The Black Hills appear ominous and ancient; the Rockies dramatic and rugged. But the Blue Ridge Mountains give off a gentler look – romantic, charming, and eternally poetic. For this reason, the mountain range is approachable, even to beginner RVers.
In fact, the Blue Ridge Mountains are a top RV destination. This particular mountain range, and the surrounding forests, are vast and include many campgrounds and scenic drives. The mountains crawl over states like Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. To see and sink into the mountain culture of Appalachia, you’ll want to set aside some time and get comfortable, so you can slowly amble between mountain towns on your home on wheels.
Weather in the Blue Ridge Mountains
The Blue Ridge Mountains experience picture-book seasons–snowy white winters, verdant summers, flower-filled springs, and amber-toned autumns.
Find the mountains packed with leaf-peepers in the fall when the Sugar Maple, American Beech, and Red Maples turn a fiery palette. In the winter, you can expect smaller crowds but the same characteristic views of the sapphire skyline. In fact, some overlooks offer better views in the winter without foliage. Be careful of ice on the road and always check the weather to ensure safe winter driving conditions.
In the summer, the Blue Ridge is full of vacationers seeking a cooling respite in the mountains shady valleys, and crisp creeks and lakes. Springtime is signaled by blooming Birdfoot Violets and Buttercups. There’s hardly a bad time to take a drive through the Blue Ridge mountains. Be prepared with plenty of water, appropriate hiking shoes, and a rain-slick.
The Blue Ridge Parkway
“America’s favorite drive,” this idyllic road trip is a never-ending scenic delight, approachable by all RV experience levels. The rural, two-lane highway connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. In total, the drive comes in just under 500 miles. With speed limits that rarely exceed 45 mph, the Blue Ridge Parkway is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace, from the elevated vantage point of a motorhome cockpit. Rent an RV for 5-7 days and you should be able to see it all.
Our advice would be to RV the Blue Ridge Parkway with an open schedule and no plans. You don’t want to be rushed as you take in the sweeping views. Pull off at any number of scenic overlooks and soak in the rippling ridges of the dusty blue skyline. You’ll find this scenic drive is well stocked with rest stops, nature trails, observation towers, historic sites, and visitor’s centers. Pull off and pick up locally ground corn grits or homemade jams at a historic granary. Or, enjoy a picnic lunch with an unbeatable view at a scenic pull off or parking area.
Big rigs should take caution on the Blue Ridge parkway. Though almost all the tunnels on the parkway can accommodate large vehicles, double check your rig height with the parkway’s tunnel clearances just to be sure.
Campgrounds Near the Blue Ridge Parkway
Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park is Washington D.C’s playground, so to speak. A little more than an hour’s drive from the city takes you to the bucolic rolling hills of the Shenandoah Valley. Start your visit at one of two visitors centers; The Dickey Ridge Visitors Center or the Harry F. Byrd Sr Visitor Center. Learn about the park’s history, trails, and wildlife here before you set out on your adventure travel.
For a lush and leisurely drive, embark on the 3 hour trip along Skyline Drive, the park’s scenic roadway. Though the speed limit is just 35 mph, the drive may take you longer if you choose to stop at all 70 scenic overlooks. Be wary of the park’s tunnel, Mary’s Rock Tunnel, with a clearance of 12′ 8″. Otherwise, enjoy your slow amble through the soft curves of the mountains. Keep your eyes peeled for black bears nibbling on berry bushes on the side of the road.
Campgrounds Near Shenandoah National Park
Smoky Mountains National Park
To look at The Great Smoky Mountains National Park on a map is to see a sprawling swath of dense greenery, splintering the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. Neighbored by the Nantahala National Forest to the south, the Pisgah National Forest to the east, and The Cherokee National Forest to the northeast, a trip to the Smokies feels like time travel. The old-growth forests and southern Appalachian stone structures here have withstood centuries of seasons. While the rest of the world changes, the Smokies remain frozen in time. Waterfalls flow and creeks trickle over sedimentary rock as they have for so many years prior.
A haven for hikers, the Smoky Mountains make a great first family road trip. Base yourself in Cade’s Cove, a pastoral valley full of native wildlife and historic sites. Explore the Smokies by taking scenic drives through small mountain towns, like Hot Springs, NC, where you can soak in a natural hot spring while watching the slow current of the French Broad river.
Asheville, North Carolina
While the mountain ranges of the Blue Ridge range are attractions themselves, the arts, culture, and history of Appalachian mountain life must be experienced to be understood. Base yourself in Asheville, North Carolina, a spunky mountain town, to get a taste of what life with a Blue Ridge skyline is really like.
Asheville is home to a vibrant arts community, best experienced by strolling the River Arts District. Artisans have gathered in the neglected warehouses to craft their curious wares, bringing wine bars, pizza ovens, and beer brewers with them. In the summer, grab a tube and float down the French Broad River, which runs through the city center. You’ll catch glimpses of the famous Biltmore Estate from the water, which is worth a visit all its own. Stroll the sumptuous estate in the spring for breathtaking curated blooms. Or see the mansion bedecked in glittery holiday decor in the winter. There’s never a bad time to visit the Biltmore and admire its grandiose architecture and grounds.
Before you go, tuck into some North Carolina barbecue at Buxton Hall Barbecue. The wood-smoked whole-hog style barbecue is a North Carolina tradition. The meal will be one you talk about for years to come.
Campgrounds Near Asheville, North Carolina
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