The Blue Ridge Parkway is a National Parkway and All-American Road in the United States
, noted for its scenic beauty. It runs for 469 miles (755 km), mostly along the famous Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains
. Its southern terminus is on the boundary between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cherokee
Indian Reservation in North Carolina
, from which it travels north to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and offers access to the Skyline Drive, the major north/south artery through the Park. The two All-American Byways are separate and distinct. The Blue Ridge Parkway was built to connect Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Parkway is not a National Park, but is a National Scenic Byway and All-American Road, and is the most visited unit in the United States National Park System. Land on either side of the road is maintained by the National Park Service and, in many places, the park is bordered by land protected by the United States Forest Service. The Parkway will be depicted on North Carolina's version of the America the Beautiful quarter in 2015.
Flowering shrubs and wildflowers dominate the parkway in the spring, including rhododendrons and dogwoods, moving from valleys to mountains as the cold weather retreats. Smaller annuals and perennials such as the daisy and aster flower through the summer. Brilliant autumn foliage occurs later in September on the mountaintops, descending to the valleys by later in October. Often in early-to-middle October and middle to late April, all three seasons can be seen simply by looking down from the cold and windy parkway to The Green
and warm valleys below. October is especially dramatic, as the colored leaves stand out boldly and occur mostly at the same time, unlike the flowers.