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Spotlight: Blue Ridge Parkway

Follow colorful Virginia trails to adventure

From Roanoke, Virginia, to the border of North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway guides travelers to memorable destinations. The Blue Ridge Parkway celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2015 and remains an example of the cooperative, hardworking spirit that came to symbolize the New Deal of the 1930s.

At the Virginia-North Carolina state line sits the parkway’s first point of construction, Cumberland Knob. Building began in 1935, but it wasn’t completed until 1983. The parkway links Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee.

At the southernmost point of the Plateau Region, on the Carolina side of the state line, sits Cumberland Knob Recreation Area. Take the paved Cumberland Knob Trail for a casual 20-minute hike around and stop for a quick bite at the scenic picnic area, nestled next to a meadow. Before the parkway, Cumberland Knob was home to a family graveyard.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Blue Ridge Music

The historic music of the region is preserved and celebrated at the Blue Ridge Music Center in Galax, Virginia, just across the line from Cumberland Knob. Traditional music concerts are held throughout the year and an onsite museum details the sound’s origins. Interactive elements allow visitors to become part of the music-making process as well.

Further up the parkway, Fancy Gap beckons guests with a quaint Pickin’ Porch that hosts live mountain music performances, along with locally grown produce and antique treasures. Local artisans craft log furniture and create one-of-a-kind art from wood and pottery. An alpaca farm welcomes visitors to meet its furry residents and browse gifts made from the wool.

Fancy Gap is also home to one of six rock churches built by Bob Childress, a Presbyterian minister who traveled the southern Appalachian region in the early part of the 20th century. Bluemont Presbyterian Rock Church, still an active church, was originally a wooden structure built in 1920 and was encased in stone in 1945.

One of Fancy Gap’s more infamous landmarks is the Sidna Allen House, built for the eponymous local gangster convicted of a courthouse shooting in 1912. The home’s current owners offer tours by appointment. Visits to Devil’s Den are free—this 600-million-year-old cave inside Devil’s Den Nature Preserve is where Allen reportedly hid after the shooting.

The mountain village of Meadows of Dan is a great spot to stop for a sweet treat. Nancy’s Candy Company has created more than 100 flavors of fudge, at least 40 of which are available every day. The company also lets guests see the candy-making process in their factory. After satisfying that sweet tooth, visit Mabry’s Mill and walk the mountain arts trail to see old-fashioned skills on display, such as grinding corn and making tools by hand.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Fine Wind on the Plateau

Taste the fruits of the Plateau Region at Chateau Morrissette Winery, which hosts music events and festivals throughout the year and provides several of its varieties for purchase along with meals at its onsite restaurant. Villa Appalaccia Winery offers limited tasting hours and live music on weekends.

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.

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.

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 a behind-the-scenes experience.

Blue Ridge on Foot

Take the quarter-mile, interactive Goode Railwalk and learn about Roanoke Valley’s railroad history. The walk parallels active rail lines and reveals the industry’s influence on the development of the region.

Smith Mountain Lake is a prime bass-fishing spot; whether on your own or with a knowledgeable guide, you’re bound to snag some trophy-sized treasures. For trout, muskie or crappie, dip into the James River and Carvins Cove. Hunters in Roanoke Valley enjoy seasons for deer, elk and game birds.

The jewel of the Blue Ridge hiking trails is the Appalachian Trail, with its numerous paths for hikers of all levels. Experience grand views at the summit of McAfee Knob and Sharp Top Mountain, and hike to the top of Roanoke Star & Overlook for a view of the Roanoke Valley.

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.

For More Information

Blue Ridge Parkway Association
Virginia Tourism Corporation