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Blue Ridge Parkway ~ Skyline Drive – VA

Blue Ridge Parkway

Skyline Drive – VA

Near Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

America's Favorite Drive is truly a road with a view for 469 miles from the Shenandoah National Park in Northern Virginia south winding down to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park in North Carolina, near the Tennessee border. No trip through Virginia is complete without taking a jaunt on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which loosely parallels I-81!

We went on the Parkway in early June, the last vestiges of spring were still clearly hanging on before the full green of summer burst out. Rhododendrens were peeking out, blooms hesitating for warmer days.

The Parkway in Summer

Depending on your elevation, rosebay rhododendron, flame and pink azaleas, and mountain laurel can be found into early July along the Parkway. Summer is usually known as the time when meadows light up with black eyed Susan, butterfly weed, spider wort, yarrow, milkweed, and many other seasonal blooms. If you are traveling the areas with adjacent agricultural lands, look for the harvesting of hay and a variety of row crops hugging the edges of the Parkway. (From the NPS website)

Each season on the Blue Ridge Parkway offers a different view, and a completely different story of the mountains. Spring melts the frosty winter away, with new shoots of tender wildflowers and grasses. Trees come back to life with an effervescent green of every range, before deepening into the darker greens of summer. The dogwoods bloom, and life feels whole and fresh and new on the Parkway. Spring brings the clear blue skies, and cotton ball puffed clouds, which make for stunning mountain views.

Spring melts into summer, when the Parkway is awash with green of every tint and hue. Green that goes on for miles - an almost shocking green especially to people from the Southwestern US like us! Wildflowers wave in the gentle breezes. The skies tend to be a bit more gray, looking more overcast in the warmest months. Summer thunderstorms often take over the mountains at a moments notice. Cool mountain breezes prevail - the mountains are much cooler than the ocean beaches.

Fall brings the most extravagant feast for the eyes. Color overshadows every moment of the drive in a myriad of swirling golds, fiery reds and dappled oranges.

Winter brings the slow falling away of the leaves. The cool, wandering hand of winter slowly takes over the drive. Once brilliant trees are silent, gray, a time of rest and renewal quietly within as they get ready for the brilliant green burst of spring.The snows come, frosting the mountains at will.

Life on the Blue Ridge Parkway is slower, the speed limit is only 45. It is a good, sturdy mountain road that inspires confidence in the driver. Built during the Great Depression in the 1930's, under President Roosevelt's New Deal, it is a lasting refuge from a difficult time in history. President Roosevelt put the Appalachian mountain folks to work, along with the unemployed engineers, architects and others who worked together to make this beautiful lasting drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains. The history is fascinating and can be found here. This is a great opportunity to explain to your kids about the Great Depression, the New Deal, President Roosevelt and Appalachian mountain life.

Enjoy your drive. Pack a picnic lunch, there are many beautiful picnic areas to stop at along the journey. You will find 4 lodges and 6 restaurants open from April to the fall colors. Check to make sure they are open before you plan your trip around eating at one!

Parks line the way. Trails meander off the beaten path, to explore the breathtaking woods. Visitor's Centers are sprinkled throughout the Parkway, offering glimpses into rich history and culture of the Appalachian mountains. Cabins, mills and more are throughout, great descriptions can be found here.

If you are in the Virginia area, near Monticello and Charlottesville, be sure to stop by the cabins just a few miles up into the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 5.

Massive thunderstorms were brewing as we ambled through the Blue Ridge Parkway. As we are always saying at Living History Sites, it is difficult to choose your weather when you are traveling, but don't let that spoil things for you and the kids. Do the best you can!

Heavy clouds and hazy sunshine obscured many of the extravagant views, as the clouds raced toward us. We were happy to get the photos we did!

We really look forward to going back on a gorgeous, sunshiney day, and adding more photos!!

Write to

199 Hemphill Knob Road
Asheville, NC 28803

E-mail Park Headquarters

Recorded Park Information
(828) 298-0398

Park Headquarters
(828) 271-4779

http://www.nps.gov/blri/