Blue Ridge Parkway

Heading South

Over the Christmas/New Year holiday period we decided to drive to New Orleans for New Years Eve. We left New York City, five days before Christmas heading south. The only ‘plans’ and accommodation we had wasn’t until the 30th, so we could enjoy the drive and see where we would end up! Looking at the map of the USA, I also decided that I would love to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the way down. So we headed for the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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Scenic drive

The Blue Ridge Parkway is an absolute dream, the scenery is breathtaking.  It is America’s longest linear park, stretching 469 miles, connecting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Shenandoah National Park. Located in the States of North Carolina and Virginia. Parts of the Appalachian mountains are also included in the parkway.  The Blue Ridge Parkway is a nature lovers dream, rich in biodiversity. There is so much variance in the fauna, flora, climate and geological features.

 

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Peaks of Otter

Before we left NYC, we had decided that we would rather camp in various National forest or State forest camping grounds, so the trip could remain relatively unplanned and be more cost effective. So the first area that we stayed at, was Peaks of Otter,  now being that this was in the middle of December and we did not do any research, the visitor center and camping area is actually closed at this time of year! It was raining and getting late, and as our car is set up for sleeping in ect we still stayed near the visitors center. The next morning we woke up to a blanket of fog, I felt that the thick fog enhanced the beauty. Peaks of Otter surrounds the Jefferson National Forest, and provides breathtaking views. You can take multiple hiking trails near the visitor center. Due to the fog being so thick, we decided to hike the shortest route, the elk run loop. This hike offers a self guided ecology walk, with displays along the walk describing the forest community, very cool.

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Overlooks

Next stop along the parkway, the Head Foremost Mountain overlook and the Arnold Valley Overlook.

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The fog had still not cleared up by lunch time! I can only imagine how spectacular these views are on a clear spring or summers day.

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Curtis Creek

For our second night, we camped at Curtis creek, a camping ground nestled in the mountains at the base of the Blue Ridge mountains. This campsite was open (Closes December 31st) and works on a first come, first serve system.  Near the camp ground, there are multiple hiking trails on offer, plus the pretty creek.

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Nantahala National Forest

After hiking during the morning at curtis creek, we drove to Asheville, N.C to spend the day there ( a separate blog post). After Asheville, we continued the journey towards the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This time, camping in the Gorgeous Nantahala National Forest. Nantahala is Cherokee for “land of the noonday sun” a very fitting name for this beautiful forest. The forest is half a million acres of pristine woodlands. A true beauty to explore. Our campsite for the night was located at Lake Santeetlah, a mountain lake surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest. A really pretty and relaxing place to camp.

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Next stop – The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Midwest

Moving on from the mountain states, it was time to travel through part of the Midwest region of the US. We didn’t spend much time in each place, lots of just driving through. First state, Nebraska. Here we found a nice lake to camp at. Next, Iowa, followed by Illinois. Next state was Indiana, here we spent a day exploring the capital city, Indianapolis. Last state, Ohio.

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Mountain States

After a beautiful road trip through California and camping in the amazing Joshua Tree national park, it was time to continue the journey towards New York. Next up, the fabulous Las Vegas! Driving through Nevada was amazing, with stunning views of the desert. It is unbelievable to drive through a desert, with not much going on, to hit a hectic city in the middle of a desert! Las vegas is like no other place. It is hard to describe ‘sin city’, you just have to absorb the atmosphere. Time was spent, relaxing under the palm trees in the pool and shopping by day. Night we spent exploring the hotels, casinos and bars. A very different experience, but still very enjoyable.

After Vegas, it was time to get back on the road. Next, Arizona. We stopped by the beautiful Lake Mead and Hoover dam (highlighted in a different post), before moving on to the breathtaking Grand Canyon national park, where we camped and hiked park of the park (also, highlighted in a separate post). The views driving through Arizona are beautiful! After the visit to the Grand Canyon, the next main stop was the four corners. A very remote area, the only place in the United States where four states intersect at one point. The Northeastern corner of Arizona, Southeastern corner of Utah, Northwestern corner of New Mexico and the Southwest Corner of Colorado.

Next, the gorgeous Colorado. Driving through, we saw some of the most scenic views. One of the highlights, was a stop in Sliverton, with its breathtaking mountain views and being one of the highest towns in the United States. Next was camping at Elk creek, which was a great way to relax and enjoy nature. Colorado is a state that I need to visit again, perhaps during winter time, to hit the slopes.

Driving through the desert and mountains was a memorable journey, enjoying the varying environments that the US has to offer.

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