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TUNNELS

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There are 26 tunnels along the Blue Ridge Parkway, 25 in North Carolina with it’s rugged terrain and one in Virginia.

Tunnels were constructed (as opposed to cutting in to the mountain sides) to avoid excessive landscape scarring along what was to be one of America’s most scenic roads.

The construction was done in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) using primarily manual labor. Purposefully, very little machinery was used during construction to create sorely needed unskilled labor jobs during the economic downturn of the Great Depression. What they didn’t have in machinery, the CCC made up for by tunneling with truck-mounted water-cooled compressed air drills called “Jumbos”. After the initial holes were drilled, dynamite was used for blasting away the rock.

Cave-ins plagued construction and builders ultimately decided to add solid concrete linings to strengthen the interior of the tunnels. Over time, unintended benefits to the tunnel lining emerged such as the elimination of moisture entering the tunnel removing ice problems during the winter and the fact that the lighter tone of the concrete (as opposed to the dark mountain rock) made the tunnels brighter during the day and more reflective at night.

The distinctive stone masonry portals on the Parkway tunnels are generally not part of the original construction of the 1930s.

Milepost Tunnel Name Length (feet) Maximum Height Minimum Height Interesting Fact
53.1 Bluff Mountain 630 19 feet 1 inch 13 feet 7 inches tunnel-bluff-mtn
Bluff Mountain Tunnel, is the only tunnel in Virginia.
333.4 Little Switzerland 542 19 feet 8 inches 14 feet 4 inches tunnel-little-switzerland
336.4 Wildacres 330 19 feet 10 inches 13 feet 1 inch tunnel-wildacres
344.6 Twin #1 (North) 300 21 feet 16 feet tunnel-twin1
344.7 Twin #2 (South) 401 19 feet 7 inches 14 feet 7 inches tunnel-twin2
349.0 Rough Ridge 150 21 feet 6 inches 13 feet 9 inches tunnel-rough-ridge
364.4 Craggy Pinnacle 245 19 feet 9 inches 14 feet 1 inch Credit: Wayfarin' Stranger blog
365.6 Craggy Flats 400 19 feet 5 inches 14 feet 4 inch tunnel-craggy-flats
374.4 Tanbark Ridge 780 19 feet 5 inches 14 feet 1 inch Credit: Dick 'n Debbie's Travels "May 8 2013 - Blue Ridge and Chimney Rock"
397.1 Grassy Knob 770 19 feet 2 inches 13 feet 7 inches tunnel-grassy-knob
399.1 Pine Mountain 1434 19 feet 3 inches 14 feet 2 inches tunnel-pine-mtn
The Pine Mountain Tunnel is the longest on the Parkway.
400.9 Ferrin Knob #1 561 19 feet 6 inches 14 feet 2 inches Credit: VanNice Travels "Blue Ridge Parkway"
Ferrin Knob Tunnel #1 is the first and longest of the tunnels, referred to as 'triplet tunnels' because of their rapid succession with little daylight between. The name of these tunnels was derived from the local pronunciation of the word 'ferns' as 'ferrins'.
401.3 Ferrin Knob #2 421 19 feet 2 inches 14 feet tunnel-ferrin2
401.5 Ferrin Knob #3 375 19 feet 5 inches 13 feet 9 inches tunnel-ferrin3
403.0 Young Pisgah Ridge 412 19 feet 8 inches 14 feet 6 inches tunnel-young-pisgah-range
403.9 Fork Mountain 389 19 feet 2 inches 14 feet tunnel-fork-mtn
406.9 Little Pisgah 576 19 feet 5 inches 13 feet 10 inches tunnel-little-pisgah
407.4 Buck Springs 462 19 feet 2 inches 13 feet 8 inches CreditL+: k Steudel "Buck Spring Tunnel Blue Ridge Parkway"
410.1 Frying Pan 577 19 feet 9 inches 13 feet 8 inches tunnel-frying-pan
422.1 Devil's Courthouse 665 19 feet 14 feet 2 inches tunnel-devils-courthouse
The Devil's Courthouse Tunnel received the first concrete lining.
439.7 Pinnacle Ridge 813 19 feet 1 inch 13 feet 10 inches tunnel-pinnacle-ridge
458.8 Lickstone Ridge 402 18 feet 1 inch 11 feet 1 inch tunnel-lickstone-ridge
459.3 Bunches Bald 255 18 feet 4 inches 10 feet 6 inches tunnel-bunches-bald
461.2 Big Witch 348 feet 18 feet 1 inch (5.5 m) 11 feet 3 inches tunnel-big-witch
465.6 Rattlesnake Mountain 395 19 feet 6 inches 14 feet 5 inches tunnel-rattlesnake-mtn
466.3 Sherrill Cove No. 6 550 19 feet 7 inches 14 feet 4 inches tunnel-sherrill-cove
The National Park Service (NPS) also includes a page on tunnel heights on their Blue Ridge Parkway website here. They advise careful checking of the maximum heights when planning a Blue Ridge Parkway trip by motorhome.