The Beginning of the Blue Ridge Parkway
The seed was planted for a scenic road through the Blue Ridge Mountains when North Carolina geologist Joseph Hyde Pratt proposed a mountain toll roll stretching from Marion, VA, to Tallulah, GA. World War I halted work on the road, but the idea of a scenic road persisted.
The construction of the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park turned into a serendipitous event when President Franklin Roosevelt visited the construction site in 1933. Senator Harry Flood Byrd recommended that the roadway extend to the newly created Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Roosevelt thoroughly endorsed this idea, and plans on began on a new public works project: the "Park-to-Park Highway."
Parkway Construction Begins
Work on the Blue Ridge Parkway began on September 11, 1935, near Cumberland Knob, NC. The majority of the work was completed by private contractors under federal contracts, but other agencies assisted. New Deal public works agencies, Works Progress Administration personnel, crews from the Emergency Relief Administration, Civilian Conservation Corps camps and Civilian Public Service workers cleared brush, drilled rock and did other manual labor tasks. The project offered the chance to earn a paycheck in difficult times-a wonderful opportunity for many mountain residents.
Completing the Blue Ridge Parkway
World War II caused construction on the Parkway to halt. In the 1950s, the creation of Mission 66, a National Park Service development program, renewed interest in completing the Parkway. The majority of the Parkway was completed by 1966, except for a small portion near Grandfather Mountain, NC. In 1987, the Linn Cove Viaduct was created so the Parkway could pass by Grandfather Mountain without damaging the rugged terrain. Once the viaduct was installed, the Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park were forever linked.
Enjoying the Blue Ridge Parkway
Split-rail fences, old farmsteads, mountain meadows and scenic overlooks with endless vistas make the Blue Ridge Parkway a popular attraction. The Parkway incorporates numerous campgrounds, picnic areas and trails.
Popular attractions along the Western North Carolina section of the Parkway include:
- Grandfather Mountain at Milepost 305
- Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center at Milepost 384
- North Carolina Arboretum at Milepost 393.6
- Folk Art Center at Milepost 382
- Mt. Mitchell, the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi, Milepost 355.4
- Craggy Gardens picnic area and hiking trails at Milepost 367.6
- Pisgah Inn, an inn and restaurant, at Milepost 408.7
Popular Parkway overlooks for viewing Western North Carolina's scenic beauty include:
- Cold Mountain overlook, the namesake of the best selling novel and movie, at Milepost 412
- Looking Glass Rock overlook, a distinct rock formation named for the way water and ice reflects off mountain's granite surface, Milepost 417
- Graveyard Fields overlook, the barren scenery is reminiscent of the moor of England, Milepost 418.8
Like hiking? Check out our recommended hikes for the area.
Getting to the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway has numerous entrances in Asheville. Enter the Parkway at US 25 in South Asheville, US 70 in East Asheville, US 74 near Fairview and NC 191 in South Asheville.