Author Topic: Blue Ridge Parkway / Skyline Drive input  (Read 5537 times)

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Offline Atilla

Blue Ridge Parkway / Skyline Drive input
« on: August 24, 2012, 11:59:26 am »
Hello

I am prepping for a solo self supported camping/lodge tour of Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge parkway late Sept / early Oct this year. I will be traveling south from Front Royal to Asheville via Mount Mitchell.

I am practicing on what hills we have here in NE Ohio (there are a few in Geauga and Summit counties) loaded as well as distance riding. Also camp set up and teardown. I'll be on my Waterford 1900 and self contained, but will splurge on a couple lodges along the way.

I have the 1990s book by " Cycling the Blue Ridge" by Elisabeth and Charlie Skinner, and online resources like http://www.blueridgeparkway.org/ and http://blueridgeskyline.com/

I'd welcome any input, advice, tips..........

Offline DanE

Re: Blue Ridge Parkway / Skyline Drive input
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2012, 04:39:02 pm »
I have ridden both the BRP and the Skyline Drive, most recently haven ridden the BRP south to north this summer.

The Skinner book is excellent describing the terrain that can be expected but the description of the services is lacking, mainly because times just change. There is a 2004 edition of the book, but it is still out of date. I think the recent recession has made a big impact on being able to operate a seasonal business. The NPS has scaled back the operation of their facilities.

One thing I did was use Google's satellite view to scan the intersections to see if anything was actually at the intersection that could be useful and built a list. What you do not want to do is leave the parkway for a facility which is 3 miles away but 2000 feet lower in elevation. You will not be able to see any services from the intersections.

That being said I will say my big restocking points were the Wal-Mart at US 220 in Roanoke, the market at Meadows of Dan, VA, Food Lion grocery store in Blowing Rock, NC and the Ingles grocery store at US 70 in Asheville. All those places can be reached with no distance or elevation penalties to be incurred. By using those stores on BRP I did not really carry more than two days worth of food.

I probably ate my meals equally split between my camp cooking and restaurants. I would eat meals at a restaurant if it was convenient and just felt like it or would just eat out of my pannier or at the camp if not. I tend to prefer my own cooking rather than restaurant food, however it is hard to make everything when you have to eat so much to keep going.

The two times I have ridden the parkway it took me 9 days one time and 8 days the other. I rode the Skyline Drive in 3 days but have never ridden the whole route as one continuous ride. Be prepared for rain because it will, I usually ride it in summer because then the rain will be somewhat warm, in the spring or fall it can be very cold at the higher elevations. You can plan your travel schedule and you may be able to keep to it, or you may not. Fog and a cold rain can put  stop to your day instantly.

NPS campgrounds  are basic and lack any kind of services, but are beautiful. Private campgrounds have services but are pricy. Motels can go either way, the NPS Inns are very nice but not really luxurious, pricy and probably worth staying at one, but I would not stay at all of them. Certainly worth a meal if you are there at a meal time.

There is no way to prepare yourself for the hills, you just grind it out. You will spend all your day climbing. A mountain that takes 2 to 3 hours to climb will be descended in 20 minutes. Eventually you don't care.

It's as a nice of a place to tour as any place in the world. You will be glad that you did it. I think more people would do it if the logistics of getting to the ends wasn't so difficult. The difficulty of the terrain also discourages all but the most self-confident riders.

More specific questions might get a better answer than this so ask something else if you need to.

Offline humunuku

Re: Blue Ridge Parkway / Skyline Drive input
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2012, 10:57:26 am »
As far a restocking/refueling/ camping... skyline is easy....facilities are right off the road and are spaced conveniently.   You need to plan the BRP portion of the route as campgrounds are space further apart and are limited on the parkway itself...sometimes you will have to drop off the ridge (usually a sizable descent) to get to resupply places. Make sure you have a headlight and tail light for the tunnels...some of them are very dark and curve so cars won't see you without a blinky.

There have been new campgrounds opened since the 1990 book, so you may want to do some internet research before leaving home.

mountain weather is unpredictable, so be prepared for a random wet/ cool day

Its an awesome ride.


Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Blue Ridge Parkway / Skyline Drive input
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2012, 09:09:11 pm »
A couple more notes here.  If you do Skyline, the drop down to Waynesboro isn't bad.  The Quality Inn is an AT classic break spot, and there's a steak house two blocks down that's great.

There's a "secret" back road off the BRP into Boone, NC.  About 5 miles off route without any significant climbing either way.  (The book's route is, well, scenic!)  Worth a stop for Daniel Boone Inn with all-you-can-eat country cooking, and Pepper's makes a superb carrot cake.

Skip the eatery at Crabtree Falls -- it'll probably be closed, but if it is you won't miss anything (except maybe ice cream).  Mt. Pisgah has a great restaurant coupled with the campground and motel.

Off the southern tip -- if you're in the Cherokee area with a car, call up Nantahala Outdoor Center the other side of Bryson City and see if Relia's is open.  I've loved everything I've had at that restaurant!
« Last Edit: September 09, 2012, 09:11:59 pm by pdlamb »

Offline HONDO

Re: Blue Ridge Parkway / Skyline Drive input
« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2012, 09:30:57 am »
 I did both the Skyline and BRP. . Its a grind. You will learn to hate the word GAP. It just means you reached the bottom and will shortly be  climbing again. I  loved it! It should be on every cyclists bucket list.

Offline hirundo

Re: Blue Ridge Parkway / Skyline Drive input
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2012, 11:49:19 am »
Early October might just beat the peak time for leaf viewing of Fall foliage, but expect lots of traffic on both roads, especially on weekends.  Local cyclists know what to expect and find alternate places to ride.  Expect bumper to bumper traffic getting in and long skeins of cars and motorcyclists, RVs and tour buses throughout the park, be especially careful around overlooks where people can pull off to view vistas.  Ride early and get off the road by noon, when city people have finally gotten to the parks and beaten the back ups at the entrance stations.  These are not quiet country roads with only local traffic.  Wear bright colors, use both head and tail lights, wear your helmet, keep as far to the right as "practicable."
While the grades are not particularly steep they are long. The North entrance to Dickey Ridge is a five mile climb with 4-6% grades and more of the same along the full 108 miles of Skyline.  The descents can be wonderful, of course, and make the climbs worthwhile.  BUT we locals know that both wildlife and traffic are significant hazards on fast descents. Deer are very common, unhunted, tame and are unpredictable.  If you see a deer (or bear) by the road do not assume it will not step into your path. If you want to enjoy wildlife along the road then ride early in the morning.  As I said, deer are common, but bear and wild turkey can be frequent early. Far less traffic, too.
I'm not sure when we turn the clocks back an hour so keep in mind the amount of daylight you have to get from place to place.  Lights are required by law after dusk and low light conditions will prevail during inclement weather. Use lights that illuminate the road ahead as well as make you more visible.  Fog is common on these roads.  It will be chilly at night and in the mornings and if it rains.  I have never encountered a nice warming rain on Skyline; it always gets cold.  Going fast downhill when soaked to the skin has its own perils. Dress for heat and cold.
On the other hand, with the exception of some forever to remain unnamed roads, Skyline and the Blue Ridge are two of America's best bike tours, deserving of their reputations as beautiful and challenging. Savor every mile.

Offline AnnieBikes

Re: Blue Ridge Parkway / Skyline Drive input
« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2012, 06:07:46 pm »
Sorry that I did not see this sooner.  We did the Skyline Dr. and BRP last year at this exact time.  We had a lot of rain, but not much traffic because it was before the peak leaf season.  WE did get stopped by the rangers on a particularly foggy day to make sure we all had lights, both front and rear...we did. 

Our journal is at:  http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/2011SkylineDriveandBRP

Hope you have a great time!  It really is a wonderful (but challenging) ride.

Offline Huli

Re: Blue Ridge Parkway / Skyline Drive input
« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2013, 09:15:43 pm »
We are planning on hitting it late this may, love the link, thank you.  Any tips?

Offline DanE

Re: Blue Ridge Parkway / Skyline Drive input
« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2013, 09:18:51 am »
The 2013 schedule released by the National Park Service released March 15th shows that the Otter Creek, Roanoke and Crabtree Meadows campgrounds will be closed for the season. This is a result of the budget sequester cut backs. This will make for some difficulty in planning as the distances between open campgrounds will now be quite long in some cases.

http://www.nps.gov/blri/parknews/blue-ridge-parkway-releases-2013-season-opening-schedule.htm

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Blue Ridge Parkway / Skyline Drive input
« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2013, 06:41:53 pm »
Blithering idiot congresscritters...

The AC Blue Ridge tour stopped near Otter Creek at a private campground.  Don't remember the road or the campground name, but you get off the Parkway about 1/4 mile south of the Otter Creek campground and ride up the hill about 1.25 miles.

Lots of motels near Roanoke, not sure about the nearest private campgrounds.

Crabtree's an interesting place; shame they're closing it.  There use to be some private campgrounds near Little Switzerland, about 5 miles north of Crabtree, and Mt Mitchell state park is about 20 miles south, but it only has 12 camp sites, IIRC.  That's one of the more remote stretches, with few services available.  Of course, once you hit Mt. Mitchell, it's all downhill!  In both directions! 

Mostly.  ;)

Offline Huli

Re: Blue Ridge Parkway / Skyline Drive input
« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2013, 09:33:22 pm »
We are planning to start our South to North on the 25th of May.  Any other reccomendations for camping locations?  How much trouble can we get if we need to camp and no campground is available? (ie - storm/medical/breakage)

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Blue Ridge Parkway / Skyline Drive input
« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2013, 10:06:45 pm »
We are planning to start our South to North on the 25th of May.  Any other reccomendations for camping locations?  How much trouble can we get if we need to camp and no campground is available? (ie - storm/medical/breakage)

If you don't already have it, get a copy of "Bicycling the Blue Ridge."  Also, go to the BRP web site and get all the planning information you can find.  Unfortunately, as noted above, it looks like some of the campgrounds are going to be closed this year, so figure out how to ride around the closures.

As to trouble, the BRP rangers are notorious for threatening to ticket a cyclist who looks like they might even thing of camping on the parkway outside a campground.  Expect a hassle if you spread a tent or tarp to dry at lunch, or set up a stove to cook lunch, coffee, or tea.  But look closely at the maps; there's a fair few miles where the parkway proper owns a narrow right of way.  If you're stuck in one of those spots, you have a good chance of riding a quarter mile into National Forest lands where you can set up camp.  Or ride off the Parkway on a dirt road or driveway, and a kind farmer might let you set up camp in their field.  Rangers have no jurisdiction in those places!  (As long as the field isn't leased from the Park Service.)
« Last Edit: April 17, 2013, 10:08:25 pm by pdlamb »

Offline Huli

Re: Blue Ridge Parkway / Skyline Drive input
« Reply #12 on: April 18, 2013, 08:40:00 pm »
Thanks pdlamb!

I do not have that book (YET), will get it this weekend!

Have been going over the route plan, and would like a bit more insight (probably in the book).
I will be at park camp grounds most nights. 

Where do you suggest to stay between:
 - Cherokee and Mt. Pisgah
 - Doughton Park and Rocky Knob (Mt. Airy?)
 - Suggestion in Roanoke?
 - Oronoco Campground around MP 48 off Rt 60 any good?

Usually I would just camp in a field, ya got me scared, those stopping points are deep in the parks!  I am more adventurous than computer savvy... lol.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Blue Ridge Parkway / Skyline Drive input
« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2013, 01:24:38 pm »
I do not have that book (YET), will get it this weekend!

It's one of those things that can pay for itself many times over!

Also check out the NPS web page and the blow-up map at http://www.nps.gov/blri/index.htm

Quote
Have been going over the route plan, and would like a bit more insight (probably in the book).
I will be at park camp grounds most nights. 

Where do you suggest to stay between:
 - Cherokee and Mt. Pisgah

Check the book.  I don't remember any campgrounds on that stretch.  There's a few small hotels close the the Parkway off U.S. 23/74, or you could coast down the hill to Waynesville.  It's about 25 miles, and about 5,000 feet of climbing, out of Cherokee.

Quote
- Doughton Park and Rocky Knob (Mt. Airy?)

There's KOA just north of the I-77 overpass.  Nice place, if a bit noisy from interstate traffic, but bring all your supplies -- there's a few small stores over on 52, but nothing else nearby.

Quote
- Suggestion in Roanoke?

There's a campground at Roanoke Mountain, but I've never been there.  Check da book for more suggestions, lots of hotels/motels nearby if it's time for a shower!  (Also check out the transportation museum downtown if you're at all interested in trains.)

Quote
- Oronoco Campground around MP 48 off Rt 60 any good?

Don't know, never been there.

Offline Huli

Re: Blue Ridge Parkway / Skyline Drive input
« Reply #14 on: April 20, 2013, 11:11:39 pm »
Thanks again pd!
Almost ready to go!!!! 8)