Smoky Mountain News, Written by Holly Kayes
The Blue Ridge Parkway will soon begin opening up sections of the historic motor road that are currently closed due to coronavirus concerns.
Beginning Saturday, May 9, the southernmost 14 miles — mileposts 454 to 469 — will reopen in coordination with planned reopenings of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Qualla Boundary.
Additional gates will reopen on Friday, May 15, after initial seasonal mowing and road preparations are complete. These include:
- Mileposts 292-296.5 near Blowing Rock, including Moses Cone Parking Area and Bass Lake Parking Lot.
- Mileposts 298.6-308 through Grandfather Mountain area, including Rough Ridge and Linn Cove Viaduct.
- Milepost 316.4 Linville Falls Spur Road, including parking at Linville Falls trailheads.
- Mileposts 334-342 including Crabtree Falls Area near Little Switzerland.
- Mileposts 355-375.6 from Mt. Mitchell to Ox Creek, including Craggy Gardens.
- Milepost 377.4, parking areas at Craven Gap (Town Mountain Rd) for Mountains-to-Sea Trail access.
- Milepost 384.7, roadside parking at MST Trailheads at U.S. 74A Parkway access ramps.
- Mileposts 393 to 454 from French Broad River Overlook and south to Soco Gap.
Road maintenance projects are underway in some of these areas. Visitors may experience delays or one-lane closures and should check the Parkway’s Road Closure page at https://go.nps.gov/roadinfo for more information.
Seasonal visitor service facilities including campgrounds, picnic areas, restrooms and visitor centers remain closed at this time. In Virginia, closures are still in effect for miles 0 to 13 adjacent to Shenandoah National Park, milepost 85.9 at Peaks of Otter and milepost 92.5 at Sharp Top.
“We know the park’s recreation opportunities and scenic beauty provide important ways to connect with our natural environment during this time, and for many a leisurely drive on the Parkway provides solace,” said Parkway Superintendent J.D. Lee. “Our phased approach to the 2020 visitor season is focused on balancing the enjoyment and protection of this park with the enjoyment and protection of our visitors. I encourage everyone who visits the Parkway in the coming days to recreate responsibly while here, whether that’s social distancing on park trails or driving safely on this beautiful, scenic drive.”
In the coming weeks, the Blue Ridge Parkway will examine each facility function and service to ensure operations comply with current public health guidance. While these areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited. When recreating, the public should follow local area health orders in North Carolina and Virginia, practice Leave No Trace principles, avoid crowding and avoid high-risk outdoor activities.