The Blue Ridge Parkway was the most popular national park of 2020

The Blue Ridge Parkway was the most popular national park of 2020

The Linn Cove Viaduct at Mile Post 304 opened to traffic in 1983, completing the Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo: Xiaomei Chen/The Washington Post via Getty Images

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The Blue Ridge Parkway reclaimed the title as most-visited national park in 2020, as cooped up people found refuge in the scenic road that twists and turns for 469 miles through North Carolina and Virginia.
  • The parkway, whose headquarters are in Asheville, had 14.1 million recreational visits, pushing it past the Golden Gate Recreational area for the first time since 2017.
Meanwhile the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, whose headquarters are just over the state line in Tennessee but whose forests cover much of western North Carolina, held at third.
national parks visits 2020

Data: National Parks Service

The backstory: President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration stimulus program funded the parkway in the 1930s, in an attempt to put people back to work and promote tourism.

  • It took another 52 years before the final leg, the S-shaped Linn Cove Viaduct, was completed around Grandfather Mountain. The viaduct is now one of North Carolina’s great manmade wonders.
Why it matters: The parkway was built to help America through one crisis, and it endures today to help us through this one.

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