Before you start planning your Blue Ridge Parkway wedding or elopement, check out our top tips for locations, weather, seasons and more!
Blue Ridge Parkway Wedding | Which Parkway section is best for you?
The Blue Ridge Parkway spans 469 miles across North Carolina and Virginia, starting at the southern end of Shenandoah National Park and ending at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Along the way, the “motor road” crosses through many communities, habitats and environments. There are different personalities to each, and so many possibilities! Before selecting the right place for your Blue Ridge Parkway wedding it’s important to understand what each area has to offer.
We wrote this guide for you
Just a quick note from us! We have lived in Virginia and the Carolinas for over 20 years and have driven the Blue Ridge Parkway from end to end many times. We love everything about exploring this road and we hope our expertise is a help to you in planning your wedding or elopement. Have any questions? We’d love to hear from you!
First, we start at the northernmost terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway. One might refer to this section – starting at Skyline drive and ending at the NC border – as the Ridge Region.
Here, the Parkway starts with a personality very similar to Shenandoah to the north. The road runs along a ridgeline between river valleys to the west (including the New River Valley) and the Virginia foothills to the east. As a result, this part of the Parkway is distinctly known for the valley views:
Here you’ll find overlooks that work well for ceremonies alongside hikes to viewpoints that would also serve well for an adventure elopement for two! Peaks of Otter is a beautiful setting for a wedding & hiking to Sharp Top Mountain will give you an amazing view of sunset.
The Appalachian trail runs very close to the Parkway through this section until it reaches Roanoke, and then the trail heads further west through the Jefferson National Forest.
This turn off at Roanoke is a clue to the landscape further south.
Driving south on the Parkway and nearing Roanoke, you’ll notice that you’ve come off of the ridge and are transitioning to beautiful countryside. The feel of the landscape through this section – almost entirely to the NC border – is like idyllic farmland from yesteryear. Just to the east of Roanoke is the Explore Park which is a beautiful spot for a wedding!
While mostly rolling pastures, this section is punctuated with a few scenic overlooks along the way, as the road runs the edge of the Blue Ridge escarpment in places. This gives you the best views towards the south and east – some of which work well for both sunrise and sunset!
Once you’ve passed the Blue Ridge Music Center and reach Cumberland Knob, you’re in North Carolina and headed towards the Highlands region! This begins a gradual elevation gain as you head towards the towns of Boone and Banner Elk in NC.
Notable places in this region include Stone Mountain State Park (a North Carolina State Park just off of the Parkway) and the Doughton Park Recreation Area. The latter was named after a Congressman who was instrumental in the formation of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and is one of our favorite spots on the Parkway!
Doughton Park has many options for a small wedding or an elopement. Overlooks convenient to parking for the whole family and hiking trails that take you up to the best views! This area has both an open mountain meadow feel along with distant views of the mountains in the distance. It is also home to the Bluffs Restaurant, one of our all time favorite stops on the Parkway!
Other amazing notable stops on the Parkway as you drive south are the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park; Price Lake; the area around the Linn Cove Viaduct; and the Linville Falls area. Additionally, there are many places just off of the Parkway like Grandfather Mountain & Linville Gorge which are epic places to have a wedding or elopement!
What sets the Highlands Region apart from both the Ridge and Plateau regions is this is where you start to get views that many think of when picturing the Blue Ridge Mountains – layer upon layer of mountains as far as the eye can see.
Pisgah Region | Our favorite section for a Blue Ridge Parkway Wedding
Near Little Switzerland, NC the Parkway takes on even more elevation as you enter the Pisgah region. With the exception of where the road skirts the boundaries of Asheville, NC – this region is where you will find the highest elevations anywhere on the Parkway.
There is a LOT to enjoy in this region and it is definitely one of our favorite sections of the Parkway. To the east of Asheville you are near Mount Mitchell State Park (at 6684ft, the highest point east of the Mississippi). Craggy Gardens is a beautiful spot to have a wedding ceremony with a group or an elopement for two! (read more: Craggy Gardens Elopement).
Once you are west of Asheville, you’re getting into some of the more remote feeling parts of the Parkway. The road quickly gains elevation again up to Mt Pisgah (with the Pisgah Inn nearby, a great restaurant stop too!). There are many overlooks around which work well here for a wedding ceremony with guests.
Further west in the Devil’s Courthouse area, Black Balsam Knob (located just outside the Parkway boundary in the Pisgah National Forest) is an epic spot for a wedding, although very popular. You’ll definitely want to read up more on this spot to know all the details about planning a wedding there: Black Balsam Knob Wedding
And just to the south of the Parkway in this region, you’ll find countless waterfalls! The area near Brevard NC has a reputation for so many waterfalls and it is well deserved. Many are popular and can get crowded during busy season, but we also know many that are off of the beaten path.
With high elevation views that go on for miles, waterfalls nearby and a rugged feel – this is why we like this region of the Parkway so much!
For more info on the different regions, check out the interactive map at the Blue Ridge Parkway Association for more in-depth descriptions.
Blue Ridge Parkway Wedding | Seasons Pros/Cons
Once you’ve gotten an idea of what region fits your vibe for a Blue Ridge Parkway Wedding, it’s important to consider the season when choosing a date!
We need to point out first that spring on the Parkway is timed differently than what most of us are accustomed to. If you live in the southeast, many of us are generally accustomed to seeing spring blooms somewhere in the March timeframe. However, because of the elevation, the trees often don’t green up and flowers don’t bloom into late April and even into mid-May depending on the location.
However, while the March-May timeframe might mean dealing with the last hints of winter at elevation, this is still one of our favorite seasons. Being before school is out and generally being a shoulder season, this is a great time to plan your Blue Ridge Parkway wedding to get a little more privacy. Also – being before most of the summer humidity has made its way in – you can often get epic clear views in this season!
This starts the busy season on the Parkway as many are seeking relief from the summer heat by heading up to elevation. But this is our most favorite season overall because of the flexibility you have on the Parkway! You don’t have to worry about road closures so there are many options before you.
We especially like this season because it gives you the opportunity to enjoy the highest elevations with mild weather and enjoy a waterfall or even a dip in a swimming hole at lower elevations. The mountains hit a peak of full bloom during the summer too!
Another tip: Don’t count out late August. Again – if you’re from the southeast, you might associate August with heat and humidity. But at elevation it is a different story, and it’s also a nice lull as school gets back into session and before the leaf season of the fall.
We’ll just say up front; it’s important to manage expectations when it comes to getting married on the Parkway in the fall. In fact, the Parkway doesn’t allow any wedding permits in October. There is just so much traffic in peak leaf season, it’s not advisable to try and plan a wedding ceremony at an overlook.
Our advice for this season:
- Look at either September or November to avoid the crush of tourists at popular spots
- Use National Forest spots adjacent to the Parkway if you are looking at an October date; then go to a less crowded section of the Parkway for portraits
- Have your wedding on a weekday if possible
- Book a year in advance!
The best thing about the off-season of winter (which we would define as roughly from late November until mid-March on the Parkway) is that you have the chance to have many locations all to yourself. Yes, you run the risk of poor weather and road closures (which is why it’s important to have backup plans) but the reward is having all the views without the crowds. If you time it just right, you might even have the chance to have your wedding photos in the snow. How cool would that be?
Blue Ridge Parkway Wedding | Climate & Weather
Intertwined with the choice of region and seasons, the climate and weather are things to think about when you’re planning a Blue Ridge Parkway Wedding or Elopement.
Lower Elevations (< 3000 ft ASL)
This generally covers the Plateau region and portions of the Highlands region before reaching the area around Boone.
Here, you’ll find the climate and weather similar to the surrounding foothills. Summer may feel the same, if only slightly milder. In contrast these elevations tend to avoid road closures when winter weather comes through and closes the road in other locations.
Mid Elevations (~3000-4500ft ASL)
The Highlands region is where you’ll find consistent elevations in this range, and it’s also where you’ll notice a climate difference to the valleys below. Summers have a milder feel and nights are cooler, and that trend continues into the fall. Winter may leave these elevations with a dusting of snow when only rain hits the valleys.
Still, the weather tends to follow the patterns of the lower elevations. For example, expect afternoon showers and thunderstorms in the summer just like the lower elevations.
One can think of the mid elevations as having the same seasons, if not offset about a month from the foothills. Spring & winter start about a month later.
High Elevation (~4500-6000ft ASL)
This describes the Pisgah region almost in its entirety and also exhibits the most drastic climate and weather differences vs. the valleys below.
For example, when there is high humidity & a mostly cloudy day in the foothills – with spots of sun here and there – you can often expect elevations of 5500ft and above to be fogged in or even scattered showers when there is no forecast for that in the area.
Summer thunderstorms that might be scattered and weak in the lower elevations tend to be magnified and sneak up on you at the higher elevations. Especially in the summer, exercise caution hiking in the afternoon as this is when storms pop up!
While locations at these elevations typically have the best views on the Parkway, they also are subject to closures the most due to ice on the road. Generally, we don’t recommend planning a Blue Ridge Parkway wedding at high elevations in the months of December, January or February (without a solid backup plan, for example having a reception venue double as your ceremony venue just in case).
There are also pockets of microclimate. For example, the section of the Parkway near Graveyard fields, Devil’s Courthouse and Black Balsam Knob is one of the wettest spots in all of North Carolina. This is part of the reason there are so many waterfalls, because they are being fed by this watershed!
Blue Ridge Parkway Wedding | Regulations to keep in mind
Yes, you will need a permit
But don’t worry, it’s really not that hard to obtain. From our experience, the permits office for the Parkway has been both friendly and fairly quick to respond for our couples. It’s not an expensive permit and we can definitely help you with understanding and completing the paperwork!
Also to repeat what we mentioned earlier: No permits are issued in October for weddings. (But don’t worry if you want to have a wedding or elope then, we have many alternatives!). Another tip: If you are interested in the Parkway in Virginia for October – check out Shenandoah National Park which (at the time of this writing) does issue permits for then with the restriction that your wedding is before 10am.
One more thing: The Parkway will not issue permits for applications inside a 30 day window. In our opinion – it’s best to apply months ahead of time!
Top restrictions to keep in mind
- Your group size (including you, your guests, your officiant, photographers, etc) must be 25 people or less.
- Some locations have a lower allowed capacity.
- Some locations are off limits entirely for weddings.
- Permits for weddings will not be on federal holidays, or federal holiday weekends.
- No live flowers are allowed at all. Our recommendations are silk, wood, or paper.
- Think LNT when you’re looking at the Parkway for your wedding. No birdseed, don’t hang decorations, don’t bring an arbor … etc. The natural setting is amazing enough already – let the landscape speak for itself in your photos.
For more details on all of the subjects above, please head on over to the Blue Ridge Parkway Wedding Permits page.
Want to get married on the Parkway? We’re here to help!
We have explored the Blue Ridge Parkway for decades and know all the regions like they are home. We’d love to fill you in on our inside knowledge of how to have the best day ever along this beautiful National Park treasure!
For even more in-depth info on eloping to the mountains, check out our complete Elopement Guide below!