Favorite Road Trips
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The winding road: Blue Ridge Parkway
Why: A magic-carpet ride of a road that rolls over Appalachia's gladed hills and forested dales.
What to expect: The 469-mile link between the Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountain parks was first envisioned by Franklin D. Roosevelt but not finished until the 1980s. And with 45-mph speed limits, it's slow going. But slow going is a good thing: Even those behind the wheel will find themselves gaping at the magical realm of green and mountains—and the changes in road altitude from 6,000 feet all the way down to 650.
Start your engines: The parkway begins (or ends) in Waynesboro, Virginia, about 150 miles southwest of Washington, D.C., and wends south to its terminus west of Asheville, North Carolina. It's legal to pull off on the shoulder, and pretty much invites detours—for the full route one way, give yourself at least a comfortable three days.
Road secrets: You'll find world-class hiking all along the route, since the Appalachian Trail crisscrosses the Parkway many times. Another option is Grandfather Mountain, just south of Boone, North Carolina, with a number of moderate, several-hour hikes before you cross into the Great Smoky Mountains themselves. Some of the prettiest terrain is in the south—much of the 1992 movie Last of the Mohicans was shot just off the Parkway. When you near the town of Brevard, detour onto U.S. 276 to see the magnificent Looking Glass Falls.
Shack up: The Inn on Biltmore Estate in Asheville, a castle that rises above an 8,000-acre estate, isn't exactly subtle. But after some 500 miles on the road, you deserve more than your average motor lodge.
Inn on Biltmore Estate
Tel: 800 858 4130
From $279 per night
National Park Service, Blue Ridge Parkway
Tel: 828 271 4779