The Blue Ridge Parkway is currently closed for repairs at the Ice Rocks in Doughton Park (mile 242). This closure will last until April 2015 and affects the "Ride in the Sky" route. No bike travel is allowed in the construction zone. The Parkway is also closed from MP 269 to MP 276 for repairs to the bridge over US 421. A detour is in place, so expect more traffic on normally quiet Phillips Gap Road. The "Lump Loop" route is fully open. To check on construction related closures and detours on the Blue Ridge Parkway, click here.
Warning: Hickory Nut Gap Road descent still in poor shape
As noted in the "Valle Crucis Loop" description, Hickory Nut Gap Road from Hickory Nut Gap to Wildcat Lake near Banner Elk continues to be dicey. Look out for large patches of gravel after heavy rains.
Lodge, coffee shop closed at Doughton Park
The coffee shop, convenience store and lodge are closed at Doughton Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Efforts to find a concessionaire to run these facilities were unsuccessful. The Doughton Park campground remains open.
George's Gap was repaved in late 2007. "Beech Ball," "Bulldog's Bite" and the BS&G will be even more fun!
The lower section of Shull's Mill Road in Watauga County has been resurfaced with smooth new pavement. This section of Shull's Mill Road is part of the "Valle Crucis Loop" route.
"The Cove Creek Cruise" is now smoother than ever now that Old U.S. 421 through Cove Creek in Watauga County has been resurfaced.
"The Grandfather Mountain Tour" is better than ever thanks to some welcome repaving on U.S. 221. Expansion joints on the Linn Cove Viaduct and other Parkway bridges are still a bit abrupt for bicycles, so hold on loosely!
The worst potholes on the descent from Pottertown Gap described in "The Snake Mountain Loop" have been repaired, but don't get too cocky. The road surface is still less than ideal and caution is still advised on this winding descent.
Some of the worst potholes and washouts on N.C. 194 from Bowers Gap toward Valle Crucis have been patched. This is still a dicey descent and caution is still advised.
High Country groups working hard to protect fragile ecosystems
The High Country environment is under assault from development, clear cutting, even acid rain.
The Blue Ridge Parkway, a prime cycling destination, is becoming the victim of its own popularity. "Developed land in the mountains surrounding the Parkway has increased 77 percent in the last two decades," the Conservation Trust of N.C. reports. In many areas, Parkway views are threatened. Most of the Parkway's publicly owned right of way is just 800 feet wide. In some cases, the right of way is just 50 feet.
The development blitz occurs against a backdrop of National Park Service budget cuts. You'd think the park service would be rolling up its sleeves to protect land along the Blue Ridge Parkway, but NPS is in no position to to stave off encroaching development. Ten years ago, the Blue Ridge Parkway had 240 permanent positions to manage the 469-mile-long scenic road.Today, continued budget cuts to the most visited National Park Service site have reduced the staff to only 170, leaving a third of the maintenance department unstaffed. The Parkway has a maintenance backlog of more than $200 million.
Grandfather Mountain preserved as a state park
It is among the most recognized of North Carolina's natural treasures: the features of an old man's profile seen in the rocky outcrops that give Grandfather Mountain its name. The Blue Ridge's highest and most distinctive peak will be protected, thanks to a 2009 deal that adds 2,700 acres of Grandfather Mountain backcountry to the North Carolina state park system.
The inclusion of Grandfather Mountain in the state park system perpetuates a long legacy of conservation at Grandfather Mountain begun by Hugh Morton, who passed away in June 2006.
Conservancy protects tract near the peak of Roan Mountain
Next time you're grinding your way up toward Carver's Gap on the "Climb to Cloudland" route, stop to appreciate the view. A portion of it will be permanently protected, thanks to the efforts of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.
In late 2006, the conservancy purchased a 97-acre tract on Hump Mountain to be permanently protected as a nature preserve. The property is part of the 15,148 Roan Mountain massif megasite, a North Carolina natural hertiage area.
The land is a literal stone's throw away from the Appalachian Trail on the crest of Roan Mountain.
Nature Conservancy working to protect Ashe County peaks
The majestic mountains on the "Buffalo Trail Trek" route are being protected, thanks to the efforts of the N.C. Nature Conservancy and other conservation groups.
All told, about 1,100 acres in the area are currently protected, including 200 recently-acquired acres of northern hardwood forest along the slopes of the Peak in Ashe County. The conservancy has worked with a number of state agencies to protect such regional landmarks as Elk Knob, Long Hope Creek and Three Top Mountain.
Snake Mountain summit, Elk Knob protected
The climb up Snake Mountain (featured in "The Snake Mountain Loop" route) is grueling, but the view will still be worth it, thanks to conservation easements and a new state park.
The summit of Snake Mountain will be protected from development, thanks to a 2006 donation by Snake Mountain LLC. Snake Mountain LLC donated a conservation agreement on the 130-acre property to the Conservation Trust of North Carolina and donated the land itself to the High Country Conservancy.
Snake Mountain is the highest peak in Watauga County. The property contains the headwaters of the North Fork of the New River and is located in an area with several globally rare and critically imperiled natural communities and plant species. The property also provides critical linkage between the nationally significant Long Hope Valley ecological site and the Potato Hill / Rich Mountain bald ecological site. The agreement preserves the scenic view along U.S. 421 in Watauga County and Johnson County, Tennessee.
Land on the north side of Pottertown Gap is now preserved by Elk Knob State Park, one of the newest additions to the North Carolina state parks system. The 1,800 acre park is still under development. Currently, the park has a picnic area, limited parking, and a 1.9-mile trail to the summit of Elk Knob. It's a tough hike to the 5,520 foot high summit, but the views are worth it! The Nature Conservancy and concerned land owners donated the land to the state.
Vistas on "The Lump Loop" protected by CTNC
Two scenic areas along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the High Country are protected from development, thanks to the efforts of the Conservation Trust for North Carolina.
In early 2006, CTNC donated two properties valued at $711,000 and totaling 134 acres to the National Park Service for inclusion in the Blue Ridge Parkway’s boundaries. The donations preserve key pieces of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s scenic corridor and protect clean streams and valuable wildlife habitat. Both properties were purchased by the Conservation Trust when the organization learned they were threatened by residential development.
The first donated property is a 124-acre tract of land on "The Lump Loop" near E.B. Jeffress Park and the Cascades Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The property is near two other tracts the Conservation Trust previously transferred to the Park Service in 2004. The second property is 10 acres of rolling meadows directly opposite the Grandview Overlook at Milepost 281 northeast of Blowing Rock.
The Conservation Trust was able to act quickly to purchase the first property for $560,000 thanks to a generous donation from Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury. The Conservation Trust used its own funds to purchase the $151,170 Grandview Meadow property. Including these latest donations, the Conservation Trust has now donated 1,432 acres of land, worth over $5 million, to the Parkway.
You can help protected the Blue Ridge Parkway and other beloved places in North Carolina by donating to the Conservation Trust and/or one of its local land trust partners. To learn more about the Conservation Trust and your local land trust, visit www.ctnc.org.
Land purchases save views, wildlife along the Blue Ridge Parkway
The 2005 purchase will also help protect wildlife habitat and streams feeding the Mitchell River, CTNC officials said. "Saddle Mountain is a spectacular natural feature," said Dan Brown, the parkway's superintendent. "Development of either of these properties would ruin the experience people have traveling this section of the parkway."
The Conservation Trust paid $1.75 million for the two newly acquired properties. The trust plans to give the 201-acre property to the National Park Service to become part of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
2005 CTNC land acquisitions near E.B. Jeffress Park and Jumpinoff Rock will preserve views and wildlife habitat along the "Lump Loop" route.
Blue Ridge Music Center interpretive center now open
The Blue Ridge Music Center, a prime attraction on the "Fiddler's Run" route, is now complete. The interpretive center- which contains 2,300 square feet for permanent exhibits, 875 square feet of classrooms and workshops, a 1,155-square-foot lobby for temporary exhibits and a 100-seat auditorium - opened in 2011. A 2,000-seat outdoor amphitheater with informal seating was finished in 2002 and has hosted summer concerts.
The center's "Roots of American Music" permanent exhibit focuses on the origins, evolution and significance of the southern Appalachian music and its impact on other forms of American music. The center is located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 213.