The Blue Ridge Parkway stretches 469 miles from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. October, when the leaves are colorful and picturesque, is peak season for the parkway and one of the best times of year to visit the Great Smoky Mountains. But if you prefer smaller crowds, plan a trip in early to mid-summer to view the blooming rhododendrons, mountain laurel, and flaming azaleas.