Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, Blue Ridge Parkway officials are increasing recreational access to sections of the motor road previously closed to motor vehicle traffic in North Carolina. The National Park Service is working with federal, state, and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access to the Parkway and park sites across the country.
Beginning Saturday, May 9, 2020, the Blue Ridge Parkway will reopen gates providing motor vehicle access to the southernmost 14 miles of the park, from Milepost 454 – 469, in coordination with the Qualla Boundary and Great Smoky Mountains National Park planned reopening.
Beginning Friday, May 15, 2020, the Parkway will reopen gates providing motor vehicle access at the following locations in North Carolina, once initial seasonal mowing and road preparations are complete:
Milepost 292-296.5 near Blowing Rock, including Moses Cone Parking Area and Hwy 221 Bass Lake Parking Lot.
Milepost 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
Milepost 334-342 including Crabtree Falls Area, near Little Switzerland, NC
Milepost 355-375.6 from Mt. Mitchell to Ox Creek, including Craggy Gardens
Milepost 377.4 Parking areas at Craven Gap (Town Mountain Rd) for MST Trail access
Milepost 384.7 Roadside parking at MST Trailheads at US 74A Parkway access ramps
Milepost 393-454 from French Broad River Overlook and south to Soco Gap
In addition, the following areas continue to be accessible:
All Parkway trails, and
All other sections of the motor route in North Carolina and Virginia previously accessible to motor vehicle traffic.
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.
In alignment with federal and state public health guidance, the following areas remain closed at this time:
Road closure from Milepost 0 to 13 in Virginia,
Milepost 85.9 Peaks of Otter Visitor Center and Sharp Top Parking Areas closed,
Milepost 92.5 Sharp Top Parking Widening closed at Appalachian Trail crossing, and all
Seasonal visitor service facilities including campgrounds, picnic areas, restrooms and visitor centers.
“We are pleased to once again provide motor vehicle access to these popular Blue Ridge Parkway locations. 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 J.D. Lee, Superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway. “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.”
The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners continues to be paramount. In the coming weeks, the operational approach on the Blue Ridge Parkway will be to examine each facility function and service to ensure operations comply with current public health guidance and will be regularly monitored. Park officials will continue to work closely with the NPS Office of Public Health using CDC guidance to ensure public and workspaces are safe and clean for visitors, employees, partners, and volunteers.
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.
The CDC has offered guidance to help people recreating in parks and open spaces prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Park officials will continue to monitor all functions to ensure that visitors adhere to CDC guidance for mitigating risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19, and take any additional steps necessary to protect public health.
Photo: morning light spills out on the Lynn Cove viaduct along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. Courtesy of Getty Images