The Blue Ridge Parkway, the 469-mile scenic parkway that connects Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, is one of the prettiest drives in the US. Although the Parkway is open nearly all year-round, many veteran travelers believe that fall is one of the best times to go on a road trip there. Autumn on Blue Ridge Parkway is simply glorious for many reasons, and we’re listing seven of them here.
Reason #1: The fall foliage changes at different times.
Leaf peeping season at Blue Ridge Parkway is from late September to October. If you drive down the Parkway during that time, you’ll be treated to the sight of mountains covered by flaming colors. The sourwoods, dogwoods, and gum trees turn scarlet, the maples red, the oaks brown, and the poplars gold. Providing contrast to these bright hues are the evergreens of Appalachian conifers. The beauty of autumn at Blue Ridge Parkway is the foliage there doesn’t change color at the same time. This means you can plan your trip more easily as long as you stay tuned to the fall foliage forecast in the area.
Reason #2: The drive is slow, and you can stop at certain points.
The speed limit at Blue Ridge Parkway is set at 45mph, though there are some stretches there where you can only drive at 25mph. The slow drive forces you to take a good look at the beauty surrounding you. The Parkway also has shoulders and viewing points where you can stop and park your car for a while and just drink in the view. These stops are also great places to pull out your camera and take a few snaps, and maybe a few selfies for Instagram.
Reason #3: There are plenty of hiking trails, with lots of surprises.
There are around 369 miles of hiking trails near Blue Ridge Parkway, and many of their trailheads are just off the Parkway itself. So, if you’re up to it, you can park your car at the designated parking area near your chosen trailhead at set off for a hike. There are hikes easy enough for kids and beginner hikers, and there are hikes challenging enough for active adventurers. Some hikes will take you through meadows and fields, some through forests, and some up hills and mountains. You’re sure to find a lot of surprises along the way—breathtaking views of mountain peaks or the valleys below, rock formations, and waterfalls. Of course, autumn at Blue Ridge Parkway means enjoying these hikes under the cover of fall foliage.
Reason #4: The Parkway isn’t just a drive through mountains.
Some people think that a road trip down Blue Ridge Parkway is just that—a drive down a highway passing through the mountainside. Of course, there’s more to the Parkway than just that. As mentioned earlier, you can go hiking near the Parkway, and you can view waterfalls while hiking. In fact, Linville Falls, the most photographed waterfall in the US, is located just a short distance from the parkway. There are 14 designated picnic areas where you can savor your meal surrounded by stunning views. There are also 100 miles of protected streams, not to mention man-made lakes, nearby where you can spend the day fishing. You can even go spelunking at the privately-owned Linville Caverns.
Reason #5: There are many towns you can visit along the way.
With the speed limit ranging between 25mph and 45mph, there’s just no way you can drive the entirety of Blue Ridge Parkway in one day. Thankfully, there are plenty of cities, towns, and attractions near the Parkway where you can take a side trip and stop for a day or two. One such place is Roanoke in Virginia, where you can visit museums and galleries, and maybe dip into the nightlife. Another is Asheville in North Carolina, one of the US’ largest cities and popular for its Art Deco architecture and local music scene.
Reason #6: Fall at the Parkway means apple picking.
Fall is synonymous with apples. So, if you’ve got a craving for apples, you can stop at one of the many apple orchards near the Parkway. During autumn at Blue Ridge Parkway, most of these orchard owners open their properties so guests can pick apples. These orchards also often host events to entertain their apple pickers, and these events can include live music performances and picnics. Some of these orchards have trails where you can hike and watch birds.
Reason #7: You can learn history and culture as you drive down the Parkway.
Blue Ridge Parkway is more than just a long and pretty highway. It’s also a place rich in history and culture, and there are plenty of historic and cultural attractions you can visit on your drive there. Among these is the Biltmore Estate, a 250-room palace built by the Vanderbilt family and one of the largest private homes in the country. Another is the Moses Cone Memorial Park, the former summer home of entrepreneur and philanthropist Moses Cone. Yet another is Mabry Mill, a picturesque windmill that showcases rural living in Virginia.
Autumn at Blue Ridge Parkway is a beautiful time. You can feast your eyes on the breathtaking fall foliage, and you’ll have plenty of adventures to dive into on your road trip there. Make sure to spend a week or two savoring everything that the Parkway has to offer this fall.