Winding its way along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains, from central Virginia to western North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway is nicknamed “America’s Favorite Drive.” Linking two of Eastern America’s greatest national parks, Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks, the Blue Ridge Parkway itself is also a unit in the extensive national park service system. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the Blue Ridge Parkway highlights in Virginia.
The whole parkway, incidentally the longest linear park in the United States, is 469 miles (755 kilometers) long. About 217 miles (350 kilometers) run through Virginia. Most of the Virginia section runs through the George Washington and Thomas Jefferson National Forests.
Below, you will find an overview of all the Blue Ridge Parkway highlights in Virginia. They are listed according to their milepost number. Officially, the Blue Ridge Parkway begins in the north. Milepost 0 is in Rockfish Gap, near the town of Waynesboro, a point where Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive becomes the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Blue Ridge Parkway Highlights, Virginia
Milepost 5.8: Humpback Rocks
Before you have adjusted to the relaxing pace of driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, the first major highlight is already there. Humpback Rocks has a visitor center and a restored farmstead. This is also where a superb 1-mile (1.6-kilometer) leads up to the rock formation that gives the site its name. The view from atop Humpback Rocks is nothing short of phenomenal. It’s the perfect introduction to the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Milepost 10.7: Raven’s Roost Overlook
A few minutes later, it’s time to stop again. The Raven’s Roost Overlook is unquestionably one of the best overlooks in the Shenandoah section of the Blue Ridge Parkway (the northernmost section, in other words). Taking in both the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley below, this is a panorama that you won’t forget anytime soon.
Milepost 63.9: James River Visitor Center
The James River Visitor Center features a ton of information about the area, history and activities. A 3.5-mile (5.6-kilometer) hiking trail runs along Otter Creek. A historically significant transportation route through the Blue Ridge Mountains, the James River is the lowest point on the entire Blue Ridge Parkway. Make sure to walk the James River Canal Trail to the renovated James River and Kanawka Canal Lock.
Milepost 86: Peaks of Otter
Inhabited for more than 8,000 years, the Peaks of Otter were popular hunting grounds for Native Americans and its fertile landscape attracted European pioneers in the 18th century. The scenic beauty of these three mountains resulted in the opening of the first inn as early as 1834. This is a great place to go hiking—Sharp Top offers the best views. There is also the Peaks of Otter Lodge, as well as the only service station on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.
Milepost 176.1: Mabry Mill
The most photographed building on the entire Blue Ridge Parkway, Mabry Mill is definitely worth a stop. This historic site was the home of E. B. Mabry between 1910 and 1935. Nowadays, visitors can hike a pleasant trail to his sawmill, gristmill and blacksmith workshop. In summer and fall, there are old crafts demonstrations by volunteers.
Milepost 213: Blue Ridge Music Center
Near the town of Galax, the Blue Ridge Music Center is one of the absolute Blue Ridge Parkway highlights in Virginia. This state-of-the-art music venue and museum is about all things related to Appalachian music. This is the very region where bluegrass originated and this heritage is celebrated at the fantastic Blue Ridge Music Center. This is a mandatory stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, before you head into North Carolina and continue on southward.