Winter Closure to Interrupt Two Portions of Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway tunnel in winter.

High elevation sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway are often closed in winter, at times due to ice and debris in or around the Parkway's 24 tunnels. Improvements to two of those tunnels will close two sections of the road until mid-April 2012. Shown here, one of the Twin Tunnels, Milepost 344.7. Randy Johnson photo.

Two portions of the Blue Ridge Parkway will be closed to traffic between mid-February and mid-April to facilitate “tunnel safety projects.” An 11.2-mile stretch south of Asheville and a 13.4-mile section north of Cherokee will be interdicted “without implementation of a signed detour.”

The closure near Asheville, between State Route 191, at French Broad Parking Overlook (Milepost 393.8), and State Route 151 (Milepost 405), is intended for repairs to Ferrin Knob Tunnel #1 at Milepost 401.

The Cherokee closure, from US Route 19 (Milepost 455.7), to the southern terminus of the Parkway at US 441 (Newfound Gap Road at Great Smoky Mountains National Park), is slated to repair Big Witch Tunnel, located at Milepost 461.

High elevation closures of the Parkway are routine in winter due to snow and inclement weather, but this planned closure lasts further into the spring travel season than snow closures usually do. The section closed from Asheville climbs from 2,100 feet in the area of the North Carolina Arboretum to more than 4,000 feet. The portion closed between Milepost 455.7 and Cherokee attains elevations as lofty as a mile-high.

The closure north of Cherokee starts at Soco Gap, near Cataloochee Ski Area and Maggie Valley, and is popular for cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding when snow closes the road. The Parkway in that area quickly rises in just three miles from 4,340 feet to nearly a mile high.

Near Cherokee, the work focuses on 348-foot Big Witch Tunnel. Near Asheville, 561- foot-long Ferrin Knob Tunnel #1 gets attention.

North Carolina has the longest and shortest Parkway tunnels—1,434 feet at Pine Mountain, Milepost 399.1, and 150 feet at Rough Ridge, Milepost 349. Tunnel height varies on the Parkway and drivers of RVs are encouraged to visit the Parkway's tunnel page to check for safe passge.

Comments

The only thing surprising about these closures is that they didn't occur earlier inthe season.
The Cherokee closure will affect all those visitors who use the Parkway to go into the Smokies while avoiding Cherokee. Drive through Cherokee; it's a cool town with a great museum, art gallery and sculptured bears all around.
Danny Bernstein
www.hikertohiker.com