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Attractions Across Virginia

Blue Ridge Parkway Offers Beauty, History and Adventure

Blue Ridge Parkway
Fiddling class at Humpback Rocks. Credit: National Park Service
Visited by tens of thousands of people every year, the Blue Ridge Parkway provides natural beauty, history and the opportunity for adventure.

The parkway is a must-see for all ages. It is a slow-paced drive that enables visitors to see amazing vistas, rugged mountains, pastoral landscapes and unimaginable natural beauty that can only be found in the highlands of Appalachia.

Blue Ridge Parkway is home to a variety of animals and plants along its 469-mile trek. Regardless of whether visitors' interest is nature and history or science and environment, they can count on their journey to be an unsurpassable learning experience. This route is designed for travel at a slower pace, such as 45 miles per hour or less.

Along the way, visitors can find overlooks, trails, camping areas and picnic tables. There are also developed areas for those who want to expand their explorations. All along the way, they can learn about the cultural history and the natural history of the region. The entire journey can be a learning experience.

Throughout the Parkway, visitors can find regularly scheduled music and dancing. There is a calendar of events on the National Park Service Web site, http://www.nps.gov/blri/planyourvisit/index.htm so visitors can plan their trip and schedule stops along the way. For more information, the site offers a free app that can be downloaded for smartphones.

The Parkway has four major regions -- Ridge, Plateau, Highlands and Pisgah. There are additional connecting regions, which at the southern end is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and at the northern end, the Shenandoah National Park.

Before planning your trip, it may be helpful to know that the Parkway Folk Art Center at milepost 382.2 is open year round. Other areas such as concessions facilities may open later in the year. Many of the campgrounds and picnic areas do not open until May 9 or later. There are varying dates for the visitor contact stations and other areas of interest for visitors.

The longest road planned as a single unit in the U.S., the parkway is designed to protect mountain landscapes and the hewn log homes of the region's pioneer. Along the way, there are cabins, the summer home of textile magnate, an old canal and traces of old logging camps and railroads.

Built during the Great Depression, the Parkway provided much needed jobs and an economic boost to the Appalachian region. Many stories are told along the route, and each story tells a remarkable part of the region's history. The Parkway is an unforgettable experience that treks through Virginia.

The area along the Parkway boasts 14 major types of vegetation, about 1,600 vascular plant species including 50 that are threatened or endangered plus 100 species of non-native plants. The Parkway has more than 130 species of trees. More than 2,000 species of fungi and some 400 kinds of mosses are found along the route.

Therefore, the Parkway offers a great experience for visitors with all interests. Plan the trip before you go by visiting the website or by downloading the app.

Traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway does not require a fee. Camping costs $16 per site. Some of the campgrounds do require a reservation. Reservations may be made through the national park reservation system at recreation.gov.

Permits must be obtained for weddings, scientific research and collecting or agricultural leases. Commercial permits are required for commercial filming and still photography. More information about the permits are available on the National Park Service website.


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