Fall is the favorite time for visiting the Blue Ridge as the amazing color of the the hillsides and the road shoulders are in full glory. The Parkway varies in elevation from 650 feet to over 6,000 feet. The elevation plays a key role in the color change so be sure to venture north and south on the parkway and look east and west at different sections to see all of the beautiful foliage.
You don’t want to miss Mabry Mill, one of the most photographed spots on the parkway. This historic water-powered gristmill and sawmill at Milepost 176.2, also has a blacksmith shop. Many demonstrations take place with Applebutter making on Sundays in October as well as good old fashioned Bluegrass music. Stop at the Mabry Mill Restaurant nearby to get some of their famous buckwheat pancakes.
After you’ve snapped your pictures of the mill, venture to the Rocky Knob Recreation Area. Rocky Knob (MP170), one of the first developed areas on the Blue Ridge Parkway, offers camping, picnicking and wonderful opportunities for hiking. The Rock Castle Gorge National Recreational Trail starts at the Rocky Knob Campground (MP167) and is a 10.8 mile loop trail.
Further north on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 86 is Peaks of Otter – Flat Top, Sharp Top and Harkening Hill. The summit of Flat
Top or Sharp Top offers a unique opportunity to enjoy spectacular scenic vistas and sunrises. Interpretative programs, wildlife exhibits, walking trails, self guided wildflower walks, picnic areas, campground, restaurant and lodge are available in this developed area of the Blue Ridge Parkway.