Chances are that you, like many, have already been enjoying the Blue Ridge Parkway during this unseasonably warm winter. The park unit welcomed more than 1.2 million visitors in January and February of this year alone, that’s 400,000 more than the first two months of 2016! But the scenic route truly comes alive starting in spring, and the National Park Service has announced its 2017 official opening dates for campgrounds, visitor centers, historic sites, and more.
From back country trails and camping, to favorite picnic areas and full service concession operations, the Parkway offers visitors a wealth of opportunities to experience the scenic beauty and natural and cultural heritage of the southern Appalachian region.
What’s new: Be sure to stop by Eastern National’s new traveler info station and gift shop at the Bluffs buildings at Doughton Park, milepost 241. The venture is a first step in the plan to reopen the stone buildings, formerly home to a camp store and Bluffs Restaurant, which closed in 2010. Restrooms will also be open. There is still work to be done to revitalize this popular stop.
This spring, you can enjoy the Rock Castle Gorge Trail, milepost 169, which was heavily damaged during a rain storm in the fall of 2015 and reopened last September. The moderate to strenuous 10.8 mile loop at milepost 169 features opportunities for backcountry camping, fly fishing, and waterfall and wildlife viewing.
The rehab work is complete at the amphitheater at Mount Pisgah Campground, milepost 408. The newly paved outdoor education space is handicap accessible and features new bench seating and electricity. Be sure to ask at the campground gate about scheduled ranger-led programs.