A Guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway

Plan the perfect joyride along this storied Southern highway

Illustration: Gary Hovland

Skinny Dip Falls
Canton, NC
Milepost 417

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 Inn
Pisgah National Forest 
Mileposts 409–408

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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Louise’s Kitchen
Black Mountain, NC 
Mileposts 383–382

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
Asheville, NC
Milepost 382

Three galleries showcase traditional Appalachian crafts—chat with local potters, painters, and textile artists, and snag a new heirloom jug or quilt.

Craggy Gardens
Buncombe County, NC
Mileposts 368–364

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
Linville, NC
Milepost 308

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.

Grandfather Mountain
Avery County, NC
Mileposts 308–304

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
Mileposts 178–177

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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Mabry Mill
Meadows of Dan, VA 
Milepost 176

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
Floyd, VA 
Mileposts 171–170

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
Floyd, VA
Mileposts 160–159

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.

Facebook | Courtesy of Floyd Country Store

Mill Mountain
Roanoke, VA
Mileposts 121–120

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
Lynchburg, VA
Mileposts 62–61

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).

Photo: Roger Foley

Spencer’s prize roses in full bloom.

Tye River
Tyro, VA
Milepost 29

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.

Appalachian Trail
Afton, VA
Milepost 6

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.