- The motor road is marked every mile by concrete mileposts beginning at MP 0 near Shenandoah NP and ending at MP 469 at Great Smoky Mountain NP. The winding nature of the road may make it difficult for large recreational vehicles, but all personal vehicles, motorcycles, tour buses and bicycles are allowed. No commercial traffic is permitted! There are eleven visitor centers along the Parkway, five in Virginia and six in North Carolina. Each is designed to provide information on the activities and facilities in the area, as well as providing general information about the Parkway. There are three concession operated lodges and a cabin complex along the Parkway, along with seven restaurants, three service stations and other facilities. The nine campgrounds have tent pads, trailer sites, picnic tables, fire pits, dump stations, and comfort stations with cold running water sinks. There are no hookups or shower facilities. Camping is allowed only in designated areas. There are picnic tables in all developed areas, as well as tables at some overlooks along the motor road. All Parkway campgrounds have at least one accessible site, and most visitor centers and lodges are either fully or partially accessible. In addition, there is a wheelchair accessible fishing dock at Otter Lake and a wheelchair accessible trail at Linville Falls.
RECOMMENDED ACTIVITIES, PARK USE:
Overlooks and trails offer breaks during a drive, and there are ranger programs at most developed areas during the summer and autumn months. The Parkway provides wonderful opportunities for:
Hiking - The Parkway offers 100 trails ranging from short "leg-stretcher" walks to the Appalachian Trail. Many of these trails are within the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests.
The variety of the mountain environment makes the Parkway an excellent location for both wildflower walks in the springtime and brilliant leaf color in the autumn. The combination of historical and natural areas make the park an excellent destination for photographers. Several developed areas offer hands-on demonstrations of mountain life and culture, including Humpback Rocks, the Johnson Farm and Mabry Mill. During the summer season, most developed areas offer evening programs, or more traditional campfire programs, along with guided walks and special programs. At Roanoke Mountain, Rocky Knob, Folk Art Center, the Parkway celebrates mountain culture through special mountain music programs.
Because the Appalachian Mountains shape the flyway for most eastern migratory birds, the Parkway is an excellent place for both bird-watching and autumn migratory bird counts. The slow pace of bicycling on the motor road may be one of the best ways to enjoy everything that the park has to offer. Bikes are prohibited on all trails.
No reservations are taken on the Parkway, except at lodging facilities operated by the concessionaires. Permits are required for hang gliding, commercial activities, weddings and other park uses. These can be obtained through Parkway headquarters in Asheville, NC.
BASIC VISIT RECOMMENDATIONS:
Plan to travel slowly. The Parkway speed limit is 45 mph (35 mph in developed areas), and you should allow time for frequent stops to enjoy the park. To travel the Parkway safely from Shenandoah to Great Smokies will take twelve or more hours of driving.
There is no fee for traveling on the Parkway, or for visitor centers and picnic areas. Camping fees are $12.00/night for families or groups with two adults, plus $2.00 for each additional adult over age 18.
VIRGINIA PARK HIGHLIGHTS BY MILEPOST:
10.7 Ravens Roose - offers mountain vistas of Torry Mountain and Shenandoah Mountain.
16 Sherando Lake Recreation Area in George Washington & Jefferson National Forests.
29 Whetstone Ridge.
34.4 Yankee Horse Ridge - Union soldier's horse fell and had to be shot.
58-63.6 Otter Creek runs 10 miles down creek to James River, hiking and fishing opportunities.
63.8 James River & Kanawha Canal - a self-guided trail to restored canal locks.
71 Petites Gap - road to travels into George Washington & Jefferson National Forests, camping, picnicking and swimming opportunities.
79.7 Onion Mountain - short loop trail through rhododendrons and mountain laurels. Good time for visitation is late May or early June.
83.4 Fallingwater Cascades - 1.6 mile loop trail.
84-87 Peaks of Otter - restaurant, lodge, trail around lake.
114.9 Roanoke River Gorge - beautiful overlook.
115.8 Virginia's Explore Park - Historic exhibits on westward expansion.
120.4 Roanoke Mountain - 3.7 mile hike to impressive views.
129.6 Roanoke Valley Overlook - overlook of largest community on Parkway.
154.5 Smart View - Trail Cabin built in 1890's with spectacular views.
167-174 Rocky Knob - Overlook, Rock Castle Gorge.
Recreation - A number of state parks and private attractions border the Parkway, along with a number of national parks and forests. For example:
Shenandoah National Park
Booker T. Washington National Historic Site
Carl Sandburg National Historic Site
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
George Washington and Jefferson National Forests
Nantahala National Forest
Pisgah National Forest
Climate - The Parkway ranges from 650 feet above sea level to over 6,000 feet, so expect rapidly changing weather conditions. The weather is generally mild, but summertime temperatures can reach the 90's and winter can produce extended periods with single digit temperatures, ice, wind and snow.
The Parkway passes through western Virginia and North Carolina, with access from several major highways and cities. Asheville, NC, and Roanoke, VA, are the largest metropolitan areas along the Parkway.