8 places to visit along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
With its scenic views and winding nature, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic delight year-round. But fall is the most celebrated season on the Appalachian Highway, when the winding two-lane boulevard is a spectacle with the golden glow of the leaves and the cool mist of the mountains. And as we continue to worry about the spread of the coronavirus, a road trip with fresh air and scenic views lends itself well to the trip.
Built in segments from 1935 – part of Roosevelt’s New Deal – to 1987, the 469-mile boardwalk connects Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park to North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is our nation’s longest linear park. . It can take a week to drive if you want to lounge around and linger, making plenty of stops along the way.
A shorter 177-mile stretch, from the starting point of the route in Afton, Va., To Meadows of Dan, Va., Can be traveled in three days. Well-known points of interest on this section of the route include Mabry Mill (Milepost 176), one of the walk’s most photographed stops, and scenic stops like Pine Tree Overlook (Milepost 95.2) and Roanoke River Gorge ( Milepost 114.9). But venturing off the beaten track, having a meal or exploring a lesser-known hiking trail, is part of the happy charm of traveling along the ancient Scenic Highway. Here are eight of the walk’s most remarkable detours:
Exit the boardwalk where it crosses the James River near the Big Island Panhandle (Milepost 63.7) and follow US 501 to State Route 130 for 16 miles along the river. The Natural Bridge, a 215-foot-tall limestone arch, once belonged to Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington is said to have chiseled his initials on the rock face while walking the bridge. Pioneers like Daniel Boone viewed the geological formation as the gateway to the West.
To view the bridge, follow Cedar Creek Trail from the park visitor center for about a mile. Standing at the base, it’s amazing to think that the giant gorge was carved out by the gentle creek that flows below. Continue past the arch to Lace Falls, the 30 foot waterfall that marks the end of the trail.
For those who want to explore near or far this season, here are some great getaways in the United States and Canada.
- In search of fall colors on the roads of New Hampshire. A novelist looks back on her past by revealing her favorite fall spots and finding new ones.
- Follow the Shamrocks on a Canadian road trip. Discover fields of green and Celtic cultivation on a coastal drive along the Irish Loop of Newfoundland.
- Set sail on the winding waterways of the California Delta. Northern California’s vast water and farmland system is a four-season destination.
- 8 places to visit along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. With fall shade and cooler temperatures, fall is a great time to hike this Appalachian route.
- 8 things to do in the southwest this fall. Hot air balloons, sandhill cranes, haunted towns, and Hatch peppers are just a few signs of a downfall in New Mexico and Arizona.
Currently, the shuttle service is no longer available and the park’s exhibition on the Indians of Monaco is closed. Unvaccinated guests are required to wear face coverings inside park facilities and outside where social distancing is not possible. (6477 South Lee Highway, Natural Bridge, Virginia 3-12 years old, $ 6. 13 and over, $ 9. Parking, $ 5 per car at the trailhead.)
After checking in at this rustic 63-room lodge just off the promenade (Milepost 86), an early evening stroll around Abbott Lake is recommended, such as having a drink in the bar, eating comfort food in the dining room. eat, then enjoy the serenity of the lodge’s quiet hours from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Particularly during the pandemic, the suites’ motel-style exterior entrances are a godsend, while a private patio or balcony provides an outdoor perch with views of Sharp Top Mountain and beyond.
The lodge traditionally closes after Thanksgiving, but this year plans to close on November 7. Other changes to pandemic protocol include reduced hours and a limited menu for the dining room and bar, as well as the addition of a take-out section. (85554 Blue Ridge Parkway, Bedford, VA. Room rates per night start at $ 160.)
Continue your stay at the lodge with a 3-mile round-trip hike to nearby Sharp Top Mountain. Access the trailhead across the boardwalk from the Peaks of Otter Visitor Center and prepare for a steep climb, where you will encounter several flights of stone steps on the trail. Atop the 3,875 foot summit, you are greeted by an ancient stone shelter and rewarded with a 360 degree view. If a high-intensity hike isn’t your idea, purchase tickets at the lodge to catch the shuttle, which will drop you 1,500 feet from the summit. (Milepost 86, return shuttle tickets: $ 12 for adults and $ 6 for ages 2 to 12. One-way: $ 10 for adults and $ 5 for ages 2 to 12.)
Exit the boardwalk at Mill Mountain Park (Milepost 120) and travel three miles to see the Roanoke Star, an 88.5-foot Christmas ornament erected in the 1940s. After the town of Roanoke fell in love with it, the star has never been taken apart and is illuminated every night.
Gather at the star’s gazebo for a photoshoot and take in views of downtown Roanoke. The 568-acre Mill Mountain Park is also home to a zoo, a children’s discovery center with nature programs and exhibits, and miles of hiking trails. so, if you are traveling with kids, plan to explore. (2198 Mill Mountain Spur, Roanoke, Virginia)
Just a few hundred yards from the promenade in the town of Meadows of Dan (Milepost 177.7), refuel your car and have lunch at this old-fashioned country store that serves home-cooked food like sausage and roast cookies. chicken ($ 2.65), barbecue sandwiches ($ 5.50) and potato salad made from mountain potatoes (from $ 3.25). Outside, the open-air market offers locally grown produce, and this time of year you’ll find cabbage, apples and potatoes.
Whet your appetite with a morning trekking through woodlands and meadows on the Rock Castle Gorge Trail in Rocky Knob Recreation Area (Milestone 167). Then you can enjoy sandwiches on the store’s covered porch, accompanied by the owner’s friendly cats. (2616 Jeb Stuart Highway, Meadows of Dan, Virginia)
If you have time to explore this corner of the woods, also visit Mabry mill (Milepost 176) for a mandatory photoshoot, then head five miles up the boardwalk to the winery (Milepost 171.5) for mountain views and a taste of Virginia terroir with a blend of red grape varieties and white. While the estate’s restaurant is closed and traditional tastings are on hiatus, you can purchase a flight ($ 10) or a bottle ($ 8 to $ 26) on the crash platform and have lunch from the hut. (291 Winery Road Southwest, Floyd, Virginia)
With FloydFest, an annual summer music festival in July, the laid-back mountain town of Floyd is on the map as a music destination. Visit this honky-tonk six miles from the boardwalk (Milepost 165) for performances on weekend nights, when you can listen to regional bands playing blues, funk, Americana, and jam bands. Hunger? The pandemic has forced the Roadhouse to cut hours and its menu slightly, but you can still pair a Virginia craft beer with ‘The Appalachian’ pizza ($ 15), which instead of marinara sauce uses apple butter. made by local volunteer firefighters, and is topped with sausage, caramelized onions, aged white cheddar and goat cheese. (302 South Locust Street, Floyd, Va. Tickets range from $ 8 to $ 30.)
For more music, just a block from the pizzeria is the Floyd Country Store, which hosts its Friday Night Jamborees. The weekly old-time and bluegrass music sessions, complete with flatfoot dances, are lively gatherings outside. (206 South Locust Street, Floyd, Virginia. Tickets are $ 12 for reserved seats, $ 8 for adults, $ 5 for children 7 to 12, free for children 6 and under)
Note: Be sure to call ahead to any destination, as hours of operation or services may have changed due to the coronavirus. And at many facilities along the Blue Ridge Parkway, including those operated by the National Park Service, masks are required indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status.
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