My fiancé and I are Manhattanites who love journey and the outside. It is on our bucket record to go to all 63 US nationwide parks in our lifetime.

Ken and Kelsey in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The creator, proper, and her fiancé Ken on their final hike in Nice Smoky Mountains National Park.

Kelsey Neubauer and Ken Brill

We began our problem to go to all 63 US nationwide parks in 2022 with snorkeling in Biscayne National Park, situated off the coast of Miami. Since then, we have visited 5 parks in California, a subtropical lagoon within the Atlantic Ocean, and a number of other nationwide forests. 

Whereas planning a journey final fall, we realized in regards to the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is named America’s favorite drive, in keeping with the US National Parks Service.

Constructed as a Depression-era public works project, the street winds for some 469 miles through six Appalachian mountain chains. It begins in Virginia outdoors of Shenandoah National Park, goes by means of North Carolina, and ends within the Nice Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. 

We determined this might be a great path to cowl two nationwide parks, and deliberate our one-week journey for the top of September.

For seven days, we determined to price range a little over $1,000 every for all bills.

Kelsey and Ken stand in front of blue-looking mountains on their way out of Great Smoky Mountain National Park

On day six of the the journey, close to Nice Smoky Mountains National Park.

Ken Brill and Kelsey Neubauer

We budgeted about $600 for lodging, which included motels, Airbnbs, and campsites. We allotted one other $850 for transportation, together with a rental automotive, an Amtrak practice experience, and a flight dwelling.

Lastly, we put aside $400 for meals, water, and fuel, and one other $200 per particular person for miscellaneous actions. This is how we spent our price range.

On the primary day, we spent $62 every on practice tickets from New York to Washington, DC, to choose up our rental automotive.

The Gunpowder River from the Gunpowder River Bridge in Joppatowne Maryland.

Views of Gunpowder River in Joppatowne, Maryland, on the Amtrak experience from New York to Washington, DC.

Kelsey Neubauer

As an alternative of beginning the street journey from New York, we discovered it will be cheaper to take an Amtrak practice to Washington, DC, and e book a automotive rental there. Automobile leases had been costlier at rental areas in New York from what we noticed on-line, and taking a practice first would additionally save us from paying an additional day for a automotive. 

I used to be glad we took Amtrak to begin the journey. Since we left on a Thursday night, we had been each drained from work and appreciated the possibility to take a nap on the experience.

We had dinner in DC for round $50 every on the historic tavern the place John F. Kennedy proposed to Jackie Kennedy.

Woman reads menu in Martin's Tavern in DC.

Studying the menu at Martin’s Tavern in Washington, DC.

Kelsey Neubauer and Ken Brill

After arriving in DC, we grabbed dinner at Martin’s Tavern, a historic restaurant based by William Gloyd “Billy” Martin, a former MLB participant in 1933, and the place JFK proposed to Jackie in 1953.

I made a reservation weeks upfront to verify we obtained a spot in case the favored spot obtained booked up; I would been there earlier than and had a nice meal, and we thought it will be enjoyable to eat at such a traditional eatery to kick off our American street journey.

We sat close to JFK’s favourite sales space, and spent $100 whole for two meals, two drinks, and a mini apple pie for dessert.

Our car-rental pickup was the subsequent morning, so we spent $170 whole for an Airbnb in Georgetown.

An airbnb in Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

The dark-gray constructing with the purple door was the Airbnb in Georgetown.

Kelsey Neubauer and Ken Brill

We needed to be near our car-pickup location for the subsequent morning to keep away from trekking throughout the town, and booked an Airbnb close by in Georgetown. 

The Airbnb was a private room in a small home with an connected lavatory. It value $170 for the night time, and I assumed it was a nice dimension for the 2 of us. After dinner, we plotted our road-trip plans and went to sleep.

Our Mitsubishi Outlander value $343 to hire for seven days, and it turned our dwelling base for the journey.

man in green shirt driving outlander along Skyline drive in Shenandoah

The creator’s fiancé driving our automotive alongside Skyline Drive in Shenandoah

Kelsey Neubauer and Ken Brill

We’d booked our automotive rental on-line about a month earlier than, and picked it up at 9 a.m. from a Georgetown storage. We selected Finances as a result of I’ve discovered it has had essentially the most reasonably priced leases up to now.

Our automotive, a Mitsubishi Outlander, value a flat charge of $343 for seven days.

We stocked up on $120 of meals for tenting days in each nationwide parks.

Coffee and some trail mix outside the cabin we stayed in at Shenandoah National Park

Provides included espresso and path combine as snacks for the street journey.

Kelsey Neubauer and Ken Brill

We went to an REI in Fairfax, Virginia, and acquired a mixture of dehydrated meals, immediate espresso, excessive calorie snacks, water, and Gatorade that value us a whole of $120. We saved this stuff within the trunk of our automotive, to maintain our provides secure from bears. 

En path to Shenandoah National Park, we stocked up on $120 of meals to carry us over on our tenting days.

Ken outside our cabin at Shenandoah National Park

Ken outdoors the cabin at Shenandoah National Park.

Kelsey Neubauer and Ken Brill

The cabin was situated about a mile into the wilderness from a parking inlet situated on Skyline Drive, the street we had been driving alongside contained in the park. 

We parked the automotive and hiked a mile into the wilderness with all of our gear, together with our queen-sized sleeping bag and backpacks of meals. 

Ken hauled in our tenting mattress and two gallons of water, together with our camp range, a tiny gas-fueled range, and a pot to boil water, which we used to make our dehydrated meals and occasional within the morning.

The cabin had a eating space, kitchenette, wood-burning range, and two queen-sized bunk beds.

man drinking a cup of coffee in front of a cabin the has Rock Spring over the door.

Ken ingesting a cup of espresso in entrance of the cabin.

Kelsey Neubauer

As marketed, the cabin had no operating water, and solely the outside for a restroom. It wasn’t glamorous, and was extra distant than we would anticipated, however we liked the solitude of the property. 

We discovered kindling in a tin can contained in the cabin, and logs in a locked metallic trunk outdoors. We’d acquired keys and directions for the cabin by mail about a week earlier than, which advised us the place to seek out this stuff to begin a fireplace.

It was wet and chilly, and we had been nervous that we would not have sufficient dry kindling for the second night time, so we collected some twigs from across the cabin. Then, we made our dehydrated meals and saved extra meals in a bear-safe field that was supplied outdoors.

The primary morning in Shenandoah, we hiked out of the woods and drove to the customer heart the place we spent $15 every on a small lunch.

man looks at menu in Big Meadows Lodge at Shenandoah National Park

Consuming a pre-hurricane meal at Huge Meadows Lodge.

Kelsey Neubauer and Ken Brill

The following morning, we went to the Shenandoah National Park customer heart to choose up a map. A park ranger there advised us that Hurricane Ian was about to hit the park in a matter of hours and that we must always “batten down the hatches,” and keep put till the storm rolled out. 

We determined to cease shortly for lunch at Big Meadows Lodge, the one restaurant within the park. We ordered espresso, an omelet, and a sandwich, which value about $30 whole.

Most of our time in Shenandoah was spent in and across the cabin, because the climate was too dangerous for mountaineering.

woman with green baseball cap and rain jacket walks in forest kelsey Neubauer Shenandoah national park

The creator close to the cabin in Shenandoah National Park.

Kelsey Neubauer and Ken Brill

With Hurricane Ian raging on, our keep in Shenandoah was largely spent contained in the backcountry cabin. We stored heat by burning wooden within the hearth, and performed card video games, learn, and went to mattress early. 

As an alternative of mountaineering, we explored the realm round our cabin. It rained nearly the whole time, however the wind wasn’t dangerous, so we did not thoughts it and we felt secure. Dwelling in a large metropolis, it felt refreshing to breathe within the forest air.

We each agreed we slept higher within the cabin than we had at dwelling in a very long time. I believe it helped that we did not have distractions like a TV or cellphone service , and there was no gentle air pollution.


On the fourth day of our journey, we packed up camp and paid $5 every for showers at communal campground restrooms.

driving out of Shenandoah National Park

The view for most of our drive out of Shenandoah National Park was foggy.

Kelsey Neubauer and Ken Brill

After our second night time within the cabin, we packed up and hiked out to the automotive. We drove about an hour to the opposite aspect of Shenandoah National Park to bathe at a campsite known as Loft Mountain.

We paid $5 every for 10-minute showers, and $2 for one bar of cleaning soap. I wore flip flops as I used to be anticipating the showers to be dirty, however was pleasantly stunned that the amenities had been clear and gave the impression to be usually maintained. 

The bathe was a aid and felt like the very best one I would ever taken, particularly after three days within the woods throughout a hurricane. It additionally helped me really feel heat for the primary time in a few days. 

We stopped for fuel earlier than driving south in Virginia. In whole, we paid about $200 for fuel on the journey.

Blue Ridge Parkway

The view from the automotive alongside Blue Ridge Parkway.

Kelsey Neubauer and Ken Brill

After getting again on the street and filling up at a fuel station, we set out for an eight-hour drive in direction of Virginia. I assumed the views of Appalachia we noticed whereas driving had been gorgeous.

Nevertheless, we struggled to seek out a place to eat, and did not see many eating places or fast-food choices alongside the drive. Lastly, we discovered a diner close to Roanoke, Virginia, and spent $30 on espresso and lunch. 

Our second Airbnb, a cabin in Galax, Virginia, value $140 for the night time. We spent an additional $10 to do laundry and $30 on dinner.

the porch of an airbnb cabin in Galax, Virginia

A view from the porch of the tiny Airbnb cabin in Galax, Virginia.

Kelsey Neubauer and Ken Brill

To interrupt up the drive, we stopped for the night time in Galax, Virginia, a small metropolis within the southwestern a part of the state. We picked this as a cease as a result of it is dwelling to the Blue Ridge Music Center, the place we hoped to listen to some bluegrass. Sadly, we did not make it to Galax earlier than the middle closed. 

Our Airbnb was a small, rustic cabin that value $140 for the night time. We washed our garments at a native laundromat for $10, and spent one other $30 on a meal on the town. We additionally stopped by a publish workplace to mail postcards to our households.

The following day we drove by means of extra of Virginia, after which by means of all of North Carolina, spending $50 at a Entire Meals in Asheville, earlier than heading to the Nice Smoky Mountains.

a road along the mountainside, blue ridge parkway

Driving alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Kelsey Neubauer and Ken Brill

Seeing the farmland and mountain ridges, I assumed I lastly understood why my favourite musical artist, John Denver, liked the nation roads alongside the Blue Ridge Mountains a lot. 

We stopped by a Entire Meals in Asheville to choose up extra provides like water, path combine, and snacks. Regardless of selecting up simply a few objects, they ended up costing us about $50.

We made it to the Nice Smoky Mountains and spent $25 on an entry move for the automotive.

The entrance to Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

The doorway to Nice Smoky Mountains National Park.

Kelsey Neubauer and Ken Brill

The Nice Smoky Mountains had been a breathtaking sight, particularly with the fog rolling over the blue-green peaks that gave the vary its identify.

On our approach in, the solar was shining by means of the bushes. We noticed a coyote operating by, and will hear birds chirping. I could not wait to get settled and begin exploring the park.

It value $50 whole for two nights at a campground in Nice Smoky Mountains National Park.

Kelsey during a hike near our campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

On a hike close to our campground.

Ken Brill

We selected Elkmont Campground as a result of it was essentially the most centrally situated campsite that we may additionally reserve online and upfront. We camped in a small, two-person tent.

Our inflatable sleeping pad broke after the primary night time, and because it was very chilly, we stopped on the retailer in Galtinburg, Tennessee, about quarter-hour from our campground and simply outdoors the park, to seize additional blankets for the second night time. 

Over the subsequent two days, we went on a number of hikes and noticed waterfalls, a huge cave bluff, and wildlife like a small black bear climbing a tree, which left me in awe.

After leaving the Nice Smoky Mountains, we drove east again to Asheville and stayed at a boutique resort with free breakfast for $100.

woman stands in front of sign that reads "the idea is to fit the parkway into the mountains as if nature has put it there."

On the Blue Ridge Parkway Customer Heart in Asheville, our final cease on the parkway.

Ken Brill

By the afternoon, we would pushed and hiked a lot that we had been exhausted. We packed up our campsite and obtained again on the Blue Ridge Parkway for the two-hour drive east to Asheville. 

In Asheville, we checked into our room at Brookstone Lodge that value $100 for the night time. We every took a sizzling bathe and a nap earlier than getting one thing to eat.

For a night time in town, we spent round $120 whole to take pleasure in North Carolina-style BBQ and a few craft beers.

Inside Louella's BBQ in Asheville, North Carolina

Inside Luella’s BBQ in Asheville, North Carolina.

Kelsey Neubauer and Ken Brill

I would been dying to strive North Carolina-style barbecue since studying Michael Pollan’s e book “Cooked.” Asheville residents advised us Luella’s BBQ was the very best barbecue spot within the metropolis, and we weren’t disillusioned.

I had pulled barbeque hen with inexperienced beans, fries, and a large lemonade whereas Ken had ribs, fries, and a beer. It was superb — I may style the flavour of the pit on the meat and thought the aspect dishes had been completely made. Dinner value us about $60 whole.

As craft-beer nerds, we knew we needed to splurge on some native brews since Asheville has the most breweries per capita amongst cities within the US.

On the advice of a pal, we went to Wicked Weed Brewing Company, which was situated in an industrial-style constructing with excessive ceilings. We tried a flight of a number of the most bitter beer I’ve ever tasted — too bitter for me, and I am somebody who loves bitter beer.

For the ultimate leg of our journey dwelling, we flew from Asheville to Newark for $159 per particular person.

Kelsey and Ken on the way back from Asheville on the plane

On the aircraft experience dwelling to New York from Asheville.

Ken Brill and Kelsey Neubauer

We dropped off our automotive rental within the morning at a Finances workplace in Asheville.

Then, we boarded a two-hour flight again to Newark, New Jersey, and took a nap on the aircraft. Since I am a United Airways card member, I used to be capable of verify our two suitcases of garments and camp gear for free, so we solely paid $159 every for a ticket.

We had been each impressed we solely spent $2,000 for an unbelievable, week-long trip.

Mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Mountains alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Kelsey Neubauer

Ken and I noticed a a part of the US that we by no means knew earlier than this journey, and we liked being surrounded by nature. It humbled us to see the vastness and fantastic thing about the nationwide parks, and seeing one another in a new gentle and new area felt like we had been falling in love once more. 

In relation to street journeys and tenting, we won’t wait to do it another time at some point.

If we did this journey once more, the one factor I would change can be to skip the backcountry cabin, and decide for a room in a lodge with extra facilities to sit down out the dangerous climate.


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