Road Trips and Destinations

Camping Road Trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway


More from Outdoor Living Newsletter September Outdoor Living Newsletter
 

Mabry Mills, Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of America's oldest and most beautiful scenic drives spanning over 469 miles on America's East Coast. The drive traverses North Carolina and Virginia, beginning at Waynesboro, VA inside Shenandoah National Park, and extending all the way down to the Cherokee Reservation near the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. The drive itself is littered with stunning outdoor scenery and wildlife and sights such as an eagle soaring high above water cascading down a 90 foot waterfall is not an uncommon one. One of the nations few National Scenic Byway's, work on the Blue Ridge Parkway initially began as a part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal movement in 1935. The park took years to finish, work finally being completed in 1983. Now having recently celebrated its 75th anniversary, the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most popular road trip destinations in all of America.

When to Go

The Blue Ridge Parkway is open all year, but at it loveliest in Spring and Fall. Some sections may be closed in winter due to ice and snow.

How to Get There

The entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway is at the Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro, Virginia. The byway ends at the Cherokee Reserve next to the Great Smoky Mountains.

How Long Should the Trip Be?

We would recommend that you spend four days driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway, to truly absorb all of its magnificence. If you don't have fours day then pick and choose from the itinerary below. The route is set out from North to South, but just follow everything in reverse if you want to do it from South to North.

What to See and Do

4 Day Visit - Waynesboro (VA) to Cherokee (NC) - 469 Miles

Day 1

  1. Head South from start of parkway from Rock Fish Gap, for almost six miles to the Humpback Rocks at mile marker 5.9, named after the humped shaped of the nearby outcrop of rocks. You'll find one of the most unique sites in all of the parkway here, an exhibit of reconstructed Appalachian farm buildings depicting life in the 1800s. Take the short self-guiding trail from the parking lot, which takes you to almost all of these buildings.
  2. Continue South along the parkway enjoying the scenery as you go. Look out for wildlife as you drive, in particular it is common to see white-tailed deer. When you reach mile marker 63.8, the lowest elevation of the parkway at 649 ft., check out the James River and the Kanahawa Canal, a project originally conceived by George Washington to link the Ohio River with the Atlantic Ocean. 200 miles were dug before the railroad doomed the scheme. Take a walk over the footbridge and enjoy the historical sights of the restored canal locks, as well as other exhibits.
  3. After the stop at James River, continue on to the stunning Peaks of Otter - Sharp Top, Flat Top and Harkening Hill. At mile marker mile 83.1, hike the Fallingwater Cascades Trail, a moderate 1.6 mile loop to see the gorgeous waterfalls.
  4. Continue on to mile marker 120.4 and relax a little as you wind around the 3.7 mile side trip that is the Roanoke Mountain. Make sure to go nice and slow to soak up all of the stunning views the Mountain offers. And of course don't forget to take pictures! Spend the night at Roanoke Mountain Campground.

Day 2

  1. After a good night's sleep, make your way to mile marker 154.5 to the Smart View Overlook dubbed "a right smart view" from early settlers. Take in miles of rolling hills and valleys to the hazy horizon. Check out the nearby one room log cabin occupied until 1925.
  2. Continue on to Mabry Mill at mile marker 176.1 It was operated by E.B Mabry from 1910-1935 and he ran a sawmill, a gristmill and a blacksmith shop for local farmers. Explore the original buildings to get a sense of life at the mill and check out the blacksmith demonstrations.
  3. Drive on to mile marker 188.8 and check out Groundhog Mountain. The mountain is a great place to see examples of different kinds of rural fencing, and as well is home to an observation tower offering 360 degree sweeping views of the high country.
  4. At mile marker 217 visit the Blue Ridge Music Center. From June to September it features outdoor summer concerts of old-time and contemporary bluegrass music. Check out the Roots of American Music Exhibition for the history of Mountain music.
  5. After Blue Ridge Music Center, cross your way over into North Carolina, and spend the night at Doughton Park Campground at mile post 239.

Day 3

  1. Start the day by driving to Jumpinoff Rocks at mile marker 260.6. The stop has a short trail, which leads to a dazzling view of miles of rolling hills and a blue haze that seems to encompass them in the distance.
  2. Continue on to mile marker 292 and Moses H. Cone Memorial Park. The park is host to a number of great activities such as hiking and fishing. In addition, the famous Flat Top Manor is located within the park, and is definitely a must see attraction. The Manor is now the home of the Parkway Craft Center, one of five shops of the Southern Highland Craft Guild which features handmade crafts by hundreds of regional artists. Throughout the season, local artists demonstrate crafts such as quilting, embroidery, weaving, pottery, glass-blowing, and woodcarving on the front porch of the Manor.
  3. Drive over to mile marker 304.4 and the Linn Cove Viaduct, the last section of the road completed in 1987. This quarter-mile-long viaduct skirts the outskirts of the magnificent Grandfather Mountain in an "S" shape. To preserve Grandfather Mountain's fragile environment it is elevated on seven pillars and it is made up of 153 individually designed segments. From the parking area a trail leads to a view of the elevated roadway.
  4. Continue on to mile marker 316.3 to the stunning Linville Falls roaring through the rugged Linville Gorge. The gorge is the deepest East of the Grand Canyon. Hike the various trails to the overlooks of falls and gorge.
  5. At mile marker 331 stop at the Museum of North Carolina Minerals. Here you can learn all about the different gems and minerals found in the area, as well as how they shaped the local economy through the mining industry.
  6. Finish the day off at another spectacular waterfall, Crabtree Falls, at mile marker 339.5. Check in first at Crabtree Falls Campground. Then head down the 2.5 mile strenuous Crabtree Falls Trail where you'll work up a big appetite for dinner.

Day 4

  1. Start early and drive to milepost 354 and take the short side road to Mt. Mitchell State Park. At an elevation 6,684 feet it is the highest point east of the Mississippi and offers breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, rolling ridges and fertile valleys.
  2. Continue onto milepost 382.6 and detour 3.5 miles north to the palatial Biltmore Estate. A 250 room French Renaissance style chateau built by George Vanderbilt including 75 acres of formal gardens a conservatory and winery. Allow 3 hours minimum.
  3. Return to the parkway and continue on to mile marker 422.4 and visit the Devils Courthouse, a staggeringly gorgeous mountaintop home to dozens of Cherokee traditions and legends, including the Myth of Judaculla. You can see as far as Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee and there are also outstanding views of the Pisgah National Forest.
  4. After the mythical Devils Courthouse, drive on over to Richards Balsam at mile marker 431. The stop has a great self-guiding trail which actually takes you through a spruce-fir forest, and provides the highest point on the entire highway at 6,053 feet.
  5. Your final stop will be at mile marker 458.2. Take the spur road to Mile-High Overlook to get one last stunning view of the Blue Ridge Parkway and its marvelous smoky mountains before you leave.

If you plan to stay the night in the area there are lots of campgrounds and RV Parks nearby.

Park Map

Park Map Park Map

Insider Tips

No gasoline is available on the parkway. Gas is available not far off the Parkway at any of these US or State Highway Intersections:

Virginia

  • US 250 - MP 0
  • US 60 - MP 45.6
  • VA 130 - MP 61.6
  • US 501 - MP 63.9
  • US 460 - MP 106
  • VA 24 - MP 112.2
  • US 220 - MP 121.4
  • US 58 - MP 177.7
  • US 52 - MP 199.4
  • VA 89 - MP 215.8

North Carolina

  • US 21 - MP 229.7
  • NC 18 - MP 248.1
  • NC 16 - MP 261.2
  • US 321 - MP 291.9
  • NC 181 - MP 312
  • NC 226 - MP 330.9
  • US 70 - MP 382.4
  • US 74A - MP 384.7
  • US 25 - MP 388.1
  • NC 191 - MP 393.6
  • US 276 - MP 411.9
  • US 74/23 - MP 443.1
  • US 19 - MP 455.7

For more information on the Blue Ridge Parkway check out http://www.nps.gov/blri and http://www.blueridgeparkway.org.

Copyright ©2013 Camping Road Trip, LLC

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Photos

Scenic Blue Ridge Parkway
Scenic Blue Ridge Parkway
Appalachian Farm building at Humpback Rock, Blue Ridge Parkway
Appalachian Farm
James River from the Blue Ridge Parkway
James River
Concert at Blue Ridge Music Center
* Concert at Blue Ridge Music Center
"S" shaped Linn Cove viaduct with Blue Ridge mountain in the background
The "S" shaped Linn Cove Viaduct curving around Grandfather Mountain
Looking down on Linville Falls
Linville Falls
View from Mount Mitchell State Park, highest point East of the Mississippi River
View from the highest point East of the Mississippi at Mount Mitchell
Palatial Biltmore Estate, manicured garden and house
Palatial Biltmore Estate
Fall Foliage and views of mountains and valleys from Devil's Courthouse
Fall Foliage from Devil's Courthouse
* Photo courtesy of Virginia.gov
 

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1 comment(s) so far...

On your trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway I would suggest camping at Mt Pisgah Campground at MM 408.6 which is right on the Parkway.

By dgypzz1 on 9/15/2013 8:50:58 PM
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