National park tips: No billboards, no 18-wheelers on this great American road trip

Abbott Lake, near Peaks of Otter Lodge, is a manmade feature along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Bedford, Va.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

You don’t have to drive the whole Blue Ridge Parkway to get its leafy, hilly, billboard-free, idyllic flavor. (The whole thing is 469 miles of Virginia and North Carolina, after all.) A tiny slice will do, especially if you do it now in late October when fall foliage typically reaches its peak.

The parkway — I drove it all last year — is one of the country’s greatest road trips (never exceeding 45 mph, no billboards, no 18-wheelers).

You can build a short itinerary around a night at the only lodging that’s part of the parkway: Peaks of Otter Lodge, which has stood since 1964 about 30 miles northeast of Roanoke, Va. Next to the lodge lies little Abbott Lake — manmade, yes, but irresistible in early morning light.

Here’s what I found on America’s favorite country road, the Blue Ridge Parkway »


Our reporter drove all 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs through Virginia and North Carolina.

In honor of this year’s National Park Service centennial, the Travel section is posting 100 park travel ideas and tips based on trips staff travel writer Christopher Reynolds has taken, along with photo-op advice from Times photographer Mark Boster. We’ll post one per day through Dec. 31.

Follow Reynolds on Twitter: @MrCSReynolds

See travel videos by Reynolds from around the world.



Here’s what I found on America’s favorite country road, the Blue Ridge Parkway

See the drama unfold at Ford’s Theatre in D.C., where Lincoln was assassinated

Paul Revere had 16 kids. March on this Boston trail to see his home


Before heading to the Washington Monument, make sure the elevator is working