America’s favorite the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip

  • Post last modified:July 22, 2021
  • Reading time:19 mins read
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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 and colorful road trip that also goes by the name America’s favorite drive. The Blue Ridge Parkway itinerary shows you the best of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 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

The Blue Ridge Parkway itinerary includes overnight stops in Roanoke, Blowing Rock, Asheville, Cherokee and an additional stop in Gatlinburg.

You find all the stops marked out on the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip map below.

  • Driving distance: 504 mi / 809 km
  • Driving time: 14 h

The Blue Ridge Parkway runs for 469 miles (750 km) through Virginia and North Carolina. The 504 miles above include the additional 35 miles (56 km) to get from the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway to Gatlinburg.

Good things to know about the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip

This Blue Ridge Parkway itinerary goes from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia in the north to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina in the south.

The speed limit on the Blue Ridge Parkway is typically 45 miles (72 km) per hour or in some cases even less. This means that the pace throughout the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip is low. That’s great if you want to take your time and enjoy the scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway is not so great if you just want to put the miles behind you as soon as possible.

In this Blue Ridge Parkway guide and on the parkway the mileposts are used to identify the locations. They are ordered from Afton and Shenandoah National Park in the north to Cherokee at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the south.

That’s it. Now it’s time to get out there and start from the parkway’s north entrance with the first stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip.

Blue Ridge Parkway road trip
Fall at the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Blue Ridge Parkway road trip part 1: Afton (Milepost 0) to Roanoke (Milepost 120)

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

In Afton you find the north entrance of the Blue Ridge Parkway. At the north entrance you start driving the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 0 and when you arrive in Roanoke you are at MP 120. During the first stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip you especially don’t want to miss the Natural Bridge at MP 62.

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

Explore a Natural Bridge (Milepost 62)

It’s early on but the Blue Ridge Parkway shows off an interesting spot already when you exit at MP 62. Natural Bridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway itinerary 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. And Natural Bridge is the remains of the cave or tunnel that Cedar Creek once flowed through. 

This place interested the Native Americans very early who used it as a sacred site. And it also caught the attention of George Washington who surveyed it in 1750. Later in 1774 Thomas Jefferson purchased a 157 acres of land including the bridge.

The Natural Bridge is today the main attraction of Natural Bridge State Park. And it’s a great stop to start off your Blue Ridge Mountains road trip with.

Natural Bridge on Blue RIdge Parkway road trip
The Natural Bridge.

See the shining Roanoke Star (Milepost 120)

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

A fun thing to include on the Blue Ridge Parkway itinerary is the Roanoke Star. But what is the Roanoke Star?

Just the way Hollywood has its Hollywood sign, Roanoke has the Roanoke Star. The about 90 feet (30 m) tall star sits on top of Mill Mountain and protectingly looks out over the city and its surroundings.

At the top of Mill Mountain you get a close-up view of the star and an impressive panoramic view of Roanoke and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

And even though you can drive up to the star you can also hike or bike up to reach it. So you can easily have a car free day while you explore Roanoke on the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip.

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

Be surprised by the beauty of the McAfee Knob (Milepost 120)

There are good reasons to stay a night or two extra in Roanoke on your Blue Ridge Parkway road trip to see what the area has to offer. Just a few miles outside Roanoke you find a segment of the Appalachian Trail where you find incredible vistas to enjoy on the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip.

Maybe most spectacular of them all is a 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, this is one of the best stops on the entire Blue Ridge Parkway road trip.

The McAfee knob during Blue Ridge Parkway road trip
The McAfee Knob of the Appalachian Trail.

Blue Ridge Parkway road trip 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. During this stretch the Mabry Mill at Milepost 176 and the Blue Ridge Music Center at Milepost 213 are beautiful stops to include on your Blue Ridge Parkway road trip itinerary.

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

Photograph the Mabry Mill when driving the Blue Ridge Parkway (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 when traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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 has a mission to bring forward the rich musical tradition and heritage 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 will welcome you. In the beautiful setting music and nature come together in an engaging way.

The actual Blowing Rock on the Blue Ridge Parkway itinerary (Milepost 292)

Blowing Rock at MP 292 is a great place for a base when driving the Blue Ridge Parkway. 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 Blue Ridge Parkway itinerary.

The famous Blue Ridge Parkway rock stands out from the other parts of the mountain. From the overlook you have a sweeping view of the mountains as you visit on the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip. 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.

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

A Blue Ridge Parkway stop at 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 a very impressive Blue Ridge Parkway stop but the estate also includes a family cemetery and an apple orchard. And on the estate you as well find the carefully curated 25 miles of 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. The Flat Top Manor is open seasonally for visitors but the trails in the area are always open.

Flat Top Manor in Blowing ROck
Flat Top Manor.

Blue Ridge Parkway road trip part 3: Driving to Asheville (Milepost 389)

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

From Blowing Rock at Milepost 294 to Asheville at Milepost 389 there is a lot to be explored on the Blue Ridge parkway road trip. On the way Linn Cove Viaduct, Linville Gorge and Falls and Mount Mitchell are great stops to include on the Blue Ridge Parkway itinerary.

Part 3 is also the best part of the Blue Ridge Parkway to drive for very high elevations. Mount Mitchell is not only the heighest point of the Blue Ridge Parkway, but also east of Mississippi.

Drive the Linn Cove Viaduct (Milepost 304)

The bridge Linn Cove Viaduct has become an icon for the Blue Ridge Parkway. In fact, it’s one of the most photographed Blue Ridge Parkway sights. The S-shaped bridge that is 1243 feet (379 m) long has become a destination on its own.

You can of course just drive over the Linn Cove Viaduct when traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway. But nearby hiking trails give you an even better view of the Blue Ridge Parkway 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 on the Blue Ridge Mountains road trip (Milepost 316)

Just a few miles after the Linn Cove Viaduct you face another highlight on the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip 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).

At the visitor center you find two trails that link to different observation points for Linville Falls. If you want to take it one step further you can go for a hike in the Linville Gorge when visiting on the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip. The further away from the falls you get the smaller the crowds get. The hike is a good way to appreciate the gorge, which also goes by the name 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.

Mount Mitchell and elevated life (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. And 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 a cloudy day when driving the Blue Ridge Parkway is big as most days up there are cloudy. Still, Mount Mitchell is well worth a visit when driving the Blue Ridge Parkway 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 when traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Asheville Pinball Museum on the Blue Ridge Parkway itinerary (Milepost 383)

Asheville is one of the best cities to visit along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s a very picturesque town with fun Asheville things to do when visiting on the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip.

At the pinball museum in Asheville 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. And the pinball museum is definitely a contrast to the other stops on the Blue Ridge Parkway itinerary.

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

Movie views in Chimney Rock State Park (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 great 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 on the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip. Famous scenes in Last of the Mohicans were filmed in the North Carolina state park. And Lake Lure was a filming location for the movie Dirty Dancing.

Visit America’s largest home in Asheville (Milepost 389)

The Biltmore Estate is another great Blue Ridge Parkway 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 (16622.8 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.

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

Blue Ridge Parkway road trip part 4: Driving to Cherokee (Milepost 469)

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

The last stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway route is from Asheville at Milepost 389 to Cherokee at Milepost 469. These 80 miles (129 km) take about three hours to cover and things to do along the Blue Ridge Parkway include Black Balsam and Oconaluftee.

Black Balsam and its incredible vistas (Milepost 420)

The Art Loeb Trail, with its trailhead located just a short distance away from Milespost 420, takes you to some of the best vistas on the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip. Black Balsam Knob is the most prominent and popular peak in the area. It’s treeless and covered just with grass or low vegetation. Thanks to that the views at Black Balsam are truly spectacular, with nothing blocking your sight.

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.

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. There 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. Oconaluftee Indian Village is the perfect end of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Route suggestion: When you reach Cherokee you have reached the end of America’s Highway. It has 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.

Additional stop: Visit the Smokies on the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip

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

To go to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the perfect way to end the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip. The Smokies that are a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains is a beautiful place to visit.

It’s called the Great Smoky Mountains for the fog that naturally and frequently hangs over the mountain tops, appearing much like smoke plumes from a distance. From the nearby towns you comfortably can explore what the area has to offer.

When you add the Smokies to the Blue Ridge Parkway itinerary a good place to base yourself is Gatlinburg. In Gatlinburg you find all the hotels, restaurants and attractions that you need for a great time in the mountains. And most importantly Gatlinburg also offers great park access. A highlight in the park that you shouldn’t miss is Cades Cove.

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

A perfect base in Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg sits just at the entrance to the Smokies in the northwestern direction from Cherokee. And it’s a very convenient place for a base when visiting the Great Smoky Mountains. In Gatlinburg you have great access to the Smokies, good restaurants and a great variety of activities for the days you prefer not to spend in the wild. There’s something for anyone.

View over Gatlinburg, Tennessee
The Smokies and Gatlinburg.

Cades Cove of the Smokies

When you are in the national park Cades Cove is a unique spot 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 the valley floor contrasted by the rugged mountain tops.

And 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 when visiting

Use the booking tool below to find the perfect accommodation for your stay near the Great Smoky Mountains. Browse the map for options in various areas, or click on the search button to get all options listed.

Booking.com
The journey is as important as the destination
The journey is as important as the destination.

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Blue Ridge Parkway road trip FAQ

Here you find the answers to some frequently asked questions about the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip.

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 plus another hour to get to Gatlinburg you will drive 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 not recommended 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.

How was the Blue Ridge Parkway estimated driving time calculated?

The estimated driving time for the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip was calculated with Google Maps by taking the shortest amount of time from point A to point B and rounding upwards to the next half hour. Stops on the Blue Ridge Parkway itinerary are not included in the driving time.

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