North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the best routes for exploring Western North Carolina year-round. It’s 469 miles of highway that runs through Virginia and North Carolina connecting the Shenandoah and Great Smoky National Parks.
Take it down to its southernmost end at Milepost 469 and you will dead end on Highway 441. Turn right into the Great Smoky National Park. Take a left to head to the Cherokee Reservation. It meets up with Virginia about halfway through at Milepost 216.9.
There are plenty of places to stop and explore just by staying on the Parkway. it will be worth your while to pull in at Milepost 382 and visit the Folk Art Center. The Folk Art Center is home to the Southern Highland Craft Guild, which has another smaller, Blue Ridge Parkway location at Milepost 294.
If you are looking for a great restaurant with a great view or a place to spend the night — from May to October, you can do so without ever leaving the Blue Ridge by stopping at the Pisgah Inn. It’s right smack dab in the heart of the Pisgah National Forest at elevations close to 5,000 feet at Milepost 408.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a journey and a destination. It’s not to be taken if you are in a hurry. Even if you wanted to do so, you can’t. It’s a paved highway, of course, but just one lane in each direction. The posted speed limit of 45 mph is deceptive. And if you are traveling this road the way you should, you will want to make lots of stops, if not to explore to at least get out and look and record all the different Kodak moments available to you. And of course the dearth of traffic lights and heavy traffic makes the Blue Ridge a motorcyclist’s dream. The Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground specializes in offering cyclists and company a place to spend the night or nights.
A favorite time of year on the parkway is the fall with the glorious burst of colors that has everyone come calling. But then of course there is the full bloom of spring and the greenness of summer. And even the barrenness of winter has its own kind of beauty.
The Blue Ridge celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2010. Work on it began in 1935; it was a Great Depression project that put thousands of people to work. Now we can and should enjoy the fruits of their labor. Spend some time traversing at least a part of the Blue Ridge Parkway. You won’t be sorry.