Chances are that you, like many, have already been enjoying the Blue Ridge Parkway during this unseasonably warm winter. The park unit welcomed more than 1.2 million visitors in January and February of this year alone, that’s 400,000 more than the first two months of 2016! But the scenic route truly comes alive starting in spring, and the National Park Service has announced its 2017 official opening dates for campgrounds, visitor centers, historic sites, and more. Here’s an overview of dates and know-before-you-go info.
Be sure to stop by Eastern National’s new traveler info station and gift shop at the Bluffs buildings at Doughton Park, milepost 241. The company is also seeking a part-time seasonal employee here. The venture is a first step in the plan to reopen the stone buildings, formerly home to a camp store and Bluffs Restaurant, which closed in 2010. Restrooms will also be open. There is still work to be done to revitalize this popular stop, and you can help. Learn more.
This spring, you can enjoy the Rock Castle Gorge Trail, milepost 169, which was heavily damaged during a rain storm in the fall of 2015 and reopened last September. The moderate to strenuous 10.8 mile loop at milepost 169 features opportunities for backcountry camping, fly fishing, and waterfall and wildlife viewing.
The rehab work is complete at the amphitheater at Mount Pisgah Campground, milepost 408. The newly paved outdoor education space is handicap accessible and features new bench seating and electricity. Be sure to ask at the campground gate about scheduled ranger-led programs.
Pack a Lunch: Linville Falls, milepost 316, was the first picnic area to officially open for the season on April 3. The rest, including Rocky Knob, milepost 169, and Crabtree Falls, milepost 340, open April 15. (Price Park Picnic Area is open year-round.)
Happy Campers: In 2016, overnight camping on the Blue Ridge Parkway increased 25 percent compared with the previous year, so be sure to reserve or arrive at your favorite spot early. Linville Falls and Price Park campgrounds opened April 1. The remaining six open May 5. Advance reservations are available starting May 15.
New camping fees and rules:
- Campsite fees have increased from $16 per night to $20 per night.
- Only heat-treated firewood will be allowed at campsites to reduce the introduction of pests that can be harmful to forests. Look for wood that is bundled and stamped with a seal from the U.S. Department of Agriculture or a state agency. Campers may still burn dead and down wood collected from the immediate vicinity of campgrounds and picnic areas.
Mountain Sound: The Blue Ridge Music Center will open to visitors on May 5. The Visitor Center and award-winning Roots of American Music Museum are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday-Monday, May 5-23, and daily from May 25-October 29. Local and regional roots and traditional musicians share informal presentations and performances from noon to 4 p.m. daily as part of the Midday Mountain Music program. The exhibit and Midday Mountain Music are free and open to the public. The summer concert series begins May 27 with The Steel Wheels. See the schedule of Saturday concerts.
Eat, Play, Stay: The first day you can get some of those great sweet potato pancakes at Mabry Mill Restaurant is April 28. The Craft Center at Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Peaks of Otter Lodge, and Pisgah Inn with its new deck are open for the season. If you’re looking to go for a paddle at Price Lake, the boat rental shop opens May 12.
Visitor Centers: Craggy Gardens, Moses Cone Manor House, and Waterrock Knob visitor centers open with limited hours (Friday through Sunday) on April 14, with most locations for regular hours on May 5.
There is scheduled repaving on the Parkway at the following locations. Dates will be announced, but the National Park Service is working to make these one-lane projects to reduce the need for closures.
- Mileposts 27-37
- Mileposts 64-101
- Mileposts 120-174
- Mileposts 216-228
- Mileposts 283-291
Be sure to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway Road Closure Map for real-time updates before you head out for a drive.
Plan a Trip: Parkway Plus
When you're making your Parkway travel plans, be sure to check our list of Parkway Plus lodging locations. At these destinations, you can designate an additional $1 per night for projects along the scenic route. It’s an easy way to give back and support businesses that care about the Parkway. Find a participating location