Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway – Tips; Tame the Tunnels

Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway – Tips; Tame the Tunnels

Danger or delight? With 26 tunnels on the Blue Ridge Parkway the experience of rolling under a mountain is common. Most are short, and in many  you can see the light at the other side. Still, every one is dark and if you’re riding along in the bright sunlight with your sunglasses on, the sudden plunge into darkness can momentarily blind you. Here are some observations and tips –

Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway  Tips - Taming the Tunnels

Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway Tips – Taming the Tunnels – the contrast can momentarily blind you

Know where they are – there’s only one in Virginia at MP 53.1 approaching the James River area. The remaining 25 are in North Carolina. A few are near Little Switzerland, but there are two areas to really plan for them – climbing from the French Broad River in Asheville to Mt. Pisgah, and descending from Soco Gap at Maggie Valley to Cherokee. You’ll hit 9 or so in sequence as you climb or descend from the highest section of the Parkway which lies between these points. If you are coming into one of these sections and the tunnels are a problem for you, it may be time to go without the sunglasses through here.

Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway  Tips - Taming the Tunnels

Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway Tips – Taming the Tunnels – It’s pretty easy to just follow the lights, but give plenty of room. The first guy is doing all the work. Be ready for the unexpected.

Use your lights , all of them – motorcycles are required to burn headlights at all times in North Carolina, but even so, they may not do the job in these dark tunnels. Flip on the brights. That will help light up the reflectors along the wall.

Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway  Tips - Taming the Tunnels

Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway Tips – Taming the Tunnels – Tunnels need a lot of maintenance. Slow down when the workers are there.

Watch for hazards – Keep alert for bicycles. They too are required to have lights on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but they won’t be as bold as on a vehicle. Watch for those dim flashing red strobes at the side of the road. Also keep an eye out for wet spots which are common in the tunnels. Cars often slow a bit when in the tunnels, expect it.

Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway  Tips - Taming the Tunnels

Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway Tips – Taming the Tunnels – Be alert for bicycles in the tunnels.

Don’t look down – The tunnels are not only dark, but they curve. You need to keep your eyes ahead. Pay attention to the wall of the tunnel where your brights will illuminate a piece of it ahead of you. It will guide you through.

Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway  Tips - Taming the Tunnels

Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway Tips – Taming the Tunnels – even the short ones often have wet spots, debris, and other things to watch for. In cold weather be wary of ice.


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Wayne Busch

– 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

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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



11 thoughts on “Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway – Tips; Tame the Tunnels

  1. Took a picture of the tunnel at bunches bald. Soon after I seen a cow Elk after up loading the pic it seems to reveal the elk in the tunnel on the road. “Caution may be in order when entering tunnels..Just saying

  2. an old military trick is to close 1 eye before you get to the tunnel then open it as you go in. this way your eyes adjust faster in the darkness.

  3. That’s a great tip about using the bright lights. Also the closing of one eye before entering the tunnel. I enjoy the tunnels, but I have had a moment or two of disorientation in longer tunnels.

  4. A tip I learning with the great formula one race Airton Sena :
    Before the tunnel close one eye to accommodate the light.

  5. Also keep a good grip on your handlebars. Some of those tunnels have some very rough patches. I don’t think the pavement in the tunnels gets too much TLC.

  6. I wear prescription photo-grey lens and they take longer to adjust that the trip through the tunnel. I normally downshift and take more caution. I love the tunnels…even though I curse them. LOL I also have trouble with my equilibrium in the tunnels, which is another reason I downshift. I talk with a lot of riders that experience the same loss of balance in the tunnels.

  7. Riding a big bike with a windshield allows me to come up to the tunnels with sunglasses on, and as I get at the mouth of the tunnel I raise them to the tip of my nose. As soon as I see the brighter light at tunnels end, I simply push them back up… Works fine for me.

  8. Try a helmet with a retractable sun visor and slow down. Enjoy the scenery.

  9. I recently completed my first multi-day motorcycle trip along the BRP and south of Asheville encountered all the tunnels mentioned in this blog. I had never ridden through tunnels and was shocked and frightened by how disorienting it was. I mean – seriously disorienting. I don’t think it has much to do with claustrophobia, but I wonder if it isn’t the sudden disappearance of visual cues re: balance on top of the bike? One second I was riding, the next I felt like I was inside a video game. I hated it.

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