Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge Parkway © Ken Thomas
Designed as a scenic drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mile (755km) road connecting the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the North Carolina-Tennessee border. Running through the Southern Appalachians, most of the roadway follows the spine of the Blue Ridge Range providing stunning scenery and magnificent vistas of distant mountain peaks, twisting through mountainous country that would otherwise be inaccessible. It was begun in 1935 to link the parks and also to provide employment during the Great Depression, and today the parkway attracts more than 20 million visitors annually. Its main attraction is the endless dramatic viewpoints overlooking forested mountains and valleys, and the rich autumn colours that blaze in October, drawing crowds of motorists. The parkway's highest elevation of 6,047ft (1,843m) at Richland Balsam Overlook has magnificent views.
The road also provides access to many hiking trails, including a section of the Appalachian Trail that follows the parkway from Mile 0 to Mile 103, as well as unusual rock formations, impressive waterfalls, wild flowers, lakes, and camping and picnic sites. Along the way are visitor centres, restaurants, food stalls and modern lodgings nestled in striking mountain scenery.