Blue Ridge Parkway, which is the longest linear park in the United States, has been the most popular tourist destination on the eastern side of the country for nearly 70 years. It begins in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park and winds south to North Carolina for more than 460 miles until it reaches its conclusion in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park that borders the Cherokee Indian Reservation. Construction began in late 1935 and lasted until 1987, when it was finally completed with the completion of the Linn Cove Viaduct, which wraps more than 7 miles around Grandfather Mountain. Every year, the avenue receives more than 12 million visitors and tourists and is famous for its breathtaking views, abundant wildlife, and also for its regional historical and cultural exhibits.
Not only does the Blue Ridge Parkway offer cultural and historical sites, it is also home to a host of recreational areas that offer a wide variety of activities such as camping, picnicking, climbing, fishing, and even hiking. There are literally hundreds of trails to explore and they range from a few hundred feet long to almost 15 miles long. Some trails are fairly easy with almost no elevation change, while some of the more strenuous hikes feature steep mountain trails and rocky, unstable terrain. These hiking trails are not for the faint of heart and hikers should prepare ahead of time just to make sure they are able to make the entire trip safely. Make sure you are in good shape and bring enough food and water to keep your energy and hydration at optimal levels.
You can expect to find all kinds of plant life and wildlife along the many trails scattered along the avenue. Due to the more than 6000 feet of elevation change along the avenue, the plant life can be very different depending on where you are. There is also a wealth of wildlife to be found if you know where to look. Animals such as squirrels, white-tailed deer, snakes, skunks, hundreds of types of birds, and even black bears roam the avenue. If you come across a black bear, do not try to get close to it, as it has been known to be aggressive at certain times.
Blue Ridge Parkway is truly a hiker’s paradise and the things I’ve mentioned above are just a few of the reasons that make it one of the most popular tourist destinations on the East Coast. I really enjoy walking the Blue Ridge Parkway and hope you do too.