This route follows the Appalachian Mountain chain from the Shenendoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park-a distance of 469 miles. There are frequent turnouts for mountain vistas, waterfalls, picnic areas, and visitor centers. Much of the Parkway is closed in winter. The speed limit is strictly limited to 45 miles per hour or less, and trucks are prohibited. The South Section Auto Tour covers the last 175 miles of the parkway beginning at the visitor center at Linville Falls. The parkway passes through a series of gaps, meadows, tunnels, and scenic overlooks. Points of interest include the Museum of North Carolina Minerals, the Folk Art Center and Craggy Falls. A popular sidetrip is a visit to the Vanderbilt’s magnificent Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.
As important as the Newfound Gap Road is to the GSMNP, the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of those vital arteries of traffic in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The drive from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia to Cherokee, NC is one of the most miraculous drives you can take on the east side of the Mississippi River. All along the Blue Ridge Parkway you will find towns such as Asheville, Maggie Valley, and Cherokee that are the epitome of the small little mountain town in the Smokies. The Blue Ridge Parkway also offers access to some areas of the GSMNP that you can’t get to from any other point. Work began on the Blue Ridge Parkway in 1935 and it took until 52 years to be completed.
Here are some of the highlights along the Smokies end of the Blue Ridge Parkway:
- Milepost 469 – The Blue Ridge Parkway intersects with US 441 in Cherokee, NC
- Milepost 458.2 – Heintooga Overlook – Mile-high overlook
- Milepost 422.4 – Devil’s Courthouse
- Milepost 417 – Looking Glass Rock
- Milepost 408.6 – Mount Pisgah – part of the Biltmore Estate
- Milepost 384 – The Blue Ridge Parkway Visitors Center
- Milepost 382 – The Folk Art Center
- Milepost 355.4 – Mount Mitchell State Park
- Milepost 331 – Museum of North Carolina Minerals
- Milepost 304.4 Linn Cove Viaduct
- Milepost 285.1 – Daniel Boone’s Trace