3/27/2012 - Asheville-area Blue Ridge Parkway begins spring openings today
by Karen Chavez - Asheville Citizen Times
BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY -- If you've had a hankering for almond-encrusted mountain trout, served with a mouth-watering view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, make your way down to Pisgah Inn tonight.
The only restaurant on the parkway in North Carolina, the Pisgah Inn is set to open at 5 p.m. today in time for dinner, after the long winter closure since Oct. 30. On Wednesday the dining room will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Also opening will be the 51-room inn, the gift shop and the Country Store, all nestled beneath iconic Mount Pisgah near Milepost 408, about 30 miles southwest of Asheville.
"We will stay open this year until Nov. 4," said inn manager Rob Miller. "We anticipate an absolutely fantastic season in light of all the calls we've been getting. We always recommend making reservations in advance, especially on busy weekends."
The concession is the first of the parkway facilities to open for the spring. Other parkway campgrounds, picnic areas and visitor centers won't start opening until April and May, said Michael Molling, parkway chief of maintenance.
The nearby Mount Pisgah campground and picnic area will open May 11.
The trail to the 5,721-foot summit of Mount Pisgah is open year-round, as long as the parkway is open.
Miller said he already has guests booked for tonight and is expecting a slow, steady stream of visitors, through April 15. That's when repair work on the Ferrin Knob tunnel No. 1, at Milepost 401, is expected to be completed.
The parkway has been closed from Milepost 393 at N.C. 191/Brevard Road, south to Milepost 405 at N.C. 151 since February, Molling said, to make repairs to the tunnel.
This closure blocks off the direct route between Asheville and the Mount Pisgah area.
But visitors can take N.C. 151 to access the inn. The stretch of parkway between U.S. 19 at Milepost 455.7 to the end of the parkway at U.S. 441 in Cherokee is also closed through April 15, to complete repairs on the Big Witch Tunnel at Milepost 461.
The warm, mild weather this winter has helped to keep the construction projects on target, Molling said.
"We might try to get the road open by April 13, before the weekend, but the scheduled date to reopen is April 15," he said.
A guardrail restoration project at the state line also has the parkway closed around Milepost 217. That section is scheduled to reopen May 15.
Another popular dining spot, just off the parkway at Milepost 355, is the Mount Mitchell State Park restaurant, which is set to open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. May 1. The park is now open daily.
After April 15, concession and parkway officials are getting ready for high visitation on the parkway. The 469-mile roadway from Cherokee to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia is the most visited of all the National Park Service units. Last year 15.4 million people visited the parkway, up 6 percent from 2010.
"I think people will be happy with some of the renovations we've done over the winter," Miller said of the Pisgah Inn.
"We renovated both sets of public restrooms, and we now have wi-fi -- something guests have always asked us to get. So now you can bring all your work with you to the parkway."
Blue Ridge Parkway spring openings
Linville Falls opens April 2-Oct. 28.
All other parkway campgrounds open May 11-Oct. 28.
Price Park, MP 296, open year-round, weather permitting.
Linville Falls opens April 6-Oct. 28.
All other picnic areas open May 11-Oct. 28.
Linn Cove, Milepost 304, open April 27-May 26, 9 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m.; May 27-Nov. 4, open 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Linville Falls, Milepost 316, opens April 27-May 26, 9 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m., and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. May 27-Nov. 4.
Museum of North Carolina Minerals open year-round. (Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's days.)
Craggy Gardens, Milepost 364.5, open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekends starting April 7 and 8. Open daily April 23-Nov. 4.
Folk Art Center, Milepost 382, open year-round.
Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center, Milepost 384, open year-round.
Waterrock Knob, Milepost 4 51, opens 10 a.m.-5 p.m. April 27-May 26 Nov. 4.
Price Park Lake Boat Rentals, Milepost 297, open weekends starting April 7 and 8, then daily May 1-Sept. 30, 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Crabtree Falls, Milepost 339, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. May 1-Oct. 31.
Pisgah Inn, Restaurant, Gift Shop & Country Store, Milepost 408.6, opens at 5 p.m. today, through breakfast Nov. 4.