Pick A Place On The Parkway And Park It

In North Carolina, 7,000-acre Doughton Park is the setting of another historical mountain cabin and farmstead, as well as thirty miles of pleasant walking trails, some involving stream crossings. The historic Bluffs Restaurant, also located at Doughton Park, has undergone restoration and is scheduled to reopen in 2020 after 10 years of closure. 

Many recreation opportunities are available to the motorist at Moses H. Cone Memorial Park and Julian Price Memorial Park by Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Then at Milepost 304, travelers find an international engineering marvel.  The Linn Cove Viaduct is one of the most photographed views of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The quarter-mile serpentine bridge hugs the rugged eastern slope of Grandfather Mountain while still protecting the fragile habitat beneath it.  The completion of this final section of the parkway in 1987 brought and end to the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway, a project begun in 1935. Trails wander under and around this bridge over land, beginning at a museum and visitor center at the southern end of the viaduct.  

The late John D. Rockefeller, Jr., landscapist, lover of natural beauty, and benefactor of parks, considered this road a favorite and traveled it on special occasions. Today motorists are reminded of his generosity and foresight as they camp or picnic under shady trees and enjoy the trails to lovely Linville Falls and the wild and mighty Linville Gorge, eastern America’s “Grand Canyon,” which he purchased and presented to the National Park Service.

South of Asheville, North Carolina, those who travel the parkway’s full length will find the second lodge, Pisgah Inn, at the base of Pisgah Ledge west of Asheville and close to Cold Mountain of Civil War fame. There is also a campground nestled in rhododendron just across the parkway from the Inn. In addition to these facilities, resorts, motels, B&Bs and private campgrounds are located in surrounding communities.

The Smokies are unbroken for a distance of 70 miles astride the North Carolina-Tennessee border, except for the trans-mountain link with the Blue Ridge Parkway. Road viewpoints reveal the continuing vistas of wilderness, occasionally screened by the bluish or smokelike haze from which the mountains derive their name, caused by the terpenes released by the conifers of the Smokies.

Linville Falls

Bird watcher, flower lover, nature photographer, hiker, bicyclist, fisherman — all find the Blue Ridge and Smokies sheer delight. So too does the tourist motorist. And the season matters little; the road is a year-round experience. Spring brings a procession of wildflowers, dogwood, flame azalea and rhododendron. Summer invites picnics, hiking, camping, and relief from the heat of lower elevations. Autumn is typified by the beauty of brilliant foliage, including red maple, “color king of the Appalachians.” Finally, winter is the time for solitude and quiet adventure (though parkway sections may be temporarily closed because of snow and ice). At Cone Park, near Blowing Rock, North Carolina, and other snowy high points where state-maintained roads cross the unplowed parkway, cross-country skiers enjoy the southern Blue Ridge’s natural snow.

This region lies within a day’s drive of more than half the nation’s population. Yet in the Appalachian Empire a man or woman can escape momentarily the speed and crowding of modem life. “I am taught the poorness of our inventions, the ugliness of towns and places,” Emerson wrote in his renowned essay on nature. In the sanctuary of the high places one learns what he meant.

by Michael Frome
Blue Ridge Parkway Association