Fall on The Blue Ridge Parkway
The month of October brings tourists from around the world to drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway to see the spectacular range of colors.
Autumn is the most anticipated season for those who love a chill and palette of endless color. Starting in October, sometimes September, the Blue Ridge mountains present one of the most amazing color shows. Offering miles of views along scenic highways and trails.
The Blue Ridge Mountains
The Blue Ridge Mountain range begins in Georgia and ends in Pennsylvania. It includes Tennessee, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs from Cherokee, North Carolina, up to Shenandoah National Park, in Virginia. It is considered "America's favorite drive."
Fall is the most popular time of year on the parkway. From October (peak season usually being mid to late October) to November, drivers can view some of the best foliage in the world. With campsites, picnic sites, fishing, wildlife, hiking trails, bike trails, waterfalls, visitor centers, and lookout points, the parkway offers everything and more for seasonal enthusiasts.
Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway
There is no bad drive along the parkway. The mountains are breath taking. The sun shining down with its rays spread across the scenic landscape is beyond amazing. Taking time to stop at lookout points and truly take pleasure in the surrounding beauty is a must.
Along the parkway are hundreds of lookout spots, or "overlooks." The overlooks are often mountain range views, but some are picnic areas and part of hiking trails. For visitors who absolutely love and are able to enjoy the outdoors and want to really experience the grandeur of autumn along the parkway, hiking is the way to go.
Driving Plans for the Blue Ridge Parkway
Before beginning the trip, make a decision on where to start and where to end. Decide where to stay, what towns or cities to visit, and whether to hike some of the many trails. Also, be sure to carry extra gas, food and drinks, and be aware of lookout points and historic sites.
Shenandoah National Park
Two National parks are located in the Blue Ridge, Shenandoah and The Great Smoky Mountains. Both should be on the list of to do or stop at for a few days while on the parkway. Shenandoah not only boasts great views, valleys, and caverns, it is also the home of Thomas Jefferson's, Monticello.
Some places to visit include, the Confederate Museum and skyline caverns in Front Royal, Virginia. Front Royal is the beginning of the skyline drive. Before heading on the road, take time to learn more about the areas Civil War history and the well known, Skyline Caverns.
Skyline Drive and Shenandoah Caverns
This is the perfect beginning before setting out on the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. The caverns were discovered in 1937, and opened to the public in 1939. Take a tour of the caverns and discover falls, wells, and even a trout stream. To end the day at the caverns, take a walk on the nature trail.
There are numerous other caverns throughout the Shenandoah to discover, one being the Shenandoah Caverns, another being Dixie and Grand. If visiting the caverns in the fall, try to go to the annual Bluegrass and Apple Harvest Festival and Car Show. This festival features food, music, crafts, and more. If unable to make it to the festival, be sure to stop and see the apple orchards and festivals in Shenandoah and the many farms along the parkway.
Autumn is filled with festivals and events throughout the Blue Ridge Parkway. One that is a must see before hitting the Smoky Mountains is, the fall gatherings at Mabry Mill, in Roanoke, Virginia. Enjoy a tour of the mill and other historic buildings, and finish with a meal at the Mill's restaurant. If visiting in October, try to go on Sunday and learn how to make apple butter (try it on some delicious stack cakes), and remember to take home some goodies from the gift shop.
The Great Smoky Mountains Along the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Smoky Mountains are full of rich bluegrass heritage, and it is no surprise to see a musician playing a dulcimer or picking a guitar at one of the many visitor centers along the way. Take time to see Mount Mitchell or the small town of Boone (home to Grandfather Mountain and Appalachian State University), Asheville, Dillsboro, and of course, Cherokee.
Asheville, North Carolina, is home to the Biltmore House, the Grove Park Inn, and an array of architectural structures from Neo-Gothic to Classical. Dillsboro is near Western Carolina University and is part of the Great Smoky Mountain Railway (based out of Bryson City, North Carolina).
For families with small children, when visiting in the fall, try to take a ride on the Smoky Mountain Railway. If possible, take a ride on "The Pumpkin Patch Express." Based on the story of "Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin, this train ride goes from Bryson City to a pumpkin patch. Children will listen to the story of the Great Pumpkin, and get to participate in hayrides, pumpkin carving, trick or treating, pumpkin picking, and more. This has become an autumn tradition for the railway, and families will truly enjoy the beauty of the Smoky's complete with a visit to the pumpkin patch.
To end the trip in North Carolina, along the Blue Ridge Parkway, visit Cherokee, North Carolina. Visit the Indian Village, the museum, and enjoy the drama "Unto These Hills." After a day of culture and history, go to Harrah's Cherokee Casino. There are several restaurants, including Paula Deen's newly opened restaurant, and plenty of entertainment from Jay Leno to Celtic Thunder. Making this the perfect way to end a wonderful drive along the parkway.
The Blue Ridge Mountains have so much to offer that it is impossible to include it in one article. The website is the best way to learn about the parkway and prepare for the trip. They also offer free brochures and other information.