Blue Ridge Parkway

Along the highest ridge tops of the Southern Appalachians, the Blue Ridge Parkway serves as the gateway to incredible outdoor adventure and breathtaking mountain vistas.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is part of the National Park Service and is known as America's Favorite Scenic Drive. The 469-mile ribbon of road weaves around the peaks of the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains connecting Shenandoah National Park (Virginia) and Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina). As the Parkway approaches Asheville, it offers breathtaking views of some of the highest peaks east of the Mississippi River and access to the area's best hiking trails. The Parkway is easy to explore with no admission fee and frequent, paved overlooks.

Top Things to Do on the Blue Ridge Parkway

1. Scenic Drives: The best and easiest way to explore the Blue Ridge Parkway is to go for a drive! Drive for 10 miles or 50—it's all up to you! And, it's easy to create an experience that fits with your itinerary of other things to do in Asheville.

Family Hiking at Black Balsam2. Hiking: The Blue Ridge Parkway is known for providing access to some of the best hiking trails in the nation. Whether you're looking for a short, easy hike or a more challenging trek, you'll find it on the Parkway. The forested trails lead to everything from 360-degree views to thundering waterfalls. See our guide to the best Blue Ridge Parkway hikes.

3. Picnicking: The dramatic views found on the Blue Ridge Parkway make for unforgettable picnic spots.

4. Biking: Bike the Blue Ridge Parkway for an outdoor adventure, and workout, like no other. See our guide to road biking adventures.

Top Places to Visit on the Blue Ridge Parkway 

From natural wonders to an art gallery/shop, these are highlights of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville. Distances from downtown Asheville are shown in parenthesis. 

North of Asheville

  • Mt. Mitchell PeakCraggy Gardens — Milepost 364.4: Breathtaking views await you here at elevation 5,640 feet. Craggy Gardens is home to a National Park Service visitor center, shop and restroom facilities. (24 miles, 35 minutes)    
  • Mount Mitchell — Milepost 355.4: Explore the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi River. You can drive nearly all the way to the summit. From the parking area it is just a half-mile hike to reach the observation deck and enjoy the long-range mountain views. Mount Mitchell also has a museum, gift shop, restaurant (open during spring to fall) and restrooms. (35 miles, 1 hour)

South of Asheville

  • Folk Art Center — Milepost 382: This popular stop on the Parkway offers you the opportunity to view and purchase some of the region's best arts and crafts. The Folk Art Center hosts craft demonstrations and events throughout the year. (6 miles, 10 minutes
  • Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center — Milepost 382: Pick up maps, ask questions, see interactive exhibits and purchase souvenirs. (6 miles, 10 minutes)
  • Cold MountainMount Pisgah - Milepost 407.6: See Asheville's most iconic peak up close and personal. (26 miles, 40 minutes)  
  • Graveyard Fields — Milepost 417: This area, named for its unique landscape, offers relatively easy hiking trails to access to two waterfalls. (37 miles, 55 minutes)
  • Black Balsam — Milepost 420.2: Black Balsam is a local and visitor favorite for hiking, especially on the popular Art Loeb Trail. (40 miles, 1 hour) 
  • Devil's Courthouse — Milepost 422.4: A large parking area provides a view of this unique rock formation. A strenuous hike takes you to the top for near 360-degree views. (42 miles, 1 hr. 5 minutes)

Plan Your Visit to the Blue Ridge Parkway

What to know about the Blue Ridge Parkway

  • COST: It is FREE to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway. There is no admission fee.
  • HOURS: The Blue Ridge Parkway is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week year-round. However, the Parkway may close due to snow or ice. For real time road information, please see the interactive road closures map on the National Park Service web site.
  • HOW TO NAVIGATE: There are stone markers at every mile along the Blue Ridge Parkway. These numbered mile markers are your guide for locating top attractions and overlooks.  
  • SPEED LIMIT: The Blue Ridge Parkway has a speed limit of 45 MPH, making for a leisurely drive. There are many paved overlooks where you can stop to rest, see the view or take photos.
  • GAS: There are no gas stations on the Blue Ridge Parkway. But gas is available just off the Parkway at several major intersections with US or state highways. We recommend filling up your tank before driving on the Parkway.
  • VEHICLES THAT CAN DRIVE THE PARKWAY: All non-commercial vehicles are welcome on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

How to get on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville

In the Asheville area, there are four main entrances to the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are roadside signs before and at each of these entrances.

Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center

Asheville is home to the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center. Pick up maps, ask questions, see interactive exhibits or purchase a souvenir. The Visitor Center is located at Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 384.

When using a GPS, use the following address: 195 Hemphill Knob Rd., Asheville.

Trip Planning and History of the Blue Ridge Parkway

Check out our interactive Blue Ridge Parkway travel guide, and learn about the Explorers of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

 

Blue Ridge Parkway History

The idea for the Blue Ridge Parkway was born during the Great Depression in the early 1930s when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited the newly constructed Skyline Drive in Virginia.

Virginia Senator Harry Byrd suggested the road could be extended to connect with Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. In 1933, the Interior Secretary approved the project with a budget of $16 million. After debate over the route, namely whether or not it would go through Asheville, plans were finalized.

With architects Gilmore Clark and Stanley Abbot at the helm, construction soon began on September 11, 1935. The architects put a major emphasis on preserving nature and Appalachian culture and history.

When World War II began, about 170 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway had been completed and were open to the public. A 10-year development plan in the 1950s helped spur the remaining construction. And by 1966, all but 7.7 miles of the Parkway (a stretch at Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina) had been finished.

To finish the project, the Linn Cove Viaduct was constructed. This engineering feat, a 1,243-foot concrete bridge, was constructed from the top down to limit effects on the natural environment.

With the Viaduct in place, the Blue Ridge Parkway was finally complete. The Parkway officially opened on September 11, 1987—exactly 52 after construction began.

In the years since, the Blue Ridge Parkway has become the most visited National Park Service site.

Dive deeper into the history of the Blue Ridge Parkway, meet the people who paved the way for its creation and see more trip ideas by checking out our interactive Blue Ridge Parkway travel guide: Explorers of the Blue Ridge Parkway.