Linn Cove Viaduct

Linn Cove Viaduct

Linn Cove Viaduct, Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 304

Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway’s iconic Linn Cove Viaduct is one of those rare experiences in the eastern mountains: America’s bony shoulder out one window and seemingly limitless space out the other. However, only by stopping to examine its underside do you realize the true magnitude of the project.

Completed in 1987, the Viaduct remains one of the most elegant solutions to an environmentally formidable problem, yet designed by the hand of man. This section of roadway, which seems suspended in midair as it hugs the southern face of Grandfather Mountain, was the centerpiece of the last 7.5-mile section of the Blue Ridge Parkway to be completed.

And for good reasons.

The problem: how to design and build a roadway at an elevation of 4,100 feet without permanently disfiguring one of the best-loved landmarks of the Southern Appalachians. Ultimately, to avoid the cuts and fills associated with conventional road construction, engineers devised a way to build the 1,243-foot long S-curve from the top down. The viaduct contains 153 segments weighing almost 50 tons each. Only one segment, the southernmost, is straight. Incredibly, the only construction that occurred at ground level involved the seven massive piers that support the structure.

So sensitive were the project engineers to the structures of environmental design that the only trees cut were those directly beneath the roadway. Even the concrete was pigmented to harmonize with the natural aspect of Grandfather’s craggy face.

The approach to the Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway is half the fun. From U.S. Highway 321 in Blowing Rock, you drive south on the Parkway. A perfect photo spot is pristine Price Lake in Julian Price Memorial Park. As you continue south, the Parkway ascends past spectacular overlooks and cascading mountain streams which rush down Grandfather’s furrowed cheek. Then, at Milepost 304.6, the roadway begins a sweeping curve to the left that seems to head into space. You have arrived at the Linn Cove Viaduct.

Be sure to stop at the parking spot at the other end of the Viaduct to view the structure from below. From Beacon Heights just beyond, the 13.5-mile Tanawha Trail leads back to Price Lake, if you’re an ambitious hiker. The Linn Cove Viaduct is also approachable via the Blue Ridge Parkway from U.S. Highway 221 in Linville.

Lynn Seldon

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