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Trip Ideas: Blue Ridge Parkway

Shenandoah National Park is a relaxing weekend get-away from Washington, DC, but for those with some more time, an extended trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway opens the door to incredible vistas and natural beauty. This 469-mile scenic roadway connects Great Smoky Mountains National Park in western North Carolina to Shenandoah National Park in western Virginia via the Blue Ridge mountains. The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of America's most visited National Park units and is known as "America's Favorite Drive," featuring hiking trails, picnic areas, and campgrounds.

Construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway was a "New Deal" project of the 1930s, which leveraged the resources of the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps to build the roadway and supporting infrastructure along the route, while providing much-needed jobs. The road winds along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains and through a total of 26 tunnels, all of which can easily accommodate any of our compact campervan models.

At almost 470 miles long and with a 45 mile per hour speed limit, the Blue Ridge Parkway is not meant to be rushed. Plan several days for this trip and set aside time to stop along the way to enjoy the local food, visit the small towns, taste the local brews, and hike the trails along the way.

Visit the Parkway Planner interactive map (see below), which helps you find campgrounds, lodging, restaurants, trailheads, landmarks, and all kinds of other cool activities along the way.

Depending on the time of year, weather and road conditions can limit access to certain sections of the Parkway. You can check on the official status of road closures here on the NPS website, but it is also a good idea to stop at the nearest information center to get the latest road condition updates. During the colder season (from fall through early April), icy conditions can close sections of road for portions of the day with little notice, so it is always worth taking a little extra time to stay informed. Even if you have to take a detour around a closed section of icy road, it is a great opportunity to visit the nearest small town to try out a local restaurant or brewery.

The Blue Ridge Parkway provides an avenue of escape from suburban sprawl, and if you squint just right, you can imagine how this untamed land might have looked centuries ago as untouched wilderness. Hope to see you down the road on America's favorite drive!

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