Hiking and Traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway – Book Review

Adkins BLRI book coverLeonard Adkins’ books have been my go-to hiking and flower books for years. He’s written more than 15 books on travel and hiking. We’ve all seen him at Appalachian Trail conferences, giving workshops and displaying his books in the exhibit area. He’s a hiker. He’s walked the A.T. five times and is known as The Habitual Hiker.

Miles of trail take off from the Blue Ridge Parkway and go into the woods to waterfalls, views, and historic artifacts. Now comes Leonard’s new book Hiking and Traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway which details every hike off the Parkway. He presents each hike step-by-step in a methodical manner.

You can just step out of your vehicle and walk less than a tenth of a mile to a viewpoint or you can hike 10.6 strenuous miles on the Rock Castle Gorge Trail from MP 167.1. In North Carolina, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail crisscrosses the Parkway from Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the Virginia border. In Virginia, the Appalachian Trail can be accessed from many stops on the Parkway until the road reaches its northern most point at the southern entrance of Shenandoah National Park.

First, a guidebook has to be accurate and thorough. Each hike entry has information on the milepost number, GPS coordinates, and altitude at the trailhead. The hike description includes length, the author’s assessment of the difficulty and whether it’s a particularly recommended hike. The book allows readers to find the trail, assess if they are embarking on an easy, moderate, or strenuous hike.

Leonard AdkinsLeonard puts the hike in context. Why would you want to do this hike? Is it for the view, prolific wildflowers, or a historic site?

But locals like me want to stop at overlooks periodically and take in the views on a way to a hike. So interspersed between the hikes, the book describes the landscape at the overlooks and identifies the mountains, most important whether you’re local or a visitor.

Mile 372.1 Lanes Pinnacle Overlook (3,890 feet)
Lanes Pinnacle is to the left in the view, with the upper elevations of the Great Craggy Mountains visible behind the ridgeline. The mountains to the far right are the Swannanoas.  

Good maps and some black and white photographs enhance the book. He lists every feature on the Parkway along with its milepost number, all the inns and campgrounds as well as a roadside bloom calendar. Visitors will enjoy knowing about the downtown Asheville Urban Trail, 1.7-mile that meanders downtown past various pieces of sculptures.

Readers are supposed to use guidebooks. I’ve referred back to the last edition of this book, entitled Walking the Blue Ridge, for years. Its pages are dog-eared, underlined, and highlighted. Now there’s a new book which I will soon be love to death as well.

Of course, the book is available from local and online bookstores. But if you purchase it through his website, Leonard will donate a portion of the proceeds to the Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which assists in maintaining and enhancing the beauty of the scenic roadway. Great idea!

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