Skip to main content
Winter 2012

Blue Ridge Parkway: 5 Stops Along America's Favorite Drive

Offering 469 miles of beautiful forests, hills, and gardens, Blue Ridge Parkway is known as “America’s Favorite Drive.” Winding south through the Smoky Mountains, the highway runs from Virginia to North Carolina. Both ends are home to a national park: the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at the north end, and the Shenandoah National Park at the south.

Sandwiched in between are some of the most adventurous, most stunning, and most authentically historic places you will ever visit.The scenery in this countryside is truly spectacular, especially in the spring when everything is in bloom. Take out your camera and capture some of the goodness hiding out on the road between destinations. Here are a few of the hundreds of awesome stops along Blue Ridge Parkway that you won’t want to miss.►

1.Humpback RocksMilepost (MP) 5.8When you begin your journey on the north end of the parkway, it won’t be long until you find yourself staring at the majestic Humpback Rocks, part of the Appalachian Mountains. If you’re in the mood for hiking or picnicking, this is just the place. There are many different trails, so both the amateur and the expert hiker can have a good time. If you’re into history, you may want to check out the old cabins lining the hills that were home to farmers who settled this area in the nineteenth century. Whether you plan on stopping for a week, a day, or just an hour, Humpback Rocks is a place you won’t want to miss.►

2.Olde Liberty Station Restaurant12 miles from MP 86If you start to feel your stomach rumble as you head south, you may want to stop at Olde Liberty StationRestaurant. Originally a real railway station, this restaurant in Bedford, Virginia, has been beautifully restored and is a great place to fill up on yummy food while learning a little more about early railroad travel. Don’t leave without trying some of Harry’s Famous Cheesecake, which comes in a variety of flavors. Harry promises that you won’t regret it.►

3.Linn Cove ViaductMP 304If you’re in it for the long haul, you cannot miss Linn Cove Viaduct—literally. At milepost 304, you will drive right over it! However, don’t be fooled into thinking this is just an ordinary bridge. The viaduct was meticulously constructed to minimize the destruction of the surrounding environment and is recognized all over the country as an engineering marvel for the way it hugs the side of Grandfather Mountain without ever touching it. To get a good look at this amazing piece of architecture, you need to see it from its underside. So stretch those legs and take the hike down the Tanawha Trail for a better view.►

4. Lost SeaExit I-75 at SweetwaterSeen enough of the landscape? Why not venture beneath it? In Sweetwater, Tennessee, just off the parkway, there is a US Registered National Landmark waiting for you—underground. You’ll have to travel down through a system of caves and caverns to get there, but at the bottom you will find the nation’s largest underground lake—the Lost Sea. Those who have visited the caves in the past include Cherokee Indians, Confederate soldiers, and even a giant Pleistocene jaguar.►

5. Craggy GardensMp 364As your road trip winds down, there is one more hike that you have to take before you leave the parkway. Simply strewn with flowers high and low, the trail at Craggy Gardens is a lush, beautiful forested summit that will captivate your senses. Spring and summer are the best times to visit this area—when the rhododendrons are bursting with passionate pink and purple plumes—but you should stop no matter when your road trip is scheduled. There are plenty of flowers to see all through the warm months, so stop and smell the roses, the lilies, and the violets.►

—Vanae Nielsen