It’s one of America’s most famous roads, up there with Route 66, I-95, and Skyline Drive. The Blue Ridge Parkway draws visitors from across the country and around the world.
But as well-known as it is, a trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway may not be the best choice for every traveler.
Read on to find out why some might do better skipping this route.
Where Does Blue Ridge Parkway Start and Finish?
The Blue Ridge Parkway’s northern end lies at the southern terminus of Shenandoah National Park. Known as Milepost 0, the closest city is Waynesboro, Va.
At the south end, the Blue Ridge Parkway connects with Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near the town of Cherokee, N.C. This is designated as Milepost 469.
Pro Tip: While visiting Shenandoah National Park, spend the night at one of these 7 Best Shenandoah Campgrounds.
Is the Blue Ridge Parkway a Popular Destination?
Popular may be an understatement! In 2021, it saw the most visitors of any National Park Service property, with nearly 16 million people passing through. This isn’t uncommon. The Blue Ridge Parkway has been the most popular in the NPS system almost every year for the last seven decades!
Visitors are drawn to a variety of attractions, from the famous Natural Bridge to the Blue Ridge Music Center to nearby Mount Mitchell, the highest point in the Appalachian Mountains. These are just a few of the literally dozens of trails, campsites, scenic overlooks, and quaint pieces of interest along the route.
5 Reasons to Avoid the Blue Ridge Parkway
As beautiful as the drive can be, it may be worth skipping for some travelers. Here are the reasons you may want to head elsewhere on your next road trip.
1. It Can Get Crowded
Like many of the top attractions in the National Park System, demand to check out the Blue Ridge Parkway has grown in recent years. Infrastructure hasn’t expanded to keep up, meaning big crowds can be a reality many times of the year.
If you’re looking for a serene trip into nature, this can be a disappointing experience fighting traffic and dealing with overburdened food and lodging services.
2. Some Sections Close for Repairs
The Blue Ridge Parkway is just two lanes in most spots and, like all roads, needs to be repaired and maintained from time to time. Unfortunately, this can lead to one-lane traffic nightmares or restrict access to certain areas.
In addition to regular maintenance, the wildness of the area may also necessitate emergency repairs that are hard or impossible to plan for. Nothing can ruin a scenic drive faster than a massive traffic jam, so keep this in mind.
3. Animal Crossings Are Not Uncommon
Those from wooded or animal-heavy areas may be familiar with the hazards presented by wildlife deciding to cross the road at the wrong time. But even these experienced drivers can sometimes join the ranks of the many novices who end up colliding with an animal.
These kinds of accidents can cause severe injury or even death, along with expensive damage to your vehicle. And that’s without considering the poor animal involved! Unfortunate encounters with Blue Ridge native wildlife are one of the top reasons to avoid this route.
4. Cell Service Is Patchy in Some Parts
We’re more connected than ever these days, relying on our devices for directions, music, and vital information during our travels. But the wildness of the Blue Ridge means that some stretches have poor cellular reception if any is available at all. For some, this is part of the appeal.
But others may worry about practical implications in the case of an emergency along these remote stretches. Others simply miss the ability to stay in touch, check the weather, and more.
Those concerned with weak to nonexistent cell service should opt for a different trip.
5. No Gas Stations Along the Parkway
Once again, the hallmark wildness that defines the Blue Ridge Parkway means a lack of services. This includes the most crucial one for road trippers: gas. At nearly 470 miles long, even the most fuel-efficient vehicles will likely need to fill up at some point.
While many gas stations are only a few miles off the route, in some cases, you’ll need to travel as much as 20 miles round trip just to get gas. For those looking to make great time without detours, avoiding the Blue Ridge may be your best bet.
Pro Tip: Still convinced you want to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway? Use our ultimate Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip Guide.
How Long Does It Take to Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway?
In its entirety, the Blue Ridge Parkway is 469 miles long. Most of the route has a speed limit of 45 miles per hour, with portions occasionally designated at slower speeds. Therefore, driving straight through with no stops and no traffic would take roughly 11 hours.
However, this isn’t an entirely realistic estimate. Traffic and stops for food and fuel will likely add one to three hours at a minimum. Even more importantly, most visitors choose to stop and enjoy nature along the route, whether with a hike, scenic viewpoint, or other outdoor activity. This will also likely add a handful of hours or more to your trip.
With all this in mind, many choose to split up a trip along the entire Blue Ridge Parkway into two to four days or more. This allows ample time for sightseeing and exploring without an overwhelming amount of daily driving.
Is the Blue Ridge Parkway Worth Visiting?
Whether or not to take any road trip or vacation is, of course, a personal matter. Many travel to the Blue Ridge Parkway and have an enjoyable time camping, hiking, driving, and otherwise exploring this beautiful part of the country. Plus, its proximity to larger population centers on the east coast makes it a more reasonable trip than many west coast parks and attractions.
But for others, the crowds and traffic hassles will make them pine for a more remote wilderness experience. Others may not want to deal with wildlife hazards and lack of cell phone coverage. Considering all of these potential downsides is crucial before setting out on a Blue Ridge road trip. Remember, there’s no “right” vacation — just one that’s right for you and your fellow travelers!
Is Blue Ridge Parkway in your travel plans? Tell us in the comments!
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