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Great American Road Trips: the Blue Ridge Parkway

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On: Sat, Nov 9, 2013 at 9:32AM | By: Bill Wilson

Great American Road Trips: the Blue Ridge Parkway

When Henry Ford introduced the first mass-produced automobiles early in the 20th century, he envisioned his cars being used for more than going to work or the local mall. He pictured Americans driving across the United States, enjoying the amazing scenic beauty found coast-to-coast.

Nowadays, however, our hectic lives leave little room for the fine art of pleasure driving. For those able to make the commitment, though, there’s a stretch of road that offers easy access to some of the most beautiful country on earth. Known as the Blue Ridge Parkway, it stretches 469 miles from Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

A Gift from the Great Depression Era
Most of the Blue Ridge Parkway was built during the 1930s, as part of President Roosevelt’s efforts to relieve unemployment. Construction continued for 52 years, with the final section around Grandfather Mountain finished in 1987.

The parkway is open to all licensed drivers who wish to enjoy its spectacular beauty. But, due to weather concerns, sections are often closed from November through April of each year. The period from June through October is the most popular time to visit.

There are countless opportunities for fun and exploration along the parkway. Attractions include scenic overlooks, historic cabins and farm sites, and an internationally known folk art museum near Asheville, NC. You’ll also find restaurants and inns that offer delicious food and unbeatable accommodations.

No words can describe what it’s like to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway. During most of its length there are no signs of civilization other than the road itself. Visitors are surrounded by mountain vistas, cool breezes, and an abundance of trees and wildflowers. Deer, bears, and other native creatures frolic along the route.

Due to the need to preserve a safe, natural environment, the highest speed limit on the route in 45 mph, with lower limits common on many stretches. National park rangers routinely patrol the parkway. They enforce the rules and assist stranded motorists.

If you’d like to find out more, then the parkway's official website offers a wealth of information. The entire distance can be completed in as little as 2-3 days, while taking 5 days to a full week is recommended to get the most from the experience.

The route consists of well-maintained, gently curving roads, though elevation changes are common. The parkway’s zenith is near Waynesville, NC, at 6053 feet above sea level. Even on warm summer days, temperatures can change rapidly at higher points. It’s a good idea to bring a light jacket or heavy shirt when you visit, no matter the time of year.

Oh, one more thing—bring a camera! You’ll have images and memories from the drive that you’ll treasure forever.

Photo Gallery (click a thumbnail to enlarge)


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