Sitting on my bike, leaning left then right and then left again, I am not sure of the time, nor does it matter. Any sense of urgency or worry leaves you on your second day riding the Blue Ridge Parkway, and thoughts of work and other stresses seem to all but disappear. The pace of life here in Virginia and North Carolina is embraced on this windy road as you work your way through the skies of the south. You may start to speed up through a section of eye-opening twisties, but you then start to slow your pace again when your now wide open eye catches the mountain views around the next bend. This state of mind and riding style continues for a full work weeks’ worth of saddle time on the Blue Ridge Parkway (photographic exploration).
- Ride Time: 4 to 5 Days
- Surface: Asphalt (varying conditions, very good overall)
- Scenery: Rolling Hills, Mountains, Farmland, Valleys and Streams
- Distance: 470mi (760km)
From a far, the Parkway resembles string being threaded through the ridge of the infinite Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s called “America’s Favorite Drive”, and with good reason, but in the motorcycle community, you could say it is one of America’s Favorite Rides. Rising from 600ft to over 6000ft in elevation, this seemingly endless ride will fill your appetite for a word class cursing road. Like the Skyline Drive which connects to the Parkway from the North, mile posts mark your progress over the 470 mile journey, making navigation a breeze. The end of the Skyline Drive, known as Rockfish Gap, off of US 250 near Waynesboro, VA is the best access point to the Parkway. Starting here will allow you to enter the road at the beginning and ride it in its entirety. There is an astonishing 206 access points to the road, so if your plans involve off-shoots of any kind, you will never have too much riding to do before leaving the busy freeways and getting back to the Parkway, where the real riding takes place.
“The Blue Ridge Mountains have a mystical blue tint that makes them so unique.”
During the ride, I took advantage of the numerous access points and enjoyed some of the neighboring towns for services and cold beer. A construction detour took me to the town of West Jefferson, NC, where a lunch and refreshment break was in order. A glance at my Blue Ridge Parkway phone App, showed a local brew-pub called Boondocks Brewing Tap Room & Restaurant. Like so many North Carolina restaurants, the staff was friendly and the beer cold. Bikers and cyclists fill many of the establishments surrounding the Parkway.
The Wolfman Rainier tank bag was a godsend on this trip. My rain gear only made one appearance, and was stored away nicely along with all my personal items, and I still had room to spare. Check out the tank bag here.
The strictly enforced speed limit is 45mph (72km/h) for the majority of the Parkway; however it does dip down to 25mph (40 km/h) periodically. Of course there are some solutions for Cars and Motorcycles to avoid tickets, should you feel so inclined. I was able to push the limits through some of the twisty sections without getting into trouble, but when you are in the scenic sections, of which there are many, it is best to slow down and enjoy the views as this is where you will encounter the most traffic. Passing spots are limited, and many folks are out for Sunday drives, but if you are patient, a broken line will eventually appear, allowing for a safe pass.
To the south, at the end of the ride, lies the Great Smokey Mountains and The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, home to the Tail of the Dragon! The end of the ride is bitter sweet, even after 4-5 days of riding the Parkway, you will want more or even feel like turning around and doing it again heading the opposite direction, but the roads that lie ahead will get your adrenaline pumping.
During the recession of 2008, American and Canadian governments implemented Stimulus Plans which lead to many road construction projects, and the Blue Ridge Parkway came to be in a similar fashion. During the Great Depression, construction of the roadway began to put tradesmen back to work, and the project become known to some as the “Depression Baby”. Some original estimates had the road being completed in as little as 2 years, while unrealistic, no one anticipated that due to many obstacles, it would take a half a century to complete. Linn Cove Viaduct is a feature of the ride that you cannot miss. Just past the 300th mile, this meandering bridge clings to the side of Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina at 4000 ft above sea level. The views are stunning and the history of the project equally as interesting. Seven miles of the Parkway remained unfinished for twenty years due to the environmental sensitivity of the surrounding area. The solution was a bold one, to construct a 10 million dollar bridge in 1987, which would be the final piece of the puzzle, completing the Parkway. The challenge inspired engineers to produce an award winning design that has become a staple of the Parkway. Riders will find many other aspects of the road to be impressive, notable the meticulously placed rock walls lining the balconies, allowing for safe viewing of the abundant scenery.
“Some original estimates had the road being completed in as little as 2 years, while unrealistic, no one anticipated that due to many obstacles, it would take a half a century to complete”
The majority of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s roadways are top notch and your ride will be smooth, allowing your mind to observe your surroundings and enjoy the views. Keep your eyes peeled for down trees, debris, and loose gravel, especially following high winds and heavy rain.
There are several on-going maintenance projects, which result in closures and detours off of the Parkway. While this can be inconvenient, many times the detour roads are still great bike roads, as the topography of the surrounding area makes for many turns and rising and falling elevations.
A real-time road closure and alert map is available for the Blue Ridge Parkway and can be found in the useful link section below.
Fairly steep grades and enjoyable twisties are present throughout the Parkway, but nothing that a biker with some road riding experience will find intimidating. Small or non-existing shoulders are typical on the Parkway which forces the rider focus on what is ahead.
The Parkway encompasses part of the Appalachian Mountain Range, providing you with a bio-diverse ride. Wild flowers explode out of the backdrop in the spring, adding a contrast to the vast green forest that surrounds the Parkway. The Blue Ridge Mountains have a mystical blue tint that makes them so unique. Autumn colors are said to be spectacular, so a fall ride is a great idea, just do not leave it too late, as weather can become unpredictable and potentially spoil your ride with impassable sections and closures.
There are over 50 species of mammals, with the larger being black bears, and a motorcyclist’s familiar foe on the road – deer. Riders need to exercise caution for darting deer and other animals. There are many small mammals, over 150 bird species, and many reptiles such as the Snapping Turtle throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains.
- Food: The Parkway boasts 3 of its own restaurants, Mabry Mill Restaurant (mile 176), Dan’l Boone Inn Restaurant (mile 291), and Christa’s Country Corner General Store (mile 312). Should you be in the search for something different, a quick ride out of the Parkway will open the door to numerous nearby towns with restaurants including takeout and brew-pubs, all the way up to fine dining.
- Camping: There are nine campgrounds on the Parkway itself and a pleather of sites in close proximity to the Parkway. Finding sites is not difficult due to the vast wilderness surrounding the route. City lights will not be keeping you awake at night out here.
- Lodging: For those of you who prefer the convenience of a roof over your head rather than Moto Camping, there is an unlimited selection of nearby hotels, motels, cabins, ranches, and resorts. When planning your ride, utilize the interactive map on the Blue Ridge Parkway’s website to source your nightly accommodations.
- Gas: There is no gas available on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Riders need to exit to fill up, however there are many stations within a few miles of the exits / entrances.
For a full list of restaurants, camp sites, lodging, and gas stations near the Parkway, check the Blue Ridge Parkway site in the useful links below, or download the App.
Book some time off work and spend some time exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway, just remember to slow down, take a breath and enjoy the view.