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Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia Itinerary

Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia Itinerary

Bob

blue ridge parkway virginia tour stops map

 

Introduction

The Blue Ridge Parkway is the most visited destination in the National Park system, with over 15 million visitors a year. This road trip destination connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the North Carolina/Tennessee border.

Our tour today will take you the final 110 miles of the Parkway, from Roanoke down to mile 0, just outside of Waynesboro VA. Along the way, you’ll see some of the best overlooks in the country, take some amazing hikes, and stop at a variety of places for additional adventures along the way.

With 25 stops and 71 narration points, we’ll cover the highlights, and some hidden gems, of the northmost section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Just let Shaka Guide be your guide. All you have to do is press play and we will give you all the information and directions you need to have a great road trip!

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Virginia Itinerary

1. Explore Park

Approximate Time: 30 minutes - 1 hour

The first stop along our tour, this state-run park has a visitor center with helpful staff and a gift shop featuring arts and crafts from local artists. Want to start the day off with a hike?

This place has you covered, with a variety of trails for all levels of experience. There’s even a section with a zipline, obstacle course, and trampoline park. Expect to spend more time here, depending on what you want to do.

2. The Quarry Overlook

overview of mountain on a clear skyImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

The first overlook on our tour today. Features views of the distant mountains as well as a real, working quarry.

3. The Great Valley Overlook

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

The Great Valley runs through the Appalachian Mountains from New York State all the way down to Alabama. This overlook gives you a fantastic view of the valley below.

The valley itself was once used by Native Americans as part of the Great Warrior path, as well as by settlers on their way to the frontier.

4. Montvale Overlook

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

This is another perspective on the mountains, complete with the small town of Montvale in the distance.

5. Pine Tree Overlook

valley overlookImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

Here we have a beautiful 180-degree vista broken only by a lone pine tree. Is this the pine tree that gives the overlook its name? No one is really sure, but it makes for great photographs.

6. Porter Mountain’s View

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

As the name suggests, this overlook offers a profile view of Porter’s Mountain. Additionally, you can see down into the Goose Creek Valley, over 2000 feet below.

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7. Peaks of Otter Visitor Center

mountain with lake belowShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 45 minutes - 1 hr

The first visitor center along the Blue Ridge Parkway today is also the most popular. It has everything you could possibly want. There’s a museum dedicated to the natural history of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

There is a ranger-staffed desk for all of your questions about the area. There’s a general store with provisions for the road, as well as a gift shop for souvenirs. There’s even a restroom if you feel the call of nature.

In the rear of the Center, you will find an amphitheater that hosts presentations, as well as the start of two separate trails. The Elk Run trail is moderately easy and should take you about 45 minutes.

The Harkening Hill trail, on the other hand, is pretty difficult and will take around 5 hours in total. We recommend the Elk Run, it’s far more manageable and will help you get back on the road.

8. Peaks of Otter Lodge

lodge with small pond in frontImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 1hr

This hotel is within sight of the Visitor Center. It is the only food and lodging available directly on the Parkway itself.

Reservations are recommended if you would like to stay in one of the rooms, but any visitor is welcome to enjoy the restaurant. There’s sit-down dining or grab-and-go food available.

Don’t forget to check out the view of the Peaks of Otter from behind the lodge! There’s also a peaceful walk around a man-made lake. It’s paved, shady, and ADA-compliant.

It’s the least difficult walk on your tour today, and should only take about 30 minutes, depending on how much of the scenery you want to take in.

9. Apple Orchard Falls Trailhead

waterfallsImage from Flickr by US Forest Service - Southern Region

Approximate Time: 1 - 1.5 hrs

Despite the name, there are no apples to be found at the Apple Orchard Falls Trailhead. What you can find is a moderately strenuous walk down to a beautiful waterfall.

Though relatively small, the falls are quite picturesque and make for a great reward for navigating this well-marked trail. Remember, though, it’s not the walk down that’s difficult, it’s the walk back up!

10. Apple Orchard Mountain Overlook

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

Once again, there are unfortunately no apples to be found here at this overlook. What you can find is a breathtaking view, as this is the highest Parkway elevation in all of Virginia at 3950 feet above sea level.

11. Thunder Ridge Overlook

overview of mountainsShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 5-10 minutes

One of the more popular overlooks along the Parkway, Thunder Ridge gives a panoramic view of the Arnold Valley below. There is a stone platform that gives you the opportunity to take outstanding pictures with no interruptions.

Additionally, there is a short 10-minute leg stretcher trail back to the parking lot. Also features access to the Appalachian trail for a much longer hike.

12. James River Visitor Center

Approximate Time: 15-45 minutes

This smaller Visitor Center is definitely worth the visit. For one thing, it is the lowest point on the entire Blue Ridge Parkway. That’s right, we’ve gone from the highest to the lowest point in Virginia, all on one tour!

Features in the Center include information panels about the natural history of the Parkway area, as well as a ranger-staffed desk.

Trail of Trees

But don’t forget about the trails! There are two short trails that start from the Visitor Center. The Trail of Trees is an easy 30-minute walk through the woods which features plaques full of information about what you’re seeing. There’s also a pair of overlooks here, giving you a gorgeous view of the James River.

Canal Lock

The second trail is another easy 30-minute walk called the Canal Lock Tour. It leads you over a modern footbridge and along a grassy path to a real, historic part of a canal.

This lock demonstration has all of the information you could want about how goods and people were moved along the James River in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Finally, the James River Visitor Center features a large picnic area. There are abundant picnic tables in the shade. You also have a serene view of the James River as you eat!

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13. Otter Lake Loop Trail

trail in autumnImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 45 minutes

A moderately difficult loop trail that takes around Otter Lake. There’s a stone bridge over the creek as well as a man-made waterfall and a fishing pier (if you already have the required license).

14. Indian Gap Rocks Trail

Approximate Time: 10 Minutes

If you skip over the longer trail at Otter Lake, Indian Gap Rocks is a great stop for stretching your legs. It is under a mile out and back and features several rock formations.

15. Town of Buena Vista

Approximate Time: 45 mins - 1 hour

Located just a few minutes off of the Parkway, Buena Vista is an ideal stop if you need to fill up on gas. It’s also perfect for food, with several local restaurants and national chains, with something for everyone.

16. Chimney Rock Mountain Overlook

overlook of city and forestsShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

Chimney Rock Mountain is another wonderful overlook, this time boasting trees in the middle, giving you two different views for the price of one.

17. Irish Creek Valley Overlook

mountain overlookImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

You can see for miles and miles from the Irish Creek Valley Overlook. The Creek and valley were named for the Scotch-Irish immigrants who settled in the area in the 17th century.

18. Yankee Horse Ridge Trailhead

autumn trailImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 10-20 minutes

There are two short walks at Yankee Horse Ridge Trailhead. One leads along the re-created tracks of an abandoned railroad, originally used to move timber from a logging operation.

If you walk to the left of the tracks, you will see another trail that leads to Wigwam Falls, one of the most photographed waterfalls on this section of the Parkway.

19. Whetstone Ridge Visitor Center

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

More of a short break than a true Visitor Center, Whetstone Ridge is only necessary if you need to use a clean restroom. There are no other amenities at this stop.

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20. Big Spy Mountain Overlook

Approximate Time: 5-10 minutes

If you did not stop to stretch your legs at Whetstone Visitor Center, you have another chance here at this 10-minute short trail. It leads up a hill where you can get a decent view of the surrounding mountain.

21. 20-Minute Cliff Overlook

mountain overlookImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

This overlook was named for an interesting trick of the light. From the nearby town of White Rock, the sun will hit these rocks exactly 20 minutes before sundown in the Summer.

22. Sherando Lake

lake with red and orange treesShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 1-1.5 hours

A true hidden gem just off of the parkway, Sherando Lake features several outdoor activities. There is a beach, ideal for relaxing or playing in the sand. There are two man-made lakes, one for fishing and the other for water sports like swimming, canoeing, or kayaking.

You'll also discover multiple trails with all levels of difficulty. There is even a Visitor Center which features all of the amenities you could ask for.

Sherando Lake parking costs $8 per vehicle.

23. Raven’s Roost Overlook

mountain overlook with green treesImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

Raven’s Roost is one of the most popular overlooks on this section of the Parkway. It should only take a few minutes for you to see why. A gorgeous panorama of the valley and mountains below, with two possible locations for photographs.

As the name suggests, ravens frequently roost nearby, so it is not uncommon for you to see them perched at this overlook, or soaring high above the valley.

24. Humpback Rocks Visitor Center

orange flower

Approximate Time: 20-30 mins

This is the final Visitor Center on our tour today, as well as the second-to-last stop. In addition to the museum exhibits, this is It is a great place to plan your next Virginia road trip. You can also get a last-minute souvenir, or ask any questions at the ranger station.

Outside of the Center itself, there are a variety of trails, including a branch of the Appalachian Trail. There’s also a very easy one that will take you through a re-creation of a settler’s farmstead.

Historical reenactors will demonstrate techniques and give lectures on how the settlers survived in the Blue Ridge region. There is also a more difficult trail that leads to the Humpback Rocks themselves, with a 360-degree view as your reward.

25. Afton Overlook

overlook with signboardImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

This is the final stop on our tour, and it does not disappoint. Afton Overlook is a great overlook for a last look at the Blue Ridge Mountains, especially if you are here as the sun sets.

So are you ready to explore the Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia? Here’s everything you need to know before you go! And, if you’re looking for the ultimate Blue Ridge Parkway road trip, check out the Blue Ridge Parkway Tour Bundle!

Conclusion

Unveil breathtaking vistas, uncover hidden gems, and dive deep into nature's embrace – that's what the Blue Ridge Parkway promises.

Let Shaka Guide's Audio GPS Tour be your virtual co-pilot, guiding you through the enchanting Virginia stretch of this legendary highway.

From the starting point at Explore Park to the final curtain call at Afton Overlook, every stop adds a new chapter to the story of discovery and awe.

Armed with Shaka Guide's wisdom, hit the road and craft memories destined to reverberate through the very heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Secure your spot for the ultimate Blue Ridge Parkway escapade with Shaka Guide's Tour!

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We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at aloha@shakaguide.com.

For more detailed information to help you plan, check out our Blue Ridge Parkway Know Before You Go article.

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