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Virginia Beach, Virginia
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Chincoteague Island, Virginia
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Verona, Virginia
gs logo Newport News Park Campground
Newport News, Virginia
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Waynesboro, Virginia

Blue Ridge Parkway/Shenandoah Valley

It’s easy to see why travel buffs call the Blue Ridge Parkway “America’s Favorite Drive.” Spanning 469 miles from Shenandoah National Park to North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this beloved route takes you on a mesmerizing journey through rolling peaks, cascading waterfalls and historic sites. The drive is only half the fun though — get out of your car to fish in North America’s oldest river, hike a portion of the famed Appalachian Trail and discover the region’s deep bluegrass roots.

Cruise Down Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive is the most famous stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The 105-mile course is the only public road through Shenandoah National Park and is considered the gateway to the Shenandoah Valley. The park is every hiker’s dream, thanks to more than 500 miles of trails. Traverse a good chunk of the Appalachian Trail or follow the Old Rag Mountain trail for panoramic views. Spring and fall are popular times to visit, as you’ll get to see the entire landscape carpeted in vibrant wildflowers or fall foliage.

Stunning views of green scenery from the Appalachian Trail.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Rocky Humpback

Just six miles from the northern entrance to the parkway, near the town of Waynesboro, a hike to Humpback Rocks offers the perfect introduction to the spectacular landscape. The two-mile trek to the mountain’s rocky peak, though steep, is short and accessible for beginning hikers. Along the trail, you’ll pass historic 1890s’ farmhouses that have been repurposed as open-air exhibits of life in the Virginia mountains. The hike culminates with an outcropping that provides 360-degree views of the hazy, azure skyline that gives the Blue Ridge Mountains their name.

Troves of Trout

It’s worth getting a state fishing license just for the chance to reel in the many species of trout residing here. Most streams are home to brown, rainbow and brook trout and many lakes support warm-water species like bass, bluegill and bream. Popular angling spots include the Rapidan River, James River, Otter Creek and Rose River. Check with outfitters for the best spots to drop a line, or head out on your own.

Grab a Paddle

The Shenandoah River, which meanders the length of the valley floor, is a popular paddling and recreation corridor that boasts smooth water and grassy banks. Outfitters in Luray and other points along the river are on hand to help arrange kayaks, canoes, inner tubes and rafting trips along different stretches of the waterway. Anglers, too, can try their hand at the trout and bass that call the river home.

Shenandoah Vintages

The Wisteria Farm and Vineyard in Stanley uses only Virginia-grown grapes to produce whites and reds that are quickly becoming favorites among wine lovers. In addition to tours and tastings, you can bring a picnic and wander the grounds of the scenic farm at your leisure. Barren Ridge Vineyards and Peaks of Otter Winery are also favorite vineyard visits that offer tours and tastings.

Rocky Outcrops and Waterfalls

The choices are endless when it comes to hiking in the area, with high rock outcroppings that dish out stellar views in nearly every direction. There are plenty of treks that lead to spectacular waterfalls, too. Explore a dramatic gorge on the way to White Rock Falls, capture photos from the top or base of Crabtree Falls or enjoy a refreshing shower under the Apple Orchard Falls in the summer.

The Best of Bluegrass

Did you know the Blue Ridge Parkway region has produced more bluegrass musicians per capita than any other place? You can dive into the region’s rich music heritage at the Blue Ridge Music Center in Galax. Learn about the history of the music genre through films and interactive exhibits and stay for live performances by local artists. The Blue Ridge Folklife Festival also takes place on the fourth Saturday of October and has been celebrating music and folk traditions for nearly half a century.

Magnificent Mabry

No trip along Blue Ridge Parkway is complete without a visit to Mabry Mill. This structure once operated as a sawmill, gristmill and community center for the Meadows of Dan region. Today, it’s a gathering place for musicians and dancers on Sunday afternoons. Walk on the trail near the mill to find historical exhibits.

Cool Carvins Cove

Set aside some time at Carvins Cove Natural Reserve. Ranked as the second-largest municipal park in the nation, this vast expanse is threaded with 60 miles of trails for biking and hiking as well as a large reservoir for fishing.

An aerial view of a road between fall colored trees

Nathan Anderson

Fall Features

The Blue Ridge region is famed for its fall color display, and popular spots for viewing include Cahas Knob Overlook, a scenic spot that rises 3,013 feet and provides views of the valley and Cahas Mountain. North of Roanoke is Natural Bridge Park, one of the nation’s oldest landmarks. While visiting, walk Cedar Creek Trail, which runs under the Natural Bridge and is a great spot for viewing unique flora and fauna.

Rocky Knob

Rocky Knob Recreation Area is known for its rustic, rural landscape. Hike to Rock Castle Gorge to see the remnants of the life lived by mountain families, whose apple orchards and stone chimneys remain.

Rockin’ Roanoke

At the northern tip of the Plateau Region lies the city of Roanoke, considered the cultural and recreational hub of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Roanoke Valley hosts numerous festivals and events throughout the year, and the area also invites outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy fishing, hunting and hiking among the forests of the Blue Ridge.

Blue Ridge Brews

View works of fine art at the Taubman Museum of Art and the Eleanor Wilson Museum, and take a self-guided bicycle tour through the city to view more than two dozen public art installations. Take in a live production at Mill Mountain Theatre or Moss Arts Center, and enjoy a night on the town with a craft-beer tour, which takes travelers to three breweries for behind-the-scenes glimpses of the beer-making process.

For More Information

Shenandoah Valley

800-847-4878

www.visitshenandoah.org

Blue Ridge Parkway Association

828-670-1924

www.blueridgeparkway.org