A Driving Adventure Every RVer Should Go On (at Least Once)
The Blue Ridge Parkway experience is a slow-paced and relaxing drive revealing stunning long-range vistas and close-up views of the rugged mountains and landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. There are tunnels, bridges, and viaducts along the 469-mile meandering parkway. This provides opportunities for enjoying all of the diverse plants and animals that make this region of the country so special. Each season offers its own distinct canvas along the parkway. The same lookout point or picnic or camping area will look almost completely different depending on the season you are traveling in. There are many RV campgrounds located along the parkway, which means this trip can take a day or weeks to complete – it’s all up to you how long you want your adventure to last. With proper planning, this could be the most relaxing and the best way to reconnect with nature in your Winnebago, Forest River or Thor Recreational Vehicle. If you’re on your way to Knoxville it is just under two hours away from the Knoxville metro area from the Southern end of the parkway via Rt 441. You can also take I-40 to Knoxville after visiting Ashville, NC.
The parkway is America’s longest linear park and was originally built to join Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It runs through twenty-nine Virginia and North Carolina counties, mostly along the Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains. At the North end, it offers access to the Skyline Drive. While the two roads join together end-to-end, they are separate and distinct entities, built as two different projects and managed by two different National Park Service units
Work began on September 11, 1935, near Cumberland Knob in North Carolina; construction in Virginia began the following February. On June 30, 1936, Congress formally authorized the project as the Blue Ridge Parkway and placed it under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. Construction of the parkway took over 52 years to complete, the last stretch (near the Linn Cove Viaduct) laid around Grandfather Mountain and opening in 1987. The Blue Ridge Parkway tunnels were constructed through the rock—one in Virginia and twenty-five in North Carolina. Sections of the parkway near the tunnels are often closed in winter. (Due to dripping groundwater from above, freezing temperatures, and the lack of sunlight, ice often accumulates inside these areas even when the surrounding areas are above freezing.) The highest point on the parkway, near Mount Pisgah in North Carolina is 6,053 feet above sea level on Richland Balsam Mountain at Milepost #431, and is often closed from November to April due to inclement weather such as snow, fog, and even freezing fog from low clouds. The parkway is carried across streams, railway ravines and crossroads by 168 bridges and six viaducts.
Proper Planning for Weather Conditions and RV Height is Essential
The roadway is not maintained in the winter, and sections which pass over especially high elevations and through the many tunnels are often impassable and closed from late fall through early spring. Weather changes quickly in the mountains; be sure to have your RV equipped with a weather radio for your adventure! Check the weather conditions often and closures are available on the park website before embarking on any part of your RV adventure in your Thor, Winnebago or Fleetwood Class A RV. The parkway uses short side roads to connect to other highways, and there are no direct interchanges with Interstate Highways, making it possible to enjoy wildlife and other scenery without stopping for cross-traffic. The Blue Ridge Music Center (also part of the park) is located in Galax, and Mount Mitchell (the highest point in eastern North America) is only accessible via a state highway (NC 128) from the parkway at milepost 355.4. The park website also provides tunnel heights for all of the tunnels along the parkway. Plan your driving trip ahead and check that your class A diesel or gas motorhome will fit in these tunnels. The variety of short roads that connect the parkway to others can be mapped and made part of your trip to avoid the tunnels your RV may not fit through.
Flora along the Parkway
Flowering shrubs and wildflowers dominate the parkway in the spring. Smaller annuals and perennials such as the daisy and aster flower through the summer. Brilliant autumn foliage occurs later in September on the mountaintops, descending to the valleys by later in October. Often in early-to-middle October and middle to late April, all three seasons can be seen simply by looking down from the cold and windy parkway to the green and warm valleys below. Major trees include oak, hickory, and tulip tree at lower elevations and buckeye and ash in the middle, turning into conifers such as fir and spruce at the highest elevations on the parkway. Trees near ridges, peaks, and passes are often distorted and even contorted by the wind, and persistent rime ice deposited by passing clouds in the winter. While very interesting to see, it also shows how the trees can be strong through the changes in weather conditions.
Check with the park service for closures BEFORE you embark on your trip!
Camping Along the Parkway
The park has several campgrounds to park and camp in. Your recreational vehicle is welcome at any of these campgrounds, though some do not have hookups.
Otter Creek (MP 61): This campground has sites for 45 tents and 24 RV trailers. Facilities currently include water, comfort stations with flush toilets and sinks but no showers or hook-ups. Area hikes include: Trail of Trees, Otter Creek, Otter Lake Loop and James River Canal Trails.
Peaks of Otter (MP 86): This campground has sites for 90 tents and 53 trailers or RV's, water, comfort stations with flush toilets and cold water sinks but no showers or hook-ups. Area hikes include: Sharp Top, Elk Run, Harkening Hill and Johnson Farm Trails.
Rocky Knob (MP 167): This campground has sites for 81 tents and 28 trailer or RV's, restrooms, and trailer dumping stations, and a campfire circle that accommodates up to 150 campers. Area hikes include: Rockcastle Gorge, Black Ridge, Rocky Knob Picnic Area and Round Meadow Creek Trails.
Doughton Park (MP 241): This campground has 110 campsites and 25 trailer sites, 4 comfort stations, and a campfire circle at the campground.
Area hikes include: Bluff Mountain, and Fodder Stack Trails.
Julian Price Park (MP 297): This campground has 129 tent sites (2 handicap sites) and 68 trailer sites, 6 comfort stations (1 handicap accessible).
Area hikes include: Green Knob, Boone Fork, Price Lake, Gwyn Memorial and Tanawha Trails.
Linville Falls (MP 316): This campground has 50 tent and 20 RV sites which sit on the banks of the Linville River. It is the Parkway's smallest, most popular campground and the only developed site on the Parkway that allows group camping.
Area hikes include: Flat Rock, Camp Creek, River Bend, Duggers Creek, and Linville River Bridge Trails.
Mt. Pisgah (MP 408): This campground has 70 tent and 70 RV sites and shower facilities are available. The campground is the highest, coolest and most secluded on the Parkway. The campground is located in Flat Laurel Gap.
Area hikes include: Buck Spring, Mount Pisgah, Picnic Area Loop and Frying Pan Mountain Trails.
Camping is $16 for each site. Reservations for portions for ALL campgrounds can be made online at recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777.
Moonshine Creek Campgrounds is an ideal recreational vehicle camping area, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The peace and quiet of the outdoors is enhanced by the tranquil sounds of the stream that meanders through the campgrounds. Amenities include immaculate restrooms, a country store, get-togethers, cable TV, WiFi, and pets are welcome. Enjoy activities such as relaxing in the cool and crisp climate, seasonal wildflower & bird watching, lawn games, cookouts, sitting around the campfire roasting marshmallows, hiking trails, waterfalls and stream fishing. This is the ideal base camp to see all the local attractions and to see all of what the "Smokies" have to offer. Find river rafting, tubing, gem mining, golf, trout fishing, antique, and craft shopping nearby. Located an easy drive to Asheville, Cherokee, Franklin or Maggie Valley and only 2 1/2 miles to the entrance of the Blue Ridge Parkway!