Blue Ridge Parkway - Now Open!

The National Park Service announced the slope repairs between Milepost 121.4 and 136 are complete and the entire portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Roanoke Region is now open to motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. Please be mindful of wildlife when traveling in the area. National Park Service News Release >


Blue Ridge Parkway - Safety Tips & Guidelines

The Blue Ridge Parkway, often called "America's Favorite Drive," is a 469-mile-long ribbon winding through the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains. This iconic roadway offers travelers a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the region's natural beauty and cultural history. However, with its winding curves and varying altitudes, it's essential to prioritize safety during your journey. 

Please follow these tips and guidelines to ensure a safe and memorable experience while traveling on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Check Your Vehicle

Before you begin your Blue Ridge Parkway adventure, please make sure your vehicle is in good working condition. Here are a few steps to follow:

  • Tires: Ensure they have proper tread and are inflated to the recommended levels.
  • Brakes: Have your brakes checked to ensure they are functioning correctly.
  • Fluids: Check and top up your oil, coolant, and windshield wiper fluid.
  • Lights: Test all your lights, including headlights, taillights, and turn signals.
  • Emergency Kit: Carry a well-stocked emergency kit, including a first-aid kit, flashlight, jumper cables, and blankets.

Plan Ahead

Planning is crucial when traveling on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Start by checking the weather forecast and road conditions. The Parkway can be affected by adverse weather, and some sections may be closed during the winter months. The National Park Service website offers up-to-date information on road closures and conditions.

Drive Cautiously

The Blue Ridge Parkway is known for its winding roads, steep grades, and narrow passages. It's vital to adopt a cautious driving style:

  • Adhere to speed limits: The speed limits on the Parkway are lower than on traditional highways for a reason. The speed limit is mostly 45 mph, but it occasionally drops to 35 or 25 mph. Follow speed limits diligently to ensure your safety and the safety of others.
  • Watch for wildlife: The Parkway is home to diverse wildlife. Be alert for animals crossing the road, especially during dawn and dusk.
  • Avoid distracted driving: Keep your focus on the road and avoid using your phone or other distractions.
  • Recreational Vehicles: Large RVs are popular on the Parkway, but be advised that going up or down steep grades can be slow. It is also important to check the heights of the Parkway's 26 tunnels to ensure an RV will fit.
  • Watch for steep grades: Sections of the Parkway have steeper grades than highways. Pay close attention and keep your speed from increasing too quickly.
  • Share the Road: The Parkway is a popular route for motorcycles and cyclists and it is important to be aware of other travelers while enjoying the drive.

Motorcycle Safety

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a favorite route for motorcycle riders, but it is essential to practice safe riding to help reduce risk.

  • Unforgiving Road Shoulders: Sections of the Parkway have narrow shoulders, meaning meadows and forest edges grow close to the pavement. Travel in the center of the lane of travel to avoid narrow shoulders.
  • Decreasing Radius Curves: Allow yourself plenty of time to approach and complete curves. Be aware of your curve position and avoid straying over the center line.
  • Safe Group Riding: When riding in a group, single-file riding is a best practice to follow due to the curvy nature of the Parkway. This allows riders more space to maneuver.
  • Defensive Driving: Watch for oncoming vehicles straying over the center line, particularly in blind curves. Stay in the center of the lane of travel and pay attention for sudden stops or slow-downs, particularly around overlooks, construction, or other congested areas.
  • Road Surface Hazards: Pay close attention to the road surface as you ride and watch for hazards such as oil spots, fallen rocks, trees or tree debris, and loose gravel. Inclement weather can also make for slippery and dangerous conditions for riding.

Pull Over Safely

The Blue Ridge Parkway is dotted with scenic overlooks and pull-offs. If you want to take in the breathtaking views or snap some photos, make sure to pull over safely:

  • Use designated pull-offs: Don't stop in the middle of the road; instead, use the numerous designated pull-off areas.
  • Turn on hazard lights: If you need to stop temporarily, activate your hazard lights to alert other drivers.
  • Respect fellow travelers: Be considerate of other visitors and share the overlooks and parking areas.

Mind the Altitude

You'll encounter varying altitudes and climates as you drive along the Parkway. Keep these considerations in mind:

  • Temperature drops: Be prepared for sudden temperature changes, especially at higher elevations. Dress in layers and carry warm clothing, even in the summer.
  • Drink water: High altitudes can lead to dehydration, so drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Altitude sickness: Some travelers may experience symptoms like headaches, dizziness, and nausea at higher elevations. If you or a passenger experience these symptoms, descend to a lower elevation and seek medical assistance if necessary.

Respect Park Regulations

The Blue Ridge Parkway is part of the National Park System, and regulations are in place to protect the environment and ensure a safe experience for all visitors. Familiarize yourself with these rules, including those related to camping, picnicking, and wildlife interactions.

National Park Service Laws & Policies >

Traveling on the Blue Ridge Parkway is a fantastic opportunity to connect with nature and appreciate the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Following these safety tips and guidelines can ensure a safe and enjoyable journey, allowing you to make the most of this extraordinary American scenic route.

Embrace the adventure, and remember to savor the moments of serenity and awe that this spectacular road has to offer.

Roanoke Region Spotlight