How long to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway on my motorcycle?
Budget at least 2 days for your motorcycle ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway -
While you can ride the entire 469.1 mile long Blue Ridge Parkway on your motorcycle trip in a single day, I strongly advise against it. I’ve done it, and trust me, you will not enjoy the experience like you should. It takes strategic planning and uncomfortable endurance to go end-to-end in a day on a motorcycle ride.
The simple math is misleading – at an average speed of 45 mph and 469 miles to cover, it seems like a little over 10 hours of saddle time on your motorcycle tour does the trick. For many riders on a fully laden bike, the challenge of the mountain roads leads to a speed closer to 35 mph. You’ll also come across car traffic which finds this reduced speed more comfortable and few opportunities to pass.
Additionally, there is no gas on the entire ride. You’ll need to leave the parkway to fill up. Choose the wrong exit and that gas station may be 15 miles down a steep and twisty mountain road. Most of us like to eat, and there is only one Park Service Lodge left on the ride, so you’ll be diverting into nearby towns adding additional time.
So how do you do it best when time is tight?
I recommend starting at the north end in Waynesboro, Virginia. If you are going to try to cover as many miles as possible with few stops, do this in the Virginia section. The road is a bit more relaxed, the elevations not as high, and while the views are outstanding, they are not as spectacular as those in North Carolina. There are more wooded sections, and it gives you a chance to get used to the curves before you get into the more serious challenges to the south.
Set your sights to get across the border and into North Carolina on that first day. You’ll still have time to stop at some of the nicer overlooks and if you’re making good time you can even visit some of the roadside attractions along the way. As you get near the border you’ll find lots of places to lay over for the night. In Virginia, I usually head for Floyd or Hillsville, or take one of the many cabins located near the Parkway. Be aware, if you do choose a cabin along the way, you’ll need to bring in your own food or eat before you get there. Chateau Morrisette has great food, and you can stuff a bottle in the bags to bring to the cabin.
On the North Carolina side of the border, most choose to stay in or around Boone. You’ll find lots of lodging options here, and plenty of good places to eat in town, though you will have to deal with the traffic. If you are making really good time, the last place I’d suggest is the Spruce Pine / Little Switzerland area, the Switzerland Inn is a fabulous stop right on the parkway with nice rooms and great food as is the Skyline Inn nearby. Once south of here, there is a long stretch of empty road before you come into the city of Asheville.
Savor your second day. Once you get south of Boone, you start to climb into the high mountains. This is the time to slow down, take advantage of the numerous overlooks, and get those photos. You’ll also hit some of the trickiest turns and curves. Take your time, relax, and enjoy.
Strategic planning is critical on the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. You’ll be riding through long remote sections of road with few facilities nearby. I suggest fueling up in Asheville. You’ll find gas stations closest to the parkway here. It’s also a good place to stop for food, it’s hard to find a bad meal in Asheville. While it’s the second largest city on the Blue Ridge Parkway (after Roanoke, VA), it’s easy to navigate and a fun place to spend a little time. While the only remaining Park Service Lodge, the Pisgah Inn, is just south of Asheville, and has great food and views, expect a wait to get served.
If you find yourself running short on gas towards the end of the ride, the next best option for fuel is Maggie Valley at US 19 / Soco Gap (MP 455.7). You also find food there, and the Wheels Through TIme Motorcycle Museum is worth the visit. Maggie Valley is the place I most recommend for staying near the end of the parkway as it is so well located for the wealth of great motorcycle rides in the surroundings, and there are lots of rooms available at good prices.
Arriving at the south end of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Cherokee, NC, you are at the southern entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cherokee has a good number of rooms, but it’s also quite “touristy” so you’ll have some traffic to deal with. No alcohol on the reservation, and the best food is probably at Harrah’s Casino. While I’ve stayed there in the past, I suggest looking at all your options depending on which way your travels take you next.
– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here - AmericaRidesMaps.com
Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience. Total Rider Tech