Things to Do on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Are you looking for some fun things to do along one of America’s most scenic drives, the Blue Ridge Parkway? America’s longest linear park celebrates the natural and cultural heritage of the Blue Ridge. From hiking to cycling to picnicking at scenic overlooks and other attractions, here’s your guide to enjoying the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesboro.
What is the Blue Ridge Parkway?
The idea for the parkway came when President Franklin D. Roosevelt suggested creating a “park-to-park” highway after visiting the Skyline Drive in 1933. It took more than 50 years - until 1987 - to complete the road. Today, the Blue Ridge Parkway continues to help the public access the beauty and recreational opportunities found in this area.
The Blue Ridge Parkway stretches for 469 miles and connects Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Visitors will have a chance to see abundant wildlife in a range of habitats. They will also pass close to Mt. Mitchell, the highest mountain in the Eastern US, New River, the oldest river in the U.S., and Whitewater Falls, the highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains.
Attractions/Places to Visit
A drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway affords the visitor a chance to enjoy a number of attractions. The historic marble palace Swannanoa was built in 1902 and features an original Tiffany window. It’s been a lot of things over the years, including a private residence, golf club, and school. On select days, visitors can tour it for hints into its past luxury. Nearby Wintergreen Resort will keep the crew busy all year with slopes for skiers and snowboarders, two golf courses, vacation lodging, dining, a spa, hiking trails, and more.
If you enjoy craft beer or Virginia wine, you’re in luck! You'll find breweries serving a variety of styles of craft beer abound near the Parkway. They include Waynesboro’s Basic City Beer Co., Seven Arrows Brewing, and Blue Mountain Brewery. Nearby wineries include Barren Ridge Vineyards, Lightwell Survey Wines, Veritas Vineyards and Winery, Afton Mountain Vineyards.
Historic Downtown Waynesboro is located in the Shenandaoh Valley just a few miles from the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway. This charming city offers lots of dining choices, retail shops, and cultural experiences. Catch a performance at the Wayne Theatre , check out the Street Arts Trail, or enjoy the Cajun-inspired menu at the Green Leaf Grill.
The northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway offers access to some spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains hiking. 1.5-mile Humpback Rocks climbs to a rocky outcrop with amazing views of the Shenandoah and Rockfish Valleys. This prominent rocky outcrop was once used as a guidepost by wagon trains crossing over the Appalachian Mountains. There’s also a visitor’s center with information about the Parkway. Nearby, a short trail meanders through an interpretive farm that teaches about life on the Virginia frontier.
For a fun, interactive hike to a hidden airplane wreck book a treasure hunt hike with Doah Outdoors! You'll learn skills like compass navigation and trail-reading as well as the history of the airplane and its passengers. Take a group on this fun, 3 mile hike!
The Appalachian Trail often parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway and since there are a number of access points, it’s a wonderful way to explore the Blue Ridge on foot as well as for hikers to get a taste of the trail. This section is known for its challenging terrain and beautiful scenery.
White Rock Falls Loop Trail is a nice hike because it can be done as a full loop or a shorter out-and-back to the falls. The volume of water can vary, but the base of the falls is a pretty spot to picnic and wade in the water.
A number of leg-stretcher hikes start at overlooks along the Parkway. Make sure to stop at Greenstone Trail for some insight into the area’s geology, The Priest for a view, and Big Spy Mountain to check out the night sky. Here’s a guide to Virginia trails that can be accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
One of the coolest things about visiting the Blue Ridge Parkway is that you don’t even need to hike to see many of the sights. In fact, the parkway has pullouts and overlooks every few miles. For stunning panoramas at the north end of the Parkway, check out the Rockfish Gap, Ravens Roost, and Three Ridges Overlooks. They are a great spot for a picnic and a photo op.
Riding your motorcycle along the Blue Ridge Parkways is a thrilling and beautiful experience. Along with the curves and views, the parkway is a good place for a ride because of limited traffic, speed limits ranging from 25-45 mph, and the absence of stoplights. Riders can also make use of the many pull-offs along the road. They’re good for taking a quick break, gathering your group, or letting faster traffic move past you.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is also free and the perfect place to take a picnic and enjoy a leisurely drive. With plenty of overlooks to stop and enjoy and plenty of picnicking spots along the way the Blue Ridge Parkway is a great way to spend an afternoon.
Before you start on the Blue Ridge Parkway, check the website for an interactive map that includes attractions, access points, visitor centers, and more. Stop at a visitor center for information about the area, road closings, events programming, restrooms, picnic facilities, and more. Humpback Rocks Visitor Center is located at milepost 5.8, and James River Visitor Center is located at milepost 63.6.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the best places to visit in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here’s our guide to being prepared to hit the road.
- Pay attention to the 45-m.p.h speed limit. The road has lots of twists and turns and you may encounter cyclists, pedestrians, and wildlife.
- Prepare for the weather, which can change quickly in the mountains. Make sure to dress in layers.
- Download a map prior to your adventure or stop in Waynesboro’s Visitor Center to pick up a Blue Ridge Parkway Travel Planner and Map: sometimes cell phone service in the mountains is spotty.
- Plan for bathroom and water breaks. Entrances to the Parkway are limited and it might be a 30-mile drive to the next visitor’s center.