I reserved the final two days of my vacation to devote to two of America’s best road-trip roads. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs through the Blue Ridge Mountains, from the entrance to Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, to the point where it crosses Interstate 64, in the middle of Virginia. On the north side of the Interstate, the road enters Shenandoah National Park, and continues as Skyline Drive, running along the edge of the Shenandoah Mountains.
The entire drive would be spectacular during the peak of fall colors, but it is fantastic anytime during the summer months. It is the ideal route for a road trip: not slow, but not fast either, only two lanes, no traffic lights, and no stop signs, plenty of curves, but not sharp enough to leave you motion sick, and countless places to stop, look, and hike.
[tmt_info =””]To get to the NC/VA state line on the Blue Ridge Parkway from nearby Mount Airy and Interstate 77, take NC Route 89 west (exit 100). After 12 miles, turn on NC Route 18, which connects with the Parkway, just south of the state line.[/tmt_info]Instead of taking Route 18, I met up with the Blue Ridge Parkway just north of the state line. So, in order to get the picture (above), I had to first drive south just a bit. If I had an extra day or two, I would have driven south to Smoky Mountain National Park and Asheville. There’s a lot to see on the North Carolina stretch of the Parkway, but for this trip, I simply didn’t have time.
This picture gives you a great idea of what you can expect to see along much of the Parkway. You’re not in a National Park (like you will be further north, in Shenandoah). The parkway is a commercial-free corridor, but there are homes, farms, and businesses on the surrounding land. Often, there are roads that parallel the Parkway, that connect with these places.
Heading north from the state line, one of the first roadside attractions you’ll pass is Puckett Cabin. “Aunt” Orelena Hawks Puckett lived here for the decades before her death, in 1939. During those years, she acted as a midwife during more than a thousand births, charging new moms between $1 and $6 for the service. She was 102 years old when she delivered her last baby.
Her career as a midwife didn’t start until she was in her 50’s, far past her own child-bearing years. During her younger days, she gave birth to 24 children herself, but none lived beyond infancy.
Nowadays, you can walk around the outside of the cabin (the door is locked). There’s also another small out-building nearby, which you can go inside, but it’s not terribly exciting.
The parkway climbs above 3,000 feet at Groundhog Hill (the high point on Groundhog Mountain). There’s an observation tower here, as well as a beautiful open meadow surrounded by split-rail fences.
[tmt_info =””]You can get an up-close look at several different kinds of rail fences at Groundhog Mountain. Buck-rail (above) and Snake-rail (below) fences are the most photograph-worthy.[/tmt_info]
From atop the old observation tower you’ll get a 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains.
Round Meadow Overlook
I’m not sure where the meadow is, at Round Meadow Overlook. It doesn’t matter, though. This stop provides a good chance to stretch your legs on a nice, short trail.
The loop trail takes about 20 minutes to hike. The path runs downhill, and underneath the Blue Ridge Parkway.
For a moment, the trail follows a small creek, before climbing back up to the highway.
You will find wildflowers here!
Note: This trip was first published in 2008.