Frequently Asked Questions

Call the park information line at (828) 298-0398 for basic information about the Parkway.

Background Information

Where, exactly, is the Blue Ridge?
The Blue Ridge is part of the Appalachian Mountains. It is generally described as stretching from north Georgia into Pennsylvania. The Parkway travels through several mountain ranges in the Appalachians.

  • From Milepost 0 at Rockfish Gap, VA to Milepost 355 near Mount Mitchell State Park, NC, the road follows the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, averaging about 3,000 feet in elevation.
  • At Mount Mitchell, the Parkway veers westward through the Black Mountains, then into the Craggies before descending toward Asheville.
  • From Asheville, the road climbs to elevations over 6,000 feet in the Balsam Mountains before entering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee.

Is the Blue Ridge Parkway a National Park?
The National Park Service is responsible for protecting several different kinds of public lands. Some of these are called parks, while others are called seashores, monuments or historic sites. And some are called parkways. All tell a unique piece of the American story. And all operate under the same basic National Park Service rules. More....

What's the difference between a National Park and a National Forest?
National parks and national forests have very different purposes, but together they provide us all with a wide spectrum of uses. The Parkway is administered by the National Park Service under the Department of Interior, but it travels through four national forests, which are managed by the Department of Agriculture. More...

What is the difference between the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway?
The Skyline Drive is the 105 mile scenic road through Shenandoah National Park. At Afton Mountain in Virginia, the Skyline Drive heads north while the Blue Ridge Parkway heads south.

Why is the Blue Ridge "blue"?
Trees put the "blue" in Blue Ridge. Hydrocarbons released into the atmosphere by the forest give the mountains their distinctive color.

Why can't I see long distances from the Parkway like I used to years ago?
From the earliest descriptions of the Appalachian Mountains, observers have noted the blue color and haze that radiates off of these mountains because of the rich vegetation. Much of the haze we see today is also associated with pollution from a variety of sources in the eastern United States. Over three quarters of the pollutants come from coal-fired power sources. Air pollution does not respect the boundaries of national forests and national parks.

Who built the Parkway?
The Parkway was an idea born out of the Great Depression and part of its purpose was to put as many people as possible to work. Private contractors, the state and federal highway departments, Italian and Spanish immigrant stonemasons, and thousands of Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees did the work.

Groundbreaking took place in September, 1935 and the work was contracted and completed in sections. By World War II, about one-half of the road was completed and by the 1960s, all but one section was opened to the public. In 1987, the last section was completed around the environmentally-sensitive Grandfather Mountain area in North Carolina. This area includes the Linn Cove Viaduct at Milepost 304.

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Visiting the Parkway

When are visitor centers, campgrounds and other facilities open?
The Folk Art Center in Asheville, the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center adjacent to park headquarters, and the Museum of North Carolina Minerals at Spruce Pine are open year round. Most facilities, including visitor centers, campgrounds, and picnic areas open in early May and stay open through the fall leaf color. Check out the complete schedule.

The road itself is open in winter when snow or ice do not create dangerous driving conditions. Check the Road Closures Map for road closures by section and access to Parkway weather reports.

Is there a fee for visiting the Parkway? Can I use my National Park Pass?
There is no entrance fee for traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway, so the annual National Park Pass is not necessary. Fees are charged for camping, and passholders of the Interagency Senior or Interagency Access Pass (or Golden Age or Golden Access passes) are entitled to 50% off the camping fee. This discount only applies to the site that the passholder is physically occupying. Additional information about the America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass.

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Driving the Parkway

I'm not accustomed to driving in the mountains. How can I be safe?
First of all, obey the speed limit and pull into overlooks to enjoy the scenery and let other drivers pass. The Parkway is a bit steeper than most roads and the curves sometimes "tighten" as you get into them. Watch out for distractions such as beautiful vistas, interesting cabins, bicyclists, and wildlife. A good rule to keep in mind is "enjoy the view, but watch the road!"

What is a "decreasing radius curve"?
Most highways have curves with a standard radius that never changes. In other words, you do not have to adjust your steering through the curve. A decreasing radius curve may tighten as you go through it. This is a design feature of the Parkway, but requires some extra care.

Can I get my RV through the Parkway tunnels?
There are 26 tunnels along the Parkway, one in Virginia and the others in North Carolina, mostly south of Asheville. Check tunnel heights.

Where can I get gas or find lodging while traveling on the Parkway?
Download the Blue Ridge Parkway Directory and Travel Planner for information about services available in local communities.

Are dogs and other pets allowed on the Parkway?
Dogs and other pets are allowed on the Parkway but must be on a leash (not to exceed six feet) or otherwise under your physical control.

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Things to Do

Where can I picnic?
Overlooks and established picnic areas are the best places to picnic. You may also picnic on the roadside, but you must be pulled completely off the road. North of Asheville, NC, the Parkway goes through the city watershed and off-road parking is not permitted where indicated by signs.

Can I reserve a campsite?
All Parkway campgrounds, with the exception of Crabtree Falls, have sites that can be reserved at www.recreation.gov or by calling (877) 444-6777.

When can I see the best fall leaf color?
Typically, fall colors develop during mid to late October. Many factors, however, contribute to variations in when and where colors will peak. More...

When can I see rhododendron, mountain laurel, and azalea?
Catawba rhododendron (R. catawbiense) is the purple variety that blooms from early June around the Peaks of Otter in Virginia to the third week of June at Craggy Gardens in North Carolina. Any time between those dates, there are spots of this variety blooming. Rosebay rhododendron (R. maximum) is the larger white or pink variety that begins in mid to late June and blooms into July, primarily through Rocky Knob, VA. Flame azalea (R. calendulaceum), pink azalea or pinxter flower (R. nudiflorum), bloom early to late May in many Parkway areas. Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) blooms mid to late May and into June in higher elevations.

Will I see a bear?
The Blue Ridge is "bear country" and seeing one of these magnificent creatures may be a highlight of your visit. More...

How do I become a Junior Ranger?
Pick up your Junior Ranger Folder and instructions at any park visitor center or print them from our website. Then travel the Parkway to get site-specific activity sheets along your journey. There are ten different activity sheets for various areas of the Parkway.

Where can I get my National Park Passport stamped?
All open visitor centers have site-specific passport stamps. A list of all locations along the Blue Ridge Parkway is available for reference.

Is there a place I can canoe on the Parkway?
At Julian Price Lake (Milepost 297), you may rent canoes or bring your own. Boating is not allowed in any other Parkway lakes.

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Protecting the Parkway

Why can't we pick flowers along the Parkway?
National park areas are set aside to preserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects for the enjoyment of all visitors. From the smallest flower to the trees that fall in the forest are part of the ecosystem of the region that we are charged with protecting. Thanks for doing your part!

What can I do to help protect the Parkway?
Most of all, obey rules and regulations, and make your visit as low impact and responsible as possible. You may want to contact the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, or the Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway, organizations that work with the Parkway to protect it.

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

199 Hemphill Knob Rd
Asheville, NC 28803

Phone:

(828) 348-3400
This number is the main park headquarters line. A recorded park information line at (828)298-0398 has the most updated information on facilities schedules, bloom and leaf information.

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