Backpacking, Camping, Family Camping, Hiking, National Parks, Outdoor Education

Blue Ridge Parkway – Quick Guide

The Blue Ridge Parkway is comfortably seated on CNN’s 2021 list of the most frequented national parks. This park blows the rest away with an astounding estimate of roughly 15.9 million visitors per year! The Parkway’s 469 miles are dotted with interesting landmarks, stunning wildflowers, and breathtaking views. It offers access to several cascades and hiking paths. In reality, it may take weeks or even months to complete the entire parkway, stop at all the many spots of interest, and hike some of the trails we suggest below. There are a thousand and one things to do and see. Luckily, this quick guide gives you exactly what you need to start your trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Looking for another National Park to Visit? Check out our other National Park Quick Guides!

Activities at Blue Ridge Parkway

Hiking and backpacking: Discover the most well-liked hiking and backpacking routes in the Blue Ridge Parkway. Along these trails, you may find hand-crafted items, abandoned items, unique food, and stunning vistas. So gather your trail maps and driving instructions so you know exactly which hike to take!

Walking and Running: As a leisure activity, you could choose to stroll or run among the facilities and mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Trail running or walking along the Blue Ridge Parkway is a fantastic way to spend a weekend. Especially in the fall.

Blue Ridge Parkway
Scenic driving through the North Carolina portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Road riding and scenic driving: If you’ve come with your vehicle or bike, this is a great chance to enjoy some time traveling around the various trails that are accessible by car or bike. They are as numerous as the views! However, make sure that you are following all of the appropriate road rules.

Nature Trips and Bird Watching: Tour through the most beautiful natural surroundings and see a variety of birds that are rarely seen elsewhere. If birds aren’t your thing, then find anything from bear to elk.

Camping: Campsites are available to provide you with accommodation and to address your lodging needs. Find a handful of them nearby, and then plan your daily excursions from there. Better yet cruise from one to another along the full length of the parkway.

Pick your best campsite now!

Important things to do at Blue Ridge Parkway

Folk Art Center-Milepost

Credit: Southern Highland Craft Guild a partner in the Folk Art Center

Make every effort to get to the Folk Art Center. This museum is dedicated to Appalachian arts and crafts. It is located at milepost 382 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, close to Asheville, North Carolina. You are sure to see new art and crafts inspired by the mountains themselves. Visits to this location are highly informative because it holds offices for three different Parkway partners: the Southern Highland Craft Guild, the National Park Service, and Eastern National.

Museum of North Carolina Minerals

Visit the Museum of North Carolina Minerals located near Spruce Pine, North Carolina, which has mountains that are among the richest in the state in terms of gems and minerals. Here, intelligent displays highlight the importance of mining to the region’s range of experiences and financial issues, in addition to providing a geographic context for a trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Moses H. Cone Memorial Park

Credit: Blue Ridge Heritage National Heritage Area

In Blowing Rock, North Carolina, Moses H. Cone is remembered by a rural estate called the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, between mileposts 292 and 295 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, with access at milepost 294. So, you may find that this is a good mid-point stop along your journey.

The centerpiece of the park is Flat Top Manor. This is a 13,000 square foot (1,200 square meter) palace with 23 rooms! If you are looking for history then you will be happy to know they built this manor in the early 1900s.

Between scenic vistas keep those in the backseat happy with these traveling tips!

Blue Ridge Music Center

There is no place in these mountains where the tradition of music is more palpable than at the Blue Ridge Music Center. Some of the finest traditions of folk music and dance in our country have been established and preserved by the people of this region. Enjoy live music every day in the breezeway. Better yet, check out a summer or fall performance on the weekends. Additionally, the Blue Ridge Music Center conserves and promotes the traditional music of Virginia and the Blue Ridge.

Mabry Mill

blue ridge parkway
Credit: National Park Service

Mabry Mill is surrounded by the sights and sounds of rural Appalachia throughout the summer and fall. For thirty years, Ed Mabry and his wife, Lizzy, crushed grain, sawed timber and worked as blacksmiths at the mill that they constructed. Visitors are still attracted to the historic mill, cultural exhibits, and a long-standing custom of music and dancing on Sunday afternoons. Rest from driving by going for a little stroll by the mill or enjoying some country cuisine at the bistro. The Mabry Mill, located at milepost 176.1, is one of the most photographed locations in the country! Also, it welcomes several hundred thousand visitors each year.

Humpback Rocks

With a summit elevation of 3,080 feet, Humpback Rock is a large greenstone outcropping close to the top of Humpback Hill in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Augusta County and Nelson County, Virginia, in the United States (940 m). The rock structure is so named because it seems to produce a “hump” on the mountain’s western face.

The Humpback Rocks Trail’s most popular path to the craggy peak is only a little over a mile long, but you’ll gain over 800 feet in that time.

The Best Blue Ridge Parkway Trails

You truly can’t appreciate the Blue Ridge Parkway’s magnificence without taking one of the many hiking routes, even though driving down it is a fantastic experience. But which hiking routes are the finest when there are so many to choose from? Here are our favorites:

Before you head out you should review these hiking safety tips.

Waterrock Knob Trail

Waterrock Knob is a well-liked spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway, especially after sunset, due to its over 6,000 foot vistas. At Milepost 451.2, near Maggie Valley, North Carolina, lies Waterrock Knob. Definitely worth the hike are the vistas at the summit.

Devil’s Courthouse Trail

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View from Top of Devil’s Courthouse Credit: National Park Service

The Cherokee Indians, who thought the Devil held court in the tunnels and caves beneath the mountain, gave Devil’s Courthouse its name. However, don’t be scared away by the name! Given the stunning views from the parking garage, this trail at milepost 422.4 is a well-liked resting place for tourists driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway. You may climb up the half-mile route to the top viewpoint for even greater vistas and breathtaking long-distance perspectives. So, enjoy the short hike and amazing view!

The Art Leob Trail to Black Balsam Knob

The trek to Black Balsam is for you if you like high elevation, spectacular ridge hikes with expansive views of everything around you. Due to the hike being mainly grass and low-growing flora, it offers breathtaking vistas. Trust us, this hike is worth bringing some painting supplies along with you. Inspiration will come easy as you gander across the landscape.

The hike also provides spectacular views of the dawn and sunset, as well as high-altitude camping.

The Tanawha Trail, alongside Linn Cove Viaduct

Many of the tens of thousands of visitors that cross the Linn Cove Viaduct each year are unaware that there is a route that leads beneath and alongside the structure in the forests near Grandfather Mountain. So, are you brave enough to check them out as well?

The hike leads up to and beneath the Linn Cove Viaduct and starts at the visitor center. From there, you may travel farther if you’d like along the Tanawha Trail, which runs beside the viaduct, a most exciting adventure. However, it is not the only adventure in this area. So, make sure to ask for more trail details at the visitor center.

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Trail map around Tanawha Falls. Credit: National Park Service

Linville Falls Trail

The most visited and most frequently captured waterfall along the whole Blue Ridge Parkway is Linville Falls. Why you may ask? Well, the Falls are made up of several distinct cascades, which are followed by a significant drop inside the Linville Gorge (Grand Canyon on the East). From the visitor center, there are three distinct trails. The most well-known is Erwin’s Vista path, the culmination of which offers the aforementioned view. However, any of the trails are sure to bring you happiness and a relaxing view.

Campgrounds Along the Blue Ridge Parkway

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Camp alongside the Parkway.

There are 8 campsites on the Blue Ridge Parkway where you and your family may enjoy camping. Now, there are others elsewhere along the route but they may take more time to drive a distance away from the parkway. That is why we like these so much. Depending on the weather, these campsites are available from May through late October. They are mostly inaccessible throughout the winter. Even though it is the south there still may be snow in Appalachia! Every campground has access to potable water, restrooms with flushing toilets and basins, and a dump facility for recreational vehicles. As follows:

Final Thoughts on the Blue Ridge Parkway

While not a National Park the Blue Ridge Parkway is still a stunning site to see as a National Parkway. The scenic vistas are something truly magical to behold. As you winder yourself through the over 450 miles of road you will be able to experience the wilds of that Appalachia. Not to mention seeing something a little different across 29 counties in Virginia and North Carolina. So while the parkway may take you many trips to explore it all, you should at least find something for everyone in your family. So load up the family wagon and get exploring!

Have you traveled the full length of the Blue Ridge Parkway? We would love to hear your experience and favorite parts in the comments below, on our Facebook, or on Reddit!