A Guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway
Plan the perfect joyride along this storied Southern highway
illustration: Gary Hovland
Skinny Dip Falls
Despite the name, most people keep their bathing suits on for a swim in the pool at the bottom of these thirty-foot falls. If the lack of a lifeguard puts you off, wade in the peaceful shallows instead.
Pisgah National Forest
One of the few sanctioned lodging and dining options
directly on the parkway, the Pisgah Inn welcomes road
trippers with well-maintained trails, Asheville-brewed
beer in the restaurant, and panoramic views from the sprawling observation deck.
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Black Mountain, NC
The sleepaway set knows to brake for the chocolate chip pancakes at Louise’s, a 1904 home that has become the Blue Ridge’s best-kept breakfast secret, just ten miles east of the parkway—there are dozens of summer camps nearby, so you might overhear counselors swapping war stories.
The Folk Art Center and Southern Highland Craft Guild
Three galleries showcase traditional Appalachian crafts—chat with local potters, painters, and textile artists, and snag a new heirloom jug or quilt.
Buncombe County, NC
Craggy Gardens’ breathtaking 360-degree vista greets hikers at the end of a short climb up Craggy Pinnacle Trail. June is the prettiest time to visit, as the pink and purple blooms of Catawba rhododendrons blanket the trail.
Old Hampton Store & Barbeque
Stop into this almost-century-old country store for a lunch of pulled pork sandwiches and collards, or make a night of it—local performers take the stage Thursday to Saturday.
Avery County, NC
Cruise along the rugged face of Grandfather Mountain at the Linn Cove Viaduct, the last portion of the parkway to be completed, in a careful preservation effort. But for unparalleled views, brave a palm-sweating walk across the Swinging Bridge, which spans an eighty-foot chasm.
Meadows of Dan, VA
Not one for roughing it? Primland resort offers one of the route’s more posh respites, less than thirty minutes off the parkway. Spend an afternoon shooting clays on the mile-long course, then in the evening spot constellations in the observatory.
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Meadows of Dan, VA
This circa-1905 mill still produces buckwheat flour—sample it in the fluffy pancakes served at the on-site restaurant or buy a bag to take home. Local and visiting musicians play on the lawn Sunday evenings from May to October.
Villa Appalaccia Winery
Savor a glass of Sangiovese or Aglianico at this family-owned winery, which has grown Italian grapes since 1989, and snack from a cheeseboard stocked with bites from nearby Meadow Creek Dairy, an award-winning farm favored by chefs in Appalachia and beyond.
Floyd Country Store
Hoot and holler on Friday nights, when the Floyd Country Store transforms from a local goods purveyor to a romping bluegrass hall. Even better, time your visit to the town with FloydFest (July 24–28), an annual jamboree headlined this year by Kacey Musgraves and Brandi Carlile.
Bring a basket and wind up Mill Mountain, just five minutes from downtown Roanoke, to the city’s highest point, keeping an eye out for wineberry patches along the trail—the tart cousin of the raspberry ripens in June.
Anne Spencer House & Garden Museum
The garden of the late poet Anne Spencer in Lynchburg is worth the short detour. The floral paradise—once host to the likes of Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston—bursts with lilacs, peonies, and roses (schedule a tour to explore the house turned museum, too).
Cast a fly at Meadow Creek, a Tye River tributary and brook trout haven. Anglers have the best luck in early summer, before water levels drop come August. For easy access, park in the Crabtree Falls lot.
Hike along the fabled foot-path where the 2,190-mile trail meanders near the parkway, via an access point at Humpback Gap. Humpback Rocks, an outcropping that juts over the Shenandoah Valley, offers gasp-worthy views.
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