Blue Ridge Parkway, which is the longest linear park in the United States, has been the most popular tourist destination in the eastern part of the country for almost 70 years. It begins in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and travels south in North Carolina for more than 460 miles until it reaches its end in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, bordering the Cherokee Indian Reserve. Construction began in late 1935 and continued until 1987, when it finally ended with the completion of the Lynn Cove Viaduct, which encircles more than 7 miles around Mount Santa. Every year the park receives over 12 million visitors and tourists and is known for its breathtaking views, abundance of wildlife, as well as its cultural and historical regional exhibits.
Not only does Blue Ridge Parkway offer cultural and historical sites, it is also home to an abundance of recreation areas that offer a wide variety of activities such as camping, picnicking, climbing, fishing and even hiking. There are literally hundreds of hiking trails that need to be explored and they range from just a few hundred feet to almost 15 miles in length. Some trails are relatively easy and have almost no change in altitude, while some of the most strenuous hikes offer steep mountain trails and rocky, unstable terrain. These hiking trails are not for the faint of heart and tourists need to prepare in advance just to make sure they are able to make the whole trip safe. Make sure you are in good shape and bring enough food and water to maintain your energy and hydration at optimal levels.
You can expect to find all kinds of plant species and wildlife along the many trails scattered throughout the park. Due to the change in altitude above 6,000 feet through the park, plant life can be significantly different depending on where you are. There are also plenty of wildlife that can be found if you know where to look. Animals such as squirrels, white-tailed deer, snakes, skunks, hundreds of bird species and even a black bear roam the park. If you encounter a black bear, please do not try to approach them, as they have been known to be aggressive at certain times.
Blue Ridge Parkway is truly a tourist paradise and the things I mentioned above are just some of the reasons that make it one of the most popular tourist destinations on the East Coast. I really enjoy walking the Blue Ridge Parkway and I hope you will.