Are you planning a motor touring trip to Blue Ridge Parkway this summer? Well if you’re not and you love scenic drives and long range views, we suggest you start planning NOW! Regardless of whether you’re planning to cruise the twists and turns of the parkway by motorcycle, car, or even road bike, you are in for a real treat! Did you know that 46 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway runs through Haywood County? And if that wasn’t enough, there are 72 scenic overlooks encompassed in those 46 miles! Pretty incredible, huh? Here’s a little more information about motor touring on the Blue Ridge Parkway, courtesy of Wayne Busch, a local motor touring specialist. And don’t forget to hop off the Parkway in Maggie Valley for a visit to Wheels Through Time, a premier, All-American motorcycle museum which houses over 300 of America’s rarest and most historic classic motorcycles.
The Best of the Blue Ridge Parkway
By: Wayne Busch
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the top motorcycle rides in the world. Millions of bikers ride this 469 mile long two lane park road every year. In fact, on pleasant and sunny days, motorcycles often outnumber the cars.
The Blue Ridge Parkway links Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the north side of town. The ride starts in Waynesboro, Virginia as seamless continuation of the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park. It then follows the highest ridge lines of the Blue Ridge Mountains south through Virginia into North Carolina.
The south end of the Blue Ridge Parkway is located at the southern entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park just outside Cherokee, North Carolina, about 30 minutes west of us. Newfound Road (US 441) then climbs from the south entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park again to reach the lofty border with Tennessee, then descends to the north entrance near Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
All combined, a ride through all three national parks will cover more than 650 miles of the most extraordinary and scenic parkland in the nation with a fresh new view around every bend.
The highest parkway elevations are found along Haywood County’s south border and it is this portion of the great linear park that is the crowning jewel of it all. All of this section is above 5000 feet. The highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most photographed spots on the road. Pull your bike right up in front of the big sign and pose for the classic shot.
This best section of the Blue Ridge Parkway starts near the Wagon Road Gap Overlook (view of famous Cold Mountain) where US 276 intersects it at mile post 412.2. Ride the parkway south towards Cherokee for about 40 miles to the Soco Gap exit with US 19 at mile post 455.7 (a.k.a. Soco Rd) just up the hill from Maggie Valley.
While it is possible to ride this 40+ mile section in an hour, I’ll bet you can’t do it without a lot of willpower. The urge to stop at one or more of the overlooks always wins out and rightfully so. This is the one section of parkway you wan’t to budget a lot of time for enjoying.
The views on this highest section of the parkway look out over vast expanses of national forest which extend into the surrounding states. Dramatic and massive rock formations include the Devil’s Courthouse and Looking Glass Rock. There are more scenic overlooks on this stretch of parkway than any other.
I never tire of riding this outstanding section of our national heritage. I know you’ll enjoy it too. Put it at the top of the list.
Bonus Tip – Eat at the Pisgah Inn 3 miles north (towards Asheville) from the US 276 / Parkway intersection. It has the best food of all the park service facilities and the views are just as appetizing.
Wayne Busch is a cartographer specializing in Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountain motorcycle rides. He lives in Waynesville and travels throughout the mountain region cataloguing the best roads and scenic rides.