Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide

10 Best Virginia Mountain Towns to Visit

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The beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains stretch approximately 550 miles, from North Georgia to southern Pennsylvania.

But the State of Virginia  is home to 300+ linear miles of mountains, which cover the western side of the state from Bristol north to Winchester.

Within the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia  you’ll find a stellar array of attractions, including Shenandoah National Park, the Shenandoah Valley, Washington & Jefferson National Forests, and our favorite Virginia State Parks . 

Many of these places can be accessed via the world-renowned Blue Ridge Parkway , which is where you’ll find access to some of the region’s best hiking trails, waterfalls , and stunning scenic overlooks. 

Other than Little Switzerland NC and Peaks of Otter VA, there are very few places to stay on the BRP. But there are an outstanding array of Virginia mountain towns along the way that are well worth visiting for a few days. 

From the Civil War history of Lexington and the WWII memorial in Bedford to the music history of Bristol and the burgeoning metropolis of Roanoke, each of the mountain towns in Virginia has its own unique offerings. 

Read on for an in-depth guide to our favorite Virginia mountain towns in my native state, including some history of each small town as well as an overview of the best activities, attractions, restaurants , and more! 

READ MORE: 10 Great Romantic Getaways in Virginia for Couples

Best Virginia Mountain Towns Guide

(Arranged alphabetically)

  • Big Stone Gap
  • Charlottesville 
  • Roanoke 

READ MORE: The 20 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks in NC & VA

National D Day Memorial in Bedford VA

1. Bedford VA

Size: 6.81 sq miles • Population: 6,299 •  Official Website

One of our favorite small Virginia towns, Bedford VA has remained a “small cultural mecca” in Virginia since its founding in 1890.

Nestled between Lynchburg and Roanoke, Bedford is full of artisan crafts and Appalachian music , as well as modern industries like manufacturing, textiles, and graphic design.

Located right off the  Blue Ridge Parkway  at Milepost 86, this charming  mountain town is best known for the impressive National D-Day Memorial as well as the Elks National Home. 

For outdoor enthusiasts, Peaks of Otter Lodge and Sharp Top Mountain are just 11 miles away, and Smith Mountain Lake State Park is 22 miles to the south. 

For accommodations in Bedford VA, check out the 2-bedroom, pet-friendly Restored 1840s Downtown Loft , a   1-bedroom Guest house for rent , or the 2-bedroom Bedford Town Cottage .

READ MORE: The 10 Most Festive Christmas Towns in Virginia to Visit

Best Virginia small towns - southwest Virginia museum, big stone gap

2. Big Stone Gap VA

Size: 4.94 sq miles • Population: 5,700 •  Official Website

One of the best small mountain towns in SWVA, Big Stone Gap is just 11 miles south of Norton, another great little   Blue Ridge mountain town  you’ll find on our list.   

Located in coal country, this Virginia small town packs a mighty punch with its cozy hometown feel and vibrant array of activities , attractions, and accommodations.

Founded in 1856, Big Stone Gap is part of Main Street America, a national network of 1,200+ towns committed to creating stronger communities through preservation and the expansion of high-quality development.

Big Stone Gap is full of historic sites , including the June Tolliver House, John Fox Jr. Museum , and the Southwest Virginia Museum.

Nature lovers will want to get outside and take a stroll on the Greenbelt Walking & Bicycle Trail, which was voted “Best Hiking Trail in Wise County” in 2022.

Head to downtown Big Stone Gap for popular restaurants like Good Times Coal Fired Pizza & Pub  and  Curklins . You can also stay at the welcoming Carousel House Bed & Breakfast or the budget-friendly  Quality Inn & Suites . 

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in SWVA (Southwest Virginia)

Mountain towns in Virginia - Bristol VA, Bristol TN, Bristol sign

3. Bristol VA/TN

Size: 13.20 sq miles • Population: 17,219 •  Official Website

One of the best Virginia small towns, Bristol sits on the border between Virginia and Tennessee . As you’re walking down State Street, you can be in both states simultaneously, with one foot on either side of the yellow lines.

Double the states means this mountain town offers double the activities and attractions.  South Holston Lake is a beloved summer retreat with picturesque views of the Blue Ridge Mountains .

Racing fans love the Bristol Motor Speedway, which is home to annual NASCAR races and the Pinnacle Speedway In Lights (a popular  Christmas lights  display that marks the beginning of Christmas in Virginia ).

Bristol is also home to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum . It documents the 1927 Bristol Sessions, which gave country and  bluegrass icons like the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers their first big break. 

If you want to hear some live music , you can catch a show at either The Paramount Center for the Arts or The Cameo Theater.

Feeling hungry? Grab a burger and a shake at The Burger Bar, or enjoy some delicious homemade fudge from The Southern Churn.

If you want to make a weekend of it, check out the newly constructed hotels in downtown Bristol, such as   The Bristol Hotel or The Sessions Hotel .

READ MORE:  20 Ways to Celebrate Christmas in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Best Virginia towns - Jefferson bust next to bottles of wine

4. Charlottesville VA

Size: 10.3 sq miles • Population: 46,553 • Official Website

Charlottesville is widely considered one of the best Virginia towns because of its rich sense of history and culture , seamless blending the past, present, and future.

Visitors can learn about the history of the area and its most famous inhabitants at Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello , and Highland , the former home of U.S. President James Monroe.

Charlottesville is also home to The University of Virginia , a beautiful campus with esteemed educational quality that was founded by Jefferson back in 1819.

This is a great area to visit some of the best Virginia wineries , including the Eastwood Farm & Winery, Gabriele Rausse Winery, and Wineworks Extended. 

There are some top-notch Charlottesville restaurants to choose from, including the Ivy Inn (American), Maya (Southern), Orzo Kitchen & Bar (Italian), and Petit Pois (French).

If you want to spend a night or a weekend in town, check out the historic 200 South Street Inn (B&B) , the 5-star Keswick Hall , or the Metta Gem 2-bdrm Bungalow.

READ MORE: Apple Picking in Virginia: The 15 Best VA Apple Orchards to Visit

Virginia Creeper Trail in Damascus VA, photo via Virginia.org

5. Damascus VA

Size: 0.8 sq miles • Population: 947 • Official Website

The Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail is located less than 40 miles north of  Boone NC , winding from Abingdon VA through Damascus VA and moving southeast. 

This 35-mile trail’s highest point is right along the VA- NC state border, but its highlight is the 17-mile downhill slope along the picturesque Whitetop Laurel River.

So it’s no surprise that the  cute Virginia town of Damascus is known as “Trail Town USA.” It’s a  Blue Ridge Mountains  hotspot due in large part to the popularity of the famous trail among mountain bikers and hikers alike.

But as beautiful as the surrounding scenery may be, Downtown Damascus charms locals and tourists with its impressive array of local art galleries , boutiques, gift shops, cafes, and restaurants .

After a busy day on the trails, rest your weary bones at the 3-bedroom pet-friendly rental on the Virginia Creeper Trail  , a 1-bedroom Cozy Damacus Home , or a  pet-friendly 3-bedroom A-Frame home in the woods.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Staunton VA

Stonewall Jackson House in Lexington VA

6. Lexington VA

Size:  2.5 sq miles • Population: 7,320 • Official Website

Established in 1977, Lexington is a small Virginia town named after the American Revolution’s Battle of Lexington.

This area is full of historic attractions, including two historic colleges ( Washington & Lee University and Virginia Military Institute ), the Stonewall Jackson House, and  Oak Grove Cemetery. A horse -drawn carriage tour is a great way to see them all in a few short hours.  

But there are still plenty of other things to do in Lexington, even if you’re not a history buff. You’ll find cute coffee shops, antique stores, tasteful art galleries, and some fantastic downtown Lexington restaurants . 

Designated as one of four International Dark Sky Parks in Virginia , the  Natural Bridge State Park features the geological formation it’s named for and excellent stargazing, hiking trails, and a disc golf course.

Accommodations in downtown Lexington include the Stonegate B&B , the Brierley Hill B&B , and the restored historic Hampton Inn  right in the heart of town. 

If you visit during Parents Weekend or a big game, you may need to find availability further from the town . We recommend Steeles Tavern Manor B&B , a lovely romantic getaway just 17 miles north of town.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Lexington VA & Natural Bridge VA

Historic House in Shenandoah Heritage Village in Luray VA

7. Luray VA

Size:  4.7 sq miles • Population: 4,831 •  Official Website

Established in 1812, Luray VA has a long-standing reputation as one of the best Virginia mountain towns because it offers a mix of small town charm and proximity to Washington D .C. (93 miles east) .

Located in the Shenandoah Valley just 13 miles east of I-81, Luray’s prime location makes it one of the most popular gateways to Shenandoah National Park (9.5 miles east).

There are lots of fun things to do in Luray, from visiting Luray Caverns (the largest caverns in the eastern US) and exploring the Luray Hawksbill Greenway to kayaking the Shenandoah River and picnicking  at Lake Arrowhead . 

History buffs will enjoy interesting attractions such as the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum, Shenandoah Heritage Village, and Luray Valley Museum. 

You can also explore the 75 historic buildings that earned Luray’s Downtown Historic District recognition as a National Historic District.

If you’re planning a multi-day trip to visit Luray, accommodations options include the fabulous 5-star Hotel Laurance , the historic   Mimslyn Inn , South Court Inn B&B , or Piney Hill B&B Cottages .

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Luray VA (Gateway to Shenandoah)

Virginia small towns - Woodbooger Sanctuary - Norton VA

8. Norton VA

Size:  7.5 sq miles • Population: 3,687 • Official Website

This rural town in Southwest Virginia– the smallest incorporated city in VA– is known for its small  Appalachian Mountain town beauty and myriad outdoor recreation opportunities.

The mountain town in Virginia’s motto is “Get Outside in Norton,” because it offers many scenic locations and picturesque hiking trails , including  the High Knob Observation Tower and Flag Rock Recreation Area.

But watch out for the Woodbooger! Local  Appalachian folklore  suggests that there is a fearsome  Bigfoot -like creature lurking in the woods that surround the town.

At the Flag Rock Recreation Area, you’ll even find a statue of the beast, You can also visit The Woodbooger Restaurant in downtown Norton for tastyburgers, entrees, and desserts. 

Hotels and other accommodations in Norton are somewhat limited. But visitors may be interested in the  Super 8 by Wyndham , or a 3-bedroom Appalachian mountain home  located 1.4 miles from the center of town.

Alternatively you can drive to Wise, the closest Virginia small town, where you’ll find the 5-star Inn at Wise (just 4.1 miles from Norton).

Best Roanoke Breweries - Big Lick Brewery

9. Roanoke VA

Size:  43 sq miles • Population: 100,011 • Official Website

Established in 1740, the city of Roanoke is known as the “capital of the Blue Ridge ” because it offers astonishing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.

The most iconic Roanoke attractions include the 100-foot-tall Roanoke  Star in  Mill Mountain Park . Originally built for Christmas , it now stands  as a “symbol of the friendliness, industrial and civic progress of Roanoke.”

For fun, visit  Center in the Square in downtown Roanoke ,  which is home to the Harrison Museum of African American Culture, Kids Square, the Roanoke Pinball Museum, the Science Museum of Western Virginia, and more.

You will also find many top-notch Roanoke restaurants and breweries  in the downtown area. 

If you’re seeking outdoor recreation, you can tackle the famous McAfee Knob hike on the Appalachian Trail , or enjoy mountain biking, boating, and horseback riding in Carvins Cove Natural Reserve .

Great places to stay in Roanoke VA include the Country Inn & Suites by Radisson , The Liberty Trust , and Hilton’s Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center . For a personal touch, try Shirley’s B&B or the Black Lantern Inn B&B .

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Roanoke VA

Best mountain towns in Virginia -Picnic Shelter on South River Greenway Trail in Waynesboro VA

10. Waynesboro VA

Size: 15.4 sq miles • Population: 22,196 • Official Website

There’s an impressive array of  things to do in Waynesboro VA , with its ideal location at the crossroads of the Appalachian Trail , Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive, and the Blue Ridge Parkway .

If you’re looking for outdoor thrills, Waynesboro is a great place for fly-fishing, hiking, camping under the stars, or kayaking on the South River.

You can also visit the impressive Grand Caverns , or walk the South River Greenway Trail.

Waynesboro has a great cultural scene, including the historic Wayne Theatre and the Waynesboro Street Art Trail, as well as historic attractions like Swannanoa Palace and the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel. 

The town is also close to one of the best ski resorts in Virginia , Wintergreen Resort, which is home to the longest hill for  snow tubing in Virginia . 

After a long day on the slopes, grab a bite at delicious Waynesboro restaurants such as Heritage On Main, Green Leaf Grill, the River Burger Bar, or Stella, Bella & Lucy’s . -by Molly Frazier; lead image of Lexington VA by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

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We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the  Leave No Trace   principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

Molly Frazier

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autumn journeys

8 Places to Visit Along Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway

With an autumnal ombré and cooler temperatures, fall is prime time for journeying along this Appalachian Mountain roadway.

best places to visit blue ridge mountains virginia

By Marissa Hermanson

With its sweeping vistas and meandering nature, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic delight year-round. But fall is the most celebrated season on the Appalachian Mountain road, when the winding two-lane boulevard is a spectacle with the golden glow of leaves and cool mountain mist. And as we continue to worry about the spread of the coronavirus, a road trip with fresh air and panoramic views lends itself nicely to traveling.

best places to visit blue ridge mountains virginia

APPALACHIAN

BLUE RIDGE PKWY.

Natural Bridge State Park/

Cedar Creek Trail/

Pine Tree Overlook

Peaks of Otter Lodge/

Sharp Top Mountain/

Roanoke Star/

Mill Mountain Park

Dogtown Roadhouse/

Floyd Country Store

Chateau morrisette winery.

Rocky Knob Recreation Area

Meadows of Dan

Mabry Mill/

Poor Farmers Market

NORTH CAROLINA

best places to visit blue ridge mountains virginia

Constructed in segments from 1935 — part of Roosevelt’s New Deal — through 1987, the 469-mile parkway connects Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park to North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is our country’s longest linear park. It can take a week to drive if you want to loll and linger, making many stops along the way.

A shorter, 177-mile stretch, from the road’s starting point in Afton, Va., to Meadows of Dan, Va., can be done in three days. Well-known points of interest on this section of the drive include Mabry Mill (Milepost 176), one of the most photographed stops of the parkway, and scenic pull-offs like Pine Tree Overlook (Milepost 95.2) and Roanoke River Gorge (Milepost 114.9). But venturing off the beaten path, by grabbing a meal or exploring a lesser-known hiking trail, is part of the serendipitous charm of journeying along the old scenic motorway. Here are eight of the parkway's most notable detours:

Natural Bridge State Park

Pull off the parkway where it crosses the James River near the enclave of Big Island (Milepost 63.7) and follow U.S. 501 to State Route 130 for 16 miles along the river. The Natural Bridge, a 215-foot-tall limestone arch, was once owned by Thomas Jefferson and George Washington allegedly chiseled his initials on the rock face while surveying the bridge. Frontiersmen like Daniel Boone saw the geological formation as the gateway to the West.

To view the bridge, follow Cedar Creek Trail from the park’s visitor center about a mile. Standing at the base, it’s incredible to think that the giant gorge was carved by the gentle creek that flows beneath it. Continue past the arch to Lace Falls, the 30-foot cascade that marks the end of the trail.

Currently, shuttle service is no longer available and the park’s Monacan Indian exhibit is closed. Unvaccinated guests are required to wear face coverings inside park facilities and outside where social distancing is not possible. (6477 South Lee Highway, Natural Bridge, Va. Age 3-12, $6. Age 13 and older, $9. Parking, $5 per car at trailheads.)

Peaks of Otter Lodge

After checking in at this rustic 63-room lodge right off the parkway (Milepost 86), an early evening stroll around Abbott Lake is recommended, as enjoying a drink at the bar, eating comfort food in the dining room and then embracing the serenity of the lodge’s quiet hours from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Particularly during the pandemic, the motel-style exterior entrances to suites are a boon, while a private patio or balcony offers an al fresco perch with views of Sharp Top Mountain and beyond.

The lodge traditionally closes after Thanksgiving, but this year plans to close Nov. 7. Other pandemic protocol changes include reduced hours and a limited menu for the dining room and bar, along with the addition of a grab-and-go food section. (85554 Blue Ridge Parkway, Bedford, Va. Nightly room rates start at $160.)

Sharp Top Mountain

Follow up your stay at the lodge with a 3-mile round-trip hike on neighboring Sharp Top Mountain. Access the trailhead across the parkway from the Peaks of Otter Visitor Center, and prepare yourself for a steep ascent, where you’ll encounter several flights of stone steps on the trail. At the top of the 3,875-foot peak, you’re greeted by an old stone shelter and rewarded with 360-degree views. If a high-intensity hike isn’t your idea of fun, purchase tickets at the lodge to ride the shuttle, which will drop you 1,500 feet from the top. (Milepost 86, round-trip shuttle tickets: $12 for adults and $6 for ages 2 to 12. One way: $10 for adults and $5 for ages 2 to 12.)

Roanoke Star

Exit the parkway at Mill Mountain Park (Milepost 120) and drive three miles to see the Roanoke Star, an 88.5-foot Christmas decoration erected in the 1940s. After the city of Roanoke fell in love with it, the star was never taken down and is illuminated every evening.

Gather at the star’s overlook for a photo op and take in views of downtown Roanoke. The 568-acre Mill Mountain Park is also home to a zoo, a children’s discovery center with nature programs and exhibits, and miles of hiking trails; so, if you’re traveling with children, plan to explore. (2198 Mill Mountain Spur, Roanoke, Va.)

A few hundred yards off the parkway in the town of Meadows of Dan (Milepost 177.7), fuel up your car and grab lunch at this old-fashioned country store that serves home cooking like sausage-and-chicken biscuits ($2.65), barbecue sandwiches ($5.50) and potato salad made with mountain-grown spuds (starting at $3.25). Outside, the open-air market carries locally grown produce, and this time of year you’ll find cabbage, apples and potatoes.

Work up an appetite by spending the morning traversing woods and meadows on the Rock Castle Gorge Trail at Rocky Knob Recreation Area (Milepost 167). Then you can enjoy sandwiches on the store’s covered porch, joined by the owner’s friendly cats. (2616 Jeb Stuart Highway, Meadows of Dan, Va.)

If you have time to explore this neck of the woods, also visit Mabry Mill (Milepost 176) for an obligatory photo op, and then head five miles down the parkway to the winery (Milepost 171.5) for mountain views and a taste of Virginia terroir with a mix of red and white varietals. While the winery’s restaurant is closed and traditional tastings are on pause, you can purchase a flight ($10) or bottle ($8 to $26) on the crush pad and grab lunch from the hut. (291 Winery Road Southwest, Floyd, Va.)

Dogtown Roadhouse

With FloydFest , an annual summer music festival in July, the laid-back mountain town of Floyd is on the map as a music destination. Visit this honky-tonk six miles off the parkway (Milepost 165) for performances on weekend evenings, when you can listen to regional acts playing blues, funk, and Americana and jam bands. Hungry? The pandemic has forced the Roadhouse to slightly scale back hours and its menu, but you can still pair a Virginia craft beer with “The Appalachian” pizza ($15), which in lieu of marinara sauce uses apple butter made by the local volunteer fire department, and is topped with sausage, caramelized onion, aged white Cheddar and goat cheese. (302 South Locust Street, Floyd, Va. Tickets range from $8 to $30.)

For more music, just a block from the pizza parlor is the Floyd Country Store, which hosts its Friday Night Jamborees. The weekly old-time and bluegrass music sessions, with flatfoot dancing, are lively outside gatherings. (206 South Locust Street, Floyd, Va. Tickets are $12 for reserved seating, $8 for adults, $5 for children age 7-12, free for children 6 and younger)

Note: Be sure to call ahead to any destination, as operating hours or services may have changed because of the coronavirus. And at many facilities along the Blue Ridge Parkway, including those run by the National Park Service, masks are mandatory indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status.

Follow New York Times Travel on Instagram , Twitter and Facebook . And sign up for our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter to receive expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Dreaming up a future getaway or just armchair traveling? Check out our 52 Places list for 2021 .

Exploring the Outdoors, One Step at a Time

Hiking is a great way to immerse yourself in nature and tune out the chaos of city life. the tips below will help you get ready before you hit the trail..

Hiking offers a host of mental and physical benefits. If you’re new to it, here’s how to get started .

Make sure you have the right gear . Wirecutter has recommendations for anything you might need — from hydration packs  to trekking poles . And remember to try on hiking boots  at the right time of the day .

These clever apps and devices  will help you to find your way, triage an injury and generally stay out of trouble on the trail.

Planning to venture out for a nighttime  hike ? Opt for wide, easy-to-navigate paths.

Experts say failing to alert family or friends of your plans is one of the biggest mistakes hikers make. Here are some more safety tips .

It can be easy to get lost in thought while hiking. With these simple practices  you can take a more mindful approach to your nature walks.

best places to visit blue ridge mountains virginia

15 Places You Must Visit on the Blue Ridge Parkway

  • By Jason Barnette
  • April 11, 2019

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Affiliate Disclosure here .

The 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most beautiful drives in America. It also happens to be my favorite drive in the country. But with hundreds of scenic overlooks, miles of hiking trails, and dozens of attractions, what should you be sure to see? These are the 15 places you must visit on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s a good start.

READ MORE: Complete List of All 423 National Park Service Units by State + Social Media and Website Links

A large log home with brick chimney and covered front porch at Humpback Rocks Visitor Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

Humpback Rocks Visitor Center at Milepost 5.8

Just a few miles from the Northern Entrance to the Parkway in Waynesboro, the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center is a great start to your journey. The small visitor center has a nice gift shop and information desk where you can collect your National Park Passport Stamp, pick up a map to the Parkway, and get some information.

The Outdoor Farm Museum is beside the visitor center along a short, paved trail. The exhibit includes a very nice log home to tour and a few examples of farm life in the Appalachian Mountains.

At the Humpback Gap Overlook at Milepost 6 you can access the Humpback Rocks Trail. The 7.8-mile roundtrip hike includes Humpback Rocks, Humpback Mountain, and the Humpback Rocks Picnic Area. A popular day hike is the 2-mile roundtrip hike to Humpback Rock that includes a strenuous 700’ climb to a breathtaking view.

READ MORE: Where to Find the Visitor Centers on the Blue Ridge Parkway

A long pedestrian bridge crossing the James River on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

James River Visitor Center at Milepost 63.7

The next visitor center on the Parkway also happens to be another cool place to visit and stretch your legs. At just 650 feet above sea level the bridge crossing the James River is the lowest point on the entire Blue Ridge Parkway. The small visitor center has restrooms and information desk open during normal business hours.

There are three trails to hike at the James River Visitor Center. The Trail of Trees Trail is an easy 0.4-mile loop trail from the visitor center. The 0.4-mile Canal Lock Trail includes a rather cool walk along a pedestrian path beneath the highway bridge over the James River. On the other side of the river the trail leads to the restored Battery Creek Lock.

The final hiking trail is more strenuous but also more exciting. The 7-mile roundtrip Otter Creek Trail ascends from the visitor center to Otter Lake and then along Otter Creek to the campground. The best hiking option is just a 1.5-mile roundtrip hike from the visitor center to the end of Otter Lake where you’ll find a nice waterfall at the dam.

Clouds obscure the view beyond a field of blooming spring flowers at Apple Orchard Mountain Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

Apple Orchard Mountain at Milepost 76.5

At 3,950 feet above sea level the Apple Orchard Mountain Overlook is the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. This is ironic considering that just lowest point on the Parkway is just 13 miles north at the James River Visitor Center.

Admittedly there isn’t much to do at the Apple Orchard Mountain Overlook other than read the info on a large board and admire the view across the landscape. The summit of Apple Orchard Mountain is the property of a US Navy radar station, although it is possible to hike there via the Appalachian Trail. You can park at the Sunset Field Overlook at Milepost 78.4 to access the Appalachian Trail for the hike.

READ MORE: Road Trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Sharp Top Mountain rises quickly in the distance beyond Abbott Lake at the Peaks of Otter on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

Peaks of Otter at Milepost 86

There is so much to do at the Peaks of Otter it’s no wonder it is one of the most popular Blue Ridge Parkway destinations in Virginia.

The Peaks of Otter Lodge is a wonderful place to spend a night or two. The lodge is located on the edge of Abbott Lake and features a grand view of Sharp Top Mountain. The lodge includes 63 rooms all with a view of the lake.

The Lake View Restaurant is a popular dining destination for locals and guests alike. The full service restaurant features delicious meals throughout the day with stunning views of the lake and mountain.

The Peaks of Otter Campground is located on the opposite side of the lake from the lodge. The campground has 141 sites with 53 of them designed for RVs and campers. A large picnic area nearby also gives you place to enjoy a quick meal.

There are several trails to enjoy at the Peaks of Otter. The easiest is the 1-mile Abbott Lake Loop Trail that provides amazing views around the lake. The 1.8-mile Johnson Farm Loop Trail takes visitors to the historic Johnson Farm to see what life on a farm was like in the late 1800’s. The 3.3-mile Harkening Hill Trail is a moderately strenuous hike across a ridge to a beautiful viewing area at Balance Rock. The 1.5-mile Sharp Top Trail is a strenuous route that challenges even the best of hikers as it ascends the side of Sharp Top Mountain to a stunning 360-degree overlook at the summit. Adventurous hikers can also tackle the 4.4-mile Flat Top Trail as it winds through a beautiful area back to the Fallingwater Cascades Parking Area.

Just a quarter mile down the Parkway from the lodge is the Peaks of Otter Visitor Center. This small building has lots of information about destinations on the Parkway and restrooms for those needing a quick pit stop. The gift shop sells books, clothing, and souvenirs.

A two-story log home in the settlement village at Virginia's Explore Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Roanoke, Virginia

Virginia’s Explore Park at Milepost 115

Although not owned or operated by the National Park Service, I have found Virginia’s Explore Park in Roanoke to be an amazing destination to visit on any trip down the Parkway.

At the heart of Explore Park is an official Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center. This visitor center has a 3D map of the Parkway that I always spend a few minutes admiring like a school kid. The visitor center also has a very nice gift shop and information desk for both the Parkway and surrounding area of Roanoke.

Explore Park offers a growing list of outdoor recreation options like horseback riding, mountain biking, kayaking, and camping. One of my favorite things to do is some hiking. The 0.17-mile Journeys End Trail leads to a hidden frontier settlement with over a dozen log homes, buildings, and a grist mill.

One of the coolest additions to the park in the last couple of years has been the pod cabins, yurts, and glamping tents. Along with primitive tent sites and RV sites there are plenty of ways to spend a night at Explore Park.

The spinning wheel at the grist mill at Mabry Mill on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

Mabry Mill at Milepost 176.1

The Mabry Mill is perhaps the most iconic destination on the entire Blue Ridge Parkway. Within site of the parkway as you drive past it is a popular place on weekends during the peak of fall colors. The large parking area is often full but fortunately there is an overflow just behind the restaurant.

Mabry Mill is so much more than just the mill and pond, though. A short trail leads up a set of stairs and across the aqueduct that feeds water to the wheel. It then winds through and around several smaller buildings, an old wagon, and past a still in the forest. Sometimes on autumn weekends the mill will be open so you can peak inside.

The gift shop at the main parking lot has just about anything you could want that features the iconic mill: postcards, photos, clothing, mugs, calendars, and so much more.

The Mabry Mill Restaurant is open Monday-Thursday 7:30a.m.-5p.m. and Friday-Sunday 7:30a.m.-6p.m. Stop in for some wonderful country cooking in a comfortable atmosphere. The wait can get a little long during the peak foliage but it’s worth the wait.

READ MORE: Visiting the Iconic Mabry Mill on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Large museum with lots of exhibits at the Blue Ridge Music Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

Blue Ridge Music Center at Milepost 213

Located near Galax, Virginia, the Blue Ridge Music Center is a part of the music heritage-oriented Crooked Road. The visitor center includes a very nice museum exploring that heritage of the surrounding area.

The biggest attraction to the Blue Ridge Music Center is the outdoor concert venue. Throughout much of the year (excluding the winter months) Saturday evenings are filled with music from bands playing all night long.

The brilliant white Parkway Craft Center at Moses H. Cone Memorial Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

Moses H. Cone Memorial Park at Milepost 294

This park has so much more to offer than you would know at first glance. The biggest attraction is the Parkway Craft Center located at Milepost 294. The craft center is located inside the historic Flat Top Manor, also known as The Cone Manor after the builder. On weekends a guided tour is often given of the upper floor by park rangers. The gift shop features the artwork of local artisans.

From the front porch of the manor you can see across the property to Bass Lake. Trails wind across the property, around the lake, and summit Rich Mountain behind the manor house. A lot of these trails also allow horseback riding with stables nearby.

The 5.2-mile roundtrip hike to Rich Mountain is a strenuous adventure with a pretty nice view from the top. The longer 6.8-mile roundtrip hike to Flat Top Tower is a bit more strenuous but is one of the most popular hikes in the area.

An easy hike is the 0.8-mile Bass Lake Loop Trail. Visitors can walk down a connecting 2.5-mile trail from the Parkway Craft Center or drive down to a parking area beside the lake.

The curve of the Linn Cove Viaduct hangs out over the landscape on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

Linn Cove Viaduct at Milepost 304

The curving bridge hanging off the side of a mountain is one of the most iconic views of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The viaduct is more than just a unique, curvy bridge, though. The visitor center has a nice gift shop and small museum with a video and scale model showing the construction of the bridge. There are restrooms as well.

But one of the neatest things about this stop is the Tanawha Trail. At the far end of the parking lot a trail leads underneath viaduct before zigzagging to an elevation above the bridge. The trail connects Julian Price Memorial Park with the Stack Rock Overlook for an exciting hike, but the portion under the viaduct is only about two miles roundtrip.

The towering Linville Falls spills over the edge into the ravine below on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

Linville Falls at Milepost 316

Linville Falls is one of my favorite places to visit on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This spectacular waterfall has several ways to enjoy a day hike and there is even a hidden waterfall most don’t know about.

The small visitor center has an equally small gift shop. There are restrooms available at the trailhead before you head out. Visitors can hike the 4-mile roundtrip Linville Falls Trail to three different overlooks for views of the waterfall. For a little more adventure the strenuous 2.4-mile roundtrip Plunge Basin Trail leads to the bottom of the waterfall.

At the far end of the parking lot at the visitor center is a short 0.2-mile trail leading to the hidden Dugger’s Creek Falls, a small waterfall wedged in a narrow rocky ravine about 6’ tall.

If one day is just not enough to hike all the trails there is the Linville Falls Campground. It’s the smallest campground on the Parkway but still offers 50 tent sites and 20 RV sites. The campground is located along the river above the waterfall.

READ MORE: 5 Ways to View Linville Falls (and Duggars Creek Falls) on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Clouds linger over the mountains at Mt. Mitchell on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

Mt. Mitchell State Park at Milepost 355.4

At 6,684 feet above sea level Mt. Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi River. It’s part of a chain of mountains called the Southern Sixers , peaks above 6,000’ elevation in the southern Appalachian Mountains.

Mt. Mitchell State Park is built around the summit of the mountain. It is the only state park exclusively accessible via the Blue Ridge Parkway. The end of the road at the top includes a visitor center, gift shop, museum, restrooms, and a concession stand.

The view from the parking lot is pretty awesome but if you want to reach the summit you’ll have to take a little hike. The 0.3-mile roundtrip trail to the summit is a little steep but it’s paved all the way. At the top is a large round observation deck with uninterrupted views in all directions.

The state park also includes a restaurant with a view of the mountain summit through large picture windows. The food is pretty good, but I have to admit I’ve only tried it once. The meat loaf and fried apples were amazing.

There is a small campground with just 9 tent sites, but no room for RVs. There are also plenty of backcountry campsites on the surrounding trails. One of those trails is the Black Mountain Crest Trail. This trail follows the crest of the mountain range so it’s a pretty easy hike.

View of local mountains and the trailing road in the distance at Craggy Pinnacle on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

Craggy Gardens at Milepost 364.4

Craggy Gardens is one of the most popular destinations from Asheville and is a beautiful place for a hike almost year-round. Come in the late spring or early summer to catch the rhododendron in full bloom across the mountain peaks of the gardens.

Park at Craggy Pinnacle and enjoy a moderate hike to the summit for a breathtaking views in all directions. If you’re not up for the hike you can always park at the visitor center for a pretty good view into a valley. The visitor center has a small gift shop and restrooms beneath (these restrooms are not handicap accessible).

A final way to enjoy Craggy Gardens is to take the easy hike up to Craggy Knob. It only takes about 15-20 minutes to reach the bald mountain top where you can look back and see Craggy Pinnacle and Craggy Dome in the distance.

READ MORE: 3 Ways to Explore Craggy Gardens on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Warm sunset view across the mountain landscape from the Mount Pisgah Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

Mount Pisgah at Milepost 408.6

Mount Pisgah is one of the most beautiful and active areas of the Blue Ridge Parkway to explore. The lodge, campground, restaurant, and scenic overlooks combine for a chance to see and do it all with a few nights’ stay. The high elevation of around 5,000′ means the fall colors will arrive early here so be prepared.

The Pisgah Inn was built in 1964 but the building has withstood the test of time, and elements, and remains a gorgeous place to spend some time. The lack of air conditioning in the rooms is a testament to the fact it rarely gets hot at this elevation even in the middle of summer. All of the rooms include a private porch or balcony with a secluded view of the gorgeous mountain landscapes.

The inn includes a dining room that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day of the week during the open season. Open to guests and visitors alike the dining room offers a stunning view to go along with a great meal.

Located right beside the Parkway is the Gift Shop and Country Store. This store has staples like food, snacks, drinks, and ice as well as locally made arts & crafts.

The campground is across the Parkway from the inn and includes 70 tent sites and 67 RV sites. It’s the highest campground on the entire Parkway and offers some of the most breathtaking views and seclusion. Parts of the campground can be reserved online but most of it is first come, first served.

A nearby picnic area gives you a place to spread out a blanket on those warm autumn days and enjoy a meal outside. Almost across the Parkway at Milepost 407.6 is the entrance to the Mount Pisgah Overlook and Buck Springs Lodge Overlook. The Mount Pisgah Overlook is atop a tunnel on the Parkway and includes a trail leading to the summit of the mountain. The Buck Springs Lodge overlook faces the opposite direction and includes a short half-mile trail to the former site of a hunting retreat for Vanderbilt.

The sign marking the highest elevation at Richland Balsam on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

Richland Balsam Overlook at Milepost 431.4

At 6,053′ above sea level the Richland Balsam Overlook is the highest point on the entire Blue Ridge Parkway. A lone sign in a large parking area marks the significance and offers a chance for a selfie. But the view here won’t be the best during the fall colors for one simple reason: there aren’t many deciduous trees at this elevation. Most of the trees are evergreens so at least you’ll have that nice vibrant green contrasting the starkness of autumn.

The parking area has a fairly nice view, but it’s limited by the growth of trees at the edge of the overlook. Nearby Cowee Mountain Overlook actually has a much better view (and it’s my favorite overlook on the Parkway).

Adventurous hikers can take the 1.5-mile loop trail to the summit of Richland Balsam. The very top of the mountain stands at 6,410′ so it’s a steep climb, but then you get to say you’ve been higher than almost everyone else on the Parkway.

A cool sunset view from Waterrock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

Waterrock Knob at Milepost 451.2

Waterrock Knob has beautiful views in all directions along with a short hiking trail and a visitor center. It’s definitely a great place to visit while the fall colors are peaking and works any time of day. Come early for a stunning sunrise or stay late for a sunset, either way you’ll be amazed.

The visitor center will have someone to answer questions and a small gift shop with souvenirs and clothing. The restroom facilities are pretty nice considering how remote this overlook is on the Parkway.

The parking area has great views in all directions. It’s a wide parking area with a grassy area in the middle and picnic tables around the edge. During the peak of fall colors the parking area will fill up early with locals who come up just to see the stunning colors fade across the sky.

The Waterrock Knob Trail is a 1.2-mile roundtrip hike to the summit of the mountain. It’s a steep climb of just over 400′ in elevation but the views are worth the effort. The first 1/4-mile of the trail is paved leading to a small overlook just above the parking area. The very top has a stunning view of the local landscape, but it’s not an uninterrupted view.

Jason Barnette

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Hi Jason, We will have one day to visit BRP, what will be your recommendation for us to spend the time?(@? We are staying at a cabin located in Tryon.

Mariluz, it would be a little difficult to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway from Tryon because of the location. It’ll take about 45 minutes just to reach the Parkway in Asheville, and longer to get “home” that evening. But if you really want to explore it, begin at the NC Arboretum in Asheville and head south on the Parkway. You can visit Mount Pisgah and the Pink Beds Overlook. You could exit at US Highway 276 and drive into Brevard. Along the way, stop to see Sliding Rock, Looking Glass Falls, and go for a walk at the Cradle of Forestry in America. Although this is not a Parkway experience, you could drive through DuPont State Forest on the way back to Tryon – it’s home to about a dozen stunning waterfalls, some of them an easy hike to see.

Nice photography and Thank you so much for the info

Thank you so much for this. I am planning to leave Vermont next week and the BRP was on my list of must do’s. I now have a break down of 15 must see by milepost . So excited. Are there good places to disburse camp along the way or nearby when stopping for the night? I am heading to warmer climates and road tripping this winter so any other road trips you might recommend?

First, thank you for the kind words Maggie. Next, those are some big questions! Disbursed camping is not allowed on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and after November 1 all the campgrounds have closed for the season. The only off-Parkway places for disbursed camping are around Brevard in Pisgah National Forest. If you’re “heading south for the winter,” I recommend road tripping along the Natchez Trace Parkway and Florida 30A. I’m in the process of writing about both of those!

Hey where would you recommend as the best part of the Blue Ridge Parkway to visit this upcoming weekend October 23, 2021 to see the Is prettiest fall colors. And also could you recommend a very nice place to stay for 2 on a tight budget on a quick weekend get away? Thank you so very much!

Melissa, fall colors are notoriously unpredictable. However, the Blue Ridge Parkway between Blowing Rock and Cherokee goes through a LOT of elevation changes. If the higher elevations are past peak color, just keep driving to a lower elevation! As for place to stay, that will be very difficult. Even shoestring budget places up their rates on the weekends this time of year to take advantage of the leaf peepers. There are a LOT of budget hotels in Asheville around Tunnel Road, and west of the city along I-40. Hendersonville would be a good place to spend the night, but it’s a good 45 minutes from the Parkway with local traffic.

Thank you so much for the info!!

You’re very welcome, Melissa! I don’t know if you can tell, but the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of my FAVORITE writing subjects.

Hello Jason, I just happen upon your article about the BRP and I loved reading all about the different places to stop and explore. My husband I were discussing driving the parkway but I am not sure where to stay, my husband is very picking when it comes to places we stay at. So are there any new or nicer places along the way you would suggest I can look up and maybe make reservations at? We are trying to find places that we haven’t gone to yet and will hopefully not be so crowed seeing as how its a scenic drive. I would appreciate any information you could give me and Thank you in advance !!!!

Jeanne, it’s interesting you ask this question. It is one of the most frequent questions people ask me, so I have been working on an epic lodging guide to the BRP. However, it’s not complete yet. So here is what I’ll tell you: there are certain destinations along the Parkway that have very nice hotels. Waynesboro, VA; Roanoke, VA; Galax, VA along I-77; Boone, NC and Blowing Rock, NC; Asheville, NC in Biltmore Village (not the estate) and Airport Road. If you have specific travel dates and destinations you want to spend the night, drop me an email and I’ll find something specific for you!

my wife and I are from Colorado and looking at visiting in october. How many day s and nights should we plan to drive the whole parkway? Can you give us some names of places to stay ? We want to take our time and allow at least 4 nights. Do you advise staying anywhere of the places on the Parkway. Any favorite places not to miss. Any information you can give us would be helpful. If you need any information on Colorado please ask since I have traveled virtually the whole state Tom Schultz [email protected]

Hi Jason your article is very informative My husband and I are planning to drive the BRP very soon how many days we need to see all those mileposts areas you mentioned . Thank you …..mercy

The Blue Ridge Parkway is just 469 miles long and with the average speed limit you can drive it end-to-end in just 15 hours. With that being said, I recommend a minimum of three days to really enjoy it. Both of the times I drove the entire Parkway in one go, I spent six days.

I live in va. just off the B.R.P. I have always loved traveling it, although I’ve never traveled the whole length. It’s on the plan board for my son and I to spend a few weeks traveling it from end to end in a few years. I plan to read your blog that describes the whole parkway. Thank you for your beautiful pictures and your informative article! Happy traveling!

You are very welcome! Thanks for reading the article. The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of my favorite subjects to write about. I hope you and your son have an incredible time when you get around to exploring the entire Parkway.

Great info and pics! Best stops for coffee along the parkway?

THAT is a good question – and I don’t have a good answer! I have always been so eager to see sunrise and sunset at all the scenic overlooks that I have always just made my own coffee haha. But I tell you what – I think this is an excellent theme for my next road trip on the Parkway. When I do that trip, I’ll email you to let you know!

I have dreamed to travel the parkway for several years now, so after reading this article and seeing the photos, I finally plan to make this happen this year. Thank you for the detailed descriptions and inspiration.

You are very welcome! I have also written a full road trip itinerary for the Blue Ridge Parkway. That might help you better plan a trip.

Where can I find the full road trip itinerary for the Blue Ridge Parkway?

Lee, here’s the link – https://www.roadtripsandcoffee.com/road-trip-blue-ridge-parkway/

Thank you for the info. I really enjoyed the pictures.

Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed them!

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Blue Ridge Mountains

The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia are one of the most beautiful and iconic parts of the American landscape.

The mountains are home to the Blue Ridge Parkway , known as America's Favorite Drive, and a portion of the Appalachian Trail , one of the most visited footpaths in the world.

Learn more about these unique aspects of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

When staying in the Roanoke Valley, your trip to Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains can include an exciting mix of things to do , first-class lodging , delicious cuisine , rich history , and charming Southern hospitality.

Imagine spending a day in the mountains driving along the Parkway , sampling wine from a local vineyard , hiking on a scenic trail , having a romantic dinner on a patio overlooking the valley, and listening to the symphony perform in a beautiful performance hall.

A few of the best hiking trails include:

  • Dragon's Tooth
  • Hay Rock/Tinker Ridge
  • McAfee Knob
  • Roaring Run Falls
  • Sharp Top Mountain

Imagine yourself on the summit of Sharp Top Mountain at the Peaks of Otter  or sitting on the iconic ledge of McAfee Knob on Catawba Mountain .

Native Americans lived at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains before colonists began settling in the area in the early 1700s. Over the past three centuries, the Roanoke Valley in the heart of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains has emerged as the economic and cultural hub of Western Virginia.

Learn More:  History of the Blue Ridge Mountains >

Blue Ridge Mountain Flowers

The Blue Ridge Mountains are home to over 130 species of trees and 1,600 plant species that serve as a vital part of the local ecosystem. They also serve as part of the reason Virginia's Blue Ridge is known for its stunning natural beauty.

Learn More: Flowers in Virginia's Blue Ridge >

The fall foliage of the Blue Ridge Mountains is one of the most remarkable sites in the world. As the leaves change colors every autumn, the region attracts millions of visitors from around the world who take advantage of the opportunity to see the mountains transform with fall color.

Peak fall-foliage for the region typically occurs between mid-October through early-November.

Learn More: Fall Colors in Virginia's Blue Ridge >

The Blue Ridge Parkway winds through the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains and offers the perfect opportunity to experience the wonder of this scenic landscape.

Constructed in 1935 as part of the New Deal to put Americans back to work after the Great Depression, the Blue Ridge Parkway connects the Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park while passing through 469 miles of mountainous terrain.

There are 47 National Heritage Areas along the Parkway as well as 369 miles of hiking trails and 382 paved scenic overlooks.

The mountains also provide the 5,700 feet of elevation range along this breathtaking route.

Learn More: Exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway >

Getting to Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains

Map showing Roanoke's proximity to surrounding states

In addition to the Parkway, Interstate 81, U.S. 460 and U.S. 220 all make their way through Virginia's Blue Ridge.

The region also offers a fantastic regional airport that provides easy accessibility to many of the things to do and see in Virginia's Blue Ridge.

The Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport provides direct flights to eight international airports through 25 daily flights to hubs with American Airlines, Delta, United Airlines and Allegiant Air. With one-stop service to 78 international cities and 415 domestic destinations, Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains are easy to reach from anywhere in the world.

You can also visit Virginia's Blue Ridge via passenger train on the Amtrak Northeast Regional line. The Amtrak platform is located in Downtown Roanoke and connects to the region to major metropolitan areas in the Northeast, including Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York, and Boston.

Learn More: Transportation to Virginia's Blue Ridge >

About Virginia's Blue Ridge 

Because of its location and elevation in the mountains, the Roanoke Valley in Virginia's Blue Ridge offers a mild climate that is comfortable year round. The average temperature is 55.8 degrees and visitors have the opportunity to enjoy all four seasons, including the unbelievably beautiful colors of our fall foliage.

With a population of over 300,000 people, Virginia's Blue Ridge is a vibrant destination with world-class amenities.

Learn More: About Virginia's Blue Ridge >

Come discover what it means to experience a metro mountain adventure!

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Explore These Virginia Towns Along the Blue Ridge Parkway This Fall

Visit these three mountain towns along the Blue Ridge Parkway for Instagram-worthy autumn foliage.

Grace is a former Associate Homes Editor for Southern Living. She covered a variety of topics for print and digital, from design and flower arranging to cottage gardens and pets. Before moving to the Homes team, she joined Southern Living as a copy editor. Off the clock, find her strolling through neighborhoods around the South to admire the houses and snapping photos of colorful front doors.

best places to visit blue ridge mountains virginia

Hot Springs, Virginia

Lexington, virginia, roanoke, virginia, highlights from every town.

As crisp autumn air starts settling in on late-September afternoons, leaf peepers begin hitting Virginia's stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway . Cloudless skies set an ethereal backdrop for clusters of crimson, burnt orange, and golden leaves lining the curvy two-lane highway, a bright runway for the smoky blue mountains peeking over the horizon.

Carloads of tourists embark on the scenic drive every fall to take in Virginia's striking foliage . Escape the crowds, and pull off the parkway to explore a few mountain towns with front-row seats to the seasonal show.

Some of Virginia's best stops include Hot Springs, with the historic Omni Homestead Resort surrounded by the Allegheny Mountains; Lexington, a charming college town in the Shenandoah Valley ; and Roanoke, a buzzy city for both food and outdoor enthusiasts. These three destinations are easy drives (less than 65 miles apart) from each other. Set your own pace for a journey through the commonwealth—spending a long weekend in one spot or planning a road trip to make stops in all three places.

Where to Stay

Make Hot Springs your destination for a relaxing long-weekend retreat. This tiny town, tucked away in the Allegheny Mountains, is home to the 255-year-old Omni Homestead Resort —the oldest in the country (it even predates the United States)—founded in 1766, a decade before the Declaration of Independence was signed. The sweeping Omni Homestead Resort offers accommodations with two centuries' worth of stories. Mountains ablaze in orange and yellow surround this sprawling redbrick resort, which actress Elizabeth Taylor once called the "Versailles of America."

Be a Part of History

Captain Thomas Bullitt opened what started as a rustic lodge to accommodate the travelers who had heard of the area's hot springs, said to have therapeutic powers. Since its opening, many U.S. Presidents have stayed at this hotel. They have portraits that line the wall of the Homestead Lobby Bar. Drive along the winding roads, and you will immediately understand why this area is renowned as remarkable.

What to Do in Hot Springs

Enjoy a stay in this historic resort, steeped in Southern hospitality. Visit the lobby each day around 3 p.m. to enjoy the Southern Social Hour, when guests can snack on sweet breads and sip tea as a pianist plays ragtime tunes on a Steinway. History buffs will enjoy the daily tour taking guests back in time to The Homestead's beginning, telling tales about the resort's historical evolution and leading groups through such preserved spaces as an opulent 1920s ballroom.

Spend the rest of your time outdoors admiring waterfalls throughout Bath County. Sign up for a spot on a Homestead-led hike on the Cascades Trail. A naturalist will guide you on a scenic walk that passes a series of waterfalls hidden in the Allegheny Mountains. Or set out on your own to explore the area. Head south on U.S. 220, and drive about 12 miles until you reach Falling Spring Falls . This 80-foot beauty is one of the most photographed sights in the state. Pack a picnic, and pick a spot at the overlook to take it all in.

Learn About Lexington

Establish laid-back Lexington as your base for taking in all the natural wonders of the Shenandoah Valley. This town, home to Washington & Lee University and Virginia Military Institute, is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains with easy access to lesser-known but stunning drives through Rockbridge County. Veer off the Blue Ridge Parkway (and escape the seasonal crowds) to cruise through the picturesque Virginia countryside.

Get Outside

Starting in Lexington, head northeast on State 39, also known as the Appalachian Waters Scenic Byway , and meander the winding road along the Maury River. Drive about 14 miles to Goshen Pass . An almost four-mile-long mountain gorge carved out by this biodiverse river. You can view it from an overlook or park and explore the riverbank on foot.

During springtime, Goshen's white water is a popular tubing site for college students, but it's a peaceful hangout for nature lovers in the fall. Pack a fly rod to cast a line for trout, or have a seat on a large river rock to admire fall color stretching up the steep walls on either side of the Maury. On your way back into town, plan to make a pit stop at Devils Backbone Brewing Company to try a Vienna Lager or maybe another one of their popular craft brews.

For your next adventure, go south on U.S. 11 from Lexington to see the other side of Rockbridge County. This drive, running parallel to I-81 , moseys through the Blue Ridge, passing by quiet towns and expansive farmland. Cruise to Natural Bridge State Park to check out one of the South's best geological marvels. Cedar Creek created this towering 215-foot-tall limestone gorge. Make it a day trip, and take the park's hiking trails for more incredible mountain vistas.

Enjoy the Town

Don't leave without walking through Lexington's downtown district, which is home to a vibrant arts-and-food scene.

About Roanoke

As you enter downtown Roanoke, look to see the towering star atop Mill Mountain. The "Star City of the South" got its nickname from the 88-foot-tall steel structure with neon lights that glow over the valley at night.

Roanoke is the largest city along the Appalachian Trail , making it a draw for hikers passing through on their way up the East Coast and outdoor enthusiasts who fell in love with the area and decided to stay. Let Roanoke be your hub for checking out the areas along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and stick around to discover local gems in the booming downtown.

You can soak up plenty of fall foliage as you hike to bucket list vistas on the Appalachian Trail. Roanoke is just a short drive from the starting points of Virginia's Triple Crown , a trio of trails consisting of Dragon's Tooth, McAfee Knob, and Tinker Cliffs.

Book a room at the Roanoke Boutique Hotel , a relaxed bed-and-breakfast in a restored 1890s Italianate home just a few minutes from downtown. The establishment is a treat for nature lovers. Book a sunrise trek up McAfee Knob for breakfast on the mountain. You'll be guided on the trip, leaving around 4:30 a.m. to chase daybreak. Once at the summit, rest on the rocky landing with a cup of coffee. Take in the panoramic Blue Ridge views that stretch out into the distance.

Mountain bikers will want to visit the famous Carvins Cove Natural Reserve , with more than 60 miles of trails. For a milder hiking option, climb the Star Trail to reach the Roanoke Star and Overlook. Stand beneath the impressive steel structure above the Roanoke Valley. Explore this town by taking the Roanoke River Greenway, which winds along the water.

Hop off the trails to walk around the newly revitalized Wasena neighborhood, which features vibrantly painted storefronts. Hang out at indie roaster RND Coffee Lounge , founded by brothers Quincy and Steffon Randolph. Wander around downtown while the Historic Roanoke City Market is in full swing.

This place appeals as much to food enthusiasts as it does to nature-obsessed travelers. Kick back at staples like Deschutes Brewery and Big Lick Brewing Company . Stop by Lucky Restaurant for a farm-to-table dinner or grab a table at Fortunato for Neapolitan-style pizza.

Hot Springs

  • Stay: -The Omni Homestead Resort, omnihotels.com .
  • Eat & Drink: -Jefferson's Restaurant at The Homestead, omnihotels.com . -Waterwheel Restaurant at The Inn at Gristmill Square, gristmillsquare.com .
  • Stay: -The Georges, thegeorges.com .
  • Eat & Drink: -Taps at The Georges, thegeorges.com . -Haywood's Piano Bar and Grill, thegeorges.com . -Blue Sky Bakery, blueskylex.com . -Devils Backbone Brewing Company, dbbrewingcompany.com .
  • Shop: -Artists in Cahoots, artistsincahoots.com . -Cabell Gallery, cabellgallery.com .
  • Stay: -Roanoke Boutique Hotel, roanokeboutiquehotel.com .
  • Eat & Drink: -Fortunato, fortunatoroanoke.com . -RND Coffee Lounge, roanokecoffee.com . -Big Lick Brewing Company, biglickbrewingco.com . -Deschutes Brewery, deschutesbrewery.com .
  • Shop: -Black Dog Salvage, blackdogsalvage.com . -Walkabout Outfitter, walkaboutoutfitter.com .

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Short sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway around Roanoke are temporarily closed to thru-travelers due to repairs. Read More

Blue Ridge Parkway

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Meandering 469 miles from  Shenandoah National Park  in the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway, also known as " America's Favorite Drive ," follows the Appalachian Mountains and boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

A hundred species of trees, a variety of flowering shrubs and wildflowers as well 54 different mammals and 59 species of birds live along the Parkway - more than the entire European continent!

Skyline Drive  connects to the northernmost section of the Parkway, winding along the crest of the mountains from Waynesboro northward 105 miles to Front Royal.

The Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center and developed sites like picnic and parking areas along the Parkway make it easy to stop, visit restrooms and exhibits, and get a bite to eat. Lodging and campgrounds are available with opportunities to fish and view wildlife, and hiking trails offer opportunities to get out of the car and experience scenic beauty on foot.  

Know Before You Go:

Short sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway around Roanoke are temporarily closed to thru-travelers due to repairs, but this fantastic alternate route through the most charming neighborhoods in the Roanoke area allows you to get off the beaten path and follow your WanderLove !

Hiking Along The Blue Ridge Parkway

Activities along the blue ridge parkway, camping and lodging along the blue ridge parkway, virginia experiences, wanderlove: a road trip along virginia’s blue ridge parkway.

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Best Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes in Virginia

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10 Ideas for a Summer Vacation in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

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This Stunning Mountain Destination Is an Outdoor Adventurer's Paradise — With Epic Hikes, Scenic Campgrounds, and Waterfall Views

Your guide to the dreamy Blue Ridge Mountains, including excellent hikes, beautiful drives, and the best hotels and campgrounds.

Anne Olivia Bauso is a travel writer and hotel expert based in New York City. She has written hundreds of hotel reviews, from 5-star Ritz-Carlton properties to treehouse eco-resorts in the jungle.

best places to visit blue ridge mountains virginia

The Blue Ridge Mountains region is a 600-mile-long segment of the mighty Appalachian range. Like all Appalachians, these rock formations are far older than the Rockies, their counterpart to the west. While the Rockies are sharp and sheer, the Blue Ridge Mountains are rounded and relatively low, with more than a billion years of wind, rain, and snow behind them. They're famous for their bluish haze, which can appear deep ocean blue, pale purple, or somewhere in between.

Where Are the Blue Ridge Mountains?

Most definitions agree that the range stretches more than 600 miles from Georgia's Mount Oglethorpe to Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Between those two points, the ridge spans South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland, and some maps include West Virginia and even Alabama and Kentucky. Yet its cultural heart and the bulk of its mass belong to North Carolina and Virginia.

The range is predominantly associated with the western parts of North Carolina and Virginia, so we'll focus on those two states in this guide to all things Blue Ridge, which includes when to go, where to hike, and more.

Best Times to Go to the Blue Ridge Mountains

Nature lovers will find year-round nirvana in the Blue Ridge Mountains, though spring, summer, and fall are the best times of year to visit for exuberant flora, pleasant weather, and an array of outdoor activities.

During the spring, the region bursts with green buds and wildflowers. Animals emerge and spring rains feed gushing streams and waterfalls. By April, most river tours have kicked off whitewater-rafting season (typically through September). Wildflower hikes and spring festivals are among the top things to do.

Temperatures climb in the summer, yet the elevation keeps humidity at bay. And spring's to-do checklist (camping, kayaking, fly-fishing, biking) grows even bigger, with swimming and local events like music festivals, farmers markets, and craft fairs.

In the fall, fiery colors blaze across the Blue Ridge. This is perhaps the most popular time of year to visit, as leaf-peepers pour in to see the region's famously beautiful fall foliage.

Many attractions shut down in the winter, though skiing and holiday festivities enter the equation. You can find several family-friendly ski resorts with relatively easy terrain, including North Carolina's Sugar and Beech mountains and Virginia's Wintergreen resort. The region takes on a magical appearance around Christmas, with small-town celebrations, holiday light displays at Asheville's Biltmore Estate, and Christmas train rides like the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway in Georgia and the Polar Express in North Carolina.

Where to Hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains

There's perhaps no better way to feel the life force of the Blue Ridge Mountains than to set out on one of its hiking trails. There are hundreds to choose from, many located off or near the popular Blue Ridge Parkway. (The long-distance Appalachian and Mountains-to-Sea trails both shadow sections of this famous drive.)

One such region, Virginia's Roanake Valley, has some of the most sought-after hiking spots in the U.S. , including McAfee Knob (thought to be the most photographed site on the Appalachian Trail), panoramic Sharp Top andTinker Cliffs, and rocky Devil's Marbleyard.

The north end the Blue Ridge Parkway brings you just near the waterfalls, wildflowers, and woodlands of Shenandoah National Park. Here, 500 miles of hiking trails crisscross 200,000 acres of protected land; the most popular route is Old Rag Circuit , a 9.4-mile loop that features rock scrambling and panoramic views from the summit.

Down closer to the North Carolina-Virginia border, you'll find Grayson Highlands State Park about an hour west of the Blue Ridge Parkway. This 4,500-acre park is often compared to the Scottish Highlands for its open meadows, mossy-floored spruce forests, mountain balds, and rocky ridgelines. You might even spot a wild pony grazing near a trail.

Part of the Appalachian Trail, the shrubby Roan Highlands section is a string of five separate summits. In the summer, this high-elevation area along the North Carolina-Tennessee border is full of rhododendrons, azaleas, and other wildflowers. (Tip: Don't even think about hiking here without a brimmed hat.) Like Grayson Highlands, this is worth a detour off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Scooting south, you'll get to North Carolina's Linville Falls (within ​​Linville Gorge Wilderness). It's the waterfall to see on the Blue Ridge Parkway, with three trails leading to the plunge from different viewpoints. Further down by milepost 408, you can access the Summit Trail of Mount Pisgah, which travels through oak forest to the scrubby peak. There's also the 16-mile Shut-In Trail, part of a route originally used by industrialist George Vanderbilt for hunting retreats (now part of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail).

And, of course, Great Smoky Mountains National Park , where the Blue Ridge Parkway ends (or begins, for northbound travelers), is rich with hiking options for all levels. The UNESCO-listed national park has 850 miles of trails; two favorites (both on the hard end of the spectrum) include Chimney Tops and Alum Cave trails. The easy-ratedLaurel Falls Trail (blooming with the namesake mountain laurel each May) takes hikers to an 80-foot waterfall.

Things to Do in the Blue Ridge Mountains

The Blue Ridge region provides an astonishing abundance of activities beyond hiking, too.

In the hotter months, there's nothing like cooling off in crisp, clear mountain water. Sliding Rock in North Carolina's Pisgah National Forest is a special summer favorite. Here, visitors line up to take their turn zipping down the natural 60-foot stone "sliding board" before plunging into the icy pool at the bottom.

Cool, clear mountain streams and lakes offer ample opportunities to reel in a fish as well. Fly-fishing fans will find mountain creeks, streams, and rivers teeming with trout (brook, brown, and rainbow), while those who prefer fishing the still waters of lakes and ponds might snag a largemouth bass, whitefish, or catfish.

One of the best ways to experience the surrounding mountain scenery is from the water. If you're cruising the Blue Ridge Parkway, pristine Price Lake (milepost 296.7) is a great pullover spot with boat and canoe rentals. The fast-moving currents of the French Broad River outside Asheville attract experienced paddlers and rafting tour groups. And the popular Deep Creek recreation area near Bryson City, North Carolina, features two tubing runs for both wild and leisurely rides.

One of the best biking trails in the country is found in a rural Blue Ridge corner of Virginia. The Virginia Creeper Trail is a former Native American footpath (once used by Daniel Boone) and early 1900s rail line whose steam engine trains once delivered lumber to thriving Virginia and North Carolina sawmills. The railroad corridor-turned-recreation trail rolls through farmland and mountain scenery, with a gentle grade for cyclists (and walkers, joggers, and horseback riders) of all levels.

Creek crossings, moonlit rides, and backcountry jaunts — you can find trail rides for all ages and experience levels throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Just hitting the road in this part of the world is an unforgettable experience. There's the Blue Ridge Parkway, of course, as well as Shenandoah's famous Skyline Drive and the 42-mileCherohala Skyway, a sports car and motorcycle magnet split between the high-altitude ridges of North Carolina and Tennessee. One stretch of U.S. 129, dubbed Tail of the Dragon, packs 318 curves into 11 miles. New River Valley Byway follows an old trail stamped out by buffalo, winding through Christmas farm country.

If mountain peaks and dizzying viewpoints still aren't high enough, you can go even further with an early morning hot-air balloon ride. Seeing Blue Ridge scenery from the sky is truly unparalleled.

The beauty of the Blue Ridge come fall — when the mountains are gleaming with turning leaves — indelibly impacts those who witness it. Colors first begin to change in the higher, cooler elevations around late September and early October, followed the lower elevations into November. The stunning display of vivid reds, oranges, and yellows makes October the busiest month on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Where to Stay in the Blue Ridge Mountains

What Vanderbilt described as his "little mountain escape" is, in fact, a 250-room château and the largest private home in the U.S. The Biltmore and its 8,000 surrounding acres form one of the top attractions in the region. Tour its over-the-top rooms (see how many of the mansion's 65 fireplaces you can count) and Frederick Law Olmsted-designed gardens and grounds, which include a historic farm, on-site winery, 20 miles of bike and nature trails, and more.

History, culture, and natural beauty collide in Asheville, one of the most popular mountain home bases in the Blue Ridge. The well-loved Windsor Boutique Hotel puts guests in the center of Asheville's brewpub/vintage shop/indie restaurant heart. The famous Biltmore Estate, meanwhile, offers three lodging options — a wallet-friendly hotel, a high-end inn, and luxury cottages — all immensely popular. The views, spa, and fireplace-framed Great Hall of the 1913 Grove Park Inn (an Omni hotel) inspire reverence among travelers.

Yet many want to rent a cabin or pitch a tent. Perfectly located between Asheville, Biltmore, and the Blue Ridge Parkway, Mountain Springs Cabins lets you relax on your porch swing and grill out at night amid a sea of fireflies.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is famous for its natural beauty, extensive wildlife, and 850 miles of hiking trails. Nearby accommodations include cabin rentals, campgrounds (sites at in-park Cades Cove, Smokemont, and Balsam Mountain are in high demand), chain hotels, and rustic mountain retreats (like the Lodge at Tellico and LeConte Lodge ). In a crook of the Cheoah River, River's Edge Treehouse Resort is a summer-camp-like collection of cabins between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the pristine Nantahala National Forest.

The small North Carolina town of Bryson City makes a great home base for Great Smoky and Blue Ridge exploration. Bordering Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the banks of the Tuckasegee River, the scenic town has a great local scene that includes lovely places to stay like the charming Folkestone Inn , the boutique Everett Hotel (right on the historic town square), the group-friendly Calhoun House Inn & Suites , and the immersed-in-nature Lakeview at Fontana Inn & Treetop Soaking Cabanas .

This beautiful corner of North Carolina near the South Carolina-Georgia border is famous for its waterfall-heavy scenery — Dry Falls, Glen Falls, Cullasaja River Gorge, Bridal Veil Falls, Secret Falls, and Whitewater Falls, the highest waterfall east of the Rockies, are all worth a trip. A destination known for its natural beauty, the area has built an impressive tally of boutique hotels and lodges, including the reimagined motor courts of Hotel Cashiers and Skyline Lodge , as well as Fire Mountain , a mountaintop inn with cabins and tree houses.

There are five seasonal campgrounds within the park boundaries, all amid picturesque mountains and pristine fishing streams. Big Meadows Campground is a good pick for first-timers, as it's near Harry F. Byrd, Sr. Visitor Center and the popular Dark Hollow Falls Trail, while Loft Mountain Campground at the top of Big Flat Mountain offers incredible sunrise and sunset views. Skyland Resort sits on the highest point of Skyline Drive, the gasp-inducing road that winds more than 100 miles through the park along the main mountain ridge.

The Inn at Vaucluse Spring

5 of the Best Blue Ridge Mountains Virginia Attractions

The Blue Ridge Mountains provide an incredible backdrop to Northern Virginia. This majestic mountain range spans for thousands of miles towering above the clouds. Depending on the weather, the mountains can range from their typical blue color to a dark purple as if mimicking the night sky. As the seasons come and go, the trees blanketing the Blue Ridge Mountains change from vibrant shades of green to fiery reds and yellows. Although they are constantly changing, these famous Virginia mountains are great to visit any time of year. Blue Ridge Mountains Virginia attractions will show you the best of the mountains no matter when you visit.

If you’re thinking about planning a trip to Northern Virginia, our free Vacation Guide is a great resource. Vacation planning can be hard, so our free guide lists everything you need to know about the area like Blue Ridge Mountains Virginia attractions . It even tells you about seasonal and monthly events, so you’ll never miss anything while you stay at The Inn at Vaucluse Spring !

1. Drive Along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Stretching for 469 miles of pure, breathtaking beauty, the Virginia Blue Ridge Parkway begins just 20 minutes away from The Inn at Vaucluse Spring in Front Royal. This incredible scenic highway winds its way through the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The drive itself is beautiful, but there are also some great stops along the way to see waterfalls, incredible views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and unique geologic features. Let The Inn at Vaucluse Spring pack you a picnic to go, then drive along this breathtaking route until you find a good point to stop and take in the scenery.

2. Visit a Winery

Many vineyards in Northern Virginia are situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but if you’re looking for true Blue Ridge Mountain views you should try Chester Gap Cellars or Fox Meadow Vineyards. Chester Gap Cellars gives incredible views at an elevation of 1,000 feet. Its open-air patio lets you breathe in the crisp mountain air as you taste some delectable handcrafted wines and will make you feel like you are on top of the world. Fox Meadow Vineyards is located at an elevation of 1,700 feet on the east slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here, you actually get to look down at the tops of mountains!

3. See the Roanoke Star and Overlook

One of the best ways to see the Blue Ridge Mountains is to hike right through them. The Mill Mountain Star Trail will take you to the Roanoke Star and Overlook, one of Virginia’s most talked about and largest icons. From here, you will see the largest, free-standing, man-made, illuminated star in the world and an incredible scenic overlook. If you don’t feel like making the hike, you can drive and park in the lot next to the star!

4. Tour Luray Caverns

Out of all the Blue Ridge Mountains Virginia attractions, you won’t want to miss the Luray Caverns . Discover a different landscape when you embark into the Luray Caverns along the Virginia Blue Ridge Parkway. Cathedral-sized rooms with 10-story-high ceilings will take your breath away, while monstrous stone formations will enthrall and inspire.

5. Hike the Appalachian Trail at McAfee Knob

The McAfee Knob Trail is one of the most popular and largely photographed portions of the Appalachian Trail. This 8.8-mile hike provides panoramic views of the surrounding valley and mountains, and its signature ledge that has become a popular place for photos.

After You Visit Your Blue Ridge Mountains Virginia Attractions

After you have partaken in some Blue Ridge Mountains Virginia attractions, retreat back to The Inn at Vaucluse Spring. Continue your awe of these majestic mountains by staying in one of our comfortable rooms with a mountain view, like the Jones Room . Any guest is welcome to relax on the front porch of our Manor House with an early morning cup of coffee or late afternoon glass of wine as they take in the breathtaking scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley.

Related posts you may enjoy:

  • 4 of the Most Beautiful Stops Along the Virginia Blue Ridge Parkway
  • 5 of the Best Places to Go Hiking in Northern Virginia
  • 4 Reasons to Experience the Breathtaking Shenandoah Valley Skyline Drive
  • Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Northern Virginia Wine Tours

TheTravel

Stunning Photos Of Virginia's Blue Ridge To Give You Wanderlust

  • The Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia and North Carolina are lesser-known but offer stunning natural vistas and breathtaking views from Skyline Drive.
  • The Blue Ridge Mountains appear blue and have an iridescent indigo atmosphere, creating a unique and beautiful landscape even in stormy weather.
  • Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains is like something from a fairy tale with graceful waterfalls, serene trails, and the opportunity for stargazing under a clear night sky.

When it comes to mountains in the southern half of the US, the Smokies are usually the peaks with the most attention . However, the Blue Ridge spans Virginia and North Carolina and hosts some of the most beautiful natural vistas - but are far lesser-known.

The western half of Virginia is home to peaks and valleys that truly look like a scene from a Bob Ross painting. Every sunset and sunrise is displayed in a different range of vibrant colors, streaking across the sky as though they were expertly placed. Every season is breathtaking from these mountain summits, especially when viewed from Skyline Drive, a scenic route that runs throughout the range. While you're there, don't forget to try all the authentic foods this charming state is known for .

UPDATE: 2023/11/21 10:57 EST BY JAIMEE TERESE

The Beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains Are Mesmerizing During Every Season

Traversing Virginia and North Carolina, the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains are famous for their perpetual indigo glow. Drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway to see the Blue Ridge Mountains in all their glory at any time of year, or explore the bounties of nature that Shenandoah National Park has in store. This article has been updated with more stunning photos of Virginia's Blue Ridge, sure to give readers wanderlust.

RELATED: Luray Caverns Vs Skyline Caverns: Which Shenandoah Valley Cave System Is Worth Visiting First?

It's Easy To See Where These Mountains Got Their Name

The Blue Ridge is a rare mountain range that appears blue at any given time of day. Despite the fact that they're home to a plethora of lush greenery, the distinct lighting of these mountains still gives them an iridescent indigo atmosphere.

Even in stormy weather, these mountains are breathtaking. Watching storm clouds roll in from the valley or the summit (proper safety followed) is an experience. Mountains are home to a whole slew of various weather phenomena, but as the shadows play over the Shenandoah Valley, this landscape appears different on any given day. Not to mention, the smell of fresh rain combined with these dense woods and earth is truly unforgettable - no one ever complains about a rainy day here!

In Shenandoah National Park, The Landscape Is Like Something From A Fairy Tale

Graceful waterfalls dot the trails through Shenandoah National Park, and they're something hikers avidly seek out. Emerald green moss decorates the surrounding rocks and makes for a slippery playground, yet remains untouched in its natural beauty.

  • World-Famous Walking : the Appalachian trail spans 2,175 miles from Georgia to Maine, with various sections traversing Virginia's Blue Ridge region.

To say this environment is serene would be an understatement. While there are no roaring falls, the easy-going flow of this mountain runoff is just enough to make hikers forget about the outside world for a while.

With peaks over 5,000 feet in elevation, the Blue Ridge is home to the highest mountains in eastern North America.

There's no end to the trails that can be sought out in this gorgeous national park. It's one of the most scenic parks in the south , and even the drive to get there is beautiful, with vistas beginning long before visitors step foot into this dense woodland.

Even The Night Sky Puts On A Brilliant Display On Clear Nights

For those lucky enough to catch the night sky over the Shenandoah Valley, the Blue Ridge does not disappoint. Stargazing is a whole new experience in a place where man-made lights are few and far between, thus allowing the natural beauty of the solar system to be in full view.

Each Road Is Decorated Expertly By Nature, And Springtime Is In Full Bloom

Spring's blooming wildflowers leave a gentle, fragrant scent and make for beautiful roadside scenery. Driving through the valleys in the Blue Ridge is a particularly sweet treat, too. Dotted with various farms, orchards (the region is known for its apples ), and markets, Virginia is an agricultural wonderland. Visitors can stop at any number of local growers and try regional farm-to-table snacks while taking in views from the side of the road.

  • Local Delights : the Blue Ridge region is renowned for its local produce, so try some regional specialties. Sample a range of iconic apple-based treats like apple fritters, butter, and dumplings. Of course, don't miss the Virginia ham, either.

Related: 15 Of Southern USA’s Most Overhyped Cities (And 10 Severely Underrated)

Lush Landscapes & Cool Swimming Holes Make Summer A Popular Season

Even as the temperatures rise, the elevation of the Blue Ridge Mountains keeps humidity at bay in the summer months. Visitors also have plenty of options for cooling off thanks to the crystal clear streams, lakes, falls, and watering holes that dot the region. Lush green scenery abounds around every corner, making summer a beautiful time for a scenic drive through the charming towns of rural Virginia .

Wine enthusiasts note that Virginia wine country also passes through the Blue Ridge region. Sip along one of the area wine trails and enjoy a glass of vino with a view!

Vibrant and Colorful Foliage Makes Fall A Spectacular Time In The Blue Ridge Mountains

Fall is often regarded as the best time to visit the Blue Ridge Mountains, and upon encountering nature's dramatic show of breathtaking foliage, visitors will immediately see why. Check out these scenic Blue Ridge road trips for some incredible leaf-peeping when exploring the region in the fall. The slight autumn chill under sunny skies makes perfect weather for the area's excellent hiking.

Winter Doesn't Stop These Valleys From Having Stunning 360-Views

During the winter months, the Blue Ridge Mountains do see snow. Never fear, though - that's what cozy log cabins were made for! It's a great winter destination simply for the experience of warming up by the fire and sipping steamy coffee from the front porch of a place like this, taking in the beauty of the surrounding snow-capped peaks.

Stunning Photos Of Virginia's Blue Ridge To Give You Wanderlust

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woman standing in front of lynn cove viaduct in the blue ridge mountains NC

20 Best things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains (VA/NC/GA)

Here is a list of all the best things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains!

April 5, 2023 //  by  Southern Trippers

Are you looking for the best things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains? You have come to the right place because here are the region’s top attractions and some of the cutest small towns to visit. From hiking, trails, and scenic overlooks it’s no wonder why the Blue Ridge draws visitors during all seasons of the year.

In the fall you will want to drive down the blue ridge parkway and to see the incredible fall foliage. If you are thinking of planning a trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains in the winter, Helen NC has an amazing Christmas town and there also are a few ski resorts in NC and VA to enjoy.

In the summertime try kayaking or riding down one of the lazy rivers through the mountain valleys. Many hikes in all three of these southern states give you panoramic views of the blue ridge. And Spring is one of the most underrated seasons to visit the Blue Ridge Mountains. There is nothing prettier (maybe the fall foliage) than when the flowers come back to life in the rolling hills.

a girl and boy over at an over look at sunset.

Where are the Blue Ridge Mountains?

The Blue Ridge Mountains are on the eastern coast of America and span all the way from Maryland to Southern Pennsylvania covering West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. These blue mountains cover 550 miles with the highest peak being Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina.

Are the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Smoky Mountains the Same?

The Smoky Mountains are a smaller mountain range that sits inside of the bigger mountain range of the Blue Ridge. All Smoky Mountains are in the Blue Ridge, but not all Blue ridge Mountains are Smoky Mountains. The Smoky Mountains are also often referred to by the shorter nickname the smokies.

You can find the Smokies in the two states of Tennessee and North Carolina, and they are some of the oldest rock formations in the world. While the Blue Ridge Mountains run through many more.

There is plenty to do in the smoky Mountains , and they are a popular destination to visit all year round.

an over look in the blue ridge with girl holding a light in the smokey mountains

Best Things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Hike rough ridge overlook.

The Rough Ridge Overlook is in Western North Carolina and is one of the best blue ridge mountain hikes. There are three different viewpoints along the trails at Rough Ridge. The Tanawha Trail is the longest trail which is 13.5 miles long. But, luckily there is a 0.8-mile loop that will take you to the three different overlooks.

Although the Rough Ridge hike is uphill the entire way, the distances between the viewpoints are only about 10 minutes. You will encounter a view of tougher spots where the terrain gets rocky, but people of all ages enjoy this hike in the Blue Ridge.

The first stop along the trail is the best and most popular viewpoint of the entire Rough Ridge hike. You can wear casual clothes, but opt for either hiking bookings or tennis shoes because it can get muddy. Head to milepost 302.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway and start your adventure today!

a girl sitting on an overview of the hike rough ridge trail with a colorful leaf sweater.

Explore Little Switzerland

Little Switzerland is a little slice of Europe nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This quiet mountain town was established back in the early 1900s and has been a peaceful getaway ever since. You could spend a few hours shopping around or grab a bit to eat at amazing The Switzerland Inn Chalet Restaurant on the outdoor terrace.

This quaint town is in the perfect location for a day trip, or to make a home base while exploring all the best things to do in the Blue Ridge. You can be in a few of the towns that you must see in the blue ridge mountains. Both Ashville and Boone NC are less than an hour from Little Switzerland.

little Switzerland in the blue ridge mountains is one of the best towns to visit. here is an old school building like in Europe with fall flowers.

Stop by Asheville North Carolina

Asheville North Carolina is one of the most popular towns in the Blue Ridge. People love the art scene, and downtown nightlife, and Ashville also has plenty of breweries to check out. There are over 15 beautiful murals in the downtown area of the River Arts District. This is a street of old warehouses that have been transformed into an artist’s haven. You can shop through art galleries and pottery studios.

One of the most popular places to visit and stay in Asheville is the famous Biltmore Estate . This 250-room estate was built back by the Vanderbilts in 1889, and it is incredible. Purchase your tickets in advance for access to a self-guided tour of the estate, winery, hikes, and surrounding areas. This estate is the largest private home in the US and is the only one of its kind, and well worth the trip.

For things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains at night, Asheville is where you want to be. There are plenty of unique breweries to taste test IPA, ales, and sour beers. There is also an amazing culinary scene with plenty of restaurants throughout out for a great night out.

the Biltmore estate in Asheville North Carolina is one of the best things to do in the blue ridge.

Visit Boone NC

One of the best blue ridge mountain towns is Boone NC . There is something for everyone to love here. In the wintertime, you can book a night or two at the Appalachian Ski Mountain resort. This is one of the best places to ski in all of North Carolina. They rent the equipment on-site and have slopes for all skill levels.

You can also hit the Grandfather Vineyard & Winery while you are checking out Boone. This is a local winery that is only about 25 minutes drive away from town, and the seating areas have amazing panoramic views of the Blue Ridge.

Or stop by the unique Garden of Eden for Wild Edibles. In the right season, you can taste over 500 different kinds of wild berries. Don’t worry you will be a tour guide and they will help you forge the entry time. It is so much fun and a great way to get back out in nature.

a girl sitting at an rock overlook with an orange hat and leaf sweater looks amazing

Chimney Rock State Park in NC

One of the best State parks to visit in the Blue Ridge is the Chimney Rock State Park in North Carolina. The most famous attraction is the towering 315-foot granite rock pillar. To get there you will want to walk up the 500-step staircase for the epic views.

Another popular attraction is the 404-foot waterfall, Hickory Nut Falls. You can hike to the base of the falls on the short 1.4-mile look trial. This is the biggest waterfall east of the Mississippi and is super beautiful to see. There are also trails and special rock climbing areas throughout the park.

If you are looking for fun things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains, The Chimney Rock State Park should be on the top of your list!

a beautiful overlook in the Chimney Rock State Park in NC. this is one of the best places to visit in the blue ridge

Afton Overlook in VA

Nestled in the heart of the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains, Afton VA Overlook offers breathtaking views. In the small town of Afton VA, they have 3 major overlooks within a 3-mile radius! These overlooks are some of the most popular on the entire route.

You will have a panoramic view while taking in the fresh mountain air. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some of the area’s wildlife, such as deer, bears, and eagles. After you are done you can head into Afton, or keep driving on the Parkway, either way, you are going to have an amazing day in the Blue Ridge.

Hike part of the Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail has always been one of the best activities in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Application Trail runs through 14 east coast states, and spans over 2,200 miles! You can easily find different routes no matter which part of the blue ridge you are planning on visiting.

The most popular trail in Virginia is the McAfee Knob round-trip hike. This trail starts are Catawba Mountain and ascend to the top of the stunning McAfee Knob and has panoramic views of the valley below.

If you are thinking of hiking the trail in North Carolina, the Max Patch is one of the most popular hikes for day hikers and backpackers trying a thorough hike. It is on the shorter side coming in at about a 2-mile round trip trail and has an amazing view from the summit.

In GA everyone loves the Springer Mountain hike. This is where the Appalachian Trail officially starts and it is always full of eager beavers ready to hit trails. Official it is an 8.5-mile look trail at the summit of Springer.

the start of a few different hikes on the Appalachian trail. this is one of the best thing to do in the blue ridge.

Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway

Driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most epic road trips in America. This scenic road is about 470 miles long and connects the Smokies in NC to the Shenandoah National Park in VA.

There are numerous pull-offs along the side of the road to gaze at the rolling hills and lush forests. It never costs any money to drive and is one of the free things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

If you wanted to plan out a route the best blue ridge parkway stops are at Graggy Gardens, at milepost 364.4. During the summertime, you can see the many rhododendrons in full bloom and the mountainside is full of color. The Linville Falls is at milepost 316.4. This is where you can see this stunning waterfall from a unique perspective without breaking a sweat.

You could drive the entire day and never get bored. Or just pop in to take a shorter ride along this famous road, either way, you are going to fall in the love with the blue ridge after driving a few miles.

fall foliage with a girl walking down the blue ridge mountains. this is one of the best things to do in the blue ridge mountains

Winery Tours in The Blue Ridge

One of the best things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains for adults is to take a wine tour. The Blue Ridge is home to numerous wineries and vineyards that offer tastings, and tours, and have the dreamiest views.

The Biltmore of course is a fan favorite, but there is also Chateau Morrisette in Floyd, VA. You can schedule a wine tour, or just pop in for a tasting. If you are looking for wineries to visit in the Blue Ridge Mountains in NC Shelton Vineyard offers guided tours and has a restaurant on site.

friends driving wine looking at the sun go down is one of the best thing to do in the blue ridge

Raven’s Roost Overlook in VA

Ravens Roost is one of the most popular overlooks on the Blue Ridge. You can find it at milepost 10.7 on the Parkway in VA. There is a short hiking trail that leads from Raven’s Roost parking lot to the overlook. It is less than a mile and is very easy to navigate.

You can see for miles in every direction when you get to the overlook. This is one of the prettiest places to fall to see the foliage! But it does get a little busy during the Fall, so try to come early to beat the crowds.

There are picnic tables, restrooms, and even a small visitor center here at Ravens Rock. So bring lunch and enjoy what to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains for the day.

the stunning overlook known as raven roost in VA

Chase the Waterfalls in the Virginia Blue Ridge

No matter what part of the blue ridge you are in visiting the waterfalls is a must-do in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In Virginia, the most popular waterfal l hike is to Crabtree Falls. This cascading waterfall drops 1,200 feet and the hike to get it is tough but worth it.

Another VA waterfall worth chasing is the White Oak Canyon hike. When hiking this canyon you will be blessed with not one or two, but six beautiful waterfalls to see.

NC has its share of waterfalls too . The most popular is the 90-foot waterfall, Lineville Falls. The hike to reach the falls is short and super easy, many families hike this trail together. Anna Ruby Falls is in Helen, GA, and is a set of cascades near the Chattahoochee National Forest.

GA you can check out Raven Cliffs Falls in northern Georgia. This waterfall is in a series of different cascades that are over 400 feet high. You can hike to the Raven Falls Trail to reach the prettiest section of waterfalls.

a girl in a yellow dress at one of the waterfalls in the blue ridge

Kayak Or Tubbing down the New River in VA

There is nothing better than getting tubbed down the river without a care in the world. Kayaking the New River in VA will take you along a picturesque route down one of the oldest rivers in the world. You will pass by a variety of rapids from calm waters to fast challenging spots.

You will also see plenty of wildlife including bald eagles and cute river otters. This is one of the best Blue Ridge Mountains activities and several different companies are renting out kayaks for personal use to full-on day tours where everything is covered for you.

kayaking down the river in virginia when the leaves are changing colors

Blowing Rock NC

One of the best places to go in the Blue Ridge Mountains is Blowing Rock NC. This cool town is in the western section of NC in Watauga County and is best known for its scenic beauty and outdoor fun.

Blowing Rock gets its name from the unique rock formation located on the edge of the cliff overlooking the town below. When the wind blows up from the valley it looks as if the rock is blowing in the wind. There are also plenty of trails near like the Glen Burney Trail and the Moses Cone Memorial Park downtown.

You can also have a ski vacation here at the Appalachian Ski Mountain. You can also check out the famous Tweetise Railroad and which has easy access to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

a girl in a yellow dress walking through a super cute town in the blue ridge mountains

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

This Railroad company in Blue Ridge, Georgia has one of the prettiest rides through the Blue Ridge. The train will depart from the depot and travel along a 26-mile route and winds through the forest. You will pass over sparkling rivers, and through the forests.

The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway offers different types of rides throughout the year. During the fall you will have a special fall foliage ride, and during Christmas time Santa may pop up from time to time.

You can pick to sit in the climate-control coach or go with the open-air rail car, both will have an unobstructed view of the scenery through the windows. This is one of the top things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains with kids, and you can purchase snacks and drinks on board!

best places to visit blue ridge mountains virginia

Visit Helen Georgia

Helen GA is a mountain town in the northeast Georgia mountains. This charming Alpine Village offers its visitors a unique taste of Bavarian living. You will find cobblestone streets and charming architecture in the town square.

This is one of the best small towns in the Blue Ridge Mountains and they always have something fun going on. Throughout the year Helen hosts a variety of festivals, the most famous being Oktoberfest with authentic German beers and snacks. They also host an amazing Christmas market throughout December.

Helen GA is near the Chattahoochee River with all the adventurous activities that come with that. You can find hiking, tubing , and fishing tours any time of the year.

Helen GA with its cute little. bears and European town square

Hot Air Ballon Ride Over The Blue Ridge

Up next for attractions in the Blue Ridge Mountains is to take a magical Hot Air Ballon to ride over the Blue Ridge Mountains. As you soar along the treetops you will be a bird’s eye view of one of the prettiest areas in the world.

You will take off early in the morning to catch the sunrise, and when the winds are typically the calmest. Many of the balloon companies in the area offer packages that include a light breakfast and maybe even a champagne toast in the air.

someone getting a hot air ballon ready to go.

Ski Or Snowboard at the Mountious Resorts

One of the best things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains during the winter is skiing and snowboarding. One of the most popular resorts is Wintergreen in Virginia. Here there are slopes for the most seasoned pro and the fresh beginners. With 26 different slopes as well as a big snow tubing park.

Beech Mountains Resorts, Catacloochee Ski Area, and the Appalachian Ski Mountain are all in NC and offer amazing trails and slopes.

Most resorts also offer ice skating, snow-tubbing, and entertainment during the night and day. And all of the resorts in the Blue Ridge offer ski and/or snowboarding lessons to keep you and your family safe.

someone snowboarding in the blue ridge

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50 Things To Do in the Blue Ridge Mountains

There are so many things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains, it would be impossible for us to cover all of them here, but we're sure going to try to hit on the big ones for you.  

Things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains include: hiking , viewing wildlife , scenic drives , finding waterfalls , swimming , rafting, visiting attractions, and much more.  When visiting the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains , you're sure to find tons of things to do everyone!

To give you just a few ideas of things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains, here are are our top 50 Things you MUST do in the Blue Ridge Mountains this summer!

1 - Hike to the top of Mount LeConte

Mount LeConte, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the quintessential Smoky Mountain Hike, offering a challenge, incredible views, and lots of scenic variety.  

How often do you get a chance to hike up to the top of one fo the tallest peaks on the east coast AND visit a remote lodge?   If you're a hiker, this is a must do activity, and be sure to get you an exclusive t-shirt that is only available at the very top!   >> See our guide for details!

2 - Drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway

One of the most beautiful and scenic drives in the world is along the Blue Ridge Parkway through Virginia and North Carolina.   The views along the 469 mile long Blue Ridge Parkway, from Skyline Drive in Virginia, to Cherokee the western border of North Carolina.   

The Parkway is full of scenic views, historic stops of interest, waterfalls, hiking trails , and wildlife.  This is one drive everyone should do, and should be on the top of your list!    >> See our Blue Ridge Parkway guide for details!

3 - See the Elk in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Bull Elk in Cataloochee Valley

Hundreds of years ago, Elk were a common site in the Blue Ridge Mountains , but were eventually hunted out and became extinct.   In 2003, they were reintroduced into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Cataloochee Valley, and have prospered.  

Today they can be found in Cataloochee Valley , Maggie Valley , Cherokee , and Bryson City .   They are amazing to watch from a distance, especially in the Fall during Rut Season.   >> Learn more about the Elk in our guide!

4 - Hike to the top of Clingman's Dome

The Highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at 6,643 feet never fails to deliver.   The drive to Clingmans Dome is an adventure itself, at 7 miles to the parking area.   The parking area provides stunning views, but for even better views, you can hike up the steep .5 mile trail to the concrete observation tower, for full 360 degree views, that are outstanding.

Clingmans Dome is not far from Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge TN .

The weather can be very unpredictable at "the dome", so dress in layers, and don't be too disappointed if it's a bit fogged in.  While at the time, take a quick side adventure on the Appalachian Trail that runs right next to the Observation tower!   >> See our Clingmans Dome guide for more information

5 - Stand on the top of North Carolina's Highest Mountain

Mount Mitchell, at 6,684' in elevation, is the tallest mountain in North Carolina and the highest point east of the Mississippi.  Mouth Mitchell State Park is located off the Blue Ridge Parkway, north of Asheville NC .  Mount Mitchell State park is beautiful, and offers incredible views, dense evergreen forest, hiking and recreation areas.

The highlight of your visit will be the summit and observation deck, providing 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains.  We also recommend hiking on the nature trail as well.  

>> Visit the website for more information

6 - Visit one of the most iconic structures on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Mabry Mill

Mabry Mill, Blue Ridge Parkway by Kay Gaensler

One of the most, if not the most famous historic structure on the Blue Ridge Parkway, is Mabry Mill at Milepost 176 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia near Floyd Virginia .  This operating and historic mill has been an attraction for visitors for many years, and is a favorite stopping point along the Parkway.

You can visit the mill, see cultural demonstrations, and see the decades-long tradition of Sunday afternoon music and dancing.  Be sure to stop by the restaurant and gift shop as well.   >> Learn more about Mabry Mill

7 - Watch a sunset at Waterrock Knob

One of the highest points on the Parkway, Waterrock Knob provides stunning views of the surround Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains, from the parking lot.  

One of the unique aspects of this observation area, is that it provides both sunrise and sunset views.   You'll often find Parkway visitors here in the evenings to enjoy a sunset, while the kids play in the fields in the middle of the parking area.  Located not far from Maggie Valley NC

For a more brisk adventure, hike up the short but steep trail to the top.   There are restrooms and a gift shop here as well.   >> See our Waterrock Knob Guide for more information

8 - Drive down the back mountain, Heintooga Round Bottom Road

One of the best and most beautiful back mountain roads you can drive is Heintooga Round Bottom road, which winds its way down the mountain sides for 14 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Cherokee .  The road is gravel, and often rough in some locations.  Along the way, you'll see wildflowers, scenic views, creeks, waterfalls, and wildlife.

While a 4x4 isn't required, it is recommended just for ground clearance.   >> See our Heintooga Round Bottom Road Guide for more information

9 - Ride the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Bryson City NC

All aboard, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, departing daily from Bryson City NC .  This wonderful tourism railroad offers both steam and diesel train rides to various locations and lengths.  All of them offer beautiful views fo the surround Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains , and are fun for the whole family.

They also offer a number of unique event excursions for holidays, dinner trains, and more.   >> Learn more about the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, on their website.

10 - Stand on top of the Chimney, at Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock State Park, has been attracting visitors since the late 1800s, when it was originally opened to the public.  The massive chimney, that you can stand on top of, provides incredible views of Lake Lure NC and the surrounding mountains.   Chimney Rock provides hiking trails, and incredibly beautiful waterfall, and mind-blowing views.

The park makes for a great weekend destination, with surround accommodations in Chimney Rock and Lake Lure NC.   >> See our Chimney Rock State Park Guide for more information.

11 - Buy fresh ground corn meal at Mingus Mill, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

One of the most technologically advanced mills during it's time, Mingus Mill, located near the Oconoluftee Visitor center makes for a wonderful historic visit.  This operating (during the summer) mill, is not only beautiful, but fascinating to watch.  The mill operates daily, and you can purchase ground corn meal in the mill itself.   

Bring the family, and spend some time in the creek and hike around the mill itself.   >> Learn more about Mingus Mill in our guide.

12 - Go swimming in the crisp and cool waters of Midnight Hole

One of the most beautiful and popular swimming holes is located in in the Big Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park .   Midnight hole provides crisp, cool and clear waters to cool off in on a hot summer day.   "The hole" also provides large rocks you can jump off of, and plunge into the deep waters.

To reach Midnight Hole, it's a 3 mile roundtrip hike, and well worth it.   >> See our Guide to Midnight Hole for more information

13 - Walk behind a waterfall, at Dry Falls

Dry Falls, NC

Dry Falls, contrary to its name, is anything but dry.  Dry Falls is located off Highway 64 hear Highlands NC , and is a beautiful heavily flowing waterfall that you can actually walk behind.   There is a short trail from the parking lot that takes you down to the falls, and under and behind it.  

For those who cannot walk or hike down, there is a very nice viewing area that provides a beautiful view of Dry Falls.   >> See our Dry Falls Guide for more information

ALWAYS PRACTICE LEAVE NO TRACE: Learn all about how you can be a good steward of these mountains when visiting.

14 - Shop at Mast General Store

No visit the mountains of North Carolina is complete without a visit to one of the many Mast General Store locations.   The original store opened in Valle Crucis in 1883, and very quickly became the largest general store in the area.   Since then the store has expanded to many other locations, including: Waynesville , Asheville , Hendersonville , Boone , and other locations.

Each store still retains that old-timey store feeling, with lots of merchandise for sale, old-time candy barrels for the kids, and outdoor clothing and food items.   >> Learn more about Mast General Store

15 - Have dinner at the famous Daniel Boone Inn in Boone NC

The Daniel Boone Inn, located in Boone NC has been serving home cooked meals, just like Grandma used to make, for over 50 years.  

Their family family style meals are very popular with visitors, and the Inn is considered a must stop for good eats in the Boone and Western NC areas of the Blue Ridge Mountains.   >> Learn more about the Daniel Boone Inn

16 - Visit Dollywood

When most people think of the mountains, the name Dolly Parton often comes to mind.   In addition to singing, Dolly really knows how to create a wonderful amusement park, that provides fun for the whole family.

Dollywood is located in Pigeon Forge TN , and is the goto amusement park for the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains.  The park features thrilling rides, live shows, a waterpark, accommodations, excellent food, and is just absolutely beautiful, with its mountain theme.   >> Learn more about Dollywood

17 - Have dinner at the Old Mill, in Pigeon Forge TN

One of our favorite places to eat when visiting Pigeon Forge TN is The Old Mill restaurant.  The Old Mill is exactly that, a 200-year old Mill that has been turned into a really excellent family restaurant and set of associated shops.  

The restaurant serves hearty Southern classics in a family-style and beautiful historic setting.  The food is delicious.  While waiting, you can explore the mill grounds, go down by the water, and shop.   >> Learn more about the Old Mill Restaurant

18 - Explore underground at Luray Caverns

Luray Caverns is one the largest and most beautiful underground caves in the Eastern United States.  The caverns are located just outside of Luray Virginia, in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley.

Visit Geology’s Hall of Fame. Tours along lighted, paved walkways lead visitors through cathedral-sized rooms with ceilings 10-stories high, towering stone formations, and natural wonders at every turn.   >> Learn more about Luray Caverns

19 - Ride the Blue Ridge Railroad in Blue Ridge GA

Another wonderful train ride in the southern Blue Ridge mountains is the Blue Ridge Scenic Railroad, located in popular Blue Ridge GA .  The train has multiple excursions through the surrounding mountains and countryside of Blue Ridge GA.  

The train has a 2-hour layover in a town that sits on the border of TN and GA, so you can stand in two states at once!   >> Learn more about the Blue Ridge Scenic Railroad

20 - Visit a natural bridge in Virginia

Natural Bridge State Park, is located in Natural Bridge Virginia , and is a popular destination for those visiting the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains.  The park is the 37th state park in the United states, and features the 215-foot tall Natural Bridge.  The bridge is naturally carved by Cedar Creek, which flows below it.   

You'll also find beautiful forest, scenic views, hiking trails , a waterfall, an Indian village, and visitor center.  

>> Learn more about Natural Bridge State Park

21 - Zipline through the tree tops

Zipping through the forests and mountains of the Blue Ridge is an experience that is beyond exhilarating, and an experience we would highly recommend.  Fortunately there are a number of places you can visit.  

We have done a visited a number of them, and really enjoyed Canopy Ridge Farm in Lake Lure NC (featured in our video above), and Navitat Canopy Adventures north of Asheville NC.   Both provide great guides, wonderful scenery, and great courses.

22 - Go white water rafting

An incredibly popular outdoor activity in the Blue Ridge Mountains is white water rafting.   You get to experience the thrill of going over the rapids, enjoy the incredible scenic views, and marvel at the surrounding mountains, and crystal clear water.  

There are literally hundreds of wonderful rafting companies in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but our favorites are: The Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) and Wildwater Pigeon .

23 - See the triumphant story of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

More than six million people have seen and loved the heart-wrenching action and soaring triumph of this historic Cherokee story.  “Unto These Hills” has shared the tale of Cherokee life from 1780 to the twenty-first century with visitors.   >> Learn More about Unto These Hills

24 - Go on a Safari in the Virginia mountains!

You wouldn't think you could go on a family Safari in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, but you sure can!  This 180 acre property is a drive-through Safari, where you can see the animals run with abandon.  You can take your time as you drive through the 3-mile safari, and even feed the animals through your vehicle windows!   >> Learn more about Virginia Safari Park

25 - Visit the waterpark at Massanutten in Virginia

Massanutten waterpark , located in the massive 6,000 acre mountain retreat of Massanutten Resort, is both an indoor and outdoor waterpark, located in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  

The resort as accommodations and numerous activities, beyond just the waterpark.    The park includes numerous slides, pools, and water activities for all ages.   >> Learn More about hotels and cabins near Massanutten

26 - Go tubing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Tubing in the Blue Ridge Mountains is always popular in the warm summer months.   What makes tubing in Deep Creek a little different, is that you're in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.   

The water is crisp and cool, you're surrounded by natural mountain forest and scenery, and it's very inexpensive.  There is a campground in Deep Creek, and Bryson City NC is nearby for restaurants, hotel and cabin options .

  >> Learn more about Tubing in Deep Creek

27 - Go tubing in Helen GA

Shoot the 'Hootch!  Helen GA is a popular destination in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia, the town is famous for its Bavarian architecture and culture, as well as being nearby to a number of attractions.  Helen is full of restaurants, shops, hotels and cabins .

Helen is also a popular spot for tubing, where you can enjoy hours of tubing along the Chattahoochee River through Helen.

>> Learn more about tubing in Helen GA

28 - Visit an old Mountain Farm

Located just outside of Cherokee NC, at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is the Oconoluftee visitors center, which features a historic mountain farm museum.   During the summer months, the museum is very active with displays and live animals.  

The structures are original, and brought in from various locations in the national park.  Be sure to explore the beautiful Oconoluftee River while there, and visit nearby Mingus Mill.   >> Learn more about the Oconoluftee Visitor Center

29 - Walk across the mile high swinging bridge

Located near the top of Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, visitors have been walking across the "Mile high swinging bridge" for decades.  The bridge opened in 1952, and is at an elevation of 5,305 feet, between two peaks near the top of the mountain.   Grandfather mountain also features hiking trails , gift shops, a zoo, museum, and other activities.   >> Learn more about Grandfather Mountain

30 - Go horseback riding in high elevations of the Blue Ridge

Take a horseback ride through the Blue Ridge and/or Great Smoky Mountains for a unique way to see these beautiful mountains, and explore them.  Riding is available for everyone, and for different skill levels. 

Many of the stable options provide various riding options, including mountain top rides for incredible views.   We highly recommend Smokemont Ridging Stables in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

31 - Explore the abandoned Daisy Town resort 

Located in the historic logging area of Elkmont, Daisy Town was a mountain getaway for the more affluent from nearby Knoxville.  The famous Appalachian resort closed down with the formation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the 1930s, and today, Daisy Town is literally a Ghost town in the mountains.  

Elkmont isn't far from Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge TN .  Visit and explore this unique historic area, and walkthrough the restored old homes.   >> Learn more about Elkmont

32 - Try to find the historic hidden cabin of artist, Mayna Treanor Avent

Mayna Avent was a famous artist, often spent the summer in her cabin, how located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park .  This cabin, built in 1845 and purchased by the Avent family in 1918, was used as her summer art studio for 20 years.   

The cabin has been restored and is maintained, and you can both visit and walk through this historic site, located in the Elkmont area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.   Be sure to visit the small room off the main porch, which has a guest registry, copies of Mayna's artwork, and information on the cabin itself.  See our Elkmont Guide for information on how to access this beautiful old cabin.

33 - Plunge off the boulders at Midnight Hole

Nothing says summer fun for families, than waterparks, and what's even better?  Natural waterparks.   Look no further than Midnight Hole in the Big Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park .   At Midnight Hole you can swim in the crisp crystal clear waters of Big Creek, or for the more daring, jump from the tall rocks, and plunge into the deep waters.

This is an adventure your family and kids will remember, and will be itching to come back to.   

>> See our Midnight Hole Guide for all the details

34 - Drive the 11-mile loop road through Cades Cove to see historic buildings and wildlife

The most visited area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park , and for good reason, is Cades Cove.  This historic settlement area, located in the Eastern TN section of the park is full of history, wildlife, beautiful scenery ... and bears.

While there are black bears all throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park , your chance of seeing one in Cades Cove is significantly higher than any other area of the park.    

In Cades Cove you can drive the 11-mile loop road, to see the entire Cove, historic structures, wildlife, and to access the hiking trails, and the incredibly popular Abrams Falls.  Be sure to stop at he visitor center at the half-way mark, and tour the mill.   Oh, and the nice cream at the Trading Company, at the beginning and end of the loop is a MUST.

>> See our Cades Cove Guide for all the details

35 - Visit and ride the historic Tweetsie Railroad in Boone NC

Visit the Carolina's first theme park and return to the wild west as you ride behind Tweetsie's historic narrow gauge steam engines, and experience the thrills of the amusement rides, live shows, food and family-fun!

For more than 60 years, Tweetsie Railroad, located in Blowing Rock NC , as been providing families with memories and Wild West Adventure.     The park is on the National Register of Historic Places, and has something for the whole family to enjoy.  Be sure to check-out their annual events as well, such as A Day Out with Thomas, Ghost Train , and Tweetsie Christmas!

>> Learn More About Tweetsie Railroad in our Tweetsie Guide

36 - See the tallest waterfall on the east coast, at over 800 feet tall

Whitewater Falls is located in Gorges State Park, near Sapphire and Highlands NC .   It may surprise you to know, that Whitewater Falls from top to bottom, is over 800' tall AND the largest waterfall on the East Coast - Yes, taller than Niagra.

This stunning Falls is also Handicap accessible to the viewing deck (assistance is recommended), and you the more adventurous can hike down to the base of the falls as well.

>> See our Whitewater Falls Guide for all the details!

37 - Slide down a natural rock waterslide

Sliding Rock, located near Brevard NC is one of the largest natural attractions in North Carolina.  This natural roadside water slide attracts families from all over, who love sliding down the smooth rocks, and plunging into the crisp and cool pool below.

Get there early, as the parking area fills up fast.  There are lifeguards on duty during prime season and a small admission fee to enter.   Trust us, your kids and grandkids will LOVE this place.

>> Learn More about Sliding Rock

38 - Take the kids mining for Gems

The Blue Ridge Mountains are full of gem mines, where kids and adults can pan the waters for hidden treasure and learn a little bit about geology while they're at it.   See our favorite Gem Mines in the Blue Ridge Mountains .

39 - Visit an Apple Festival

When many people think of Fall in the Blue Ridge Mountains , they think of beautiful color, crisp cool temperatures, and Apples.  Apples?  Yes, Apples.   Mountain Apples in the Fall are a special treat, and have been for centuries.  In fact, many areas have been celebrating annual Apple Harvests for many many years.

Apple Festivals have apples (of course), baked apple goods, apple treats, live music, arts, crafts, dancing, games, and much more.  Two of the largest Apple Festivals are the annual Waynesville NC Apple Festival and the NC Apple Festival in Hendersonville NC .   Ellijay GA also has a number of Apple festival and events each year.

40 - Have a picnic, and watch the Sunset with 360 degree views

Grab some take out, or stop by the grocery store to grab some food, and then head up into the higher elevations for a picnic and a sunset.    One of our favorite spots is Waterrock Knob , near Maggie Valley NC off the Blue Ridge Parkway , but there are many others, including Doughton Park in North Carolina (pictured above).  

>> Top 20 Picnic Spots in the Blue Ridge Mountains

41 - Explore below the mountain at Linville Caverns

Various areas of the Blue Ridge Mountains have natural caverns that you can visit and explore.  These underground caverns offer a unique way to see the mountains from a different perspective, and many have very interesting histories.  For example, Linville Caverns has a bottomless pool, and was also used as Civil War hide-out for deserters.

Notable Caverns you and your family can explore include: Luray Caverns in Virginia, Linville Caverns in NC , and Forbidden Caverns and Ruby Falls in TN .

42 - Find the "Hiker's Tunnel" in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Located under the road to Clingmans dome , this hidden tunnel, commonly called the "Hiker's Tunnel" is driven over my 10s of thousands of people per year.   Most, don't even know it's there.   The tunnel is historic and part of the remains of an old trail that used to go through the area until the park moved some roads for better accessibility.

Can you find it?

43 -Visit the most popular waterfall on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The most popular waterfall on the Blue Ridge Parkway, is located at MP339.5, and just 1.5 miles down a trail.  This 70 foot, heavy flow waterfall is stunning and incredibly photogenic, making it a very popular destination for parkway visitors.

If you're traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway, or just love finding waterfalls, Crabtree Falls should be on the top of your list.   >> Learn all about Crabtree Falls in our guide.

44 - Pick Fresh Mountain Apples

In #39, we talked about how mountains and apples just kind of go together.  Well, did you know that not only can you visit and get fresh mountain apples in the Fall, but you can also pick your own at select Apple orchards?    

This is a great family activity, and will definitely help the kids realize that Apples just don't grow on trees ... oh wait, nevermind.  Anyway, Apple Orchards in the Blue Ridge Mountains often have lots more to do, including games, hayrides, samples of baked apple products, and much more.  

Visiting a Blue Ridge Mountain Apple Orchard is a great way to not only bring home some delicious apples, but to spend some great family time in the mountains as well.    

Top Orchards that we would recommend include: Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge GA, The Orchard at Altapass , off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Grandad's Apples in Hendersonville NC.

45 - Ring the bell at the old Church in Little Cataloochee

Many have heard of Cataloochee Valley, and driven through to see the Elk.  That part of Cataloochee Valley is called "Big Cataloochee", but did you know there is a "Little Cataloochee" as well?   There is, but you can't drive to it, you have to hike.  BUT, the hike is beautiful, well worth it, and along the way, you'll see a number of historic buildings, and be taken back in time.

The highlight of the hike is Little Cataloochee Baptist Church.  This old restored church sits on the the top of a mountain, and has been fully restored to the way it was.  The church also has a historic graveyard, with many old graves.   The church even has a working bell you can ring, and the sounds of that bell echoing through the hollers of Cataloochee Valley will transport you to Sunday mornings, when everyone gather at the church.

>> Learn more about Hiking to Little Cataloochee Valley

46 - Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Did you know, that the remains of a very popular 70s theme park still opens a couple of times a year?   Yes, you can visit the mountains of Western North Carolina , and follow the yellow brick road!   The closed (but not open again), Land of Oz theme park, opens a few times a year for special events, that well, are just amazing.

The highlight event is Autumn in Oz, where you can visit the park, do the self guided tour, visit Dorothy's home, have to run inside when the tornado arrives, and then appear in the Land of Oz.  Once there, you get to travel the yellow brick road and meet all of the characters, and then finally arrive in Emerald City to see the Wizard.

The park has been restored, and is simply beautiful and a real treat for both children and adults to visit.   Land of Oz is located in Beech Mountain NC .

>> Learn all about the Land of Oz theme park

47 - Stand at the top of an old Fire Tower

Fire towers in the early 1900s were prevalent, and key to early identification of fires.  In today's world, with aircraft, cell phones, and drones, most fire towers are gone, and the ones remaining really aren't used, and just remain as historical structures.

Fortunately there are a few that remain in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and make for excellent adventures, and deliver spectacular views.  One very popular one is Frying Pan Tower at MP450.  The fire tower is visible from the Parkway, and about a 1.5 mile hike from the parking area.

The tower is generally open, and you can climb to the top for incredible 360 degree views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains .

48 - Visit the largest privately owned home in the US

The largest privately owned home in the United States is located in Asheville NC.   Biltmore Estate opened on Christmas eve in 1895, after nearly 6 years of construction.  The estate consisted of 625,000 acres, most of it now Pisgah National Forest.   The home was built by George Vanderbilt, and Asheville was selected due to Mr. Vanderbilt's love of these mountains, and the city of Asheville .   

Today, the home and gardens are open to the public.  The estate now has multiple restaurants, shops, a winery, and more.   The house and grounds are simply gorgeous, and offer visitors an exceptional experience.

>> See our Biltmore Guide for more information.

49 - Explore to Gorge in Georgia's Blue Ridge

We had no idea there was a beautiful gorge and waterfall in North Georgia.   We just happened to be driving back from a visit to Helen, GA and decided to check it out.  Turns out, Tallulah Gorge is a great hike, absolutely beautiful waterfall, and has a super cool suspension bridge that you can cross over.

Tallulah Gorge is definitely a place you should visit for beautiful views, and a gorgeous waterfall.  We visited in the Fall, and the colors and scenery were stunning.

>> Learn more!

50 - Climb to the top, where the Devil holds court

Devil's Courthouse, at MP422.4 is a popular stopping point along the Blue Ridge Parkway, due to the beautiful long distance views, and large rock faces of the mountain itself.

What many don't realize is that you can also make the short but steep hike up to the very top for more incredible views.   The woods that you hike through on the way up are gorgeous, making this a nice hike, that delivers fantastic views at the end.

The name of the mountain roots to Cherokee folklore, where they believed the Devil had court in the caves below the mountain.

Larry Deane

About the author

Larry Deane is co-owner of Blue Ridge Mountain Life. He has spent more than 20 years exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and has a deep passion for nature, history, storytelling, and adventure. Along with his wife Jenn, they combined these passions to create Blue Ridge Mountain Life, a travel guide to these stunning mountains they are fortunate to call home. Larry has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and journalist, and has established himself as a leading voice and expert for Blue Ridge Mountains. He is also an avid hiker, photographer, and videographer. He loves sharing his mountain adventures and knowledge with more than 500,000 people per month on Blue Ridge Mountain Life.

Want to learn more?

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Top 25 Things to Do in the Blue Ridge Mountains

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The Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina are brimming with adventures of all kinds, and you’re invited to come to explore. From crashing waterfalls and sweeping vistas to small-town main streets and locally crafted flavors, there are countless ways to experience this amazing place. Here are 25 of the top things to see, do, and explore in the Blue Ridge.

1. Choose Your Basecamp for Adventure

However you choose to set up camp — pitching a tent , booking a room, or renting a mountain cabin — the welcoming towns of the Blue Ridge Mountains are the perfect place to call home during your mountain adventures. Convenient to Interstates 40 and 26, as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway, your basecamp will have the best of both worlds — great food, culture, and hospitality in town, plus easy access to the great outdoors.

People walking in downtown Marion

2. Explore the historic downtown Marion where you’ll find excellent local restaurants and boutique shops. Learn about local history at the Historic Carson House , and stroll along the Catawba River on the Joseph McDowell Historical Catawba Greenway . Once you're done, enjoy a pint of locally brewed beer at Mica Town Brewing .

3. The town of Old Fort , once the western frontier of European settlement in North Carolina, is now leading the pack as a mountain biking destination . Start the day with breakfast at the Old Fort Ride House before exploring the new Old Fort Gateway Trails . Get a glimpse of settler life at the Mountain Gateway Museum , and kick back in the evening at Hillman Beer or Whaley Farm Brewery .

4. Lake James State Park and the nearby town of Nebo offer laid-back lake vibes for your getaway, whether you prefer water activities such as boating, swimming, and fishing, or prefer to enjoy the beauty of this mountain waterway with your feet on dry trails.

Lake James Couple

  • Embrace the alpine charm and breathtaking views in Little Switzerland , a historic resort town with Old World style, award-winning barbecue, and beautiful handicrafts.
  • The Linville Falls Community is home to some of the most amazing natural wonders in the Blue Ridge. Explore the trails around popular Linville Falls to see this stunning three-tiered waterfall from every angle. Take a hike amid the technical terrain of Linville Gorge , also known as the “Grand Canyon of the East.” And dive deep into a subterranean adventure at Linville Caverns .

7. Outdoor Exploration in the Pisgah National Forest

Did you know that the Blue Ridge is home to the oldest national forest in the Eastern U.S.? Pisgah National Forest stretches for more than half a million acres of hardwood forests and pristine rivers and serves as a habitat for a unique array of plants and animals. With hundreds of miles of trails, there’s plenty to explore.

Waterfall

  • Hunt for awe-inspiring waterfalls of all shapes and sizes. From the 60-foot vertical plunge of Crabtree Falls to the four-tiered spectacle of Setrock Creek Falls , many of the most popular waterfall hikes are family-friendly — with excellent photo ops at the end!
  • For mountain biking enthusiasts , the local Blue Ridge trails offer a great combination of challenging rides and incomparable forest scenery. Experienced cyclists will love the switchbacked climb and thrilling descent of Kitsuma Peak . Another favorite is the paved Point Lookout Trail .
  • Enjoy an adventure under the stars when you camp at a Blue Ridge campground . From family campgrounds with playgrounds to luxurious RV parks to tiny “glamping” cabins along the river, there’s a Blue Ridge camping experience for just about everyone.

Camping

  • Visitors who love to meet new feathered friends will love birding in the Blue Ridge . This biodiverse region is home to many year-round resident birds, and it’s a favorite flyover area for many more migrating species.
  • Floating gently down a mountain river on an innertube is one of the most relaxing ways to keep cool in the summer. Catawba River Outdoors offers rental tubes and shuttle rides, or bring your own tube to Greenlee Park where you’ll find parking, picnic tables, and river access.
  • Hit the trail to choose your own hiking adventure in any season. Check out our Blue Ridge hiking guide for a list of favorite trails and to download a hiking map.

Curtis Creek Kid Grandad.jpeg

  • Go fish! The region’s sparkling mountain streams are teeming with wild brook, rainbow, and brown trout — an ideal place for fly fishers of all skill levels. Be sure to read up on local regulations before heading out to the river.
  • Book a tee time and enjoy 18 holes of mountain leisure on the golf course. Those who prefer traditional golf will love the views at Marion Lake Club Golf Course . Or try your hand at something new with a round of disc golf at North Cove Leisure Club .
  • Search for buried treasure as you dig into local history. Explore North Carolina’s gem mining past at Emerald Village where you can tour an underground mine and also mine for your own gems on the mining sluice. The Blue Ridge is also the historic heart of N.C.’s gold mining days.

blue ridge parkway view

17. Blue Ridge Parkway

The 469-mile scenic byway known as “America’s Favorite Drive” weaves through the peaks and valleys of the Blue Ridge, offering not only stunning views of the surrounding landscape but also access to some of best mountain adventures. Plan your Blue Ridge Parkway visit with our guide.

  • The Blue Ridge Parkway leads to some of the highest peaks in the Eastern United States . Drive or hike to the top of Mount Mitchell (milepost 355.4) — the highest point east of the Mississippi River — for 360-degree views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the surrounding alpine forest. Drive south along the parkway to visit Craggy Gardens (milepost 364.1), known for its rhododendron thickets and stunning sunsets. Or head north to Grandfather Mountain (milepost 305) — home of the famous Mile-High Swinging Bridge.
  • Tap your toes to the sounds of old-time music as you enjoy a fresh plate of apple pie a la mode at the historic Orchard at Altapass (milepost 328.3), a 100-year-old apple orchard that’s preserving the local heritage of the Blue Ridge. Pick your own apples, enjoy a “hayride,” and stay for the live mountain music.

Couple walking through the Orchard at Altapass eating apples.

20. Travel south on the Blue Ridge Parkway to take a day trip to the Pisgah Mountain area , home to the Cradle of Forestry where the study of forestry took root in America. Cool off with a chilly slide down Sliding Rock, pull over to snap a selfie at Looking Glass Falls, and enjoy the trails and waterfalls of the popular Graveyard Fields hiking area (milepost 418.8).

21. Local Culture

Of course, it’s not just the beauty of the mountains that makes the Blue Ridge shine. The people, celebrations, and artisan craftsmanship also illuminate the traditions and stories of this region. One of the best ways to get a taste of the local culture is to pull up a chair at an area eatery and order a delicious meal. Check out our guide to local food in the Blue Ridge.

22. Celebrate in the Blue Ridge at one of several annual festivals. In May, mystery moves into Marion for the WNC Bigfoot Festival . The N.C. Bluegrass Festival rolls through Tom Johnson’s Camping Center in August, and music and crafts line Main Street at October’s Morning Glory Festival. Celebrate days gone by in Old Fort at the Mountain Gateway Museum ’s Pioneer Day in April. Check the event calendar for more information.

Bigfoot Festival in Downtown Marion.jpg

23. Embrace the creative spirit of the Blue Ridge and appreciate the craftsmanship of the local arts . Find unique handmade items by many local artists at the McDowell Arts Council Association gallery in Marion. Sign up for a class to learn stained glass or painting techniques at the Arrowhead Gallery and Studios in Old Fort. Find local creations and crafts inside The Davis Country Store , another Old Fort stop. Or take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Folk Art Center (milepost 382) to browse beautiful items from arts across the region.

24. Sip your way along the High Spirits Trail — a collection of nearly a dozen wineries, breweries, distilleries, and meaderies. Taste unique flavors inspired by the Blue Ridge, and look for stops along the way that offer snacks, live music, or unique scenery.

South Creek Winery group

25. The Best Across the Blue Ridge

From your base camp on the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge, you can explore so much of what these mountains have to offer. Take a day trip to see the grandeur of Biltmore , the breathtaking vistas of Chimney Rock State Park , the cinematic beauty of DuPont State Park, or the natural diversity at the North Carolina Arboretum.

To start planning your next adventure, explore great ways to play , stay , and eat in the Blue Ridge. Download or request a visitor guide here.

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Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip | Our Recommended 5-Day Itinerary

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Note: The Travel Awaits team regularly updates content to provide the latest, and most accurate information to our readers. The updated content in this article may not reflect the views or opinions of the original author.

There are more than 450 mileposts in the Milepost Guide of the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway, which showcases the lovely Blue Ridge Mountains which are a physiographic province of the larger Appalachian Highlands range.

It includes everything travelers look for: small towns, tunnels, overlooks, campgrounds, cabins, bed and breakfasts, hotels and motels, restaurants, a visitor center, National Park Service, parking areas, picnic areas, wineries, hiking trails, waterfalls, mountains, lakes, rivers, and other attractions along the way.

This is why the parkway is the most visited single unit in the U.S. National Parks System. Driving straight through without stopping would take about ten to twelve hours, but three to seven days is needed to explore it well. To avoid the summer heat, visit in early spring.

There are many visitor centers, but to plan our exploration, we went to the main Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center (MP 384) near the city of Asheville and our campground in Lenoir, North Carolina. Based on the information from the visitor center, we grouped visits to our chosen landmarks into five parts and planned a day to see each grouping. We’ve ordered them chronologically, based on our itinerary, and I’ve provided milepost numbers for guidance when going on the Blue Ridge Mountains run.

The Blowing Rock along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip: The Perfect 5-Day Itinerary

Day 1: blowing rock.

The town of Blowing Rock (MP 219.9) was only about 30 minutes away from our campground. Its population of 1,500 balloons to 10,000 during the tourist season in summer. It takes its name from an unusual rock formation named The Blowing Rock that juts over 1,500 feet above the Johns River Gorge.

Wind currents from the gorge often blow vertically, causing light objects to float upward into the sky. Legend has it that a pair of lovers from warring tribes, the Cherokee and Catawba, separated by war, were reunited only when the woman prayed to the Great Spirit, who sent gusts of wind to blow him back up the cliff. And the winds stayed.

Whether you’re drawn by Blowing Rock’s history or its legend, you can’t afford to miss the views. Apart from the famed rock, you’ll find a scenic overlook and a sizable observation tower offering sweeping panoramic views. What further captivated us were the enormous, gorgeous exhibited crystals in the official gallery.

Blowing Rock Art & History Museum was our next stop. Admission was free so we enjoyed creative paintings and sculptures and took our time at the history exhibits. It’s interesting to read how Blowing Rock evolved over the years. From this museum, you can walk right outside into the heart of downtown.

The other popular tourist attraction near Blowing Rock is The Tweetsie Railroad Theme Park, which is home to the only remaining fully-functional steam engine train in North Carolina. Visitors to Tweetsie can ride the train for three miles to enjoy the lovely Appalachian trail mountain scenery, which is especially gorgeous in the fall. There are other park rides to enjoy, plus a deer park and shows, and this mountain town has many little craft shops. too.

The bridge at Grandfather Mountain.

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Day 2: Grandfather Mountain And Linn Cove Viaduct

Grandfather Mountain (MP 307.4) has been designated by the United Nations as an International Biosphere Reserve because of the seven environmental habitats it encompasses (one each for black bears, river otters, cougar, bald eagles, golden eagle, and white-tailed deer). Additionally, the flamboyant Catawba rhododendron blooms here at lower elevations by April. The huge purple blossoms progress to high peaks by late June when they become a real spectacle. The mountain is also famous for the Mile-High Swinging Bridge, which was built to give visitors a breath-taking 360-degree view — especially during fall — from Linville Peak. The 228-foot suspension bridge is more than one mile high and spans an 80-foot chasm.

Further down the parkway, there is a great view of the Linn Cove Viaduct (MP 304.4) from the Linn Cove Visitors’ Center (MP 304). The Viaduct, a 1,243-foot concrete segmental bridge which snakes around the slopes of Grandfather Mountain, is a sight to behold. It was completed in 1983 at a cost of $10 million and was the last section of the parkway to be finished.

I should tell you that one of the things included in your park admission is a CD that you can listen to on your skyline drive through this National Park. Listening to the fun facts about the historic sites we were passing by was very interesting actually. In fact, nobody had the faintest idea that a part of Forrest Gump was filmed here.

In the end, to sweeten up our trip to Grandfather Mountain, we turned to “Grandfather Mountain Fudge Shop”. To place an order for pickup and enjoy the cool flavors like peppermint or pumpkin call Mildred’s Grill .

Linville Falls along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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Day 3: Asheville To Linville Falls

On day three, we headed to Asheville , where we took a peek at America’s great castle, the beautiful Biltmore , but we didn’t have the time to explore it. Instead, we trekked up the parkway to the Folk Art Center (MP 382), which exhibits quality products from North Carolina’s talented craftsmen. I especially liked the handwoven scarves, stoles, and purses I saw there, but they were a little expensive.

It would have been spectacular had the rhododendrons been in full bloom, but they were just starting when we went to our next stop: Craggy Gardens at MP 364.6. Here, the parkway is literally lined with walls of the plants that are sometimes as tall as trees. The best time to visit is late June to early August when the pinkish purple blooms are at their peak everywhere. But another good visit time is fall, when you can witness the deciduous trees’ majestic display of yellows, reds, and golds.

Next up: Mt. Mitchell at MP 349. This is the highest peak on the East Coast at 6,700 feet. Climbing up to the Mt. Mitchell Observation Tower, I was alarmed when my heart pounded so much. I began to think of nothing else except how to keep fit while RV cruising. But I got a great treat after reaching the top. It wasn’t only the panoramic view but also the wonderfully hot chili and dogs at the restaurant we found there.

It was already getting late, so we skipped the other stops so we could reach Linville Falls (MP 316.4) before nightfall. The beautiful waters cascade down from the 2,000-foot Linville Peak of Grandfather Mountain. It took a brisk hike to get to the falls and the walk back was done even more hurriedly. In fact, we got back to Lenoir past 8 p.m., just before the library closed, to take out a movie for the night.

Mabry Mill along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Carol Colborn

Day 4: Meadows Of Dan To Roanoke, Virginia

Next we tackled the Virginia section of the parkway. The sounds of the banjo, fiddle, and guitar greeted us at the Blue Ridge Music Center (MP 213) just after the North Carolina border. But it was Puckett Cabin (MP 190) that held our interest for some time. Orelena Puckett was a famous midwife in the late 1800s. Legend has it that, traveling miles on foot when called, she assisted in giving birth to about a thousand babies in 50 years — she lived to be 102 — and was paid about a dollar for each childbirth. The sad irony is that although she gave birth to 24 children herself, none of them survived beyond infancy.

After Puckett Cabin, we headed for the main destination of the day. Mabry Mill (MP 176.1) is the most photographed (and painted) scene along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I tried to capture its magic in photos, but it is truly best seen in person. The Mabrys were jacks of all trades, so the property even had a blacksmith shop in addition to the centerpiece mill and pond. To this day, the serene paradise depicts the way subsistence farmers lived during those days, especially how water was managed.

We ended the day in the charming mountain city of Roanoke (MP 120.4) which has a population of 300,000. As we proceeded to our motel, we saw a big star shining from atop the mountains. The next day, I found out that it was the eternally lit Mill Mountain Star, the world’s largest freestanding illuminated man-made star. Constructed in 1949 at the top of Mill Mountain, it stands 88.5 feet tall with 2,000 feet of neon tubing powered by 17,500 watts. It was red, white, and blue for six years after the Twin Towers attack and was switched back to all white after the Virginia Tech massacre. Now it turns red whenever there is a traffic fatality in the city.

The Peaks of Otter along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Jill Lang / Shutterstock

Day 5: Beyond Roanoke And Toward The Northern Terminus

The following day was our last, as we’d almost reached the northern terminus at MP 0 near Shenandoah National Park. We started with a short drive from Roanoke to the Peaks of Otter (MP 86), which are called Sharp Top, Flat Top, and Harkening Hill. To hike up any one would have taken around three hours, so we opted to satisfy ourselves by taking lovely pictures from the lodge instead. Then we took a peek at Poplar Forest, the summer home of Thomas Jefferson, a short drive from the peaks.

Our next stop was the town of Glasgow. Fifteen miles from MP 61.4 is the Natural Bridge. For the last 500 million years, it has been a continuing work of art carved out by the waters of Cedar Rapids. Look for the letters GW that are inscribed on the rocks about 23 feet from the stream’s surface at the middle below the bridge; they’re said to have been carved by George Washington. All around the grounds are 1,600 year-old trees that have died and are in the process of becoming petrified. It was worth the hefty price we paid for entry, but it’s too bad that it’s been over-commercialized with a toy museum and wax factory, where we felt we wasted considerable time.

By the time we got out of the Natural Bridge area, we’d missed the open hours of the Stonewall Jackson House in Lexington (MP 46). They say that had he not been accidentally killed by one of his men, the Confederacy would have won the Civil War. The Virginia Military Institute, just a few miles away, is dubbed the West Point of the South and is responsible for managing the Stonewall House and museum.

After we’d packed up camp, we drove the parkway toward its southern terminus at MP 469. This section had so many tunnels, coming one after another and sometimes even back to back. It was an amazingly scenic skyline drive that inspired our next adventure at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Want more on our RVing adventures? Here’s what we learned from eight years of cruising North America in an RV and five fabulous glaciers to visit in Alaska .

How Long Would It Take to Drive Through Blue Ridge Parkway?

It would theoretically take 15 hours to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway straight through. But with the countless overlooks, waterfalls, and other attractions along the way, you will stop more than once to see the sights.

How Many Overlooks Are There Along the Blue Ridge Parkway?

Even though there are about 280 pullouts on the parkway, only 200 are listed as overlooks. Out of those, 68 are in Virginia and 132 in North Carolina. They’re notated using mileposts, from VA’s Afton Overlook to NC’s View Oconaluftee River.

How Many Blue Ridge Parkway Campgrounds Are There?

There are only eight official Blue Ridge Parkway campgrounds. They are seasonal camps with restrooms, drinking water, picnic area with tables, and grills, but without RV hookups. However, there are many other private campgrounds located right off of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Are There Visitor Centers Located on the Blue Ridge Parkway?

Yes. There are 15 Visitor Centers located on the Blue Ridge Parkway, with 6 located in Virginia and 9 in North Carolina. Three visitor centers are open year-round, but most of them are seasonal and open only from May through October. 

Can You Drive an RV or Pull a Camper on the Blue Ridge Parkway?

Yes, but it can be risky because tunnels and overhanging tree limbs may be a problem for tall RVs and campers. Also, you must exit off the parkway to fuel up because gas is not available on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Image of Carol Colborn

Carol retired as a CEO for pioneering IT companies in the Philippines. Curious about the world she missed while stressing out working, she migrated to the U.S., ended up an adjunct professor and small business counselor while babysitting her grandson during the day. That is, until she met her travel partner on the internet! After the wedding ceremony, they honeymooned for eight years in an RV to 49 states, nine Canadian provinces, and six Mexican states.

They now call Mesa, Arizona, home. From this base, they embark on great road trips to meet family at reunions in picturesque resorts around the U.S. Visits to their kids’ homes in Anchorage, Boise, and Denver (his) and in San Francisco, Calgary, and Melbourne (hers) allow for exploring the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Carol has been to 48 countries but their 3-month all-inclusive winter escapes to Mexico in Mazatlan, Cancun, or Cozumel are their best times.

Carol maintains a blog, Carolina: Cruising Past 70 , and has published two travel books: Carolina: Cruising to an American Dream about her RVing years and Cruising Past Seventy: It's Not Only About Outer Journeys . It's Also about Inner Ones , is a collection of her most widely-read blog posts and articles. She has a BS in math, MBA, and DPA.

10 Places You Must Visit in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Ever heard of the biltmore estate you need to go. it's on our list of the 10 best places to ride your motorcycle in the blue ridge mountains..

10 Places You Must Visit in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Tamela Rich is motorcycle tour operator based in North Carolina who will this summer be hosting the “Appalachian Mountains and Music Tour” running from Front Royal, Virginia, to Little Switzerland, North Carolina. We asked her to share some of her absolutely favorite places to ride in the region, and she put together the following list:

Every motorcyclist has heard of the great riding roads in the Blue Ridge Mountains, many named for reptiles like dragons and snakes. I’ve ridden most of them myself, grinning all the while.

Of course twisty roads tend to take the spotlight on every motorcyclist’s “must-ride list,” so here are two comparatively tame roads known mostly for sweeping curves that offer enthralling vistas and encourage peaceful contemplation under the helmet. Bonus: both traverse hundreds of miles of travel without a single stoplight.

The first of those roads is Skyline Drive, which runs atop the central ridge of Shenandoah National Park for 105 miles. Enter the park and Skyline Drive in Front Royal, Virginia after filling your tank. Although there are three gas stations in Shenandoah, you’ll pay a premium.

Watch for bears in Shenandoah, which are plentiful throughout the area. There are two park visitor centers, Dickey Ridge Visitor Center, at Mile 4.6 in the Northern District, and Byrd Visitor Center, in the Central District at Mile 51 in Big Meadows, which is my first of 10 suggested stops when in the region.

10 Places You Must Visit in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Stop No.1: Byrd Visitor Center

“Within a Day’s Drive of Millions,” tells the story of Shenandoah’s establishment and development including the significance of wilderness designation. I appreciate the evenhandedness of including segregationist Jim Crow practices in the early days of the park movement and a candid historical look at the public relations efforts intended to discredit the “hillbillies and moonshiners” whose lands were acquired to make it.

READ MORE: Mountainous Adventures on Old Motorcycles | RideApart

When you reach the southern terminus of Skyline Drive you can pick up the second road on my list: the Blue Ridge Parkway, known as “America’s Favorite Drive.” The Parkway runs the next 469 miles to the North Carolina entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Cherokee.

There are loads of scenic overlooks and some historical sites from the people who settled in the Smokies before it became a park. Aside from concessions on a few properties there is no commercial activity on the Parkway, including gas. Rest assured, however, there is gas at most “exits” off the Parkway in the hundreds of little towns and villages.

The Parkway is so delightful that you may be tempted not to make some of my recommended stops, but maybe this list will tempt you to put the sidestand down at least nine times. Everything about the Parkway is noted with “MP” for Milepost.

Stop No. 2: Blue Ridge Music Center

MP 213 in Galax, Virginia

The Blue Ridge Music Center is set on the Parkway itself on a lovely meadow with adjacent walking paths. Summer is filled with daily concerts and frequent jamborees. The impressive interpretive center helps visitors understand Southern history and culture through the lens of music, including how German group singing and African slave music combined to form the Bluegrass genre. The Center is run by the National Park Service, which means the interpretive displays and hands-on learning activities are of the highest quality.

What I learned about the history and influence of the banjo gave me an appreciation for the humble instrument that doesn’t get much respect. When African slaves were forbidden by slaveholders to play their drums, they created the banjo. In the mid-1800s, when minstrel shows (featuring white men in blackface playing banjos and baffooning) became the rage in America and parts of Europe, the instrument was largely abandoned by African-Americans. “Jim Crow” (as in Jim Crow laws) originated with a minstrel performer, whose character, Jim Crow, was devised to reinforce beliefs in white superiority. Jim Crow played a banjo.

Stop No. 3: Grandfather Mountain State Park

MP 305 in Linville, North Carolina

Walk its famous Mile High Swinging Bridge, the highest in America. The 228-foot suspension bridge spans an 80-foot chasm and was built to give visitors easy access to the breathtaking view from Grandfather Mountain’s Linville Peak.

Stop No. 4 Linville Falls

Also in Linville, North Carolina at MP 316.3

The magnificent three-tiered waterfall plunges into Linville Gorge. Choose between two trails: Falls Trail is easy, at 1.6 miles; Gorge Trail is more strenuous and covers 1.4 miles. Factoids: Last of the Mohicans was filmed in Linville Gorge, and the US Army has used it for cold-weather operations.

Stop No. 5: North Carolina Minerals Museum

MP 331, Gillespie Gap

An important stop for Revolutionary War fighters on their way to the Battle of Kings Mountain. The museum itself features interactive displays about the minerals and gems found in the region as well as the historical importance of the mining industry to the local economy. Factoid: the largest emerald in the world was discovered nearby.

Stop No. 6: Mount Mitchell State Park

A slight turn off the Parkway at MP 355.4 then up, up, up.

The dramatic summit is the highest point east of the Mississippi at 6,684 feet. The accessible observation deck offers spectacular views of the the spruce-fir forest. Stay for a bite to eat at the restaurant there, one of few concessions on the actual Parkway itself.

Stop No. 7: The Folk Art Center

The Folk Art Center is a combination of museum and retail shop. The Southern Highland Craft Guild, chartered in 1930, represents nearly 900 craftspeople in 293 counties of 9 southeastern states. During the Depression, the Guild cultivated commerce for craftspeople in the Appalachian region. This legacy continues today as the Guild plays a large role in the Southern Highlands craft economy.

Stop No. 8: Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center

Start with the Visitor’s Center, recently refurbished, and watch The Blue Ridge Parkway—America's Favorite Journey , a 24-minute film shown in high-definition surround sound. Using breathtaking aerial photography it tells the story of a father-daughter motorcycle trip to introduce visitors to the natural and cultural heritage of the mountains and the history of the construction of the Parkway.

READ MORE: Riding a Vintage Harley on the Blue Ridge Parkway | RideApart

Asheville itself is considered the crown jewel of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Many surveys have given it accolades for everything from its food to yoga-friendliness. Be sure to visit the River Arts District, housed in 22 former industrial and historical buildings spread out along a one mile stretch of the French Broad River. Most artisans are happy to ship your purchases home for you. You’ll find restaurants, cafes and a brewery there too. I’ve spent an entire day in the district, myself.

Stop No. 9: The Biltmore Estate

Just south of Asheville at MP 388.8

Let’s face it, some people like touring majestic homes and others don’t. Never fear, there’s plenty to do there for everyone in your party, including the winery, gardens, and my favorite—Antler Hill Village, which features craftsman demonstrations. I never tire of watching and listening as the blacksmith makes his anvils sing! What, you’ve never heard anvil music? Worth the price of admission.

Stop No. 10: Oconoluftee Visitor Center at Great Smoky Mountain National Park

This visitor center spans 6,300-square feet of interpretive and tells the story of mountain life, from Native Americans who’ve lived there for thousands of years, to the early European settlement time periods, through the Civilian Conservation Corps and the development of the national park. While there, be sure to tour the adjacent Mountain Farm Museum.

You can find out more about Tamela's "Appalachian Mountains and Music Tour"  here .

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The Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise | 10 Best Places for Viewing

by Sarah | Local

the Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise. Spectacular Appalachian Trail Overlooks, Elevated Views from Mountain Peaks, Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks, and Tips for Planning your Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise Adventure.

Table of Contents

Whether you live here or are here for a visit, the Blue Ridge Mountains sunrise is a must see!

As the first rays of the sun rise over the towering peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a symphony of colors and awe-inspiring beauty unfolds. It’s a beautiful marking of the beginning of a new day.

the Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise. Spectacular Appalachian Trail Overlooks, Elevated Views from Mountain Peaks, Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks, and Tips for Planning your Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise Adventure.

If you’re seeking the most enchanting sunrise experience, you’re in for a treat. We’ll guide you through the best Blue Ridge Mountains sunrise overlooks, showcasing breathtaking vistas and magical moments that will leave you in awe.

Spectacular Appalachian Trail Overlooks

the Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise. Spectacular Appalachian Trail Overlooks, Elevated Views from Mountain Peaks, Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks, and Tips for Planning your Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise Adventure.

One of the best ways to witness the sunrise magic is from the renowned Appalachian Trail.

Among the favorite places to catch the first light is Waterrock Knob. Perched atop the trail, this vantage point offers a 360-degree view of the surrounding landscape.

Craggy Pinnacle is another gem along the trail, where a short hike leads to a world of stunning sunrise views.

Western North Carolina’s beauty unfolds at these locations, inviting you to welcome the new day in a serene and breathtaking way.

Elevated Views from Mountain Peaks

the Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise. Spectacular Appalachian Trail Overlooks, Elevated Views from Mountain Peaks, Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks, and Tips for Planning your Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise Adventure.

For those seeking the best view, scaling mountain peaks offers an unparalleled experience.

Mount Mitchell, the highest peak in the Eastern United States, rewards early risers with incredible panoramic vistas.

Black Balsam Knob provides a mesmerizing sunrise backdrop against a backdrop of rolling hills and endless sky.

To add to the adventure, the rocky terrain of Grandfather Mountain and the sweeping Linn Cove Viaduct offer clear-day sunrises that are nothing short of magical.

Hidden Gems and Natural Wonders

the Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise. Spectacular Appalachian Trail Overlooks, Elevated Views from Mountain Peaks, Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks, and Tips for Planning your Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise Adventure.

For those seeking a more intimate sunrise experience, hidden gems like Max Patch and Brasstown Bald offer a different kind of magic.

Max Patch’s open meadow atop a mountain summit presents a canvas of colors during the first light.

Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest point, provides a breathtaking view of mountain ranges as the new day dawns. These lesser-known spots allow you to escape the crowd and find solace in nature’s embrace.

Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks

the Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise. Spectacular Appalachian Trail Overlooks, Elevated Views from Mountain Peaks, Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks, and Tips for Planning your Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise Adventure.

If you’re seeking the most captivating sunrise views along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’re in for a treat.

Western North Carolina offers a plethora of breathtaking overlooks that provide the best way to welcome a new day in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains.

Waterrock Knob

Waterrock Knob  is undoubtedly a favorite spot for many. As you ascend this lofty peak, the anticipation builds, knowing you’re about to experience one of the best views on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The short hike to the summit reveals a 360-degree view of the surrounding mountain peaks, and when the first light breaks over the horizon, it’s a moment that simply can’t be missed.

Craggy Pinnacle

Another gem awaits at  Craggy Pinnacle . The easy hike takes you to the edge of the mountain. There, you’ll witness the sun rise over the distant peaks, casting an awe-inspiring glow on the craggy terrain.

The sight is a masterpiece of nature, and you’ll understand why it’s considered one of the best sunrise spots.

best places to visit blue ridge mountains virginia

For a slightly different yet equally remarkable experience, venture to  Lake Lure . While not directly on the Parkway, it’s a short drive away and offers a great place to watch the sunrise.

Perched near the water’s edge or from the comfort of a hot tub, the colors of the morning sky reflecting on the lake’s surface create a beautiful sunrise scene.

Mount Mitchell

The allure of  Mount Mitchell , the highest peak in the Appalachians, is undeniable. A short hike to its summit offers amazing views, especially at sunrise. As the sun paints the sky with vibrant hues, the surrounding mountain ranges come alive.

It’s the perfect spot for a video clip or capturing those coveted Blue Ridge Mountains sunrise stock photos.

Black Balsam Knob

Black Balsam Knob  is another spot that deserves recognition. The short hike to its top leads to an amazing panoramic view that stretches far and wide.

Watching the sunrise here is like being on top of the world, and the sight is bound to inspire anyone lucky enough to experience it.

the Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise. Spectacular Appalachian Trail Overlooks, Elevated Views from Mountain Peaks, Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks, and Tips for Planning your Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise Adventure.

Grandfather Mountain

When it comes to sunrise views,  Grandfather Mountain  stands out. The towering peaks offer a unique perspective as the first light touches the landscape below.

The Linn Cove Viaduct, often described as engineering art, is an excellent vantage point for witnessing the first rays of a new day on a clear day.

Max Patch  is a big hit for those seeking a panoramic mountain sunrise. This expansive bald is a popular overlook, and for a good reason!. It’s like standing on a canvas as the sun transforms the sky.

The Appalachian Trail passes through here, so you can enjoy the best sunrise views as you step into a new day along this iconic trail.

Brasstown Bald

For a mix of sunrise and sunset magic,  Brasstown Bald  is your go-to. The highest point in Georgia offers a breathtaking view of mountain ranges stretching into the horizon. Some claim it as one of the best sunrise spots.

As the day winds down, the sunset views here are equally enchanting.

best places to visit blue ridge mountains virginia

Pisgah National Forest

Pisgah National Forest  is an absolute treasure trove for those in pursuit of the best sunrise and sunset views. The forest’s edge provides an unparalleled view of the dawn breaking over the mountains, while its lower levels often offer a front-row seat to the sun’s descent.

Craggy Gardens

And don’t forget about  Craggy Gardens  – a place that lives up to its name. The stunning overlook presents a unique view at the edge of the mountain. It’s as if you’re at the foot of Hickory Nut Gorge.

This is an ideal spot for a summer sunrise, and the experience is more special with the brilliant hues of the first light.

best places to visit blue ridge mountains virginia

Whether you’re capturing the beauty through the lens or simply enjoying the mountain air, the Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks offer an escape into nature’s beauty at the start of each new day.

From the first light breaking across the horizon to the mesmerizing colors that paint the sky, these spots truly epitomize the magic of a sunrise in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Tips for Planning your Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise Adventure

the Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise. Spectacular Appalachian Trail Overlooks, Elevated Views from Mountain Peaks, Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks, and Tips for Planning your Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise Adventure.

Watching the sunrise over the Blue Ridge Mountains is a magical experience that offers a sense of tranquility and awe. Here are some tips to make the most of your sunrise viewing adventure:

1. Check Sunrise Time

Research the exact time of sunrise for the date you plan to visit. Arriving early ensures you have ample time to find a good spot and witness the entire event.

2. Plan Ahead

Determine which overlook you want to visit and plan your route accordingly. Some overlooks are more popular than others, so arriving early might be essential to secure a good spot.

Keep in mind, you will likely be driving on curvy roads through the mountains. Here are the best tips for beating motion sickness when traveling .

3. Arrive Early

Aim to arrive at least 30 minutes to an hour before sunrise. This gives you time to find parking, set up, and get settled before the show begins.

best places to visit blue ridge mountains virginia

4. Dress in Layers

Mountain mornings can be chilly, even in the summer. Wear warm clothing in layers that you can remove as the day warms up.

5. Bring Essentials

Pack essentials like a flashlight, water, hiking snacks , a blanket or cushion for comfort, and perhaps a thermos of hot coffee or tea to keep warm.

6. Camera Gear

If you’re a photography enthusiast, make sure to bring your camera, a sturdy tripod , and any necessary lenses. Sunrise light can create stunning photo opportunities.

7. Choose the Right Overlook

Research the best overlooks for sunrise views. Some popular options include Waterrock Knob, Craggy Pinnacle, and Max Patch. Consider factors like accessibility and the view you want to capture.

8. Respect Nature

Leave no trace. Make sure to clean up after yourself and avoid disturbing wildlife or damaging the environment.

9. Safety First

Some overlooks might have rocky terrain or steep drop-offs. Be cautious, especially in low light conditions. Stay on marked paths and trails.

best places to visit blue ridge mountains virginia

10. Weather Check

Check the weather forecast for the morning of your sunrise adventure. Clear or partly cloudy days offer the best chance to see a beautiful sunrise.

11. Appropriate Footwear

Wear sturdy shoes suitable for walking on uneven terrain, especially if you plan to hike to an overlook.

12. Patience is Key

Watching a sunrise is a slow and gradual process. Don’t rush it. Enjoy the changing colors and the anticipation as the sun creeps over the horizon.

13. Silence and Stillness

Embrace the peacefulness of the moment. Turn off your phone or put it on silent mode to fully immerse yourself in the experience.

14. Share the Experience

Bring a friend, family member, or loved one to share the moment. Experiencing a sunrise together can create lasting memories.

15. Check Park Regulations

Be aware of any park regulations or restrictions, such as parking hours or trail closures, that might affect your plans.

16. Stay Overnight

Stay Overnight : Consider staying in nearby accommodations the night before to avoid having to wake up too early for a sunrise drive.

Watching a Blue Ridge Mountains sunrise is a fantastic way to connect with nature, find inspiration, and start your day with a sense of wonder.

Remember, each sunrise is a unique and fleeting moment, so savor every second.

the Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise. Spectacular Appalachian Trail Overlooks, Elevated Views from Mountain Peaks, Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks, and Tips for Planning your Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise Adventure.

The Blue Ridge Mountains offer an unparalleled opportunity to witness the world awakening in hues of gold and pink.

From the majesty of mountain peaks to the serenity of small towns, each overlook presents a unique perspective on this daily miracle.

So, pack your sense of adventure, grab your camera, and set out to witness the beauty of a new day from the top of the world.

As the first light touches the landscape, you’ll understand why a sunrise in the Blue Ridge Mountains is truly a breathtaking view worth cherishing.

Before you go, here are more posts you’ll enjoy:

The Best Festivals in Western North Carolina

The Best Waterfalls in Pisgah National Forest

50 Backyard Bonfire Ideas

The Best Coffee Downtown Asheville Has to Offer

The Best RV Parks in Asheville, NC

the Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise. Spectacular Appalachian Trail Overlooks, Elevated Views from Mountain Peaks, Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks, and Tips for Planning your Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise Adventure.

Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise

best places to visit blue ridge mountains virginia

Sarah & Travis

Welcome to Our Blue Ridge House in the mountains of NC. 

We love house projects, plants, the outdoors, family adventures, and natural remedies. 

We’re here to share it all with you!  Learn more about us HERE and let’s connect!

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An aerial of a river weaving through Canaan Valley in West Virginia.

‘Almost heaven’? Here’s why West Virginia is the place to go

From white-water rafting to bluegrass concerts, here are 10 wild and wondrous ways to experience the Mountain State.

West Virginia’s Blue Ridge peaks, dramatic gorges, and rushing rivers put it on the map for hikers, rafters, and rock climbers. But the Mountain State isn’t just an adventure destination—it’s also home to historic Civil War sites, old-time music venues, and some of the best stargazing in the United States . We consulted local artists, chefs, and Nat Geo staffers from the region to plot your course in the place that the classic country song calls “ almost heaven .”

Catch the wild waters in New River Gorge

At the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve , hikers explore 100 miles of paths, anglers hook smallmouth bass, and rock climbers scale sandstone cliffs on 70,000 wooded, mountainous acres. But the most heart-pumping way to see America’s newest national park? Hop a guided white-water rafting trip (one of National Geographic’s top 20 Best of the World travel adventures for 2024 ). “Running the Lower Gorge with Class III to V rapids was a blast, and made for a challenging day,” says Anne Farrar, a National Geographic photo editor who grew up near the West Virginia-Ohio border. “Learning to dump a raft, flip it, and climb back in safely was pretty cool. I can’t wait to go back and spend more time on the epic river.”

Dive into Civil War history in Harpers Ferry

Travelers step back in time at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park ,  a riverside settlement with ties to the Civil War. “The   whole town is a walkable museum with furnished 19th-century buildings—a dry goods shop, a tavern—you can peer into,” says Ryleigh Nucilli, a native West Virginian and National Geographic’s director of digital content. You can also visit John Brown’s Fort , the 1848 armory where Brown and his followers staged their famous, doomed anti-slavery rebellion. The park, located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, also has 22 miles of Blue Ridge hiking trails, many with dazzling mountain and water views.

Go cross-country skiing in a “snow bowl”

Thanks to its elevation (3,200-5,000 feet) and basin-shaped geography, the Canaan Valley region of eastern West Virginia averages about 150 inches of snow a year—a boon for winter recreation. Paper artist Nevada Tribble , who lives in Elkins, recommends renting cross-country skis and gliding off from the White Grass Ski Touring Center , with its 31 miles of groomed paths and a cozy café for après-ski soup, microbrews, and brownies. “The trails take you on lovely journeys through the woods,” says Tribble. “There are wind shelters along the trail where you can scoop up birdseed and try to entice the winter songbirds to land on you.”

Travelers can also rent snowshoes to troop around White Grass, Canaan Valley Resort State Park , or the wintery wilds of the Monongahela National Forest ’s Dolly Sods and Cranberry Wilderness areas.

See the stars—and a mammoth telescope

In the remote Potomac Highlands of eastern West Virginia, mountainous Pocahontas County gives travelers stellar stargazing ops at three state parks with International Dark Sky Association designation: Calvin Price State Forest , Droop Mountain Battlefield , and Watoga State Park .  The last, the state’s largest state park, has cabins, campsites, and an observation tower.

The county also holds the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope at the Green Bank Observatory , a 485-foot-high, 17-million-pound behemoth used for atmospheric studies, satellite tracking, and spacecraft monitoring. Visitors can walk or bike on paved trails around the scope or join guided tours inside the observatory. Each July the Green Bank Star Quest has rocket launches for kids and astronomy programs.  

Take the waters in Berkeley Springs 

In the Eastern Panhandle of Western Virginia, warm mineral water has been luring soakers to Berkeley Springs since as far back as the colonial era. The centerpiece of the spa town, Berkeley Springs State Park has hot tubs, sauna sessions, and massages in structures including the historic 1812 Old Roman Bath House. Find antiques stores, indie shops, and a handful of wellness boutiques in the town’s walkable 19th-century downtown.

Try the farm-to-table food 

“We are hunters and gatherers in Appalachia,” says Paul Smith , the James Beard Award-nominated chef of Charleston’s 1010 Bridge restaurant. “We cook what’s in season—the beans, the tomatoes, the peppers—and then, pickle, cure, or ferment them, so we can use them all year.” At his restaurant in the West Virginia capital, that might mean johnny cakes with local apple slaw or trout over kimchee made from foraged ramps (wild leeks).

At Lost Creek Farm ,   popular suppers held May through September star dishes such as spicy cold peach soup and wild mushroom “bologna,” which are “rooted in Appalachian heritage but also avant-garde,” says Nucilli. 

Descend into the state’s mining history 

Mountainous West Virginia has a long history of coal mining. Learn more at the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine , where visitors ride “mantrip” cars 1,500 feet into a shaft, guided by headlamp-wearing former miners. “When you go into the mine and hear the click and clack, you think of those countless men and women who have gone deep down in the Earth,” says T. Ramon Stuart, president of West Virginia University Institute of Technology in Beckley.

Explore the crafts scene

From quilt making to wood carving and weaving, mountain crafts have a long history in West Virginia. Shop for both traditional and contemporary wares by 500 local artisans and makers at the Tamarack Marketplace , a cultural center in Beckley. The spot hosts crafts demos and a food court serving local dishes such as pepperoni rolls—an Italian American snack popular with miners.

Or head to Thomas, a former coal town-turned-art haven in Tucker County. On East Avenue,   Those Who Bloom   sells affordable prints by Appalachian creatives in a rehabbed 19th-century storefront, and Nellie Rose Textiles   offers colorful, hand-dyed women’s clothing and accessories.

Hike or climb a dramatic rock formation

Like a mouth of snaggled stone teeth, Seneca Rocks juts out of the mountainside in the Eastern Panhandle above the North Fork River. The imposing quartzite formation—one of West Virginia’s most distinctive natural landmarks—can be explored via a steep, short hike or on a guided horseback ride . Experienced rock climbers also gravitate to the area to scale Seneca Rocks and neighboring Champe Rocks.

Hear some mountain music

The wail of fiddle, the steely twang of a banjo— bluegrass and old-time music have their roots in Appalachia and West Virginia. Catch these and other distinctive sounds at frequent live recordings of NPR’s legendary Mountain Stage show at the Culture Center in Charleston or take in an outdoor jam at the Appalachian String Band Festival each summer in Clifftop.

“The sawtooth, jagged nature of the music and the local landscapes is an intriguing combination,” says Trent Wagler, a banjo player and singer. His Americana band The Steel Wheels often takes the stage at The Purple Fiddle in Thomas, a vintage general store-turned-concert venue and pub. “It’s the kind of place a jam session would likely unfurl on its own even if there wasn’t a band booked.”

Other live music venues include 123 Pleasant Street in Morgantown (“It’s got a cool stage and vibe in a college town,” says Wagler), and the circa-1902 Carnegie Hall in Lewisburg, where The Legends of WV Bluegrass frequently perform.

For more tips on what to do in West Virginia, see our Explorer’s Guide .

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COMMENTS

  1. 10 Best Virginia Mountain Towns to Visit

    Within the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia you'll find a stellar array of attractions, including Shenandoah National Park, the Shenandoah Valley, Washington & Jefferson National Forests, and our favorite Virginia State Parks .

  2. 8 Places to Visit Along Virginia's Blue Ridge Parkway

    81 APPALACHIAN mountains Afton 64 BLUE RIDGE PKWY. Natural Bridge State Park/ Cedar Creek Trail/ Lace Falls Pine Tree Overlook Peaks of Otter Lodge/ Sharp Top Mountain/ Roanoke Roanoke...

  3. 8 Must See Spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia's Blue Ridge

    - Christine W. "We come here yearly for a visit because of the great views and location!" - HavePassporTKA >> How To: A Wine Weekend in Virginia's Blue Ridge 3. Rocky Knob Recreation Area | Milepost 169

  4. 15 Places You Must Visit on the Blue Ridge Parkway

    Apple Orchard Mountain at Milepost 76.5. At 3,950 feet above sea level the Apple Orchard Mountain Overlook is the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. This is ironic considering that just lowest point on the Parkway is just 13 miles north at the James River Visitor Center.

  5. Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains

    Fall Colors The fall foliage of the Blue Ridge Mountains is one of the most remarkable sites in the world. As the leaves change colors every autumn, the region attracts millions of visitors from around the world who take advantage of the opportunity to see the mountains transform with fall color.

  6. Explore These Virginia Towns Along the Blue Ridge Parkway

    Travel Virginia Explore These Virginia Towns Along the Blue Ridge Parkway This Fall Visit these three mountain towns along the Blue Ridge Parkway for Instagram-worthy autumn foliage. By Grace Haynes Updated on August 3, 2022 In This Article Hot Springs, Virginia Lexington, Virginia Roanoke, Virginia Highlights from Every Town

  7. Blue Ridge Parkway

    Blue Ridge Parkway Meandering 469 miles from Shenandoah National Park in the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway, also known as "America's Favorite Drive," follows the Appalachian Mountains and boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. A hundred species of trees, a variety of flowering ...

  8. This Blue Ridge Mountains Are an Outdoor Adventurer's Paradise

    Nature lovers will find year-round nirvana in the Blue Ridge Mountains, though spring, summer, and fall are the best times of year to visit for exuberant flora, pleasant weather, and an...

  9. 5 of the Best Blue Ridge Mountains Virginia Attractions

    1. Drive Along the Blue Ridge Parkway Stretching for 469 miles of pure, breathtaking beauty, the Virginia Blue Ridge Parkway begins just 20 minutes away from The Inn at Vaucluse Spring in Front Royal. This incredible scenic highway winds its way through the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

  10. Things to Do in the Blue Ridge Mountains When You Visit This Fall

    Shenandoah National Park Located at the northern end of Blue Ridge, Shenandoah rocks a whopping 500-plus miles of hiking trails: bears, wild turkeys, and deer are out in large numbers in the...

  11. The Ultimate Blue Ridge Parkway Travel Guide (2024)

    The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. The Parkway travels for 469 Miles from The Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Cherokee Indian Reservation in NC. The Parkway weaves its way along some of the highest ridges and mountains in North Carolina and is known for its incredible scenic views.

  12. Stunning Photos Of Virginia's Blue Ridge To Give You Wanderlust

    Fall is often regarded as the best time to visit the Blue Ridge Mountains, and upon encountering nature's dramatic show of breathtaking foliage, visitors will immediately see why.

  13. Your Perfect Blue Ridge Parkway Itinerary: Road Trip Tips + Best Stops

    The Blue Ridge Parkway starts at Shenandoah National Park in the north and ends 469 miles further at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the south.. You can easily extend your road trip to a week and include a few days in each of the two National Parks. If you do, note the entrance fee for National Parks, but happily, there's no entrance fee for the Blue Ridge Parkway, this gem of a ...

  14. 15 Cutest Blue Ridge Mountain Towns Across The South

    Boone, North Carolina If looking for a Blue Ridge Mountain Towns that has something for everyone, Boone, North Carolina needs to be on your list! Located near the Blue Ridge Parkway, Boone is the perfect starting point to explore the outdoors around the area.

  15. 20 Best things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains (VA/NC/GA)

    One of the best things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains during the winter is skiing and snowboarding. One of the most popular resorts is Wintergreen in Virginia. Here there are slopes for the most seasoned pro and the fresh beginners. With 26 different slopes as well as a big snow tubing park.

  16. 50 Things To Do in the Blue Ridge Mountains

    22 - Go white water rafting 23 - See the triumphant story of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians 24 - Go on a Safari in the Virginia mountains! 25 - Visit the waterpark at Massanutten in Virginia 26 - Go tubing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park 27 - Go tubing in Helen GA 28 - Visit an old Mountain Farm

  17. Top 25 Things to Do in the Blue Ridge Mountains

    Here are 25 of the top things to see, do, and explore in the Blue Ridge. 1. Choose Your Basecamp for Adventure. However you choose to set up camp — pitching a tent, booking a room, or renting a mountain cabin — the welcoming towns of the Blue Ridge Mountains are the perfect place to call home during your mountain adventures.

  18. Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip

    There are more than 450 mileposts in the Milepost Guide of the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway, which showcases the lovely Blue Ridge Mountains which are a physiographic province of the larger Appalachian Highlands range. It includes everything travelers look for: small towns, tunnels, overlooks, campgrounds, cabins, bed and breakfasts, hotels and ...

  19. 10 Places You Must Visit in the Blue Ridge Mountains

    Stop No. 3: Grandfather Mountain State Park. Walk its famous Mile High Swinging Bridge, the highest in America. The 228-foot suspension bridge spans an 80-foot chasm and was built to give visitors ...

  20. The Blue Ridge Mountains Sunrise

    Brasstown Bald. For a mix of sunrise and sunset magic, Brasstown Bald is your go-to. The highest point in Georgia offers a breathtaking view of mountain ranges stretching into the horizon. Some claim it as one of the best sunrise spots. As the day winds down, the sunset views here are equally enchanting.

  21. Sunshine Solimen

    5,645 likes, 48 comments - withsunshinesol on February 19, 2024: "Places you probably didn't know existed in Virginia: ⛔️ PLEASE REMEMBER WHEN EXPLORING OUT..."

  22. 10 wild and wondrous things to do in West Virginia

    Here's why West Virginia is the place to go. ... also has 22 miles of Blue Ridge hiking trails, many with dazzling mountain and water views. ... 6 of the best travel books to read in 2024. Travel;