The Blue Ridge Parkway – “America’s Favorite Drive”

2 02 2011




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It’s difficult to broach the subject of North Carolina road trips without immediately thinking of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Despite the fact that mentions of the Parkway will inevitably find their way into many of my future posts, I feel it necessary to devote an entry exclusively to the roadway itself.  It is, of course, a destination as well as a pathway – travelers come from far and wide to cruise the majestic 469 miles of all-American road and its surrounding natural beauty.  In any of my journeys to the Western part of the state, I always go out of my way to take the Parkway, happily ignoring whatever more efficient route my GPS might suggest.

Just over 75 years ago, thousands of members of the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed the Blue Ridge Parkway as one of the many public works projects arising from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal.”  Along your drive, it’s even possible to stay in the rustic cabins where these workers lived – called the Rocky Knob Cabins.   The finished roadway stretches from the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia all the way to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, weaving its way leisurely along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Completing the drive from beginning to end, with necessary stops throughout, tops my current road trip to-do list.

The scenic perfection of the Parkway is such that it demands multiple visits – one each for spring, summer, fall, and winter (though not necessarily a complete trip in each).  The flowering roadway of springtime gives way to a lush green canopy in summer, followed by a vivid orange and yellow backdrop in autumn.  During cold winter months the leaves fall away, revealing stunning and unobstructed mountain views.  The roadway was built with the hope of connecting travelers with the land and its history, inspiring future generations to maintain the connection.  This vision was undoubtedly satisfied – the Blue Ridge Parkway has become an iconic fixture in American leisure travel, often referred to “America’s Favorite Drive.”

Scattered along the Parkway are four lodges and six restaurants; however, you’re better off exiting and visiting the nearby towns that lie alongside.  Though such detours will of course lengthen your trip, possibly demanding a week or so to make the full journey, they will enrich the drive with the unique cultural heritage of the Blue Ridge mountains.  Necessary stops within the North Carolina portion (likely to be addressed in future posts) include AshevilleBlowing Rock/Boone, and Grandfather Mountain.  Particularly if making the drive during warmer months, make sure to soak up some outdoor bluegrass music at the Blue Ridge Music Center or any of the many casual dining spots.  Hiking is a must – there are over 100 marked trails along the Parkway, ranging from short walking paths to stints along the legendary Appalachian Trail.

If only our current economic stimulus measures could bring this kind of joy to the people 75 years from now…


The wrap-up:

  • Distance from Duke: 3+ hours
  • Recommended trip duration: weekend or more
  • Recommended season: ALL



4 responses

3 02 2011

I thought you made a great use of links in this post. By linking all of the “right” things, you gave interested readers the opportunity to engage further with your topic. You were also able to keep your post from becoming overwhelmingly long. I was reminded of the Twitter article in Best Tech, in which the author said that Twitter’s 140 character limit isn’t really all that limiting, since one can tweet compressed links, photos, and so on. The ability to create this balance of comprehensiveness and brevity is unique to digital writing.

5 02 2011

This is an awesome idea for a blog, one that should be read by all incoming freshmen. North Carolina has a beautiful and diverse landscape, especially on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The parkway is a really fun drive. I am interested to hear your comments on these North Carolina destinations as unconventional “road trips”. One reason I think students are hesitant to explore these naturally beautiful locations is that it is difficult to dedicate an entire weekend to a trip without extensive preparation and planning. I hope your insight will profoundly influence students in the future. Good luck!

6 02 2011


I love your blog topic–I’m from big city and I’ve always wanted to take a road trip while I’m still at Duke. I like the way you give a “wrap-up” at the end of your post so that readers can scan before choosing a trip that works for them. You also do a good job of blending the description of the road trip and historical context. I look forward to reading more.


25 02 2011
Blowing Rock: My Second Home « tobacco roads less traveled

[…] off the Blue Ridge Parkway just outside the college town of Boone sits its quiet, unassuming neighbor, Blowing Rock.  This […]

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