Four parkway lodges are scattered along the length of the road at scenic spots. Peaks of Otter Lodge, north of Roanoke, Virginia, is the only accommodation open year-round. Dramatic Sharp Top, one of the road's most classically conical summits, rises just outside the rooms and restaurant. Farther south, nearer the North Carolina state line, rustic, atmospheric Rocky Knob cabins were handcrafted during the Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Doughton Park, not far south of the state line in North Carolina, is one of many places along the generally half-mile-wide parkway that bulge out to embrace larger tracts of land. Bluffs Lodge overlooks Doughton Park's high meadows, which surround deep and mysterious Basin Cove, once the site of an entire community that was wiped out in a 1916 flood. Only one deserted cabin remains, perched far below the lodge in a postage stamp-size meadow. South of Asheville, Pisgah Inn is almost a mile high, which is the perfect place to experience another forte of a parkway trip -- cool weather. Each room's porch and rocking chairs have awesome views above a dramatic drop.
The lodges have restaurants -- Peaks of Otter Lodge and Pisgah Inn have the most sophisticated -- but there are less-formal snack bars/restaurants at many other sites, including Mount Mitchell State Park in northwestern North Carolina. The state park, an easy side trip from the parkway at MP 355, includes the East's highest mountain -- 6,684 feet. In 2009, Mount Mitchell christened a new, more accessible, ramp-style view tower. In July, Grandfather Mountain, also located in the loftily named High Country area of northwest North Carolina near Boone, at MP 305, inaugurated wheelchair access to the famous Mile High Swinging Bridge that spans two peaks.
If no restaurant is nearby, picnicking is a must-have parkway experience. There are more than a dozen formal picnic areas, and a wealth of overlooks have picnic tables. Or you can just pull off along the roadside; you can park on the grass -- pick a spot that will support your car and be well away from traffic.
Car camping is another favorite way to experience the parkway, and the road's nine campgrounds -- an average of one every 43 miles -- offer 712 tent sites and 332 RV slips. At Julian Price Memorial Park, near Boone, campground loop A lies beside the parkway's largest lake. It's a "golden pond" setting to be sure.
There are commercial campgrounds just off the parkway, but nearby campgrounds run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service are enticing. Sherando Lake in Virginia, near the start of the parkway, has a beach on a spring-fed lake. Black Mountain, in North Carolina, lies below Mount Mitchell among whispering cool evergreens.
Cool can be the operative word for parkway campers. The first frost and snow have been known to dust high summits in October, so if you pull into lofty Mount Pisgah Campground or plan to pitch a tent at Mount Mitchell State Park -- the East's highest tent camping -- come prepared for New England-like cool.
This major Southern ski area and upscale, design-with-nature summit community has its own trail system, two golf courses, tennis courts, a spa, and a range of lodging options, from rooms and condos in the Mountain Inn to condos and private homes.
Peaks of Otter Lodge (MP 85.6)
This 60-room motel-style accommodation includes a full-service restaurant, lounge, and gift shop. Rooms have porches overlooking Abbott Lake with Sharp Top soaring beyond.
Rocky Knob Cabins (MP 174.1)
The cabins qualify as the parkway's most historic "parkitecture." They are cozy and comfortable (one is handicapped accessible).
Bluffs Lodge (MP 241.1)
Bluffs Lodge's simple lodge rooms adjoin a patio fireplace for cool evenings. Some rooms overlook meadows and gamboling deer. Bluffs Restaurant is walking distance.
Eseeola Lodge (MP 305.1)
This bark-shingled classic lodge is located in a National Historic District dedicated to one of the mountain's earliest cool summer havens for the wealthy. Great Thursday night seafood buffet. Guests can play the Donald Ross-designed golf course.
175 Linville Avenue, Linville, NC 28646
Grove Park Inn (MP 382.5)
Asheville's classic mountain hotel, with massive stone fireplace and Great Hall Bar, was a favorite of F. Scott Fitzgerald. It also has provided lodging for presidents, including President and Mrs. Obama last spring. There's a popular spa, and The Sunset Terrace chophouse offers a summit-studded horizon. Grovewood Gallery, perhaps Asheville's best, is adjacent to the inn.
Parkway campgrounds offer ranger programs, hiking trails, and a sanitary dump station (no RV hookups). Sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis -- except at Julian Price, Linville Falls, and Mount Pisgah, where you can reserve a site in advance ($19 versus the $16 usually charged). To reserve online, go to www.recreation.gov, or call toll-free  444-6777. Each campground has a handicapped-accessible site.
Peaks of Otter Lodge (MP 85.6)
The parkway's biggest lodge serves three meals a day, seven days a week at the Lake View restaurant from 7:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. A full menu is amplified by a Friday night seafood buffet and a breakfast and later country buffet on Sunday. Wines from Virginia and elsewhere are available.
Chateau Morrisette®, Floyd (MP 171.5)
This picturesque vineyard is a reliable place for a gourmet meal, tours, and tastings.
287 Winery Road SW
Dan'l Boone Inn, Boone (MP 280.9)
A can't-miss, High Country tradition of hearty family-style breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for more than 70 years.
130 Hardin Street
Early Girl Eatery, Asheville (MP 382.5)
An informal downtown eatery that exemplifies Asheville's organic and homegrown approach to dining on locally sourced foods.
8 Wall Street
Pisgah Inn Dining Room (MP 408.6)
The Dining Room at Pisgah Inn serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week behind big picture windows overlooking lower mountains. The menu is diverse and includes modestly priced traditional evening meals like fried chicken and meatloaf along with fancier and more costly fare complemented by a wine list.
Joey's Pancake House, Maggie Valley (MP 455.7)
Joey's is one of western North Carolina's favorite breakfast spots. Service is fast and friendly, and the restaurant has an extensive menu plus daily specials like eggs Benedict.
4309 Soco Road