How to plan a safe trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway amid the October crowds

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FILE – This April 21, 2015, file photo, shows a visitor taking in the scenery at the Tanbark Ridge Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, N.C. Lonely Planet has named Asheville the No. 1 destination on its 10 best in the U.S. list for 2017. (AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz, File)

(WFXR) — October is one of the busiest months of the year for the Blue Ridge Parkway, which historically welcomes nearly two million visitors over the course of those 31 days.

However, as the traffic increases on the parkway this month, the National Park Service encourages visitors to be prepared for heavy traffic and full parking lots at some the site’s most popular attractions.

If you are hoping to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway and enjoy the autumn scenery, the National Park Service shared these 10 tips for planning a safe and successful trip at the park: 

  • Check the latest road, facility, and trail closures before heading to the parkway. 
  • “Steep grades, tight turns, and built-in distractions are all part of what make a parkway experience unique,” according to the National Park Service, so while you are encouraged to enjoy the view, you also need to watch the road.
  • Observe posted speed limits. After all, the parkway was designed as a slow and leisurely route.
  • Expect heavy traffic or delays. However, since the Blue Ridge Parkway features more than 200 formal scenic overlooks, if one overlook is full of visitors and cars, just keep going because another one is not too far away. 
  • The Fall Color Tracker Project will educate visitors about how fall color is progressing along the parkway. Not only can you check out weekly updates to fall color development each Friday on park social media platforms, but you can also or stop by a visitor center and ask a ranger where to find fall color. 
  • Help keep wildlife wild by giving them space and by remembering not to feed them. 
  • Plan to stop at a nearby community to check out their visitor experiences and events, as well as a wide variety of food, lodging, and shopping options. 
  • Make reservations for in-park lodging and camping in advance. You can reserve campsites at one of the parkway’s eight campgrounds by visiting www.recreation.gov or calling 877-444-6777.  
  • Be prepared to recreate responsibly and follow the seven “Leave No Trace” principles.
    In the words of the National Park Service, “We all share in the stewardship of the parkway and its resources so be prepared, leave it like you found it, carry out trash and stay on trails!”
  • If you will be traveling with your pet, know the regulations. For example, pets must be kept on a leash no more than six feet long at all times in order to protect your pets, the park wildlife, and other visitors. 

Follow this link for more helpful information as you prepare for your Blue Ridge Parkway visit, including road and facility closures, facility schedules, suggested itineraries, and visitor center locations.   

As October comes to a close, however, officials say the parkway staff will begin the traditional seasonal closure of visitor facilities in many areas across the park. You can find the Blue Ridge Parkway’s closure schedule by clicking here.

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