The Blue Ridge Parkway, sometimes called "America's Favorite Drive", provides both stunning scenery and close-up looks at the natural and cultural history of the southern Appalachian mountains. It is designed as a drive-awhile and stop-awhile experience, so please don't be in a hurry.
The Parkway meanders for 469 miles and connects Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks, providing ample opportunities for stops at overlooks, picnic and camping facilities, trails, and wonderful cultural and natural areas. Most visitor facilities are open from mid May through the October leaf season.
SOURCE: National Park Service
217 miles of the Parkway are in Virginia, including the Skyline Drive, and 252 miles are in North Carolina.
The route through Virginia was fairly easily established, but a rather bitter rivalry developed between North Carolina and Tennessee for the rest of the route, as both states recognized the economic benefits that would arise in the near and far term. The man responsible for finally determining the route was Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, who chose a North Carolina route because there were already two National Forests (Pisgah and Nantahala) in NC that could be used as a corridor for the Parkway, because North Carolina was regarded as more scenic and because Tennessee had already benefited from New Deal projects like the TVA.
While the Parkway today lives up to the ideal of providing a pastoral route through an apparently pristine environment, it is actually more of a museum piece showcasing a simpler time that never really existed in quite that way. Very little of the route was actually pristine nature. When construction began, much of the landscape had been devastated by clear-cut logging operations, streams were fouled and commercialization was already taking over the few scenic areas. Most of the original pioneer cabins in the area had crumbled into decay or been replaced by more modern structures, so in several cases cabins from other locations were moved to the Parkway. Some of the farms along the Parkway were encouraged to remain and work with the Park Service to preserve the proper atmosphere by, for instance, maintaining traditional split rail fencing and keeping heavy farm equipment out of sight. It is still a work in progress. Today supporters of the Parkway fight to limit development along the route to preserve vistas as well as being conscious of environmental issues like smog and acid rain that affect the health of the ecosystems.