The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the United States’ most picturesque roads. Running 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina, it is undoubtedly one of the best places to take a road trip in the country. There are many stunning mountain views and attractive green landscapes, as well as rich wildlife and pristine nature to appreciate along the way. This makes a Blue Ridge Parkway road trip one of the top adventures to take in the Eastern US for a couple, a family, or a group of friends.
Aside from driving, there are also a lot of hiking trails that can be explored if you're keen to do some trekking along the way. You can find stops on the side of the road with parks and picnic tables, as well as bathrooms and other facilities that will make your Blue Ridge Parkway road trip comfortable.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is meant to be a tourist attraction, but it’s also a great route to take if you want to experience exceptional beauty when you have to go from point A to point B.
What to See on Your Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip
Extending from Rockfish Gap in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park of North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway covers 469 miles of picturesque scenery and mountain fields. Although it is just a couple of hours away from cities such as Atlanta and Washington DC, driving here will make you feel like you are far from these busy state capitals.
The best time to plan your Blue Ridge Parkway road trip is probably the months of September and October. At that period, you can see the forests that line the parkway adorned with beautiful autumn colors.
Here are some of the highlights to take in on your trip:
1. Ravens Roost
Just a little past mile 10 of the Parkway, you will come across Ravens Roost. Here you can see some pleasing sights of the Torry Mountain and Shenandoah Valley. Ravens Roost is located over a cliff where a lot of tourists enjoy hang-gliding and rock-climbing. It is also a good place to have a picnic.
2. Sherando Lake Campground
Only 4 ½ miles away from the parkway, Virginia’s Sherando Lake Campground is a great camping spot for both locals and tourists. If you are looking for some comfort or a bathroom breakat this point of your Blue Ridge Parkway road trip, Sherando has access to showers and toilets, plus beautiful views of the lake.
3. The Appalachian Trail
Easily accessible from different lookouts and parking areas in Virginia, the Appalachian Trail allows hikers - both beginner and professional - to discover the natural magnificence of the area. The part of the trail that crosses through southern Virginia has long, secluded stretches with stunning views.
4. Moses H. Cone Memorial Park
From miles 292 to 295, this part boasts 25 miles of snaky trails for hikers and horseback riders. There is a luminous Colonial Revival mansion called Flat Top Manor that was built in the year 1901. It serves as the focus of this gorgeous country estate and now houses the Parkway Craft Center.
5. Linville Falls
Milepost 316.4 marks the entrance to the next point of interest on your Blue Ridge Parkway road trip: the Linville Gorge area, which features various walking trails of different lengths. You can enjoy the water flowing through the rocky falls, but it is best to admire these falls from a safe distance! Local legend has it that some local Native Americans executed prisoners by pushing them down the falls.
6. Mount Mitchell State Park
Starting at mile 355, the first state park in North Carolina, Mount Mitchell State Park, was established in the year 1915 to protect the fir trees in the area against illegal loggers. The park contains Mount Mitchell, which is the tallest mountain in the eastern part of the country, standing at approximately 7,000 ft. The Black Mountains offer some of the most challenging hiking trails in the Blue Ridge, including the Mount Mitchell Trail and Colbert's Ridge Trail.
7. Craggy Gardens
Flanked between miles 363.4 and 369.6, this area is about 3,500 feet higher in altitude than neighboring Asheville, and has exposed rock and high peaks offering splendid sights of the Appalachian Mountains in the south from afar. Throughout the summer, purple and pink rhododendron covers the Craggies, in a phenomenon commonly known as "Miracle on the Mountain."
8. Looking Glass Rock
At mile 417, this is a known spot for those who are into rock climbing and want to tackle this challenge on their Blue Ridge Parkway road trip. The site derives its name from the sunlight that reflects off the granite surface. It also offers scenic views of the parkway and the highlands of Transylvania County from above.
9. Devil's Courthouse
Situated at mile 422.4, in the west part of Pisgah National Forest, this spot affords some of the most remarkable views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the top of the mountain. According to a Cherokee legend, this cave is home to a giant called Jutaculla.
10. Richland Balsam
When you reach mile 431, the Richland Balsam mountain area and surrounding trails are another site that is highly worth checking out on your Blue Ridge Parkway road trip. Many of the animals and plants living there are species that can only survive in the South at high altitudes. The opulent Fraser fir trees that line the trails add to the experience.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is not just a road – it is a gorgeous journey that takes visitors on a 469-mile introduction to the rich cultural heritage of the country, including its Cherokee traditions, crafts, music, nature, and agriculture.
Rules and Driving Tips for a Great Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip
In order to fully enjoy your Blue Ridge Parkway road trip, follow these tips that will enable you to make the most of your experience.
- The speed limit in Blue Ridge is normally 45Mph. The Parkway was built for leisurely driving, so you may want to take your time and experience the splendor of this special road.
- Interpretative road signs with a powder horn and squirrel gun symbol are dotted along the route to indicate different views and historic locations.
- It is not necessary to go to viewpoints or even make stops in order to enjoy the setting.
-Parking is allowed along road shoulders, unless stated otherwise. Pick a spot where you are able to pull your car entirely off the road to avoid endangering yourself or others.
- Watch out for wildlife. There might be some deer or other animals that could crash against your windshield.
- Be careful when driving in rainy or foggy conditions. Make sure to slow down and to keep your headlights on at all times. Applying extra caution will help guarantee that the extreme weather only spoils the attractive views temporarily.
- In case of a road accident, whether it involves you or strangers, please notify a Park Ranger at a nearby campground visitor center or call PARKWATCH at +1-800-727-5928.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is an amazing road that is bound to enthuse everyone. A Blue Ridge Parkway road trip is definitely considered an American dream experience. It is truly breathtaking, and worth every ounce of gas.
Hopefully, this article encouraged you to plan your own Blue Ridge Parkway road trip. If you have other suggestions on where to go in Blue Ridge or any questions that we might know the answer to, let us know in a comment below!