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  1. Default Skyline Drive & Blue Ridge Parkway When to get off and on!

    Hi All! Collectively you made last years trip PHX to Miami a blast - fingers crossed you all can offer up some good advice this go round!
    We will be picking up a car in NYC and driving it home to Phoenix. We have 2 days in the city visiting kids and then come Sunday morning June 27 we are on the road. Avid hikers, we are planning to go south via Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway. Thoughts are to stay a night at Skyland Resort stop and hike prior to night arrival and then drive again in the morning stopping along the way for a few more scenic hikes. The next known stop will be in Asheville to visit the Biltmore Estate. I know the speed limits are slow along both routes, and we will be wanting to stop and look about as well as hike. Ideally we will arrive in time to do a wine tour at the estate and drink some wine by 5 pm on Tuesday the 29th. Where would you all suggest stopping for a night ( in between Skyland & Asheville ) and are there areas where we would be better served popping off the drive(s) traveling a bit on a faster highway and then getting back on? What stretches do I absolutely not want to miss of the Skyline and BRP? Do I want to go into the Smokey Mountains?
    Rest of trip has us in Memphis or Nashville ( what do you all think ) would like to eat BBQ and go to a club for music and a small tour of something interesting. Please weigh in on Beale Street vs Nashville Opry vs Graceland Or should we stay a night in both places?
    Little Rock or Oklahoma City or Amarillo need to stop somewhere on this stretch and would like something interesting to do.
    2 days in Santa Fe and then heading home
    We need to be back in PHX Sunday July 5 ( though we do have one bumper day and could return on the 6th)
    If you have lodging or dinning suggests would really appreciate the tips!
    Thank you all!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    About 4 years ago, we went from San Diego to NJ via some of the route you are mentioning. Here is a description starting with Santa Rosa NM to Sallisaw, OK on page 2, to Skyline Drive in post #29 on page 3. There may be some information in there for you.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Good to hear.

    Quote Originally Posted by zonahiker View Post
    Hi All! Collectively you made last years trip PHX to Miami a blast - fingers crossed you all can offer up some good advice this go round!
    Great to hear. I wonder if you could share some of the experiences which made it a 'blast' for you. And of course we love to see pictures as well. We have a special forum for you to share the trip, would love to see it there.

    We will be picking up a car in NYC and driving it home to Phoenix.
    You might like to do your research, but it is often considerably cheaper to rent in NJ than in NY.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default This and That

    Just a few thoughts on some of your specific questions. Let's start with the Nashville and Memphis music scenes. Where to spend how much time is totally up to you but knowledge of what's available will certainly help you make up your mind. There are three basic music genres on tap in the two cities: Country/Western, Blues, and Rock 'n Roll. Nashville is the heart and soul of Country Music and if that suits your taste, by all means spend an evening at the Grand Ole Opry. It's a shrine as much as a music venue. If Blues is more your thing, then Beale Street in Memphis is your Mecca. Pick up a local weekly paper listing what's on tap or just stroll the street of an evening listening for what intrigues you. If Rock 'n Roll "saves your mortal soul", you'll also find it in Memphis along with a couple of 'shrines': Graceland of course, but also Sun Studios. And if Graceland makes you own personal 'must see' list, then consider a slight detour from Nashville to Memphis and take the Natchez Trace Parkway down to Tupelo MS and visit Elvis' childhood home before continuing on to Memphis on US-78.

    As for hiking, there is no shortage of opportunities all along your route. In particular, check out the U.S. National Forest website for national forests on your way as well as each state's own state park website (particularly look at Oklahoma's Resort Parks). While in Santa Fe look into taking a tour of the Taos Pueblo and/or taking the High Road (NM-76) and/or the Turquoise Trail (NM-14) rather than the major roads between Albuquerque/Santa Fe/Taos.


  5. #5

    Default My "home turf" so to speak


    My read on your plans is departing NYC on 6/27 am and arriving Asheville on 6/29 by 5pm, with the night of 6/27 reserved for Skyland along the SD within SNP. Is that correct?

    If so, you're looking at around 450 miles from Skyland to Asheville, where the main Asheville exit off of the BRP is at Milepost 393 and you've got around 60 miles of the SD to traverse before even reaching Milepost 0 on the BRP, as Skyland is at MP 41.5 of the 105 mile length of the SD. If you are considering more than the shortest of hikes, you must look at skipping some of the BRP and/or the lower part of the SD.

    What I would consider is getting off the SD about 20 miles below Skyland, at Swift Run Gap. You will have had parts of 2 days and some 65 miles of SNP/SD views and hiking by then, so it's off for something different. Take US 33 west at Swift Run Gap and pick up I-81 south at Harrisonburg, some 25 miles of 4-lane from SRG. Run south to I-77 at Wytheville, VA, then south on I-77 to Fancy Gap to get back on the BRP there. You're looking at around 240 miles from SWG to FG--around 4 hours at best. From about Roanoke, VA at MP 120 the BRP is nice enough, but hiking trails are fewer and the views are rather less dramatic, especially compared to the Blowing Rock-Asheville segment described below.

    An early start at Skyland would put you at FG before lunchtime, and an afternoon of BRP cruising, just under 100 miles worth from MP 200 at FG to MP 292 or so at US 321, plus some short hikes would bring you to Blowing Rock, NC, where I'd book a room on Main Street or as close to it as possible. Good hikes and stellar views are to be had at Doughton Park/Bluff Mountain and a cool cascading waterfall is at E B Jeffress Park, at MP 240 and 272, respectively. Thunder Hill Overlook at about the MP 290, just outside of Blowing Rock, is a must stop.

    In Blowing Rock, a plethora of restaurants, pubs, shops, and auction houses are along the 4 block Main Street, as is the Blowing Rock Town Park, a shaded, breezy oasis with park benches overlooking Main Street. Just on the south end of town (and about a 1 mile drive south to US 321 Bypass South), is The Canyons, a restaurant/pub perched on the edge of the Johns River Gorge with views of Grandfather Mountain and Mount Mitchell to the south. On June 28, the sun will not set until after 8:30 pm, and if the weather is clear, you should not miss it from The Canyons' outside deck.

    On the 29th, you've got about 100 miles of BRP to reach MP 393 near Biltmore. It's easy to spend a full day on this segment. Excellent short hikes would include Rough Ridge at around MP 303, the short hike to "underneath" the Linn Cove Viaduct at about MP 304, Linville Falls at about MP 316, and Chestoa View at MP 320. Chestoa View is actually not a hike at all, it's just a few yards away from the parking area. Of all of the above, the Linville Falls trails will take the longest (up to 2 hours or more), but are very rewarding with several options as to river level views and gorge rim views of the falls.

    If you have clear skies and a high cloud ceiling, by all means drive up to the summit of Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi at 6,684', via the short spur off of the BRP at MP 355. It will take about 15 minutes, if that, to reach the summit, where a 100 yard hike brings you to an observation deck at the summit.

    Below the Mount Mitchell spur, Craggy Gardens at about MP 365 offers great views and some trails. A long downhill run then brings you about 4,500' in elevation down to MP 393 for NC 191 on the south side of Asheville, which is your exit for Biltmore.

    By taking I-40 west from Asheville, you miss the southernmost 75 miles of the BRP, but you also miss the tourist log-jams of Cherokee, US 441 through GSMNP and Newfound Gap, and the crush of tourist humanity at Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge. Quite frankly, I'd WALK down I-40 from Asheville in order to miss all of that, but (obviously) some folks like it. I rather suspect few hikers like it. You should be only about 4.5 hours + or - from Nashville leaving Asheville on I-40. If you wanted more BRP and to still avoid Cherokee/Gatlinburg, stay south past Mount Pisgah at about MP 431 to Balsam Gap at about MP 445, then run back up to I-40, past Waynesville, to continue west.

    I'd strongly consider acquiring a copy of "Hiking Trails of the Blue Ridge Parkway", a Falcon Guides paperback by Randy Johnson. Randy is a personal friend of mine and his life's work has been related to hiking trails at Grandfather Mountain and elsewhere in the Blue Ridge. The book has detailed references to BRP area trails, right down to elevation changes and estimated times to complete the walks. I would not venture out without mine.

    Lastly, spend some time on the official National Park Service website for the BRP. Make yourself aware of the downloadable official map, from which all of the above was derived. The NPS site also has maps showing current construction and related closures and delays, so that should be considered a must read, as well.

    Enjoy planning and taking your High Country Road Trip!


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