Are you looking to RV the Blue Ridge Parkway?
It’s 469 miles of two lane curvy, steep mountain road. It’s not something that you should plan on doing quickly.
Not to mention, there is so much to see and do on the way, that you really should plan on it taking about a week or so. That way you can really explore all there is to see and do.
And that means you need places to stop and spend the night. Here are my tips for RV camping on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
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RV Camping Along the Blue Ridge Parkway
The National Park Service has eight RV campgrounds:
- Mount Pisgah at milepost 408
- Crabtree Falls at milepost 339
- Linville Falls at milepost 316
- Julian Price at milepost 297
- Doughton Park at milepost 239
- Rocky Knob at milepost 167
- Peaks of Otter at milepost 85
- Otter Creek at milepost 60
Other than Crabtree Falls, you can make advance reservations for some of the spots at these campsites. Most of the campgrounds are first come, first served. That means you’ll need to stop pretty early in the day during the high traffic seasons to get a spot.
However, none of the National Park Service Blue Ridge Parkway campgrounds have RV hookups.
That means you’ll be boondocking or dry camping.
And these campgrounds have quiet hours, meaning you can’t run your generator after about 9 PM.
That means no air conditioning at night. For some, that may be awesome or even desirable. But it was still hot enough that AC was pretty necessary. And I didn’t want to pay $20 to not have air conditioner. Hey, don’t blame me – this is RV glamping!
Also, Dan, the bicyclist, really needed to be able to take hot showers each night to get the sweat, sunscreen, bug spray, and road grime off before bed. So while I can run my water heater on propane, I can also run it on electric which is preferable if I am already running the generator or have hookups.
Several of the campgrounds do have dump stations and potable water to refill your tanks. If you aren’t camping in these campgrounds, often you can still use the dump stations and refill your fresh water tanks for a small fee ($3).
That opens up some other boondocking possibilities, where you can run your generator and have your AC.
For example, we spent one night boondocking at a Walmart in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. Since we were off by ourselves, without another RV nearby, we did run the generator for the air conditioner.
No Camping at Overlooks
It’s going to be real tempting to want to setup your RV for overnight camping at one of the many beautiful overlooks along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
However, that is prohibited. You cannot sleep in a vehicle, including an RV, overnight at an overlook.
You can only camp in one of the eight developed campgrounds discussed above, or in another public or private campground off the parkway.
Other Public Campgrounds Near the Parkway
In addition to the eight Blue Ridge Parkway campgrounds, there are many state parks and even other National Park/Forest/BLM campgrounds along the Parkway.
Public Campgrounds in North Carolina
At the southern end of the Parkway, Smokemount Campground and Balsam Mountain Campground have no hookups but are conveniently located near the entrance to the Parkway in the Smokey Mountain National Park.
As you approach Asheville, consider Lake Powhatan in Mount Pisgah National Forest. It is very close to the Parkway and offers full hook-ups.
In the shadow of Mount Mitchell, you’ll find Black Mountain Campground but there is very limited RV spots and they are popular!
Closer to the North Carolina-Virginia border, you have two state parks that may also work for you:
North Carolina’s New River State Park has RV parking available, with many sites able to accommodate big rigs. However, it is a bit of a hike from the Parkway, with other public options available for about the same price.
Stone Mountain State Park is near the Parkway and has sites, some of which include electric and water hookups. A dump station is available for registered guests. Some sites are suitable for big rigs.
Public Campgrounds in Virginia
In Virginia, you can stay at Explore Park, which is a Roanoke County Park directly off the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 115 (right close to the area that is currently closed for repair). They have 50 amp electrical hookups for their RV spots. You’ll need an adapter to go from 30 amp to 50 amp if your RV is 30 amp.
Explore Park does have water where you refill your tanks and a dump station is free for overnight guests and $15 for non-guests.
The bad news is that Explore Park sites are only 12 feet by 35 feet, so not big rig friendly.
Very close to the northern end of the Parkway, Sherando Lake Recreation Area Family Camping is located in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. Loop C has 18 electric only hookups. The good news is that Sherando Lake can accommodate many big rigs.
Most of the water hydrants are not threaded for hose hookups, but you may be able to use a Water Bandit to access water. There is one water station with a threaded hose connection near the bathhouse. And a dump station is available on site.
Private Campgrounds Along the Parkway
There are a variety of private campgrounds along the Parkway.
There were two Harvest Host locations that we considered and were keeping in reserve. However, the timing on our stops didn’t really make sense for us to use these locations.
Where We Stayed on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Our locations were mostly based on how far Dan could cycle each day. That put us at about 75-100 miles between stops.
Even if you won’t be traveling with a bicyclist, this is a good distance to cover each day.
Remember, you’ll be going on average less than 35 mph through the Parkway. And you’ll want to leave plenty of time to stop at overlooks and visitor centers. Many of the stops along the way have exhibits or museums, things that take some time. You’ll probably want to take a small hike each day as well, to see something cool.
Night Zero: Fort Wilderness, Cherokee, NC (private campground)
I call this night zero because we hadn’t actually hit the Parkway just yet. We got to Cherokee to begin the Parkway and spent the night at Fort Wilderness.
It’s a wooded, private campground with full hookups and decent cellphone and WiFi coverage. It has a lot of seasonal and permanent residents. The RV spaces vary in their suitability so pay attention when you are picking a site or reserving one. Most are gravel lots. It’s open all year long.
Tempted to boondock at the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino? They don’t allow RV parking at the casino. Sorry.
Night One: Lake Powhatan, near Asheville, NC (National Forest campground)
Lake Powhatan is a seasonal campground (closed winter) in Pisgah National Forest with full hookups. The campground is very close to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is in black bear country, so you’ll need to be aware with your pets and with food.
There is almost no cellphone reception here. Don’t count on getting any data. Text messages are usually going to work here.
This is where I got onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, thereby skipping the Cherokee to Asheville section with all of the low clearance tunnels that are not suitable for big rig RVs.
Night Two: Spruce Pines Walmart (boondocking)
It’s a couple of miles off the Parkway, but I had to pick Dan up at Little Switzerland because of dark. So we found the closest Walmart for the night.
It also allowed us to do some shopping for things we already found out that we needed – batteries for the TV remote, more food, a cheese slicer (Dan brought a chunk of cheese but I didn’t have a slicer in the RV. Now, I do).
Nights Three and Four: Miller’s Campground, Laurel Springs, NC (private campground)
This is a seasonal campground with quite a few permanent RVs. It’s family owned and boy are they nice. It was another full-hookup RV lot, with gravel parking but concrete picnic pads.
We stayed two nights, the only place on the Parkway that we spent more than one night. Dan needed a rest day in the middle of the trip and with rain predicted on Saturday, it was a good time to stop for an extra day. Didn’t hurt that it gave us time to watch some college football.
Without satellite and limited over-the-air stations, that meant we were streaming football games. It was a good thing that I had the extra TV in the MyTCase, which made it easy to hookup an HDMI cable to stream the games. (For the record, GT was away this weekend so I still have not missed a GT home game. Although with the way the season is going, I might be tempted to before long)
Night Five: Chantilly Farms Campground (private campground)
This is a lovely campground on rolling farm land. Cell coverage was limited but they did have WiFi. We stayed in loop A which had large lots spread out. It was a gravel/grass pull-through site.
Whatever you do, don’t follow GPS directions on this one! It is quite a ways off the Blue Ridge Parkway and if you follow GPS directions, you will be going down dirt or gravel roads with lots of low hanging trees. Seriously, I wanted to send Dan back to see if I left any air conditioners on the way.
Night Six: KOA/Lynchburg (private campground)
This was our last official night on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I needed to have good cellphone or WiFi coverage so I could take a work call from the road before I left the next morning, and this KOA had both.
This KOA had gravel spots with full hookups. We arrived after dark (this was the night of the fog).
I wish we had more daylight to explore the campground because they had a lot of amenities that we did not take advantage of.
Night Seven: Walmart (boondocking)
We finished with the Parkway at about 6:00 PM. That meant there was no way to get all the way back to Atlanta, so we needed an extra night on the way back. We decided to drive until I was too tired to keep driving. We then found a place with good Mexican food and a Walmart all at the same exit in southern Virginia, near the North Carolina state line.
This is Bear Country
The Blue Ridge Parkway and nearby National Forests, state parks, and even cities and towns are home to black bears.
It is illegal to willfully approach black bears closer than 150 feet or any distance that disturbs or displaces a bear. In other words, leave plenty of space between you and any bear that you might encounter.
If you see a bear, do not approach! And do not let it approach you! Slowly back away. Don’t run or you may look like prey to the bear.
If you are followed by the bear, then you’ll need to change directions (you may be heading towards it’s den and baby bears).
If the bear continues to follow you, then you’ll need to stand your ground and act aggressively to intimidate the bear. You can throw non-food objects to scare the bear away.
If you have food that the bear wants, leave the food and walk away slowly to separate yourself from the bear. If you don’t have food, then you’ll have to fight for all your worth. Whatever you do, don’t play dead.
During our trip, we received reports from most of the campgrounds about recent bear sightings, even if we didn’t see any in the campgrounds. Dan did see several while biking the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Lock Your Food in Bear Country
In addition, you’ll need to take precautions when you are RV camping on the Blue Ridge Parkway to protect your food.
This means that you cannot leave food or trash unattended in your campsite. All food must be kept in either a food box or in a locked vehicle. And you must properly dispose of all trash!
If you don’t, you might wake up to a bear rummaging through your campsite. And being that close to a bear, especially a hungry bear, can be very dangerous to you! In the long term, bears will lose their fear of humans and become even bigger problems for campers.
If you have any bear encounters while RV camping along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you need to report it to the National Park Service. You can do so at any visitor center or calling 828-298-2491.
Blue Ridge Parkway RV Camping
There are many ways to RV camp along the Blue Ridge Parkway, depending on how far you want to go from primitive camping to glamping.
Many sites are first-come, first-served, so you may need to have several options to stay flexible, especially in peak seasons – being summer and then October for the leaf season. Make sure you have all the necessary adapters, including a 30 amp to 50 amp adapter, 50 amp to 30 amp adapter, 30 amp to 110 adapter, and Water Bandit, so you can be prepared for any hookup situation.
And don’t be afraid to boondock it!