Don't Miss: Scenic Drive: Blue Ridge Parkway
You won't find a single stoplight or billboard along the entire Blue Ridge Pkwy, which traverses the southern Appalachians from Virginia's Shenandoah National Park at Mile 0 to North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains National Park at Mile 469.
Commissioned by President Franklin D Roosevelt as a Great Depression–era public-works project, it's one of America's classic drives. North Carolina's piece of the parkway sweeps and swoops for 262 sinuous miles of sublime mountain vistas. The fall colors, at their finest in October, are out of this world.
The National Park Service runs campgrounds and visitor centers. Note that restrooms and gas stations are few and far between, and the speed limit never rises above 45mph. For more details about stops, visit www.blueridgeparkway.org.
Parkway highlights and campgrounds include the following, from the Virginia border south:
Cumberland Knob (Mile 217.5) NPS visitor center; easy walk to the knob.
Doughton Park (Mile 241.1) Trails and camping.
Blowing Rock (Mile 291.8) Small town named for a craggy, commercialized cliff that offers great views, occasional updrafts and a Native American love story.
Moses H Cone Memorial Park (Mile 294.1) A lovely old estate with carriage trails and a craft shop.
Julian Price Memorial Park (Mile 296.9) Camping.
Grandfather Mountain (Mile 305.1) Hugely popular for its mile-high pedestrian 'swinging bridge.' Also has a nature center and a small wildlife reserve.
Linville Falls (Mile 316.4) Short hiking trails to stunning falls; campsites.
Little Switzerland (Mile 334) Old-style mountain resort.
Mt Mitchell State Park (Mile 355.5) Highest peak east of the Mississippi (6684ft); hiking and camping.
Craggy Gardens (Mile 364) Hiking trails explode with rhododendron blossoms in summer.
Folk Art Center (Mile 382) High-end Appalachian crafts for sale.
Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center (Mile 384) Inspiring film, interactive map, trail information.
Mt Pisgah (Mile 408.8) Hiking, camping, restaurant, inn.
Graveyard Fields (Mile 418) Short hiking trails to waterfalls.