There are affiliate links in here. I get a small commission if you purchase through them at no extra cost to you.
Ahh, the Blue Ridge Parkway in October. Only the best road trip in the USA. Ok, maybe not the best, but one of the best and certainly the best scenic drive for fall.
This last fall I managed to drive almost all of the Blue Ridge Parkway (we skipped the section between Roanoke and Fancy Gap and part of it was closed) and it was pretty awesome.
I still think Burr Trail is my favorite scenic drive but this is a must-do for any road-trip lover and fall is the best time to do it. There are some things you should know before you drive the Blue Ridge Parkway in fall though, and I’m here to share those with you today after you add this to your southeast US bucket list.
Some of these can apply for driving the Blue Ridge Parkway anytime but most of them are fall specific. And For this I’m not including Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive since it’s technically not part of it, just the 469 miles from the end of Skyline Drive to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Don’t do it on the weekends
Well, you can but it’s going to be B U S Y. The whole thing won’t be bumper to bumper (Tina Belcher, anyone?) the whole way but certain parts will be, especially around Boone and Asheville.
Part of the Parkway by Boone took us 2.5 hours to drive like, eight miles on a Saturday morning. The Linville Falls area is another section that is super busy.
I would say the Boone to Great Smoky Mountains was the busiest part of the whole thing but I also think that area is just the most popular to visit. But for good reason. I think that section and the beginning to Roanoke are the best parts.
If you do, leave super early in the morning or in the evening
For reals. On the Blue Ridge in fall, you need to leave at the crack of dawn, pick the trail you want to do and go there first thing. Then try and fit in whatever else you can after that.
You’ll want to plan more time for driving on the weekends, for sure. If you don’t want to get up super early, you could also go in the afternoon or evening.
I would say like, 9-3 is probably the busiest time. This also makes parking a lot harder to find and means you may not be able to do some hikes or stops unless you come back later. The Lin Cove Viaduct was a good example of this. It was PACKED.
Don’t park where it says no parking
Just don’t. They say no parking for a reason and that is probably safety or to protect the environment right there. But it’s most likely safety because the Blue Ridge Parkway in fall is so busy.
Also, don’t just park on or walk across bridges that look cool. They’re usually narrow and the road is pretty twisty so it can be hard to see people walking and I don’t want any of you to get run over or to run someone over.
Don’t try and drive too much in one day
When I was planning, I had no concept of how much is too much driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway in one day. I think how much you drive in a day can depend on which part you’re doing.
I would plan to do the whole thing in 4-5 days. There are some sections I would spend more time in than others because some have more scenery and hiking than others.
Each of these sections should take 2-3 hours if you’re just driving but can take way more if you stop a lot. I would break down the drive like this:
- Shenandoah to Roanoke (tons of views and roadside hikes)
- Roanoke to Fancy Gap (part of this is closed as of May 2021)
- Fancy Gap to Blowing Rock (this drive is farmy, spend a few days in Blowing Rock if you have time)
- Blowing Rock to Asheville (spend a few days here too if you can)
- Asheville to Great Smoky Mountains National Park (then spend some time here too)
There are a lot more hikes and stops in the part between Shenandoah and Roanoke than I thought
I loved this beginning section! It was so pretty and lush and gorgeous. The woods here are so much more dense than the area near Asheville but they’re both amazing in their own ways.
I would just make sure to plan a little more time up here than you think you need. Add a little time in this section and take more out of the Fancy Gap to Blowing Rock part.
The section between Fancy Gap and Boone (Blowing Rock) is pretty farm-y
I didn’t like this section that much. It’s not bad but the scenery just isn’t as good as the other sections. There aren’t really hiking opportunities here, just lots of farms. It’s fine but I’d prioritize time in other areas. We did this section so fast, we didn’t even know what to do with our extra time.
If you miss a stop, don’t worry. There’s another one nearby
Like, ten more, actually. There are about 200 overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway which means there is an overlook every 2.3ish miles. And if the next one isn’t as good, you can always just turn around for the really great one.
If it’s foggy it can be pretty sketchy driving the parkway
Like, so sketchy. This fog was D E N S E. Sometimes it was harder to see than others but I would use a lot of caution if you’re driving this on a rainy day. If you’re not comfortable driving in fog, I would highly advise stopping to let it pass or detouring the section you’re on.
And I would absolutely advise against driving this with fog at night. That would be terrifying. It was scary enough while it was light out, dark would be so much worse. So definitely be prepared for heavy fog if you’re driving the Blue Ridge Parkway in fall.
The best parts are Shenandoah to Roanoke and Boone to Great Smoky Mountains
I’ve already mentioned this but I would plan a lot more time for these sections. I would also try to spend a few days each in Boone or Blowing Rock and Asheville so you can hike and enjoy the Blue Ridge mountains in fall.
There are tons of great things to do near Blowing Rock and there are soooooo many amazing waterfalls in this area. And Asheville is just amazing. And the food is all so good. I just love it!
You can pull over pretty much anywhere unless there are signs saying you can’t
Which is really awesome! This means you can stop for that really great view that didn’t get a pullout for some reason. Or for a picture of that cute little waterfall on the side of the road or those really great plants!
If you do pull over just on the side of the road, not in a pullout, just make sure not to mow down any plants or bushes. And actually pull off the road, not just the side of the road but still on it.
And don’t just stop in the middle of the road to take a picture. PULL OVER. I don’t know if we saw this on the parkway at all, but people do this in Utah allllllll the time and it’s not safe. At all. I’ve seen people stop in the road with a pullout 30 feet ahead of them. JUST PULL OVER.
The weather can change quickly and it can be cold in the morning and hot in the afternoon so you’ll want to bring layers, especially if you’re planning on doing any hiking along the way. The Blue Ridge Parkway in October is amazing but the weather is all over the place.
Peak foliage on the Blue Ridge Parkway depends on where you’re going
There is no exact time to see peak colors on the Blue Ridge Parkway but it will also depend on where you are. The peak foliage in Virginia will be earlier in October than North Carolina which is usually at peak in the second or third week of October.
This is a big reason I would recommend driving the Blue Ridge Parkway in fall from Virginia to Tennessee and not the other way around. If you’re visiting in another season it won’t matter as much. Higher elevations change earlier than lower elevations.
Hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock and Asheville:
- Hebron Falls
- Crabtree Falls
- Grassy Creek Falls
- Roaring Fork Falls
- Rough Ridge
- Log Hollow Falls
- Cove Creek Falls
- Looking Glass Falls and Looking Glass Rock
- Daniel Ridge Falls
Have you driven the Blue Ridge Parkway? Did you do the whole thing or just part? What are your favorite things to do along the way?