First Timer’s Guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a major attraction for visitors to Western North Carolina. First-time visitors to the region may be unsure how to start exploring the parkway, so this article is a first timer’s guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

What is the Blue Ridge Parkway?

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469 mile-long scenic road that stretches from Virginia to Western North Carolina. Straddling the peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Southern stretch (known as the Pisgah Region) encompasses some of the most beautiful mountain views accessible by car. The Parkway offers frequent overlooks (every mile or so), as well as access to numerous hiking trails and waterfalls. Put simply, it is a gorgeous drive with lots of places to stop and explore along the way. Some regional highlights include Waterrock Knob, Devil’s Courthouse, and Graveyard Fields.

View from Devil's Courthouse

Top tips for first time visitors to the Blue Ridge Parkway:

  1. Visit on weekdays if possible. The Parkway is a very popular tourist attraction, especially in the Summer and Fall. Instead of driving the two lane road on a busy weekend, visit on a weekday if possible. Hiking trails, overlooks, and ranger stations are far less busy.
  2. Keep an eye on the weather. Views are only scenic if you can see them. It can also be harrowing driving if you can’t see more than a few feet ahead of your car! Look ahead at the forecast and plan accordingly. In case of inclement weather, explore the region’s many breweries, restaurants, and shops instead. Also, be sure to check the National Park Service website for possible road closures before you go.
  3. Assume you won’t have cell service at least part of the time. Cell service is spotty (at best) on the Parkway. If  you mapped a route, be sure to download your map in an offline mode or print your route.
  4. Start with a full tank of gas. While it is designed to be driven, it is also a stretch of National Park. As such, there are no gas station on the Parkway. Plan ahead and fill up before you go.
  5. Bring a lunch, snacks, and water. Once you get to the Parkway, you won’t be in a hurry to leave, and since there are no stores, you won’t be able to find food or drink. Time will fly by, and you will get hungry! Consider bringing one of our picnic lunches with you, and be sure you have snacks and water with you so that you don’t need to cut your exploration short.
  6. Bring extra layers of clothing. Anticipate that the temperature to be 10-15 degrees cooler on the Parkway than in the lower elevations. Bring along extra jacket or sweatshirt to ensure you are comfortable.
  7. Take your time. There are overlooks every mile or so in the region, so it is tempting for many of us to try to skip them to get to our next destination. Don’t! Instead, stop frequently and enjoy the unique beauty of the various mountain views. If you have the opportunity, catch the sunset from one of the West-facing overlooks – it is magical!

Blue Ridge Parkway access is only 10 minutes from The Yellow House Bed & Breakfast, which is a perfect accommodation for all your Western North Carolina adventures. After a day of exploring, guests can relax in one of our comfortable suites as well enjoy our from-scratch breakfast each morning.