17 Blue Ridge Parkway Drive Stops You Have to Make

The Blue Ridge Parkway is known as “America’s favorite drive.” It’s 469 miles in total, starting with the stunning Shenandoah National Park and ending with the gorgeous Great Smoky Mountains.

The Blue Ridge Parkway runs through 29 counties in both Virginia and North Carolina. Amidst them, there are countless breathtaking and thrilling stops to make to appreciate the charm of small-town life and its surrounding scenery.

Blue Ridge Parkway Huge Bridge Road Gap

Regulations like a speed limit of 45 miles per hour, two lanes, and the ban of any large trucking vehicles help to make this drive an even more delightful and relaxing experience. It provides access to hundreds of hiking trails, vistas, and natural wonders and is undoubtedly one of the best road trips in the USA.

Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway is easily one of the best things to do in North Carolina. Depending on your time frame and how many of these charming pauses you want to make along the Blue Ridge Parkway, we recommend planning for a three-to-seven-day drive. It’s one of the most picturesque journeys you can make in the entire country! Let’s dig into the best stops on the Blue Ridge Parkway.


Stops to Make on the Blue Ridge Parkway Drive 


Shenandoah National Park (milepost 0)

Shenandoah National Park

This national wonderland is the start of the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway drive. It’s home to plenty of wild wonders such as waterfalls, wetlands, rocky peaks, and wildlife. Almost 200,000 acres, there is plenty to explore here if this is where you wish to start your journey. 

It’s a tranquil landscape of wooded hollows to wander. More than 500 miles of trails lead to breezy summits and cascading waterfalls. Big Meadows is ideal for spotting local wildlife, including the elusive black bears. Overrun Falls is the tallest waterfall in the park, and the highest peak is Hawksbill Summit. 


Natural Bridge (milepost 61.6)

Natural Bridge On Blue Ridge Parkway

Natural Bridge is a unique stop and a great first hop-off destination on the drive. This impressive geological formation spans 90 feet wide and over 200 feet high – it’s an iconic limestone landmark. 

It serves as an archway to the Cedar Creek Trail, which hosts a variety of outdoor recreational activities and leads to Monacan Indian Village and Lace Falls. It resides in a limestone gorge carved out by the creek over hundreds of years. Overall, it’s a spectacular display of nature’s splendor with mountain views, rolling meadows, and lush forests. 


Mabry Mill (milepost 176.1)

Mabry Mill On Blue Ridge Parkway

Mabry Mill is the most photographed site along the Parkway. It boasts gorgeous natural surroundings in every season for the perfect snap. It is an easy walk around the mill to explore the local history of Appalachian culture. The mill is home to a blacksmith shop and sawmill, open to visitors. 

Mabry Mill Restaurant cooks up some mean country fare if you need a roadside refreshment. Rocky Knob is nearby for camping, hiking, and beautiful vistas. Local gatherings of folk music on Sundays always promise fun festivities for all. 


Fancy Gap (milepost 199.5)

The most incredible little community along the Blue Ridge Parkway Drive, Fancy Gap, is worth a quick visit. It has plenty of boutiques, garden stores, antique shops, delicious dining destinations, and quaint abodes to rest for the night, not to mention plenty of charm to spare.

It also happens to be home to Devil’s Den, a mountainous nature preserve with an old cave famous for its daring drop inside. We recommend Peaceful Heart Alpacas Farm Store for a sweet and soft addition to your experience. 


Blue Ridge Music Center (milepost 213)

The Blue Ridge Music Center is a renowned venue and museum that promises a rollicking good time. The spacious outdoor amphitheater hosts a steady stream of bluegrass, old-time, Americana, and blues performances. They are known for their midday mountain music sessions. 

The Roots of American Music Museum takes you on a historical journey through the musical and cultural heritage of the region. It preserves and promotes the heart of traditional American music roots for anyone who yearns to hear the sweet sounds of a fiddle or banjo. 


The Blowing Rock (milepost 291)

The Blowing Rock is the oldest attraction in North Carolina, and one many visitors are still flocking to see with their own eyes along the Blue Ridge Parkway drive. It’s a 4,000-foot cliff over a gorge. The rock channels create an upward flume of wind that sends objects cast over the rocky abyss. In winter, snow will blow up rather than down! 

The town itself is a lovely destination and the perfect stop to shop, eat or hike. Blowing Rock also has popular attractions such as the Art and History Museum and Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, which features a preserved country estate and mansion. Blowing Rock is an idyllic mountain town and is widely known as the “Crown of the Blue Ridge.”


Rough Ridge (milepost 302.8)

Rough Ridge is a scenic lookout point at Grandfather Mountain popular with photographers and iconic vista along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s a short but steep uphill trail to the photo spot at Lion King Rock. 

The trek on the wooden paths opens up into a sweeping panorama of Grandfather Mountain and Linn Cove. The total elevation is 480 feet. The trail lies within Pisgah National Forest and is part of the famous Mountain-to-Sea Trail. 

It is one of the best easy hikes you can find in the state and has the most payoff with its dramatic viewpoints. It’s a great place to stretch your legs and even enjoy a picnic with a scenic backdrop. 


Linville Falls (milepost 316.4)

Linville Falls is the most popular and spectacular waterfall in the Blue Ridge Mountains and is easily accessible off of the Parkway. Three cascading waterfall tiers plunge 90 feet into the equally stunning 12-mile-long Linville Gorge. It’s an excellent choice for a nature-filled pitstop. 

There are five viewpoints to explore via two different trails. Both under two miles, one is moderate and the other quite strenuous. They meander through hemlock groves and fields of wildflowers. The falls themselves are a breathtaking wonder to experience, and the gorge is known as the Grand Canyon of the Appalachians. 


The Orchard at Altapass (milepost 328.3)

This stop feels like a step back in time. The orchard works to preserve tradition, land, and culture. You can tour the forest of apples, the self-proclaimed home of the best heirloom apples with the least chemicals. There are plenty of goods to purchase at the general store and educational, entertaining activities for all ages. 

You can enjoy walking trails full of native birds and butterflies, music and dancing at the pavilion, and hayrides. The restaurant makes fare from fresh and local farm produce. It’s over 100 years old and celebrates the people and heritage of the mountain area. 


Little Switzerland (milepost 334)

Aptly named the jewel of the Blue Ridge Parkway, this charming town has a population of just 46. It started as a mountain resort inspired by the style of the Swiss Alps. Emerald Village is a cluster of real historic mines that you can explore. Switzerland Cafe and General Store offer exceptional local fare. 

Several trails offer gorgeous views and impressive waterfalls, such as Wiseman’s View, Crabtree Falls, and Grassy Creek Waterfall Trail. There are also several quaint Inns to stay in for the night. Little Switzerland Books and Beans is an adorable bookstore and gallery featuring work by local artists. If you’re up for it, you can even drive the Diamondback, a winding road notorious for motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts. 


Mount Mitchell (milepost 355.4)

At 6,684 feet, this is the highest peak in the Appalachian Mountains and the country east of the Mississippi. To explore this natural wonder, you can drive almost to the summit or make the steep six-mile trek to the top. The observation deck offers some of the most incredible 360-degree views in the area, where you can see as far as 85 miles out. 

There’s plenty of wildlife to spot as you make your way through the fresh balsam forest. A small museum explores the cultural and natural history of the mountain. The views here are unmatched. 


Craggy Gardens (milepost 364.1)

Craggy-Pinnacle-Trail

Craggy Gardens is a twisted and jagged subrange of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a special stop along the Parkway. There’s the Craggy Garden Trail to the Craggy Flats for colorful, abundant displays of rhododendrons. You can also hike to Craggy Pinnacle for sweeping views. The Garden Trail is full of native wildflowers covering the ground and wind through the rocky formations that earn the region’s name “Craggy.” 

The Pinnacle trail is less than two miles and leads you through a veritable fairy wonderland to a breathtaking 360-degree view. These vistas from the summit offer forested rolling peaks as far as the eye can see. 


Folk Art Center (milepost 382)

The Folk Art Center is an ideal stop for all art lovers. Folk Art Center exhibits, sells, and celebrates traditional and modern crafts of the Appalachians. The gallery spaces feature over 250 works from the last century. They hold many events and craft demonstrations and maintain an extensive free library for exploration and education.

They have a hiking trail on the property and access to the Mountain-to-Sea Trail from the center. There are a variety of creations from hundreds of local artists to browse and buy, everything from accessories to home furnishings. It is the oldest craft shop in America.


Chimney Rock State Park (milepost 384.7)

Chimney Rock State Park is an all-around ideal nature-lover experience. It may not be directly on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but it’s a short detour well worth the trip. It offers the best outdoor adventure with plenty of North Carolina hiking trails and climbing opportunities. The 500-million-year-old monolith is quite the draw, along with dramatic scenery, native wildlife, and one of North Carolina’s highest waterfalls. 

To reach the summit, it’s a windy drive and a short climb ending in an open, breathtaking stretch of space that includes views of Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge. Different trails offer varied terrain and difficulty levels for every skill set and interest. 

If you’re interested in birdwatching, this is just the place, so be sure to bring your binoculars. At the park’s base is the village of Chimney Rock, which has many cute shops and local restaurants to wander and enjoy. We would say you should plan to spend at least half a day here. 


Biltmore Estate (milepost 388.8)

The Biltmore is America’s largest home as well as a museum and estate worth exploring for a day or more. It’s an ornate chateau with 250 rooms that sits on 8,000-acres and is a landmark in American architecture. The gardens are elaborate and include an astounding collection of azaleas and a gorgeous network of forested trails. It’s also home to one of the most visited wineries. 

You can take a self-guided or guided tour of the grand home with all the original preserved architecture and furnishings. The library is imposing. There are six restaurants and a working farm open for visitors. You can truly tailor this experience to whatever you wish it to be. 


Sliding Rock (milepost 411.8)

Located on Looking Glass Creek within Pisgah National Forest, Sliding Rock is the perfect waterfall near Asheville for adventure lovers. It’s a natural 60-foot rock water slide with an eight-foot-deep pool at the end. Sliding along with the rushing 11,000 gallons of water each minute is the best way to beat the heat. 

At about 50 degrees, this is always a refreshing experience. If you’re not feeling like such a daredevil, there are plenty of observation decks to view the waterfall from and cheer on other plungers. If you want to explore more in this area, there are various hiking trails and falls to enjoy, such as Looking Glass Falls and Moore Cove Falls. It is a one-of-a-kind stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway drive. 


Great Smoky Mountains National Park (milepost 469)

best asheville hikes

This destination is a utopia of nature known for its rich diversity of life, thanks to its endless forested ridges. It’s the country’s most visited national park, straddling North Carolina and Tennessee. There are hiking trails of lush greenery and colorful, rare flora, streams and waterfalls, and summit peaks with landscapes stretching out across a majestic mountainous skyline.

It’s known for its blue mist that rolls in and hangs around the rocky scenery creating a dreamy landscape. Deep Creek is best for waterfalls, Cataloochee Valley has a bustling population of Elk you can observe and learn about, and Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in the Smokies for incredible views. 

The Blue Ridge Parkway ends at US 441 which is milepost 469.

Tips For Driving The Blue Ridge Parway


History of The Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway got its start as part of the New Deal signed into law by FDR and Congress. Its implementation was to bring employment and the country to rise out of The Great Depression.

On September 11, 1935, construction broke ground near Cumberland Knob in North Carolina. It took nearly 52 years to finish near the Linn Cove Viaduct finally. The Parkway is an engineering marvel as it spans a range of mountains and valleys with bridges and tunnels.


Best Time to Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is most spectacular in the fall when all the leaves start to turn shades of amber, red, orange, and yellow. However, this is the busiest time to drive the Parkway when all the “leaders” head this way. Come mid to late September and October and certainly won’t be the only one on the road, but the scenery is mesmerizing enough so that you won’t care.

Parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway are closed during the winter months. So if you plan to drive the route in its entirety, you’ll need to plan accordingly. The National Park Service provides road updates here. Summer and spring are great times to visit, with spring being one of the quietest times to enjoy the drive.


What To Expect Along the Drive

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is not like a typical highway. It is a scenic drive with a healthy amount of pull-offs, campsites, picnic areas, and parking lots. The goal here is to treasure America’s natural beauty with a leisurely drive.

The Parkway is a two-lane road with twists and curves every few hundred feet. The speed limit is slow, so drivers can enjoy the views and stop frequently. Have an idea of your plans for each day as areas of the Parkway do not have cell service.


Biking the Blue Ridge Parkway

Cycling the Blue Ridge Parkway is a bucket list trip for any avid cyclist. However, it’s best left for experienced cyclists as it’s not your average road, and there is no bike lane. Not only does it present the physical challenge of a massive ride in the mountains, but bikers must also contend with changing weather and road traffic.

It’s best to only cycle during good visibility and reliable weather periods. Vehicles should watch out for cyclists, especially at blind spots.


How Access the Blue Ridge Parkway

Bridge Over Blue Ridge Parkway

There are many opportunities to hop on the Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia. Many visitors come from Asheville. Five entrances onto the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Asheville area, making a great day trip adventure. If you drive the Parkway in one day, consider taking the scenic drive and returning to the highway for a fast Asheville return.


Blue Ridge Parkway Drive Stops Map

About Natasha

Natasha moved to North Carolina for college years ago (but she's not trying to age herself here). Her days were spent reading a book on the beach and enjoying a cold glass of sweet tea in between classes at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Upon graduation, she met her partner, Cameron, and they traveled the world together crossing 85 countries and six continents. After, six years of international travel they settled down and launched Lost in the Carolinas to share their experiences about and travel tips on South Carolina and North Carolina.

7 thoughts on “17 Blue Ridge Parkway Drive Stops You Have to Make”

  1. Great article Natasha! “Peaks of Otter” around mile 80 is also a great stop. There is a restaurant and lodging facilities.
    Checking out your photo – have you ever been to Marco Island, FL? Great sunsets and not as commercialized as many beach communities.
    Keep having fun!

    Reply
  2. Thank you so much for including Fancy Gap, VA in your article. My husband and I own Fancy Gap Cabins and Campground just south of Fancy Gap right on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Because of that, I read all the articles I can about traveling the BRP and find our little community is often missed. I did want to offer an update. The Al Paca farm closed a couple of years ago. There are still many wonderful shops in Fancy Gap for visitors to enjoy. Our campground (RV, tent, motel and cabins) offers a fantastic stop with the only official Virginia LOVE sign on the Blue Ridge Parkway and store to grab a snack, drink or souvenir. Thank you again!

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  3. The picture accompanying Great Smoky Mountains is of Looking Glass Rock, quite a distance down the parkway from the Smokies.

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  4. The Roanoke Valley area, on and off the Parkway, is another great stop, or two. The Roanoke Mountain Overlook, is amazing, especially at night, with a beautiful view of the entire Roanoke Valley, and other surrounding areas. The spur road, leading up to the Mill Mountain Overlook, and then directly down the mountain, into Roanoke, offers a terrific view, alongside the infamous “Mill Mountain Star”. The “Star” is a historical and fabulous light show, atop the entire Roanoke area, beautiful anytime, but most enjoyable at night. The Roanoke area offers a wide variety of venues, and comfortable places to stay, in between your Parkway visit. Highly recommend!!!

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  5. I’m getting ready to drive from Pennsylvania to Florida. Instead of 95 the whole way, I’m thinking of taking Blue Ridge at least part of the way. Are there recommended areas that are relatively close to 95 to get on or get off incase I do not have the time to drive it the whole way. It seems a waste to just drive the length but not stop and enjoy it. Any recommendations? Thank you..

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