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Fall foliage to boost tourism, economy despite Blue Ridge Parkway closures

2020 saw nearly 1.9 million visits to the parkway

The morning air feels crisp. Leaves are starting to scatter the ground. Fall is officially here!
The morning air feels crisp. Leaves are starting to scatter the ground. Fall is officially here!

ROANOKE, Va. – The morning air feels crisp. Leaves are starting to scatter the ground. Fall is officially here!

Leaf peepers planning a trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway want to know when peak foliage will hit.

“Fall is really a time that brings more people to our region,” said Catherine Fox with Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge (VBR).

Fox said October is typically the best time of year for tourism in the region. October 2020 set a new record for VBR web traffic.

“We see more visitation to our website, more content being viewed based on fall and fall activities,” said Fox.

The National Park Service reported that 2020 saw nearly 1.9 million visits to the parkway, a slight jump from 2019. That tourism brought in $1.3 billion to communities near the park.

Experts anticipate peak fall foliage to hit earlier this year by the third week of October.

“It’s a busy time here,” said Alex North, the marketing and administrative coordinator for Roanoke County Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

For those who want to stretch their legs, Explore Park is a quick detour off the parkway. The Roanoke County destination offers hiking and biking trails, Treetop Quest, camping and more.

“Fall foliage is huge here for this region, especially along the Blue Ridge Parkway. And one great thing about that is it brings people to Explore Park,” said North.

Blue Ridge Parkway closures due to a slope failure near the Roanoke/Floyd County border and scheduled maintenance on the Roanoke River Bridge mean drivers can expect detours.

However, Fox said people should consider it an excursion, not a detour.

“It is an opportunity to see more of the area that people would not have seen normally,” said Fox.

North said the best advice for leaf peepers is: “definitely plan ahead.”

For detour information, visit VBR’s website here.

You can also check out updated closure information on the National Park Service website here.


About the Author:

Lindsey joined the WSLS 10 team as a reporter in February 2019 and is thrilled to call Roanoke her new home!