The Blue Ridge Parkway inside and out
The Blue Ridge Parkway was the first national rural parkway to be conceived, designed, and constructed for a leisure-type driving experience. Its varied topography and numerous vista points offer easy public access to spectacular views of central and southern Appalachian rural landscapes and forested mountains. It connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.
As an example of pre- and post-World War II automotive rural parkway design, the Blue Ridge Parkway retains the greatest degree of integrity of any parkway in the United States. The Parkway is recognized around the world as an international example of landscape and engineering design achievements with a roadway that lies easily on the land and blends into the landscape.
The Parkway is the highest and longest continuous route in the Appalachian area. Along its 469-mile length, it provides scenic access to crests and ridges of five major ranges within the central and southern Appalachian Mountains, encompassing geographic and vegetative zones that range from 649 feet at James River in Virginia to 6,047 feet at Richland Balsam in North Carolina.
The Blue Ridge Parkway brings $980 million dollars to the adjacent communities annually. It is a primary catalyst for promoting regional travel and tourism, serving as a unifying element for 29 counties through which it passes, engendering a shared regional identity, providing a common link of interest, and being a major contributor to regional economic vitality.
Park Information & Maps
Be sure to stop in at a Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center along the way for camping, hiking, and more information about activities and sites along the route, or visit the National Park Service's plan your visit page.
Before you set out for a drive, ride, or hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway, check the National Park Service’s closure announcement page. Road closures
Insider's Report Webinar Series
Stay connected to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the important work you make possible with the Insider’s Report webinar series. We hope you will join us to learn more about the park you love!
The Bluffs Webcam: Click to stream!
Helpful Planning Tools
- Download the official Blue Ridge Parkway Map.
- Review a wildflower bloom schedule from the Blue Ridge Parkway Association.
- Plan a trek with a list of hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
- Find the answers to Frequently Asked Questions (National Park Service)
- Visit Explore Asheville's online guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway
- Visit the Blue Ridge Parkway Association for information on things to do, places to stay, events, and maps.
- Review maps of the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Blue Ridge Parkway Association.
- Visit the Virtual Blue Ridge Parkway Guide for a tour of Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks, parks, trails and visitor centers.
- Print maps of trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
- Check out RomanticAsheville.com’s great Blue Ridge Parkway Guide.
- Learn about activities on the Parkway near Boone, N.C. at exploreboone.com.
- Order a free Blue Ridge Parkway Travel Planner or view it online.
App to Get You There
- Download the mobile Blue Ridge Parkway Travel Planner app from the Blue Ridge Parkway Association.
Blue Ridge Parkway Visitation
In 2021, the Blue Ridge Parkway welcomed an estimated 15,948,148 recreation visitors, making it the most visited national park in the country. That is more visitors than the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite national parks combined for the same year. Review the Blue Ridge Parkway's Visitation Numbers.
Blue Ridge Parkway: 15,948,148
Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 14,161,548
Shenandoah National Park: 1,592,312
The Blue Parkway's impact is felt beyond the 90,000 acres that make up the park unit. In 2020, 14.1 million visitors spent more than $1.1 billion in gateway communities while visiting the Parkway. These expenditures supported 15,500 jobs and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $1.3 billion.
Have you traveled the entire 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway?
We want to hear all about it and acknowledge your accomplishment.
Pillows for the Parkway:
Sleep well. Give Back.
The Foundation is fortunate to have many great partners along the Blue Ridge Parkway, including lodging, dining, and retail establishments that give back to the scenic route. When you are traveling, we hope you’ll support these special places and in turn help the Parkway.
At the following lodgings, guests can show their appreciation for the Blue Ridge Parkway by donating $1 per night to the Foundation’s projects, which preserve, protect, and enhance the journey they love.
- Alleghany Inn, Sparta, North Carolina
- Carriage House, Lynchburg, Virginia
- Chetola Resort at Blowing Rock, North Carolina
- The Hemlock Inn, Blowing Rock
- Meadowbrook Inn, Blowing Rock
- Mountainaire Inn and Cabins, Blowing Rock
- Peaks of Otter Lodge, Bedford, Virginia
Questions? Email Jordan Calaway or call (866) 308-2773, ext. 245.
Blue Ridge Parkway by the Numbers
Visitors in 2021
Take a Drive Through Time
Driving through Time: The Digital Blue Ridge Parkway is an extensive digital history collection that features thousands of historic photographs, maps, postcards, government documents, oral history interviews, and newspaper clippings documenting the Parkway’s more than 75-year history. Explore the collection
Blue Ridge Parkway Timeline
Compiled by Anne Mitchell Whisnant, author of Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History and When the Parkway Came.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt visits CCC camps in the Shenandoah National Park with Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes and Virginia Senator Harry F. Byrd. Someone suggests extending the new Skyline Drive southward to Great Smoky Mountains National Park
September 28, 1933
“Byrd Outlines Park Road Plan” is the first article to mention of the future Blue Ridge Parkway project in the Asheville Citizen newspaper
October 17, 1933
Representatives from Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia meet in the office of Sen. Harry Byrd to discuss the proposed parkway to connect Shenandoah National Park with Great Smoky Mountains National Park
November 16, 1933
Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes approves the future Blue Ridge Parkway for federal funding under the Public Works Administration
February 5-7, 1934
First hearings held in Washington to consider Parkway route
June 13, 1934
“Radcliffe Committee” appointed by Secretary Ickes to decide Parkway route recommends selection of the Tennesse-favored route (the Virginia-North Carolina-Tennessee route) instead of the Virginia-North Carolina route favored by North Carolinians
July 19, 1934
Secretary Ickes approves portions of the Parkway route from Shenandoah National Park to the James River and from Adney Gap to Blowing Rock; announces he has postponed making a decision on the portion south of Blowing Rock
September 18, 1934
Secretary Ickes holds hearing in Washington to consider merits of the Tennessee- and North Carolina-favored routes for the Parkway from Blowing Rock to the Great Smoky Mountains
November 10, 1934
Secretary Ickes announces selection of the North Carolina-favored route for the Parkway
September 11, 1935
Construction begins on the Blue Ridge Parkway
September 16, 1935
100 men continue to move machinery and begin clearing the right-of-way at Low Gap, North Carolina
September 19, 1935
According to a letter two days later from J.P. Dodge, Senior Claim Adjuster for the North Carolina Highway Commission to the Chair of the Highway Commission, the “first breaking of ground on the first project of the Shenandoah-Great Smoky Mountains National Parkway” took place this day at Low Gap, N.C.
June 30, 1936
Federal statute names parkway the “Blue Ridge Parkway” and places it under control of the National Park Service
The first completed section of the Parkway, between N.C. 18 and U.S. 21 opens to traffic
150 miles of Parkway are open. First concessions open at Cumberland Knob, milepost 217
Parkway visitation tops 1 million
Parkway opens concessions at Bluffs, area renamed later that year for Representative Robert L. Doughton, an advocate and supporter of the Blue Ridge Parkway from Alleghany County, North Carolina
On January 21, the National Park Service assumed responsibility for management and protection of Moses H. Cone Memorial Park.
Craggy transferred to National Park Service from the United States Forest Service. Linville Falls acquired
“Mission 66" launched to expand services for the growing number of visitors following World War II; Parkway gets major boost
Final section of Parkway in Virginia dedicated
All of Parkway in North Carolina complete except for Grandfather corridor
Parkway near Asheville opened to public
Ground broken for Folk Art Center, milepost 382
Construction begins on Linn Cove Viaduct
Linn Cove Viaduct complete
September 11, 1987
Final section of Parkway dedicated
Parkway visitation tops 25 million
Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation established
Parkway dedicates new headquarters in Asheville, North Carolina
Blue Ridge Music Center at milepost 213 dedicated
Parkway Visitor Center opens in Asheville
A gift of 5,300 acres to the Blue Ridge Parkway protected much of the spectacular views from Waterrock Knob at milepost 451.
The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation celebrated 20 years of protecting and enhancing the national park unit.
Renovations to The Bluffs Restaurant at Doughton Park, milepost 241, were completed clearing the way for the Parkway's first dining establishment to reopen. Learn more
Extensive renovations to the exterior of Flat Top Manor at Moses H. Cone Memorial Park begin, thanks to donor support.
By the Numbers: Along the Way
The Parkway is a neighbor to many amazing natural features and culturally significant places. It borders the ancestral home of the Cherokee Indian, shares a boundary with Mount Mitchell State Park, home to tallest mountain east of the Rockies. It also shares boundaries with Pisgah National Forest, which is home to Linville Gorge, the deepest gorge in the eastern Unites States, and the Cradle of Forestry, America’s first forestry school (Biltmore Forestry School, 1898-1913).
Flora & Fauna
The Parkway’s uninterrupted corridor helps protect a diverse range of flora and fauna, including rare and endangered plant and animal species and globally imperiled natural habitats. It is one of the most biodiverse parks in the entire National Park System.
Total vascular plants and vertebrates by park:
- Blue Ridge Parkway = 2,074
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park = 2,073
- Big South Fork Recreation Area = 1,472
- Olympic National Park = 1,531
- Yellowstone National Park = 1,678
The Parkway supports nine federally listed threatened and endangered rare species and 74 critically imperiled, imperiled, and vulnerable species.
(2007 data source, National Park Service, Appalachian Highlands Inventory and Monitoring Network)
By the numbers: Wildlife