The majority of my life was spent in the mountain region of southwestern Virginia, an area of the Appalachian Mountains commonly called The Mountain Empire. Although life, work and curiosity have taken me many places since I left in 2003, luckily I get to visit a couple times a year because my family still resides in a number of communities in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. One of my favorite things about this area of the world, aside from the deep rooted cultural instances, the language and the feeling that time stands still is quite simply the beauty of the natural world that is on display each and every day of the year. To me, there are fewer things as amazingly peaceful as sitting in the Blue Ridge Mountains just taking nature in.
If you’ve never been to this area, one of the best ways to get a taste of what it has to offer is to travel the Blue Ridge Parkway. Cyclists, motorcyclists, and RVs as well as cars are welcome on the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you are driving an RV, however, be sure to check out the height of various tunnels along the way using the tunnel clearance chart.
Currently the lowest tunnel clearance is 10’6” near Cherokee, North Carolina, close to the end (or beginning if you’re heading north) of the parkway. One thing to keep in mind is that the Blue Ridge Parkway is designed for enjoyment of the masses and is not the quickest route to use if you are traveling quickly through the area.
The top speed is 45 mph with a lower speed limit of 25 mph. If you want to see the parkway and also get some time in hiking The Appalachian Trail, the best place is just north of Roanoke, Virginia where they almost intersect at a place that offers awesome sites from both attractions.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is immaculately maintained and the Rangers that maintain the area are capable of enforcing the laws so be sure to be aware of the regulations before entering the parkway. The Blue Ridge Parkway is simple to travel, but be sure to understand the common sense regulations that accompany the view.
The effort to ensure the parkway is pristine and essentially untouched has led the organization that runs it to disallow even gas stations on the parkway although many are very close and can be found by searching this page. It is free to drive the parkway, but passes are needed to use the designated camping areas. I’ve never camped the parkway but have driven the length of it in sections many times and each time is better than the last. If you have plans to be in Appalachia and can fit a trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway into your plans, you’ll be glad you did.
Don’t forget your camera!
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