This morning’s Asheville Citizen-Times reports that the Blue Ridge Parkway is completely open for vehicle traffic in North Carolina for the first time this year! That’s great news for anyone planning a visit to Asheville for a spring weekend getaway or a summer vacation in the mountains.
The article goes on to explain that winter weather and on-going maintenance were the main reasons why sections of the Parkway have remained closed during these recent months. Snow and ice play havoc with road access and driving conditions and also contribute to safety concerns in and around many of the tunnels. And, since some stretches of the Parkway are 80 years old, its “pavement preservation” work will ensure safe driving as spring and summer approach.
The Parkway is one of Western North Carolina’s leading attractions. It was conceived by President Franklyn Delano Roosevelt when, it 1933, he visited the newly constructed Skyline Drive in Virginia. His host, Virginia Senator Harry Byrd, suggested to Roosevelt that the road should be extended to connect it to the recently created Smoky Mountains National Park straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. This conversation led to a meeting of Roosevelt with the governors of Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee during which the byway’s planning team was created. Once plans had been developed, Interior Secretary Harold Ickles approved the “park-to-park” highway as a public works project.
Today the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of America’s most visited national parks. Extending 469 miles, some of its most popular driving sections are located in and around Asheville. So if you’re looking for a scenic retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city, the parkway offer some GREAT nearby destinations to enjoy…
Hiking- The Parkway’s website identifies countless options for hiking along its route. Many trails are located at or near some of the more popular overlooks where parking is usually available and where picnic facilities are often available. These trails are usually fairly easy and well suited for day hikers. We usually suggest that interested guests visit the areas around Craggy Gardens, Graveyard Fields and Linville Falls.
Views- The Parkway is probably best known for the breath taking views it offers visitors. Designed and built to follow the ridge lines of the mountains along its route, it is definitely a “high way”! Along its route, overlooks provide parking and easy access to spectacular views that are great for capturing the perfect selfie!
Visitor’s Center- One of only a few such facilities along the Parkway, the Asheville Visitor Center is a great place to stop to learn more about Western North Carolina. Here one can enjoy an award winning film and exhibits that feature the natural and cultural heritage, the economic traditions and and recreational opportunities found in the area.
Folk Art Center- The Folk Art Center is definitely one of the jewels in Asheville’s crown! Home to the Southern Highland Craft Guild, the center showcases some of the finest in traditional and contemporary crafts of the Southern Appalachians. Here you will find beautiful examples of work by such unique artists as quilters, broom makers. woodworkers, sculptors and painters. The center, located along the Parkway 5 miles east of Asheville, also houses three galleries, where periodic exhibitions are presented, a library and an amazing bookstore.
Mount Mitchell and Mount Pisgah- Two of the highest peaks in the Eastern United States can be found within a 45-minute drive of the urban center of Asheville. Mount Mitchell (6,684 feet) and Mount Pisgah (5,722 feet) are fascinating places to visit given the 360 degree views that each can offer. Around these peaks visitors will also find great hiking trails and facilities for picnicing.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park- GSMNP is America’s most visited national park with over 11 million visitors each year. It straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee and encompasses 522,419 acres. its eastern edges are an easy 45-minute drive from Asheville. Inside the park visitors will enjoy its lush forests and abundant wildflowers, miles of streams and rivers, spectacular waterfalls and also a network of hiking trails that includes the Appalachian Trail.
With so many options for enjoying the nearby mountains along its route, the Blue Ridge Parkway might just be the perfect, peaceful complement to a visit to Asheville to enjoy its exciting smorgasbord of things to do and see…great restaurants, great attractions, great breweries, great art and culture and a great music
scene. And, now that you know it’s officially open for the 2019 driving season, won’t you plan a spring, summer or fall stay at Engadine to enjoy it?