Taking a trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway is a unique experience, a meandering drive reveals the magnanimous long-range ruggedness of the picturesque Appalachian Mountains. The scenic route carries onward for more than 400 miles and the stretch situated in the High Country of North Carolina is some of the best on the entire road.

The Parkway displays and protects a various array of animals and fauna native to the region and provides an opportunity for travelers to get a glimpse of the lush landscapes.

The Blue Ridge Parkway receives its name from the Blue Ridge Mountains, a physical geographic province of the greater Appalachian Mountains. The mountain range is located in the eastern United States, and extends 550 miles southwest from southern Pennsylvania through Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.

This province consists of northern and southern physiographic regions, which divide near the Roanoke River. To the west of the Blue Ridge, between it and the bulk of the Appalachians, lies the Great Appalachian Valley, bordered on the west by the Ridge and Valley province of the Appalachian range.

The Blue Ridge Mountains obtained its esteemed moniker from the bluish color it renders when viewed from a distance. The vast trees of the area put the ‘blue’ into the landscape due to an atmospheric hydrocarbon phenomena, hence the distinctive color palette in the scene.

The Blue Ridge Mountains essentially act as the epicenter for its parent range the Appalachians, bordered by sectors known as the Piedmont to the southeast and the Valley, Ridge and Plateau to the northwest. The Blue Ridge Mountains, and the parkway that it contains, offer the highest peak in the eastern United States at Mount Mitchell.

For reference, there are 39 peaks in North Carolina and Tennessee higher than 6,000 feet. In comparison, in the northern portion of the Appalachian chain, only New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington rises above 6,000 feet, making the Blue Ridge Mountains the premiere setting for eastern elevation.

The region is typically acclaimed for its isolation and revered for its natural beauty. The Blue Ridge Parkway, which is a specially designed and federally protected major route, meanders gently while taking travelers on an idyllic journey of wonder and magnitude.

There are almost 500 mileposts in the 469-mile stretch of Parkway road, perfectly showcasing what the Appalachian Mountains are all about. Travelers can not only take in the views and shoot amply sensational photographs, but can also look for tunnels, parking areas, overlooks, streams, rivers and numerous tourism-based locations. If travelers wanted to drive straight through the entire length of the Parkway, it would take between 10 and 12 hours, but with so much to take in, one could easily take an entire day within only a few mile markers.

As temperatures begin to drop and winter looms, the Blue Ridge Parkway stays open (weather permitting), aside from a few visitor centers. The wintertime Blue Ridge Parkway offers all the beauty of the mountains of valleys with a blanket of unaltered snow. The white caps shine in the distance, the evergreens dusted with crystals as the definitions of mountain and forest become a remarkable sight, especially from the comfort of a cozy car.

The winter scenery gives the image of inside a snow globe. White and green hues control the color narrative throughout the route and contrast spectacularly with a clear blue sky.

Winter on the Parkway is a totally different journey from the other seasons and offers an unparalleled experience with a drastically varied setting to enjoy the wonder. While it gives amazing views and adventurous destinations, the roadway is highly susceptible to weather conditions.

If the weather becomes too dicey, park rangers will shut portions of the Parkway to keep safety a priority concern. Planning and safety ought to be paramount when inclement weather approaches.

If snow, sleet or ice are significantly present on the roadways and bridges, park rangers will close access gates on the route. However, even with unpredictable weather there are still ways to reach small sections of the roadway, including trail areas for winter hiking or snowshoeing, along with other attractions.

The superb vistas are the main component to the popularity of the Blue Ridge Parkway, making it a road destination for tourists from all over the United States. The section of the Parkway that runs through the Boone, Blowing Rock and Banner Elk regions of the North Carolina High Country are considered some of the most brilliant for the entire journey. As a result, travelers make a specific point to seek the many unique businesses, activities, music, breweries and wineries throughout the Avery and Watauga county regions of the Parkway.

The location of the Parkway in these areas draw visitors to adjacent sites such as Grandfather Mountain. At the Linville, NC nature park, visitors here will find animals, trails, shops, restaurants and the prestigious Mile High Swinging Bridge to walk across. The views at this point rival any other all over the map. Grandfather Mountain, a source of local pride, demonstrates true natural beauty and fun for the entire family.

An amazing source of biodiversity and towering historic landscapes provide an authentic escape from the urban and suburban sprawl. Grandfather’s unique ecology, conservation and species protection genuinely demonstrate the commitment and passion for nature in the High Country. Weather permitting; Grandfather Mountain State Park is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Located at 2050 Blowing Rock Highway, Linville, NC 28646, Grandfather Mountain is a perfect attache to a journey on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Continuing on Hwy. 221 past the Grandfather Mountain in Avery County and a short drive from off the Parkway exist the mountain resort towns of Banner Elk, Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain. Visitors there will find plenty of restaurants, shops, lodging and site attractions to go along with the two major ski resorts of Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain.

Late November and early December mark the official start to the ski and snowboard season. Parkway drivers can take the slight detour to fill their adrenaline void on the quick slopes of these mountain hamlets.

Grandfather Vineyard and Winery, Banner Elk Winery and Beech Mountain Brewing Company are also found with easy access and are close by. They are open all season and throughout the winter months. These hotspots are a great way to relax after driving throughout the Parkway and offer a literal taste of what the High Country has to offer.

Southbound from Banner Elk and the ski resorts is the town of Linville Falls, home to majestic and aptly named Linville Falls. Linville Falls in the winter months can produce beautiful displays when the waterfall is completely frozen. Linville Falls also contains the Linville Falls Winery, an area campground, and Linville Caverns.

The caverns throughout the winter months, is only open on the weekends. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs near the towns of Linville Falls, Pineola and Little Switzerland, and is a quick stop for a beautiful location.

The winter season on the Blue Ridge Parkway has a tremendous amount to offer both the adventure seeker and the scenic onlooker.

Though conditions can make the journey more perilous, be prepared, do not hike alone, check ahead for conditions at www.nps.gov/blri/planyourvisit/conditions and take in some of the most beautiful locations in the nation.

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