10 Ways To Explore the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is an iconic scenic highway that stretches 469 miles along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

This unique unit of the National Park Service offers interactive historic sites, visitor centers, picnic areas, campgrounds, miles of breath taking mountain scenery, and much more.

Spanning 469 miles through 29 counties, the Blue Ridge Parkway takes travelers along the Appalachian Mountains through Virginia and North Carolina providing a unique view of foliage and history. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spanning 469 miles through 29 counties, the Blue Ridge Parkway takes travelers along the Appalachian Mountains through Virginia and North Carolina providing a unique view of foliage and history. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether planning a day trip or a multiday family vacation, this incredible byway is a destination in itself and offers a wealth of wonder and learning all along the way.

Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center

The byway’s visitor center, located on the edge of Asheville, is a parkway must-stop. Open year-round, it offers everything you need to plan other parkway adventures as well as talk to rangers and view a film. Learn and engage with interactive exhibits and buy a Parkway souvenir at the gift shop. There is also a 1.4-mile hiking trail that leaves from the visitor center.

Blue Ridge Parkway views are often the main reason for a visit. With elevations of up to over 6,000 feet above sea level, the views can go on for days and days. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blue Ridge Parkway views are often the main reason for a visit. With elevations of up to over 6,000 feet above sea level, the views can go on for days and days. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Humpback Rocks

At the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, at Milepost 5.8 in Virginia, Humpback Rocks is an excellent stop. Combining the best in historical and natural beauty, visitors can explore 1890s farm buildings or hike up to bucolic hump rock outcroppings. This stop also includes a visitor center, museum, and picnic area.

James River

The James River Visitor Center at Milepost 63.7 in Virginia a picnic area and several trails like Trail of Trees or Canal Lock Trails. Hikers can even experience the unique footbridge that is constructed under the parkway road bridge. The visitor center offers some unique exhibits on the history of the Virginian canal system.

One of the most photographed places on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Mabry Mill is a step back in time. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the most photographed places on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Mabry Mill is a step back in time. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mabry Mill

One of the most photographed places on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Mabry Mill is a step back in time. At Milepost 176, the mill was built by Ed and Lizzy Mabry and operated for over 30 years as a mill to grind corn and saw lumber. It also was a site for blacksmithing. Visitors can view cultural demonstrations including live mill grinding and live music. Dine on Southern cuisine at Mabry Mill Restaurant (open through November 4, 2018) then visit Matthew’s Cabin onsite or stroll along the Mabry Mill Trail (0.5 miles).

The Blue Ridge Parkway was constructed from 1935 to 1987, 52 years total. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Blue Ridge Parkway was constructed from 1935 to 1987, 52 years total. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blue Ridge Music Center

Located at Milepost 213, the Blue Ridge Music Center features a visitor center, museum, hiking trails, and an outdoor amphitheater that seats 3,000. Guests can learn more about the music heritage of the Blue Ridge Parkway by exploring the “Roots of American Music” exhibits or listen to daily live music in the breezeway between noon and 4 p.m.

Doughton Park

Pop a tent in the 135-site campground in the Doughton Park area at Milepost 241. See historic Brinegar Cabin at Milepost 239 and learn more Appalachian history by viewing the demonstration garden and other exhibits. Doughton Park also features over 30 miles of trails that wind and roll through pastures and curve along streams.

Typical of other mountain families, Martin Brinegar and his wife Caroline cleared land and raised crops such as buckwheat, rye, oats, corn and sorghum. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Typical of other mountain families, Martin Brinegar and his wife Caroline cleared land and raised crops such as buckwheat, rye, oats, corn and sorghum. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Moses Cone Manor House and Visitor Center

Moses Cone Manor House and Visitor Center is an ideal destination for families. At Milepost 294 in North Carolina, this estate is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can tour Flat Top Manor and estate or take a leisurely hike and roam over 26 miles of curving carriage trails. Be sure to check out the Southern Highland Craft Guild shop at the manor.

Museum of North Carolina Minerals 

An interactive, historical learning experience, the Museum of North Carolina Minerals at Milepost 331, near Spruce Pine, is a great stop. It highlights the mountain legacy of mining and details its numerous mineral resources. It also provides interactive exhibits for visitors to explore the geological history of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Moses Cone Memorial Park sits at Milepost 294 near Banner Elk on the Blue Ridge Parkway. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Moses Cone Memorial Park sits at Milepost 294 near Banner Elk on the Blue Ridge Parkway. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mount Pisgah

Visitors can camp at Mount Pisgah Campground, which offers 126 camping sites. Mount Pisgah features sweeping vistas of the Pisgah National Forest below and a 360-degree at the summit of Mount Pisgah Trail. Daytrippers can also enjoy a picnic at the Mount Pisgah Picnic Area.

Waterock Knob Visitor Center

This visitor center, at Milepost 451.2, is the highest one of the parkway. Situated at 5,820 feet, families can enjoy incredible panoramic views and valley vistas from this location. A 1.2-mile trail takes hikers to a great overlook for a bird’s eye view of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

Along the southern portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway is where you'll have the best views and experience the largest accumulation of tunnels. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Along the southern portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway is where you’ll have the best views and experience the largest accumulation of tunnels. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze

Country roads, take me home
Take me home, country roads.
—John Denver

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