A Popular Tourist Road in NC Was Just Voted Among Most Feared in the US

The Blue Ridge Parkway in NC was just voted 12th most feared road in the United States (photo bu Chansak Joe/iStockPhoto)

The Blue Ridge Parkway in NC was just voted 12th most feared road in the United States (photo bu Chansak Joe/iStockPhoto)

Move over Tail of the Dragon here comes … The Blue Ridge Parkway?

As someone who has driven large swaths of the Blue Ridge Parkway – chiefly in the Smokies – I was shocked when I found it listed as the 12th most feared roadway in America. Really? The Blue Ridge Parkway is the most fearsome road in North Carolina? Color me skeptical. I think the folks who voted in this poll haven’t tried to tackle Charlotte in rush hour or come down the mountains to the Tennessee line on I-40 in the rain after dark. But, to me, the only thing we have to fear on the Blue Ridge Parkway is fear itself. 

A survey of 3,000 roadtrippers determined the most feared road in each state and then ranked those roads from 1 to 50. The Blue Ridge Parkway was deemed the most feared road in North Carolina and 12th overall. 

Blueridge Parkway with a blue sky
The Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina is a famous Parkway that runs from Cherokee to Afton, Virginia (photo by Vladimir Grablev/stock.adobe.com)

About the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway – branded America’s Favorite Drive by the National Park Service – runs (or meanders) 469 miles along the Appalachian Highlands from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia down to the Smoky Mountains, ending near Cherokee, North Carolina. Along its path are a variety of mostly smaller mountain towns, visitor centers and scenic overlooks. 

Traditionally, I’ve accessed the Blue Ridge Parkway through Maggie Valley and explored its routes along the final miles to Cherokee. It’s among the most beautiful drives in the country. Is it scary? Once I accidentally got onto the Blue Ridge trying to make a travel softball tournament in Cherokee. I tried to enjoy the sights as we hurried along but the only fear I had was my increasingly agitated teenage daughter.

A motorcyclist on the tail of the dragon
Motorcyclist on the Tail of the Dragon, a road that many would say is more scary than the Blue Ridge Parkway (photo by Josh Betts/shutterstock.com)

What about the study?

So, what about this study? Not much detail is given on the methodology, and how the 3,000 road trippers were found. How many of the roadtrippers had driven the Blue Ridge Parkway? Friends, I fear this poll was chiefly clickbait and was not done strictly within the confines of the scientific method.

To more accurately assess the, well, accuracy, I took a look at some other states with which I am familiar. For Tennessee, I expected to see the Dragon – the 11-mile stretch of US 129 in Blount County – which is popular with sports car enthusiasts, motorcycle riders and people who like to crash their sports cars and motorcycles. But no, for Tennessee it was U.S. 64 from Copper Basin in the mountains where Tennessee, North Carolina and Chattanooga meet along the bottom of the state to Memphis. It’s not a terrible pick, getting into and out of Copper Basin is interesting. But I wouldn’t have tabbed it the most feared. 

In Georgia, it was U.S. Route 27 which runs north and south along the border with Alabama. I’m sorry but there is no road more fearsome in Georgia than when I-75/85 goes like 27 lanes wide and makes a hard curve to the left as you’re heading southbound near Peachtree. 

I looked over the rest of the list to try and find some rhyme or reason. The majority of the top five feared roads were lonely stretches through remote deserts. Maybe it’s splitting hairs to say the road isn’t so much feared as the outside-the-car conditions if you break down, but I’m not sure. So, is this study accurate? Let’s say I’m dubious.  

Aerial view of Linn Cove Bridge Blue Ridge Parkway Asheville North Carolina –
An image of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville from above (photo by Hermosa Drones/stock.adobe.com)

Is it actually dangerous?

The survey breaks down the reasons for the first five most feared but after that, we’re left to wonder. One would assume that driving on a curvy road up in the mountains would make many drivers nervous. However, if that were the case U.S. Route 550 in Colorado – which is much higher up and has more dramatic ledges – would be higher than 34th on the list. Ultimately, we just don’t know why these drivers would be afeared of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Parkway does have steep grades, decreasing radius curves, unforgiving shoulders (usually with a forest nearby) and limited sight distances. In other words, it’s curvy and in the mountains. Is it fair, though? Is it really scary? I suppose it’s how you look at it. Is the Blue Ridge Parkway the 12th most feared road in America? I don’t think there’s any way that’s accurate, even when limiting the rankings to one scary road per state. Is it the most feared road in North Carolina? I mean maybe you can make that argument, but it depends on what you’re afraid of.  I’d much rather drive the Parkway than some of the roads connecting islands to the mainland along the coast.

I don’t mean to fear shame. But the idea that the Parkway is feared seems ridiculous to me. The National Park Service does say law enforcement rangers investigate on average 200 accidents each year with half of those resulting in serious injury some of those, surely are caused by drivers focused too much on the scenery and not enough on the road. 

Sunrise view from the Devil's Courthouse overlook
Low clouds over the Appalachian Mountains at sunrise, seen from Devil’s Courthouse, near the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. (photo by John Bilous/shutterstock.com)

How to find the road

There are dozens of ways to connect to the Parkway and the Park Service has maps and plans for a myriad of scenic drives. I usually access the Parkway through Maggie Valley. However, there are hundreds of ways over the range of nearly 500 miles. 

Also, when driving the Parkway, don’t count on GPS to save you. The Parkway has its own navigation system using mileposts. GPS can get you out to nearby towns and such but to navigate the Parkway it’s better to have a park service map and be prepared to use the mileposts. 

Watch the speed limits. They can change quickly based on upcoming conditions. Trust me, you don’t want to still be doing 50 when you hit a 20 MPH curve. Don’t forget to check the road status information before you go. It’s always a good idea to check with the NPS to make sure the section of the Parkway you want to drive is open and clear, especially in the winter. 

Finally, keep your eyes on the road. It’s easy when natural wonder is just off in the distance to get distracted. That’s a good way to join the natural wonder. 

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