Linville Upper Falls/ Shutterstock Image

Linville Upper Falls/ Shutterstock Image

Ultimate Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia Travel Guide


blue ridge parkway virginia tour stops map


What do people need to know to plan their trip to this section of Blue Ridge Parkway?

There’s a reason they call The Blue Ridge Parkway “America’s Favorite Drive.” To put it simply, it’s beautiful, scenic, and peaceful. The whole route is nearly 500 miles and connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the North Carolina-Tennessee border. 

In Virginia alone, the Shaka Guide tour takes you on a nice, relaxing road trip from mile 115, near Roanoke, all the way down to mile 1 near Waynesboro. Along the way, we offer amazing views, invigorating hikes, and activities for everyone to enjoy. 

Getting there (how to enter)

From the north tour starts at Mile 0 of the Parkway, The nearest airports are Charlottesville–Albemarle Airport 40 minutes (30 miles), and Richmond International Airport 1.75 hours (100 miles) away. Dulles and Ronald Reagan airports in the Washington D.C. metro area are about 2.5 hours (140 miles) away.

From the south start near Explore Park, The nearest airport is Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport 20 minutes (11 miles) away. Other options include Charlottesville–Albemarle Airport 2.5 hours (130 miles) away, and Richmond International Airport over 3 hours (180 miles) away.

Best time to visit/ Weather

aerial view of a city along a riverShutterstock Image

The Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia offers different attractions and experiences throughout the year, so the best time to visit depends on your preferences. Here's a breakdown of the seasons:

Spring (April to June)

Spring is a popular time to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway as the region comes alive with vibrant wildflowers and blooming trees. The weather is generally pleasant, with milder temperatures and lower humidity.

It's a great time for hiking, enjoying scenic drives, and witnessing the beauty of nature awakening.

Summer (July to September)

Summer brings warmer temperatures, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and picnicking.

The Parkway's higher elevations offer a cooler escape from the heat, and you can enjoy panoramic views of lush green landscapes.

Keep in mind that summer can be a busy season with increased visitation, so popular attractions may be more crowded.

Fall (October to early November)

yellow and orange trees along the road in autumnShutterstock Image

Fall is a spectacular time to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway. The foliage transforms into brilliant hues of red, orange, and gold, creating a breathtaking display.

This season draws many visitors seeking scenic drives and hikes to capture the stunning fall colors. It's advisable to plan ahead and check the peak color times, as they vary from year to year.

Winter (December to February)

Winter on the Parkway offers a serene and peaceful experience. While some sections may be closed due to weather conditions, the lower elevations are usually accessible.

You can enjoy scenic vistas, go for short hikes, and experience the beauty of snow-capped mountains. Keep in mind that temperatures can be chilly, and road closures are possible during winter storms.

It's important to note that weather conditions can vary, and it's always a good idea to check the Parkway's official website or local weather forecasts for up-to-date information and road closures, especially during the winter months.

Tips Before You Go

What To Pack

  • Hiking boots or shoes are recommended for most trails, especially for the more strenuous ones. Avoid sandals, “flip flops” or high-heeled shoes
  • Hiking clothes
  • Hat/sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Snacks
  • Phone charger/mount
  • Credit card

Safety Tips

  • Drive at or under the speed limit (25mph to 45mph)
  • Don’t overexert yourself on the trails.
  • Be cautious of wildlife. They can be unpredictable. 

Do we need reservations?

You do not need to make any reservations to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is free for anyone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

How is the cell service?

Wi-Fi and Cell phone reception is spotty.

How safe is the Blue Ridge Parkway?

There are some steep sections and sharp turns, but overall it’s not dangerous for drivers. One thing to look out for, however, is the other people using the road.

There are motorcyclists, bicyclists, and even walkers on the parkway at any given time. Please keep an eye out for them. 

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11 Things to Do: Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia

Here are the top eleven things for you to look forward to as you drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.

1. The road itself. 

mountain overlookRaven's Roost Overlook/ Shutterstock Image

That’s right, this is a road trip where you can really enjoy the road. It’s so smooth, it feels like you’re riding on a cloud. The speed limit never goes over 45 miles per hour and all of the attractions and overlooks are clearly labeled.

The natural beauty of the forests, mountains, and meadows is never obscured by buildings or other roads. If you come at the right time, you can feel like you’re the only car in the world as you cruise along.

2. Roanoke, VA

There are so many fun things to do in Roanoke, that it’s hard to know where to start. There’s the downtown area, with dozens of shops and restaurants for any taste. There are museums and cultural institutions all over the city. And, of course, high above the city, we have the Mill Mountain Star.

It's the world's largest freestanding, illuminated man-made star and offers outstanding views of the whole city and surrounding mountains. The park around the star is also not to be missed, with serene trails and a small zoo with animals from all over. 

3. Explore Park

This is the first stop on our tour, in Roanoke. It has everything you could want in an outdoor adventure. You can hike 18 different trails that range from easy to difficult. You can camp out all night! There are 2 campgrounds available, as well as a place for RVs and a cabin and yurt rental company on location. Please book in advance here.

They even have their own Visitor Center, with friendly and knowledgeable staff and a place to buy local crafts as well as other souvenirs. Explore Park is not to be missed on your Blue Ridge road trip. 

4. The Peaks of Otter

mountain with lake belowShutterstock Image

The Peaks of Otter are Sharp Top, Flat Top, and Harkening Hill, three distinctive mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The best place to see all three is the Peaks of Otter Lodge or the Visitor Center, both of which are stops along our tour. 

The Visitor Center has a ranger-staffed desk, a general store, two hikes you can take at your own leisure, and a museum featuring fascinating facts about the region. 

The Peaks of Otter Lodge is a 63-room hotel right along the Parkway. It boasts a full-service restaurant, lounge, and a paved 1-mile walk around Lake Abbott.

There is also a gift shop featuring souvenirs of the Peaks, as well as a selection of local wines for purchase. You can also book a shuttle to see the top of Sharp Top Mountain, an unbelievable view. Make reservations and find more information here

5. Sherando Lake Recreational Area

lake with orange treesImage from Flickr by 

Often referred to as one of the “Jewels of the Parkway,” Sherando Lake is another spectacular stop. It features miles of trails, campsites with washroom facilities, and a visitor center. But that’s not the best part. The best part? There are TWO man-made lakes.

First is the upper lake, which is exclusively reserved for fishing. The lower lake has its own beach, perfect for laying out and catching some rays. You can also go floating or boating on the lake, as long as the craft is not motor-powered. 

6. 12 Ridges Vineyard

One of the newer stops along the Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia, 12 Ridges Vineyard has only been around since 2019. In that short time, it has established itself as one of the can’t-miss stops, right near mile 25 and just off of the road itself. 

As the name suggests, 12 Ridges is part of the thriving Virginia wine scene. They grow “high altitude” grapes that are turned into a collection of incredibly complex wines.

There’s a tasting room for you to have samples (If you’re not driving, of course!), as well as snacks from local food trucks and performances by local musicians. 

And don’t forget about that view! There’s a 360-degree view of all 12 ridges that give the company its name. Private event booking is also available, check out their website for more information.

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7. Scenic Overlooks

A scenic overlook is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a place where you can pull over along the Parkway and soak in the natural beauty of the mountains and valleys.

There are around 200 such scenic overlooks along the entire Parkway, with many of the most gorgeous here in Virginia. Here are three you simply have to see:

Apple Orchard Mountain Overlook

mountain overlook on sunriseImage from Flickr by 

Found near milepost 76. It is the highest overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, at 3950 feet. At that height, you can see entire mountains and valleys, leading to the distant blue beyond.

Thunder Ridge

mountain overlookShutterstock Image

Located at milepost 74.7. It offers a full panorama view of the valley. There’s a raised platform for you to stand on that makes you feel like you’re high in the air taking your photos of the entire valley. Additionally, there’s access to hike the world-famous Appalachian Trail OR a short ten-minute hike to stretch your legs.

Raven's Roost

raven's roost overlookShutterstock Image

One of the Parkway's most visited views is located at milepost 10.7. It’s easy to see why. A full 180-degree view with no interruption, you can even see parts of the Shenandoah Valley from here.

The best part might be the ravens that give this overlook its name. You can see them roosting in the evenings or in flight during the day. Additionally, you might see buzzards soaring high above the valleys, a spectacular sight.

8. Hikes

There are a variety of hiking trails all along the Parkway. Here are a few of the more notable hikes, ranked in order from easy to strenuous:  

Abbott Lake Trail

trail akong a lake with yellow leavesImage from Flickr by 

...is located behind the Peaks of Otter Lodge. It’s a paved, shady 1-mile loop around a beautiful man-made lake. 

Mountain Farm Trail

...located near milepost 5.6. This is a very easy walk that takes you through a re-creation of a typical mountain pioneer’s farm. Features fascinating facts and interactive exhibits and is only a .5 mile round trip.  

Otter Lake Loop Trail,

...as the name suggests, is a loop trail located at Otter Lake at milepost 63.1. It is moderately strenuous and should take around 45 minutes to complete. 

Apple Orchard Falls Trailhead

...is at milepost 78.4. It is one of the more strenuous hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. 

Honorable Mention

The Appalachian Trail. The world’s longest walking-only trail, the Appalachian intersects with many of the trailheads along the Blue Ridge in Virginia. Keep an eye out for the distinctive A logo that looks like the letters A and T shaped into an arrow for entrances to this trail.

It runs through most of the East Coast states of the USA, so it’s not obviously a Parkway-only trail. To walk the whole thing would take… around 6 months. It’s Very strenuous, to say the least.

9. Waterfalls

There are several waterfalls along the route of the road trip along the Virginia branch of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Two of the most scenic are Wigwam Falls and Apple Orchard Falls. Additionally, there is a manmade waterfall at the Otter Lake Loop trail. 

Wigwam falls

waterfallsShutterstock Image

This majestic fall is located a short walk from the Yankee Horse Ridge at milepost 34.4. 

Apple Orchard Falls

view below a waterfalls with light beamImage from Flickr by  

Located at milepost 78.4, as mentioned above. It is at the end of a 1.4-mile one-way hike down a mountain, for a 2.8 loop that is mildly strenuous. The trail is clearly marked and the waterfall at the end is a real sight to see, with multiple cascades. 

Otter Lake Loop Trail

This trail is a nice short 1-mile walk in the woods, which features a dam with a waterfall about halfway through. It is great for pictures, which makes it one of the most popular destinations along this stretch of the Parkway.

10. Visitor Centers

There are several outstanding visitor centers along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. 

Explore Park

The starting point of our tour and a can’t-miss attraction in Roanoke. 

Peaks of Otter

Another visitor center that you can’t miss. It has everything you could want along your road trip, including all of the amenities listed above.  

James River

Features a ranger-staffed desk, as well as museum exhibits of the area's wildlife. Features two short walks, one that leads to a real, historic canal and one that gives you a breathtaking view of the James River. 

Humpback Rocks

Information about the surrounding area features souvenir shopping, as well as 8 different self-guided hikes you can take.  

11. Shaka Guide Tours

Download the Shaka Guide tour of the Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia today! We offer all of the above sights, hike activities, and more!

With Shaka Guide's self-guided audio tours weaved on the planning for your next adventure, you'll go on a guided tour that not only gives you directions and travel tips but also helps you connect to the place through stories!

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Where to Stay along Blue Ridge in Virginia? 


Middle of the cityImage from Flickr by 

1.) Iris Inn

Relax at this cozy B&B, which has beautiful views, luxury rooms, and friendly service.

2.) Quality Inn Waynesboro

Enjoy comfort without breaking the bank. This is the best place to start your adventures on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

3.) Belle Hearth Bed and Breakfast

Step into Victorian luxury, where you'll be warmly welcomed and given a delicious breakfast to start your day.


1.) Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center

Immerse yourself in history and current luxury at this hotel, which has beautiful rooms and a great location close to downtown Roanoke.

2.) Hampton Inn & Suites Roanoke - Downtown

Your home away from home, and the best place to experience Roanoke's lively culture.

Where to Eat along Blue Ridge?

Mabry Mill Restaurant - Milepost 176.1 (Virginia)

You might fall in love with the friendly southern people and delicious country food at Mabry Mill. You can eat country ham, fluffy biscuits, and great cornbread while looking at the pretty waterwheel and the farmland around you.

Peaks of Otter Lodge Restaurant - Milepost 86 (Virginia)

In this restaurant in Virginia, you can enjoy filling meals and beautiful views. You can eat burgers, chicken, and ham here before going to Abbott Lake and the Peaks.

Meadows Restaurant - Milepost 178.5 (Virginia)

At a diner in the Shenandoah Valley, you can get grilled steaks, salads, and Southern food and enjoy your sense of taste.

Leave No Trace

Plan ahead and prepare

Hikers should plan beforehand, consider the weather forecast, and adhere to park regulations. Bring maps, water, and first aid supplies to make the journey enjoyable and risk-free.

Travel on durable surfaces

Protect delicate plant life by staying on designated trails. Keep the Parkway looking as beautiful as possible.

Dispose of all waste properly

Get rid of everything, even things that can break down naturally, like apple cores. If you care about the local wildlife and habitat, don't leave any traces.

Leave anything you find

Please don't pick flowers, break rocks, or destroy artifacts. Preserve the Parkway's history and natural wonders for the benefit of future generations.

Respect all wildlife

Enjoy animals from a safe distance to reduce stress and avoid provoking unusual behavior. Avoid feeding them to maintain a healthy ecosystem.

Be considerate of other visitors

To help keep the peace in this area, please keep your voice down, yield to pedestrians who are slower than you, and be kind. Make sure everyone who visits the park has a good time.

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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 (Virginia) Itinerary and Know Before You Go article.

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