkways." We wear the same uniform and operate under basically the same rules as Yellowstone, Gettysburg, or Cape Hatteras.
How do I know if there is threatening weather or road closures along sections of the Parkway?
The park information line, (828) 298-0398, is the most up-to-date source for road closures by section and access to Parkway weather reports. Check your favorite weather-related web site before coming to visit. Have a few emergency supplies handy just in case the weather catches you by surprise.
Is there a fee for traveling the Parkway and can I use my National Park Pass while here?
There is no entrance fee for traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway, but camping fees are reduced for those with the Golden Age or Golden Access pass. A new pass for all federal recreation areas is available. Information on the America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass– Access Pass can be found at www.recreation.gov.
What can I do to help protect the Parkway?
Most of all, obey rules and regulations, and make your visit as "low impact" and responsible as possible. You may want to touch base with the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, or the Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway, organizations that work full time helping the Parkway stay the way it is. They would love to hear from you!
Is hunting allowed along the Parkway?
No hunting is allowed on Parkway lands, but with a special permit, access to hunting on U.S. Forest Service lands is allowed from designated places along the Parkway. Check at ranger stations for a Hunter Parking Permit.
When was the Parkway built and how long did it take to get the job done?
Groundbreaking took place in September 1935 and the work was contracted and completed in "sections." By World War II, about one-half of the road was completed and by the 1960s, all but one section was opened to the public. In 1987, the last section was completed around Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, including the Linn Cove Viaduct at Milepost 304, an environmentally sensitive, award winning bridge. Blue Ridge Parkway's History
Why is the Blue Ridge "blue"?
According to "A Naturalist's Blue Ridge Parkway" by David Catlin, "it can be legitimately claimed that trees put the "blue" in Blue Ridge, for hydrocarbons released into the atmosphere by the forest contribute to the characteristic haze on these mountains and to their distinctive color." The entire Appalachian Chain is extraordinarily diverse and rich in its vegetation, so there is perhaps more "blue" to the Blue Ridge and more "smoky" to the Great Smoky Mountains.
Will I have any problem getting my recreational vehicle through the Parkway tunnels?
The tunnels have clearance for RVs and campers. There are twenty six tunnels along the Parkway, one in Virginia and the others in North Carolina, mostly south of Asheville.
How do I get the best photographs along the Parkway?
No photographs adequately capture what you see with your eye from the Parkway's many overlooks, but here are a few tips that may help you out. Early morning or late afternoon sun is much better than mid-day when colors appear to be "washed out." Keep the sun at your back and have someone in your family or group in the picture as a way to personalize your visit.
Why can't I see long distances off of the Parkway like I used to years ago?
From the earliest descriptions of the Appalachian Mountains, observers have noted the blue color and haze that radiates off of these mountains because of the rich vegetation. Much of the haze we see today is also associated with pollution from a variety of sources in the eastern United States. Over three quarters of the pollutants come from coal-fired power sources. Air pollution does not respect the boundaries of national forests and national parks.
What is the difference between National Forests and National Parks?
The Parkway travels through four U.S. National Forests, the Jefferson and George Washington in Virginia, and the Pisgah and Nantahala in North Carolina. National Park areas under the Department of the Interior, have a primary responsibility to conserve all of the park resources for the enjoyment of visitors. National Forest areas under the Department of Agriculture, are multiple use areas where trees are planted and harvested and lots of recreational opportunities, including hunting, are allowed.
Why aren't Beavers and their dams removed?
When European explorers first traveled through the Southern Appalachians, beavers inhabited virtually every stream and river. Their engineering efforts provided food, shelter and safe habitat for other species. When fur traders trapped the last beaver in the late nineteenth century, a vital component of the natural ecosystem of these mountains was eliminated. Beavers were re-introduced in the 1930s - 1950s and have increased the biological diversity in many Parkway areas. Management efforts by park staff are aimed at protecting the role of the beaver and maintaining the recreational opportunities for the visiting public.
Who built the Parkway?
The Parkway was an idea born out of the Great Depression and part of its purpose was to put as many people as possible to work. Private contractors, the state and federal highway departments, Italian and Spanish immigrant stonemasons, and thousands of Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees did the work.