Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia and North Carolina

The Blue Ridge Parkway is the very scenic highway that con­nects Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive in Virginia, with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee. The whole trip along the Parkway, which traverses Virginia and western North Carolina, encompasses a 469 mile drive that can take up to a leisurely 10 days, including stops to explore along the way.

It’s a highway and a journey surrounded by natural beauty. The majority of the Parkway in Virginia runs through the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests and into North Carolina along mountain crests. The road itself is a two lane highway with a 45 mph speed limit, but for travelers who enjoy “driving trips,” traveling the Parkway can be a very special experience.

The attractions along the Virginia portion of the Parkway differ slightly from those on the North Carolina side. In Virginia, the recreated mountain farm near Humpback Rocks at the begin­ning of the Parkway and Mabry Mill, further south, give visitors a glimpse of traditional mountain life in the early days of settle­ment. In North Carolina, Linville Falls, the Cradle of Forestry, and other natural wonders, feature the natural environment.

In addition to the stops right along the Parkway itself, the road is next to historic towns from top to bottom, making for fas­cinating exploration of the heritage and culture of the region along the way. The headquarters of the Blue Ridge Parkway is located in Asheville, North Carolina, a city well known to literary figures including Carl Sandburg, Thomas Wolfe and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Exploration of their homes and haunts in the Asheville area presents an interesting side trip and a one or two day break from driving.


South Carolina Vacation Ideas

HIKING: From South Carolina’s nook of the Blue Ridge Mountains to its scenic Atlantic Coast, the state offers hundreds of miles of trails in its parks, historic towns, and seaside villages. In autumn, South Carolina’s fall foliage peaks upstate in October, when hickories, maples, and oaks paint the hillsides in vivid hues of amber, gold, and red. Table Rock State Park in Pickens County has some of the state’s loveliest trails. (SouthCarolinaParks.com)

KIAWAH ISLAND & PAWLEYS ISLAND

With plentiful lush courses stretching from the mountains to the sea, South Carolina has earned its reputation as “The Golf Capital of the South:” Under crisp fall skies, tee off on greens that Golf for Women has deemed some of the country’s best. The luxurious Kiawah Island Golf Resort (KiawahResort.com; 800-576-1570) and meander­ing Willbrook Plantation Golf Club (mbn.com; 843-237-4900) keep jumping up on their list of favorites.

GREENVILLE & BEAUFORT

BIKING: Whether you’re a mountain biker or a beach cruiser, South Carolina has excellent cycling destinations. For thrilling mountain biking, check out the Old Firetower Bicycle Trail in Paris Mountain State Park near Greenville (SouthCarolinaParks.com; 864-244-5565), which passes through wildberry-dotted woodlands populated by deer, squirrels, and colorful birds. If a retro cruiser is more your speed, quiet seaside communities, like Beaufort, provide gorgeous backdrops for relaxing rides on sunny fall days.

MOUNTAIN & BLACKWATER RIVER AREAS

RAFTING, BOATING, AND KAYAKING: In early fall, the warm weather holds out for a few more waterside adventures. For thrill-seek­ers, rafting on the renowned Chattooga River is an absolute must-do in the Upcountry’s Waterfalls and Whitewater region. In the central Lakes and Blackwater Rivers region, scenic rivers provide well-mapped water trails for avid kayakers and cancers. (PaddleSC.com; SCTrails.net)

MYRTLE BEACH

STYLISH SHORES: The Market Common, located on the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, (MarketCommonMB.com) is a sleek, modern complex where urban meets ocean. Among the great shops, you’ll find Anthropologie, Banana Republic, and Copper Penny Shooz, which carry the hottest brands in footwear and handbags, including Kate Spade, Michael Kors, and Sigerson Morrison.

CHARLESTON

This past March, King Street cinched its reputation as Charleston’s fashion center when top designers and celebrity fashionistas converged in Marion Square Park for the city’s second annual fashion week. Boutiques and big-name shops line this popular promenade, where established brands, such as Brooks Brothers, Nicole Miller, and Ann Taylor, sit next to showcases for emerging designers, such as Hampden Clothing. And the various book shops and music stores will also catch your eye.


Golf in Asheville, NC

Where can you find awe-inspiring views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, lush emerald fairways and Tiger Woods?

That’s right – only in Asheville, where the plethora of beautiful, mountaintop courses make the area a golfer’s paradise.

As for Tiger Woods, the mega-champion has chosen to design and build his first golf course in the United States here in the area.

Woods’ new course joins more than 20 championship courses in the region, several of which were designed in the 1920s by legendary Scottish architect Donald Ross, the father of American golf.


Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkeway – Highlights of Spring & Summer

Diversity is a hallmark of the Parkway and the keen observer will take notice and marvel at the variations in the southern mountains. One reason for the variation is, quite simply, the change in altitude. The Parkway ranges from a mere 650 feet above sea level at Virginia’s James River, to over 6,000 feet south of Asheville in the rugged Pisgah range. For each thousand feet gained in elevation the temperature decreases several degrees.

This means that a trip along the Parkway, in search of spring wildflowers, is ever changing. If you miss the early blooms at lower elevations, rest assured that you will get more opportunities in the higher elevations where the blooming is a bit later. A variety of wildflowers decorate the Blue Ridge most of the year, beginning in late February or early March as May apple, spring beauty, and a variety of violets come into view. Buttercups and bloodroot are common along the roadsides in April. Without a doubt, May is the best overall month for all elevations along the Parkway as trillium, fire pink, and Bowman’s root cover the ground under the purple and white blossoms of redbud and dogwood. Rhododendron, mountain laurel, and a variety of azaleas put on their big show from May through late June. Catawba rhododendron is the purple variety that blooms from early June around the Peaks of Otter in Virginia to the third week of June at Craggy Gardens in North Carolina. Any time between those dates, there are spots of this variety blooming.

Rosebay rhododendron is the larger white variety that begins in mid to late June and blooms into July, primarily through the area of Rocky Knob in Virginia. Flame azalea, pink azalea or pinxter flower bloom early to late May in many Parkway areas. Mountain laurel blooms mid to late May and into June in higher elevations. Don’t think for a minute that wildflower season is over when the calendar turns to summer because you won’t want to miss the fields of black-eyed Susan, ox eye daisy, tall coneflower, andcoreopsis that blanket fields from late summer into autumn.


Blue Ridge – Finding The Best Of The Fall Colors

Fall is the season when the Blue Ridge attracts the most atten­tion. Travelers, nature writers, photographers, and artists come to enjoy the visual display created by hardwood leaves changing from summer green to autumn gold, red, and orange in North Carolina and Virginia. Visiting here in the peak of the fall color season is a sight that few fail to appreciate.

Finding the right “window” of time and the perfect spot can perhaps be nothing more than good fortune, but keeping a few things in mind and exer­cising some patience can increase anyone’s chances of seeing the Blue Ridge in its autumn glory. Typically, the Parkway experiences the much anticipated change in fall foliage around the middle of October. Some years the color comes a bit early and other years it may be delayed a week or so. Many factors contribute to variations in when and where colors will peak, with moisture throughout the year and the colder temperatures being key factors.

The Parkway is 469 miles north to south and varies over 5,000 feet in elevation. The best plan for witnessing fall color is to drive some distance on the Parkway, changing elevations and north-south orientation. As is always the case with outdoor viewing, early morning or late afternoon light tends to bring contrasts of shadows that will brighten colors.

Whether you come to the Blue Ridge with camera, palette and brush, or simply to take in the richness from an overlook, a little planning and patience in mid to late October will yield at least some of the pretty color that we’re famous for.