Blue Ridge Parkway 101: Cruisin’ Through the Heart of Virginia

by Stefanie Hatcher | Posted on August 19th, 2014

It’s often called one of the most scenic byways in the world. Spanning 469 miles along the Appalachian Mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway extends from Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. Planning a trip to the Parkway? Here’s some things to explore along the way.

Cruisin' the Blue Ridge Parkway

Cruisin’ the Blue Ridge Parkway

With 15 entry points to the Parkway, hopping on it is easy, and once you’re on there are more than 30 visitor information stops to guide to your destinations. There are developed sites along the Parkway to make it easy to stop, park, stretch, visit restrooms and exhibits, hike and get a bite to eat.

Beginning at Waynesboro, the start of the Parkway, the exploring begins. Stop by the Plumb House Museum, where you can tour the streets of the Battle of Waynesborough, home to many Civil War artifacts and more. Also check out the Waynesboro Heritage Museum.

Devil's Backbone Brewing Co. along the Nelson 151 Trail

Devil’s Backbone Brewing Co. along the Nelson 151 Trail

Venture a little further south to Nelson, where you’re going to need to plan some time to explore all it has to offer. Hop on the Nelson 151 Trail– your destination for Virginia wine, craft beer, local food, and of course– outdoor recreation. The Trail features seven wineries, three breweries/restaurants, all the while providing easy access to and from the Parkway.

The Red, White and Brew Trail, also located in Nelson, boasts 10 wineries, four breweries, one hard apple cidery and one distillery.

Stay nearby at Orchard House Bed & Breakfast or Wintergreen Resort.

Swing by the Jefferson Heritage Trail and explore where Thomas Jefferson left his mark on the arts, architecture, education, and of course, wines of Virginia. Inspired by his contribution to the growth of the modern American wine industry, the Jefferson Heritage Trail honors his legacy while creating an exciting journey for all who visit.

Experience the wonder that is the Natural Bridge. This National Historic Landmark has a rich history, dating back hundreds of years and was once owned by Thomas Jefferson. The caverns of Natural Bridge descend 34 stories into the deepest caverns on the East Coast.

Roanoke/Vinton hangs along the Parkway, with four entrances to the area. If you want to get a taste of a metropolitan-esque area, make a stop in Historic Roanoke for plenty of lodging, shopping a farmers’ market and cultural tours.

HIKING

There are more than 50 hiking trails along the Parkway, so no matter where you are, there’s something nearby. From easy to strenuous, to 0.1 – 19 miles. While you’re on your hike, be sure to check out the natural landmarks along the way. White Rock Falls Trail is a 2.5-mile hike, where the highlight is the impressive gorge, which has a waterfall and natural wading pool.

Crabtree Falls

Crabtree Falls

Looking for some more hiking spots with waterfalls?

The James River is the Parkway’s lowest elevation (650′ above sea level) and is a historical transportation route through the mountains and represents a major geological and cultural component of the Blue Ridge section. The 3.5-mile Otter Creek Trail follows the creek from the Otter Creek Campground down to the James River Visitor Center. At the visitor center, the James River Canal Trail will take you to the restored James River and Kanawha Canal Lock that was built between 1845-51. When completed, the canal had 90 locks and went from Richmond to Buchanan, Va..

LODGING
Two sites along the Parkway provide opportunities for overnight accommodations from spring through the fall foliage season. Many visitors also enjoy the various camping sites along the Parkway and a chance to sleep under the stars.

Peaks of Otter Campground off milepost 86 offers 132 sites, nestled between the bases of two dominating mountains, with Abbott Lake being one of the main attractions. The lake is always stocked with small mouth bass and bluegill. Set up a tent in the shade below the trees and roast some hot dogs and marshmallows. marshmallows around the fire– a perfect way to enjoy a relaxing evening under the stars

A historical must-see along the parkway!  This is the place you want to stay to get the full experience of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  These are charming little cabins, in a beautiful, natural setting. Located at Milepost 174 near Meadows of Dan, Rocky Knob Cabins has small, rustic cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the early days of Parkway construction.

Check out more lodging opportunities along the Parkway, including camping, bed & breakfasts, hotels and more.

Take a break at milepost 176 for some spectacular views, mountain-top chalets, elegant dining and a wide variety of recreational activities at Primland Resort. Primland also offers fishing, hunting, golf and so much more to take advantage during your stay.

Humpback Rocks encompasses 800 acres along the Blue Ridge Parkway between MP 5 and 9.3 just outside Waynesboro. This area is perhaps the best representation of the varied combination of natural and cultural resources anywhere along the Parkway corridor. The prominent rock outcrop was a landmark guiding wagon trains over the Howardsville Turnpike in the 1840s. A portion of the historic trace still exists. Stop by the Visitor Center and mountain farm exhibit at MP 5.8. The farm includes a single-room log cabin and a series of outbuildings that represent elements of regional architecture of the late 19th century. Costume interpreters provide demonstrations of weaving, basket making and gardening.

Mabry Mill

Mabry Mill

Mabry Mill in Meadows of Dan is not to be missed! With a blacksmith shop, wheelwrights and a whiskey still. Demonstrations are available through the fall and enjoy old-time bluegrass music on Sundays.

These gems give visitors a glimpse of traditional mountain life in the early days of settlement.

 

OVERLOOKS

Wine tasting at Chateau Morrisette

Wine tasting at Chateau Morrisette

 

WINERIES/VINEYARDS
Two are along the Parkway in Virginia, each boasting unique selections. Chateau Morrisette Winery in Floyd is nestled above the Rock Castle Gorge Wilderness Area and is known for some of Virginia’s most popular wines. Enjoy their timberframe winery, while sipping their wines and enjoying their savory cuisine. Chateau offers seasonal events, including the Black Dog Concerts and Winemaker’s Dinners, all in an elegant, old world atmosphere. Find the winery off MP 171.5.

Peaks of Otter Winery & Orchards, ironically located at the foot of the Peaks, grow many fruits for their wine, where apples are their main crop. The winery turn their fruits not only into wine, but ciders and butter as well. You will find many types of fruit wines and blends, and may remind you of “grandma’s wines”. These wines are excellent with snacks, as an after dinner wine or just sipping. The apple cinnamon heated is great for the holidays. The winery also features a party wine with hot peppers and a mellow pear selection.

Milepost Services

The Blue Ridge Parkway is an American treasure located right here in the Commonwealth. Where else are you going to find so much to do on one parkway? History, hiking, scenic views, wineries, breweries and much more. The Parkway is the perfect way to experience Virginia and all it has to offer.

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