America’s favorite the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip

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The Blue Ridge Parkway road trip lets you travel through dense forests and wind past great mountains. It’s a scenic road trip in the Blue Ridge Mountains that also goes by the name America’s favorite drive. During the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip, you will continue to ask the question: What’s around the next turn?

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Blue Ridge Parkway guide

  • Total distance: 469 mi / 750 km
  • Total driving time: 13 h

Good things to know about the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip

The Blue Ridge Parkway runs for 469 miles (750 km) from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia in the north to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the south. It’s a spectacular drive with great stops along the way.

Mileposts are used to identify locations to visit. These mileposts are ordered from Afton and Shenandoah National Park in the north to Cherokee at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the south.

On the Blue Ridge Parkway, the speed limit typically is 45 miles (72 km) per hour or in some cases even less. So the pace throughout the journey is low.

A low pace is great if you want to take your time and enjoy the scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

But driving the Blue Ridge Parkway is not so great if you just want to put the miles behind you as soon as possible. This road trip is certainly not a drive you want to take if you’re in a hurry.

That’s it. Now it’s high time to get out there and begin the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip.

Yellow and orange trees on Blue Ridge Parkway fall foliage road trip
Fall at the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Related: Also check out the 10 best road trips in the USA.

Part 1: Driving to Roanoke (Milepost 120)

  • Driving distance: 120 mi / 193 km
  • Driving time: 3 h

In Afton, you find the northern entrance of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Here, you start driving the Blue Ridge Parkway from MP 0, and when you arrive in Roanoke, you are at MP 120.

Cross country road trip and the Appalachian Mountains
The Appalachian Mountains.

Explore the Natural Bridge (Milepost 62)

It’s early on, but the Blue Ridge Parkway shows off an interesting spot already at MP 62. The Natural Bridge is a 215 foot-tall (66 m) stone structure that reaches 90 feet (27 m) across the gorge it sits in.

The gorge has been carved by Cedar Creek, a tributary of James River. So the Natural Bridge is the remains of the cave or tunnel that Cedar Creek once flowed through. 

Already a long time ago the Natural Bridge interested the Native Americans, who used it as a sacred site. The area also caught the attention of George Washington in 1750. Later, in the year 1774, Thomas Jefferson purchased 157 acres of land, which encompassed the bridge.

Today the Natural Bridge is the main attraction of Natural Bridge State Park. With its unique appearance and interesting history it’s certainly a great first Blue Ridge Mountains road trip stop.

See the shining Roanoke Star (Milepost 120)

A popular addition to the itinerary is the Roanoke Star. Just the way Hollywood has its Hollywood sign, Roanoke has the Roanoke Star. The 90 feet (30 m) tall star sits on the top of Mill Mountain and protectively looks out over the city and its surroundings.

If you venture to the top of Mill Mountain, you get a close-up view of the star. At the top you also have an impressive panoramic view of Roanoke and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.

For some exercise, you can hike or bike up to the top of Mill Mountain. But you can also drive to the summit and the Roanoke Star if you prefer it that way.

Hike to the McAfee Knob (Milepost 120)

The Roanoke area has a lot to offer especially if you enjoy to spend time in nature. Just a few miles outside Roanoke you find a segment of the Appalachian Trail with incredible vistas to enjoy.

Maybe most spectacular of them all is a distinctive rock overhang perch, which you can reach by hiking. The rock is called the McAfee Knob, and it’s about an 8-mile (13 km) round trip from the parking lot to the knob. If you like hiking, the McAfee Knob is an excellent stop.

Where to stay (Milepost 120)

Roanoke (MP 120) is an optimal place to base yourself the first night or nights when driving the Blue Ridge Parkway. The city is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains with nature only a short hike away.

The Roanoke star during cross country road trip
Roanoke’s star.

Part 2: Driving to Blowing Rock (Milepost 294)

  • Driving distance: 174 mi / 280 km
  • Driving time: 4.5 h

Part 2 is by far the longest drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway itinerary. From Roanoke you have 174 miles (280 km) to Blowing Rock. When you arrive in Blowing Rock, you are at MP 294.

Additional stop: If you feel that almost 5 hours in the car is too much and want to break it up with an overnighter, somewhere around Fancy Gap at Milepost 199 is a strong option for another stop.

Photograph the Mabry Mill (Milepost 176)

Mabry Mill is an idyllic and restored millhouse, originally built in 1905. It has become one of the most famous sights for visitors driving the Blue Ridge Parkway.

At Mabry Mill you can take a self guided tour of the mill to learn a little bit about its history. And, of course, you shouldn’t miss to try the amazing pancakes at the on-site restaurant.

Mabry Mill of Blue Ridge Parkway road trip
The Mabry Mill is the definition of picturesque.

Sing along at the Blue Ridge Music Center (Milepost 213)

The Blue Ridge Music Center at MP 213 has a mission to bring forward the rich musical tradition of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It does that with the help of a museum, an outdoor amphitheater and an indoor venue.

When you visit Blue Ridge Music Center on the parkway road trip, it’s likely that the sounds of the fiddle, banjo, and guitar welcomes you. In the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountain setting, music and nature come together in an engaging way. For music lovers the Blue Ridge Music Center is one of the best stops along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

See the actual Blowing Rock (Milepost 292)

The town’s name Blowing Rock comes from a legendary rock in the area. And the actual Blowing Rock that gave name to the town is one of the best Blowing Rock things to do on the itinerary.

The famous rock stands out from the other parts of the mountain. From the overlook, you have a sweeping view of the mountains. But the rock is not only about the views. It has an interesting story to tell as well. So don’t forget to read about the history of the Blowing Rock before you go.

Tour Moses Cone’s Flat Top Manor (Milepost 294)

Another fun Blue Ridge Parkway stop in Blowing Rock is Moses Cone’s Flat Top Manor. Textile magnate Moses Cone developed his estate and built an unbelievable summer retreat with his wife Bertha in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Flat Top Manor is an impressive white 20-room mansion built in Colonial Revival style.

The manor itself and the beautiful views makes it very impressive, but the estate also includes a family cemetery and an apple orchard. On the estate you as well find 25 miles (40 km) of carefully curated carriage trails for even more magnificent views. The trails are partly overgrown, but that only contributes to the feeling of stepping back in time.

Today Flat Top Manor and the estate belong to the National Park Service. Flat Top Manor is open seasonally, but the trails in the area are always open.

Where to stay (Milepost 292-294)

The small town Blowing Rock, at an elevation of 3,566 feet (1,087 m), is a great place for another base when driving the Blue Ridge Parkway. Far from the hustle and bustle, with mountain air in your lungs, it’s easy to unwind.

Blowing Rock during the Blue RIdge Parkway road trip
The Blowing Rock.

Part 3: Driving to Asheville (Milepost 389)

  • Driving distance: 95 mi / 153 km
  • Driving time: 2.5 h

Part 3 is the best part of the Blue Ridge Parkway to drive to enjoy very high elevations. Mount Mitchell is not only the highest point of the Blue Ridge Parkway, but even east of Mississippi. When you arrive in Asheville after 95 miles (153 km), you are at MP 389.

Drive the Linn Cove Viaduct (Milepost 304)

The bridge Linn Cove Viaduct has become a Blue Ridge Parkway icon. It’s one of the most photographed Blue Ridge Parkway sights. The S-shaped 1243 feet (379 m) long bridge has become a destination on its own.

You can of course just drive over the Linn Cove Viaduct. But nearby hiking trails give you an even better view of the viaduct and the pretty surroundings. So to make the most of the Blue Ridge Parkway highlight, you should exit your car and stretch your legs.

Linn Cove Viaduct of Blue Ridge Parkway road trip
The Linn Cove Viaduct.

Hike Linville Gorge and Falls (Milepost 316)

Just a few miles after the Linn Cove Viaduct you face more highlights on the itinerary, Linville Gorge and Falls.

Linville Falls is a magnificent waterfall that moves in distinctive steps. It starts with a twin set of upper falls and moves down through a small gorge before it culminates with a drop of 45-foot (14 m).

If you want to take it one step further, you can also go for a hike in Linville Gorge. The further away from the falls you get the smaller the crowds get.

A hike is a good way to appreciate the gorge, which also goes by the names Grand Canyon of North Carolina and the Linville River.

As the story goes Linville Falls was used for execution of prisoners by the Native Americans in the area as the final plunge was so deadly. So enjoy the beauty but make sure that you watch your steps when you visit Linville Falls on the Blue Ridge Mountains road trip itinerary.

Linville Gorge near Blowing Rock
Linville Gorge.

Ascend Mount Mitchell (Milepost 355)

The North Carolina stretch of the road trip is the best part of the Blue Ridge Parkway to drive for very high elevations. That really shows at Mount Mitchell. At 6684 feet (2037 m) no one on the east side of Mississippi is as high up as you when you are at Mount Mitchell’s summit.

The risk of visiting Mount Mitchell a cloudy day is big as most days up there are cloudy. Still Mount Mitchell is well worth a visit even if it’s cloudy.

You can get to within a quarter mile from the summit before you need to put on your walking boots and do the last part by foot. When you’re at the summit of Mount Mitchell, you notice that the fauna is a bit different compared to the surrounding Appalachians because of the elevation change. The highest point east of Mississippi is both interesting and impressive to see.

Feel like a kid at Asheville Pinball Museum (Milepost 383)

Asheville is just like Roanoke and Blowing Rock a great place for a base when driving the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s a very picturesque town with fun Asheville things to do when visiting on the Blue Ridge Mountains road trip.

A contrast to other stops on the itinerary is the pinball museum in Asheville. At Asheville’s pinball museum you find about 80 pinball machines and vintage video games and visitors can play as much as they want. As you play your way through the pinball museum you find interesting history and facts along the way.

The museum is not very big but the amount of people allowed inside is restricted. So everyone can have a good time and find a game to play when visiting. At Asheville Pinball Museum people of all ages have fun together. A visit is a rewarding experience both for adults and younger travelers on a family road trip.

Pinball stop during Blue RIdge Parkway road trip
Pinball time along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Take in movie views at Chimney Rock (Milepost 385)

Chimney Rock State Park delivers breathtaking views overlooking the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and Lake Lure. The highlight in the park and a Blue Ridge Parkway highlight is the panoramic view from the top of the famous Chimney Rock. To go up to the Chimney Rock observation point is spectacular and a wonderful way to appreciate the beautiful area.

The park is also great for stretching your legs. There are numerous trails in Chimney Rock State Park if you want to see more than just the views from Chimney Rock.

If you’re interested in movie history you also have an extra reason to visit Chimney Rock State Park. Famous scenes in the movie Last of the Mohicans were filmed in the North Carolina state park. For even more movie nostalgia Lake Lure was also a filming location for the movie Dirty Dancing.

Visit America’s largest home (Milepost 389)

The Biltmore Estate is another great attraction in Asheville. It’s the largest home in America that is privately owned and one of the most unique Blue Ridge Parkway stops to make.

Biltmore was built in the late 1800s by George Vanderbilt II and still to this day it belongs to the Vanderbilt family. With the size of 178,926 square feet (16 622.8 m2) the Biltmore Estate is truly an impressive stop on the Blue Ridge Mountains road trip. Both the inside of the grand house and the estate’s grounds are interesting to explore when visiting.

Where to stay (Milepost 383-389)

Asheville has earned its position as a fun getaway destination and one of the best places to stay along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Stay in Asheville’s heart for nonstop fun, or base yourself at Biltmore for a quieter scene.

The Biltmore estate during cross country road trip
The Biltmore estate in Asheville.

Part 4: Driving to Cherokee (Milepost 469)

  • Driving distance: 80 mi / 129 km
  • Driving time: 3 h

Part 4 is the last part of the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip. From Asheville you have 80 miles (129 miles) to Cherokee. When you arrive at Cherokee you have driven all the 469 miles that the Blue Ridge Parkway consists of.

Climb Black Balsam (Milepost 420)

The Art Loeb Trail, with its trailhead located just a short distance away from Milepost 420, takes you to some of the best vistas on the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip. And of all the peaks in the area the Black Balsam Knob is the most prominent peak.

Black Balsam is treeless and covered just with grass or low vegetation. Thanks to that the views at the Black Balsam summit are truly spectacular, with nothing blocking your sight. Black Balsam is one of the Blue Ridge Parkway highlights for undisturbed panoramic views.

If you feel adventurous when driving the Blue Ridge Parkway you can add to the Black Balsam Knob and also hike to two other summits. Sam Knob and Tennent Mountain are two other beautiful spots in the area to include on the Blue Ridge Mountains road trip.

Discover native history in Oconaluftee Indian Village (Milepost 469)

Oconaluftee at the end of the road just has to be a part of the Blue Ridge Parkway itinerary. It’s a former Cherokee village about two miles south of where the parkway ends. The Oconaluftee Indian Village recreates life of an 18th century Cherokee village.

As you enter Oconaluftee Indian Village you are swept away all the way back to the 18th century. In the beautiful Appalachian environment you take part in craft demonstrations including pottery, weaponry, fingerweaving and basket making.

You also get to experience the replicas of traditional Cherokee homes and other community structures. And a fun extra touch in Oconaluftee Indian Village is the re-enactors who are dressed in traditional Cherokee clothing.

Where to stay (Milepost 469)

Cherokee invites you to relax at the end of your Blue Ridge Parkway road trip. It’s a quiet town surrounded by grand nature.

Route suggestion: When you reach Cherokee, you have reached the end of America’s Highway. The Blue Ridge Parkway has then taken you all the way from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia down to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. To best explore the Smokies, you should make the additional one hour drive from Oconaluftee up to Gatlinburg.

The Great Smoky Mountains after Blue Ridge Parkway road trip
The Smokies.

Additional stop: Visit the Smokies

  • Driving distance: 35 mi / 56 km
  • Driving time: 1 h

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, named after the natural fog that frequently hangs over its mountain tops, is the ideal addition to the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip. Where the parkway ends, the Smokies begin.

The Smokies, a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains, is a beautiful place to visit. From more awe-inspiring drives to monumental hikes the best things to do in the Smokies include something for every visitor.

Explore Cades Cove

Cades Cove is a unique spot in the Great Smoky Mountains that shouldn’t be missed. It’s an isolated valley that once upon a time was home to settlers. Cades Cove is really scenic with its valley floor contrasted by the rugged mountain tops.

The Great Smoky Mountains is also famous for its rich wildlife. So make sure that you show your best side when you meet the bears, white-tailed deer, hogs, turkeys, skunks and raccoons that call the Smokies their home.

Cades Cove in the Smokies
Cades Cove takes you back in time.

Where to stay

In Gatlinburg you find all the places to stay near Great Smoky Mountains National Park, restaurants and attractions that you need for a great time in the mountains. Pigeon Forge is another popular town with more lodging and attractions, including the famous Dollywood, just slightly further from the park.

View over Gatlinburg, Tennessee
The Smokies and Gatlinburg.

Blue Ridge Parkway itineraries with days

For the ultimate Blue Ridge Parkway road trip it’s recommended to have 1 week or more. If you have less time you can also do a pacier drive with fewer nights in each town.

Ultimate itinerary (1 week)

  • Day 1: Drive to Roanoke
  • Day 1-3: Roanoke (2 nights)
  • Day 3: Drive to Blowing Rock
  • Day 3-5: Blowing Rock (2 nights)
  • Day 5: Drive to Asheville
  • Day 5-7: Asheville (2 nights)
  • Day 7: Drive to Cherokee

Pacy itinerary (4 days)

  • Day 1: Drive to Roanoke
  • Day 1-2: Roanoke (1 night)
  • Day 2: Drive to Blowing Rock
  • Day 2-3: Blowing Rock (1 night)
  • Day 3: Drive to Asheville
  • Day 3-4: Asheville (1 night)
  • Day 4: Drive to Cherokee
The ultimate Blue Ridge Parkway itinerary
The ultimate Blue Ridge Parkway itinerary.

Blue Ridge Parkway road trip FAQ

Where does the Blue Ridge Parkway start and end?

The Blue Ridge Parkway runs for 469 miles (755 km) from Afton in Virginia to Cherokee in North Carolina. The parkway links Shenandoah National Park in the north to the Great Smoky Mountains in the south.

How long does it take to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip? 

It’s recommended to have a week to fully enjoy the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip. With an estimated driving time of 13 h for the Blue Ridge Parkway you will drive on average roughly 2 hours a day if you have a week. That gives you time to explore the things along the way.

Can you drive the Blue Ridge Parkway in one day?

Completing the Blue Ridge Parkway takes 13 hours without stops included. So it’s theoretically possible to make the Blue Ridge Parkway drive in just one day. However, it’s strongly recommended not to do so. Even if you don’t plan many stops you need at least two or three days to be able to enjoy the Blue Ridge Parkway.

What is the best time to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway?

The best time to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway is from May to September. In spring and summer the vegetation is very green. And autumn is a very popular time of the year because of the impressive fall foliage. Winter is the least good time to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway due to the risk of road closures. The parkway is open year round but sections could be closed due to snow, ice, storm damage, maintenance and construction.

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