May, 2015 – The south end of the Blue Ridge Parkway is in Cherokee, North Carolina, right next to the Newfound Gap Road that traverses Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and we enjoyed some wonderful views at the beginning of this scenic drive.
Motorcycles were everywhere, but this is a road that would be great for cycling too because, even though there’s no shoulder, there’s very little traffic.
Two tunnels at the south end make it best for tall RVs to find an alternate route, but they are neat to drive through in something smaller!
Spring was in full bloom and we saw lots of wildflowers. White trillium and huge bright orange azaleas were blossoming on either side of the road, as well as some pretty pink flowers. Down at our feet, while tromping around at an overlook, we spotted a big yellow butterfly. He flew off when a matching butterfly landed nearby.
The Blue Ridge Parkway was built between 1935 and 1983 to give people a way to travel along the crest of the Blue Ridge mountains and enjoy their ethereal beauty without interruption between Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the south, in North Carolina, and Shenandoah National Park to the north, in Virginia. It is a narrow ribbon of protected land that threads its way across these two states, from the southwest to the northeast.
Ironically, because much of the road is lined with tall trees, it is often impossible to see across the valleys! At many overlooks the trees have grown so tall since the time the overlooks were constructed that you can’t see the view at all. Looking past the sign that says “Overlook” all you see is trees! But every once in a while the vistas open up, and the views are lovely.
Oddly, driving through all these twists and turns under an endless archway of trees can get a little tedious after a while, since the views rarely change (in the fall, however, I imagine the colors are extraordinary). So, we hopped on and off the Blue Ridge Parkway as we snaked our way north, enjoying the activities, small towns and hum of life that goes on alongside it.
Even though the Blue Ridge Parkway is part of the National Park System, just like Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there is no fee to enter or drive on it. It intersects other roads frequently, and in many places the locals use it as a shortcut from here to there.
At one point in our travels on and off the parkway we found ourselves on I-40 just west of Asheville, North Carolina. We were zooming along on the freeway when we suddenly saw a massive field of wildflowers at the side of the road. Mark slammed on the brakes (yay for our new trailer disc brakes!) and pulled off the highway.
The wildflowers were just stunning. We’ve seen so many photos of fields of wildflowers over the years, and we’ve always dreamed of taking wildflower shots where the land was blanketed in color. But where are those photos taken? We just don’t see fields of wildflowers in our travels like some people manage to get in their photos.
Well, I guess one huge field of wildflowers can be found on the eastbound side of I-40 just west of Asheville, North Carolina!
I don’t know what kinds of flowers these were, but they were blooming in all shades of pink, red, white and peach.
As the cars flew by us on the highway, all in a rush to get somewhere else, we stayed in this spot for over an hour enjoying this glorious display of Nature’s handiwork.
Many people drive the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy the vivid display of rhododendrons that happens every spring. But we discovered that spring is a great time for flowers in other places in North Carolina too, even out in the wilds of I-40!
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More info about the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina:
- Blue Ridge Parkway – National Park Service – Click View Park Map for park highlights
- Blue Ridge Parkway – Travel Planning
- Where is the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Southern End? – Location on Google Maps
- I-40 West of Asheville, North Carolina – The flowers were somewhere on I-40 west of Asheville (Google Maps)
Related posts about the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Smokies:
- Shenandoah National Park, Virginia – Climbs & Falls! 06/20/15
- Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia) – Waterfalls & Rhododendrons 06/18/15
- Blue Ridge Parkway Highlights (Virginia) – Mills, Music & Farms! 06/14/15
- New River Trail State Park – Galax, VA – Pizza, Beer and Biking! 06/12/15
- Waterfalls of the Blue Ridge Parkway (North Carolina) 06/10/15
- Smoky Mountain Adventures – Elk, Indians and Waterfalls 05/31/15
- Floyd Country Store Bluegrass Music Jam – So Much Fun! 05/28/15
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park – A First Glimpse 05/25/15
- A Jewel of a Waterfall – Great Smoky Mountains National Park 05/12/15