Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Things To Do

In Virginia, the Parkway highlights the rolling agricultural scenery that is so much a part of the Blue Ridge. The main story here is how humans have interacted with the land in these mountains. Visitors are introduced to a variety of cultural sites and landscapes associated with communities in the southern Appalachians including evidence of human occupation from prehistoric to contemporary times. Early stories of tourism in the mountains and examples of arts, crafts, music, and social institutions of the region make a visit to the Virginia section of the Parkway one filled with lasting memories. Much of the road travels through US National Forest lands as well and, north of Roanoke, the drive is dominated by a ridge-top experience with magnificent views of the flora and fauna of Appalachian hardwood forests and sweeping vistas of the Great Valley of Virginia.

In North Carolina, the Parkway is overall higher in elevation and more spectacular in the natural history that is preserved along the way. The Grandfather Mountain corridor serves as a refuge for relic populations of plants. Remote natural areas and dramatic views less affected by human presence dominate the visitors' experience south of Asheville. Biological diversity is best understood here as a product of varied geology and topography. Cultural history stories also come into play with isolated cabins and magnificent country estates in close proximity. Visitors begin to realize how the Parkway has influenced change in the region.

Humpback Rocks (Milepost 5.8) - Visitor Center, museum of 19th century log buildings, picnic area, access to Appalachian Trail and hike to the summit of Humpback Mountain.

James River and Otter Creek (Milepost 60-63) - Visitor Center, restored canal locks on the James River, campground, extensive hiking trails along Otter Creek, restaurant and gift shop.

Peaks of Otter (Milepost 86) - Lodge and restaurant, Visitor Center, 1930s restored Johnson Farm, campground, picnic area, access to Appalachian Trail, extensive trail system to the summit of the three main peaks.

Roanoke (Milepost 106-120) - Access to the Parkway's largest neighboring city, hiking and horse trails, campground, and Virginia's Explore Park.

Rocky Knob and Mabry Mill (Milepost 167-176) - Many rural scenes and agricultural landscapes, working grist mill with adjacent blacksmith shop and cabin, three picnic areas, visitor center, campground, extensive hiking into Rockcastle Gorge.

Blue Ridge Music Center (Milepost 215) - Outdoor amphitheater, visitor center and museum. The Parkway's premier site for interpreting and featuring the musical heritage of the region.

Doughton Park (Milepost 240) - Picnic area, campground, lodging, restaurant, and rolling pastures interspersed with high, rugged elevations.

Moses Cone and Julian Price Parks (Milepost 295-298) - Visitor and craft centers, picnic area, camping, the Grandfather Mountain corridor and associated rare habitats. Stories include America's country estate movement and donation of large parcels of land by wealthy individuals.

Linville Falls (Milepost 317) - Visitor Center, campground, picnic area, and access to the first and most popular wilderness area in eastern America.

Museum of N.C. Minerals (Milepost 331) - Visitor center and educational museum highlighting the geology of the region and the rich mining heritage of the area.

Crabtree Meadows (Milepost 349) - Restaurant, campground, picnic area and access to spectacular Crabtree Falls, providing a cool and delightful retreat within the shadow of the massive Black Mountain Range.

Mount Mitchell State Park and Craggy Gardens (Milepost 355-364) - The broad, central dome of the massive Black Mountains is the highest point in eastern America and Craggy Gardens represents high elevation heath balds that have attracted visitors since the 19th century. Visitor center and picnic area.

Asheville (Milepost 382-393) - Home to park headquarters and a major tourist destination. The Parkway meanders through the George Vanderbilt Estate and the Folk Art Center serves park visitors year-round. Look for a grand opening of the new Blue Ridge Parkway Regional Destination Center adjacent to park headquarters in the fall!

Mount Pisgah (Milepost 408) - Campground, picnic area, lodging, and restaurant. This high elevation area has attracted entrepreneurs, loggers, and visitors for two centuries. The birthplace of forestry in America is nearby.

Waterrock Knob (Milepost 451) - Visitor Center near the Cherokee Reservation and near the Parkway's highest elevation, featuring views over the heart of the Southern Highlands.

Things To Do

The Blue Ridge Parkway is designed for slow-paced travel, something we are not accustomed to in this day and age! Overlooks, trails, picnic and camping areas, and a multitude of developed areas await the visitor who has time to explore.

Plan Your Visit

Overlooks and trails offer breaks during a drive, and there are ranger programs at most developed areas during the summer and autumn months. The Parkway provides wonderful opportunities for:

Hiking - The Parkway offers 100 trails ranging from short "leg-stretcher" walks to the Appalachian Trail.

Wildflowers & Fall Colors - The Parkway provides an excellent location for both wildflower walks in the springtime and brilliant leaf color in the autumn. May is probably the best month for wildflowers. Look for Rhododendron in mid June!

Photography - The combination of historical and natural areas make the park an excellent destination for photographers.

Historical and Cultural Demonstrations - Several developed areas offer hands-on demonstrations of mountain life and culture.

Ranger Guided Walks and Evening Programs - During the summer season, most developed areas offer evening programs, or more traditional campfire programs, along with guided walks and special programs.

Horseback Riding - In the Roanoke area and at the Moses H. Cone Estate, horseback riding trails are available.

Birdwatching - Because the Appalachian Mountains shape the flyway for most eastern migratory birds, the Parkway is an excellent place for both birdwatching and autumn migratory bird counts.

Outdoor Activities

The Blue Ridge Parkway is designed as a "drive awhile and stop awhile" experience. Please don't be in a hurry!

Overlooks, picnic areas, campgrounds, visitor centers, hiking trails, and other areas of interest are available along the road. The best way to experience this place is to take advantage of these opportunities. Short trails offer the chance to get away from the road and see the Blue Ridge up close and personal, even if just for a few minutes. Longer trails are also available for the more adventurous. Bicycling, photography, birdwatching, and practically any other responsible outdoor activity is available for the Parkway visitor!

Hundreds of overlooks allow opportunities to catch a glimpse of sunrises or sunsets, have a picnic, or just enjoy the view across the mountains and valleys of the region.


The National Park Service provides brochures that provide more detail about certain recreational activities.