The nearly 500-mile stretch of road between North Carolina and Virginia, known as the Blue Ridge Parkway, is unquestionably one of the most beautiful drives in the country, but a trip down the Parkway offers so much more than just pretty views. Come along with 10 Best as we show you some of the highlights along this scenic byway.
Shenandoah National Park — Photo courtesy of Cameron Davidson.Virginia Tourism Corporation
Shenandoah National Park
At the Virginia end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, you'll find Shenandoah National Park, a 105-mile stretch of wooded wilderness with more than 500 miles of hiking trails. If you'd rather explore the park in your car rather than on foot, it is here that Blue Ridge Parkway connects with Skyline Drive, the road winding through the park.
Hiking at Raven's Roost — Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation
As you make your way south through the state of Virginia, you'll pass through the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests while getting a sense of what life is like in the Appalachians both today and in the past. Tour 19th century farm buildings at Humpback Rocks, watch applebutter making at the restored Mabry gristmill or catch a live bluegrass performance at the Blue Ridge Music Center. Keep your eyes peeled during the 62-mile stretch between Otter Creek and Roanoke Mountain, often considered the most scenic stretch on the entire byway.
Into North Carolina
Downtown Blowing Rock — Photo courtesy of Todd Bush Photography, www.bushphoto.com.
As you enter North Carolina, the mountains begin to give way to meadows – though you'll still see plenty of peaks, including Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Rockies. While the scenery remains spectacular, the quaint towns along the road are the main attraction here. In Blowing Rock, you'll be met with good ole down-home charm as you stroll Main Street or cycle to Little Lost Cove. Explore the cultural heritage in historic Downtown Brevard, a small Blue Ridge town framed by the surrounding mountains. The artsy town of Asheville is headquarters of the Blue Ridge Parkway and a great place to stop for a few nights as you explore the Biltmore Estate or the former home of Thomas Wolfe.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Blue Ridge Parkway at dusk — Photo courtesy of Todd Bush Photography, www.bushphoto.com.
As your journey down the Blue Ridge Parkway comes to an end, take some time to explore North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the most visited National Park in the United States. You'll soon see why as you take on some of the 800 miles worth of trails ranging from leisurely to downright difficult. The sunrises and sunsets here are legendary, particularly from the top of Clingmans Dome.