The Getaway
The Ultimate Guide on Planning a Trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains

There's something otherworldly about the Blue Ridge Mountains. Stretching 600 miles from Georgia to Pennsylvania, these mountains stand out for their bluish haze and seamless blend of natural spectacles, historic relics and cultural attractions.

Whether you're a nature lover seeking adventure, a history enthusiast looking to get lost in a bygone era or a family eager to make long-lasting memories, the Blue Ridge Mountains have a lot to offer beneath their alluring beauty. For a truly mesmerizing experience, get ready to travel off the beaten path and discover these marvels hidden among one of America's most famous mountain ranges.

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01 Shenandoah National Park

Sunset over the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains from Crescent Rock, in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.

Featuring over 200 acres of vast wilderness, Shenandoah National Park offers countless wooded hollows, wildflower fields and trails, including the famous Appalachian Trail, to explore. For unmatched views of northern Virginia's wild scenery, you have to visit Overall Run Falls, the park's tallest waterfall. You'll find yourself immersed in the area's natural beauty and may even spot a deer, black bear or songbird during your adventure.

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02 Skyline Drive

Fall Overlook at Shenandoah National Park

Soak up picturesque mountain views from the open road by traveling down Skyline Drive, a 105-mile stretch that coasts along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains through Shenandoah National Park. This public road features 75 overlooks, offering access to numerous trails and picnic areas to take a pit stop for some fresh air and sightseeing. Fall is the best time to catch stunning views of colorful foliage, while spring offers a vibrant display of blooming wildflowers, azaleas and mountain laurels.

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03 Humpback Rocks

Humpback Rocks in Central Virginia

Situated near the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, Humpback Rocks is a prominent rock outcrop that guided wagon trains over the Howardsville Turnpike in the 1840s before railroads were invented. Today, the landmark is a natural oasis with rich scenic beauty, ample hiking trails and an outdoor farm museum highlighting regional architecture from the late 19th century.

If you're up for the challenge, tackle the over 700-foot climb to the summit of Humpback Mountain, and you'll be rewarded with panoramic views of the Rockfish and Shenandoah Valleys.

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04 Natural Bridge State Park

Formerly owned by Thomas Jefferson, Natural Bridge State Park is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and for good reason. Yes, the park features a bridge, a 215-foot natural limestone arch near Cedar Creek that lives up to the hype, but it also contains rolling meadows and hiking trails, offering impressive views of surrounding mountains and the James River Valley. During your visit, venture over to the Monacan Indian Village for a glimpse into the area's awe-inspiring cultural heritage.

The natural rock-formation bridge at Natural Bridge State Park in Virginia. The Old Major / Shutterstock.com

05 Blue Ridge Music Center

Journey into the history of the area's musical past by visiting the Blue Ridge Music Center. Located in Galax, Virginia, this visitor center and museum strives to preserve the region's finest traditional music, which includes bluegrass, folk, Americana, gospel and country blues. Explore one of the museum's displays on ballad singing or popular blues influences, or catch a live performance from a regional artist and mingle among the locals to immerse yourself in long-standing musical traditions.

06 Linville Falls

Linville Falls in North Carolina, USA

Hidden within the Linville Gorge Wilderness, Linville Falls is a sight to behold. If you venture through the lush forests of the mountains in western North Carolina, you'll stumble upon several trails leading to four overlooks that reveal stunning views of the waterfall and surrounding wildflowers and foliage. Don't forget to snap a scenic pic if you climb the Linville Gorge, a steep-walled, rugged landmark known as the Grand Canyon of the Southern Appalachians.

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07 Mabry Mill

Autumn colors at Mabry Mill along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

Step back in time at Mabry Mill, a charming old gristmill located along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Learn about the mill's past producing some of the region's best-tasting corn meal and how it later expanded into a sawmill and woodworking shop. After stuffing your brain with historical facts, try an Appalachian inspired meal at the mill's restaurant, browse through the gift shop for a local souvenir or hit the themed Mabry Mill Trail for a glimpse into traditional rural farm life.

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08 Linn Cove Viaduct

Linn Cove Viaduct bathed in fall color

A segment of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Linn Cove Viaduct is an internationally recognized engineering marvel. Completed in 1987, the viaduct was the last finished section of the Parkway due to its innovative design focused on preserving and protecting the adjacent Grandfather Mountain it spirals around.

The area now features a bridge museum and walking trails that journey around the viaduct and connect to the Parkway's sprawling trail network, offering plenty of opportunities to transform your leisurely drive into an adventurous day trip. Stop at an overlook for unparalleled views of the surrounding foliage, peaks and ravines.

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09 Folk Art Center

Home of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, the Folk Art Center in Asheville, North Carolina, celebrates the rich artistic traditions of Blue Ridge. It houses multiple galleries with rotating exhibits and offers craft demonstrations from local artists, meaning it's the ideal place if you're looking for a taste of traditional Appalachian art. The center also has an upstairs area featuring a permanent collection of 250 art and craft pieces dating back to the 1850s, a dream exhibit for any art or history enthusiast.

Southern Highland Craft Guild, The Folk Art Center is a museum of Appalachian arts and crafts on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Permanent collection of baskets and woven EWY Media / Shutterstock.com

10 Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, USA overlooking the Newfound Pass in autumn.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is renowned worldwide for its ancient mountains, lush forests, diverse wildlife and preserved heritage sites, including the Rockefeller Monument and Cades Cove. Although it's America's most visited national park, there are ample opportunities to escape from reality and other visitors. Check out the historic mill, relax by a waterfall or hit the trails to view deer, foxes and over 1,800 species of vascular plants to fully embrace the beauty of Southern Appalachia's mountain culture.

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11 Crabtree Falls

Crabtree Falls NC Autumn 2021

Crabtree Falls rests in the middle of a three-mile loop trail, hidden among majestic rock cliffs, lush greenery and thickets of rosebay rhododendron, ferns and wildflowers. From the parking lot, you can venture just a few hundred feet down a paved trail to the first overlook. If you're feeling adventurous, climb to the upper falls for breathtaking views of the creek and surrounding vistas of the Tye River Valley.

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12 Cumberland Knob

Featuring a mix of lush woodlands and open fields, Cumberland Knob is the birthplace of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Parkway's construction began in 1935, marking Cumberland Knob as the first public recreational area for locals and visitors to picnic or hike while soaking up the mountain's natural beauty. Hit the Gully Creek Trail for some inspiring birdwatching, or round up the family for lunch and a ball game at the adjoining recreation field.

13 Doughton Park

Doughton Park sunset during the month of August 2022

Serving as one of the Parkway's larger campgrounds, Doughton Park is the place to visit for exposure to the area's abundant wildlife, including white-tailed deer, bobcats, raccoons and gray and red foxes. Explore the park's extensive meadows, post up for a picnic or embark on a journey across its 30 miles of trails. Don't skip out on Basin Cove, an area of the park offering horseback riding, fly-fishing and backcountry camping.

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14 Explore Park

Explore Park - Roanoke, VA

Looking for a unique activity to feed your adventurous soul? Visit Explore Park in Roanoke, Virginia, a 1,100-acre recreation facility featuring hiking trails, mountain biking, camping and a riverfront for kayaking or tubing. Stay overnight at the park's campsite and take full advantage of its amenities.

Enjoy an 18-hole game of disc golf before stopping by the tavern for a refreshing beverage. Every year, Explore Park also hosts the Winter Walk of Lights, an event featuring a half-mile display of colorful lights, family activities and local artisans selling homemade goods.

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15 Little Switzerland

An hour outside of Asheville, Little Switzerland is the quintessential charming mountain community. This small town offers an attraction for everyone, from delectable local cuisine to hiking trails with stunning mountain views and an old-fashioned general store that's been operating since 1927. During your trip, catch a live event at Geneva Hall or visit Emerald Village to tour a historic underground mine.

16 Mount Mitchell Scenic Drive

The Mount Mitchell Byway is a 52-mile scenic drive that winds through the valleys and peaks of Madison and Yancey counties. It begins on the highest peak east of the Mississippi before venturing through Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Along the way, you'll find trails, picnic areas and some of the most talented glass-blowers on the East Coast to visit and break up the drive.

17 Biltmore Estate

Nestled in the Asheville area, Biltmore Estate is America's largest home, built by George Vanderbilt in the late 19th century. When you step inside this Chateau-inspired mansion, prepare to get whisked away to an opulent world full of elegant furniture, rare artwork and ornate decor fit for royalty.

Stop by the winery for a tasting of award-winning wines before traversing through the manicured gardens, which feature nature trails, a conservatory and sections of blooming tulips, daffodils, azaleas and exotic trees.

A view on Biltmore Estate a historic house museum and tourist attraction in Asheville, North Carolina. The museum remains open for visitors with a limited capacity amid a covid19 pandemic. Konstantin L / Shutterstock.com

18 Blowing Rock

Female Hiker on Blowing Rock in North Carolina, USA

This western North Carolina village gets its name from The Blowing Rock, a legendary natural formation offering sweeping views of surrounding forests, peaks and the Johns River Gorge. It features an array of award-winning restaurants, shops, hotels, hiking destinations and more.

Visit during winter to witness a lesser-known side of the town's growing art scene with the Ice Sculpture Stroll and live sculpture demonstrations. You can also stroll down memory lane with the Blowing Rock History Walk, an expedition into the local people, events and legends that made the village what it is today.

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19 Patrick County, VA

Located within the rolling hills and valleys of the Piedmont Region, Patrick County is Virginia's gateway to the Blue Ridge Parkway and home to Fairy Stone State Park. Embark on a scenic drive to enjoy stunning views of the county's picturesque vineyards and sunflower fields. If hiking is more your speed, visit the Rock Castle Gorge for panoramic mountain views.

Patrick County also formerly served as a frontier town, Civil War battleground and home to the Native American Wolf Creek Cherokee Tribe. As a land steeped in history, it's full of cultural landmarks, including Cockram Mill and the New Deal Post Office Mural.

20 Waynesboro, VA

Waynesboro, Virginia, rests in the Shenandoah Valley, serving as a gateway to both Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The community offers a mix of outdoor attractions and cultural amenities, with a walkable downtown featuring breweries, street art and local boutiques. For an escape into nature, check out the Blue Ridge Tunnel, which connects to a larger trail system, or Serenity Garden, an oasis featuring a paved walkway lined with benches and plaques detailing the array of shrubs and flowers.

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