The Blue Ridge Parkway isn't technically a National Park, but it might as well be. It connects two National Parks (Shenandoah and the Great Smoky Mountains) together and the parkway itself is the most visited unit controlled by the National Parks System. Each year, more people drive along its roads than visit the Grand Canyon. True fact. People flock to it with good reason, though...it's pretty gorgeous. Plus, there's tons to see and do along the way. Here's a few highlights to see along the way.
Whether you're starting or ending the trip in Shenandoah, the park's Skyline Drive is one of the most unforgettably epic parts of the trip.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is 469 miles of pure beauty. It all begins in Front Royal, Virginia, and runs all the way down to Cherokee, North Carolina.
75 miles outside Washington D.C., the pristine 200,000 miles of Shenandoah National Park wait to be explored! Shenandoah National Park offers 500 miles of trails within the park, plus dense forests, ancient caves, swooping mountains, misty waterfalls... need I go on?
Take your Blue Ridge Parkway adventure underground at Luray Caverns. You can rock out to their one-of-a-kind stalacpipe organ, and make sure to toss some money into their wishing well and make a wish. You'll get instant good vibes once you find out that all the change tossed into the well goes to charity!
Then you'll come to Sperryville, an historic river town along the Thornton River. It was founded in the early 19th century and is currently listed on the Virginia Landmarks Registry and National Registry of Historic Places. The town is located at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here, you'll find another access point for Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive.
If you're spending some time at Shenandoah National Park, Big Meadows Lodge is a fantastic place to spend the night. Located directly within the park, this historic lodge is close to the Harry F. Byrd Visitor Center and is just over three miles to Dark Hollow Falls. The rooms are rustic and charming with wood paneling, and there are cabins available as well. Be warned: there aren't any TVs or phones in the cabins. But, there's an onsite restaurant and taproom, as well as free wifi in the lodge.
Next up is a short side-trip to Amherst Virginia, a scenic and bucolic town along the Blue Ridge Parkway. A few key attractions to check out include, Sweet Briar College (one of America's most beautiful colleges), several golf courses, the Moncan Indian Ancestral Museum and the historic James River.
Then, nestled in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, Cave Mountain Lake Family Camp is a rustic and relaxing camping getaway. Close to Natural Bridge and the parkway, this is a great spot for some R&R while driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway. The seven-acre campground was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
Further south in Virginia, and another short detour off the Blue Ridge Parkway, you can find the ginormous Natural Bridge. It's 20 stories of solid rock, carved out by nature and it has boggled the minds of everyone who's seen it, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
Once you reach Banner Elk, NC, Grandfather Mountain State Park is definitely worth a stop. It's a hiker's paradise. There are challenging trails for more skilled hikers, and rocky cliffs that offer breathtaking scenic views. You can also get a permit and camp in the park.
Next, you'll arrive in Asheville, NC. This is a fantastic stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Here's you'll find plenty of historic and bed and breakfasts and cozy campsites where you can rest your head, and there's tons of good eating, from old-school diners to places serving up the next great food trend. Asheville is the perfect place to stop and do a little exploring (and eating and drinking). The town is full of unique characters, quirky galleries and boutiques, plus it's a beer-lover's dream, with dozens of microbreweries scattered around town...they don't call it the "Brew" Ridge Parkway for nothing, you know!
Honestly, you can't pick a bad time drive the Blue Ridge Parkway. In summer, the parks along the Blue Ridge Parkway are lush and green. In the fall, the entire drive is covered in fiery foliage (usually from early October to early November). In winter, the driving is a tad precarious, especially if it's a snowy winter. But, the Blue Ridge Mountains become blanketed in snow and it looks like a white wonderland. In spring, the flowers bloom across the route: the best to see them is between April and May.