Technically speaking, the Blue Ridge Parkway is not a National Park. But it is part of the National Park system. And, it is lovely. We first explored the Blue Ridge Parkway when we lived in Durham, NC, around 2006-2008. Our first adventures were to Linville Falls and we slowly expanded to view other areas around Boone and Blowing Rock, including the Linn Cove Viaduct. The parkway runs from the Smokies in North Carolina to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia so if you want to extend the trip, you can add days in both of those parks and make it a real National Parks road trip.
Back in 2012 or 2013, Kelly decided he really want to drive the whole parkway. This is actually tricky to do because parts of it often close off-season due to weather and even in-season, parts can be closed for construction or improvements. We dedicated part of a Spring Break to exploring what was open and we’ve seen driven the rest of it since then as well. To personalize your trip on the parkway, head over here for links, maps, recommendations for places to stay, and more.
Day 1: Jump on the Parkway on the south end, in the Smokies or near Franklin, North Carolina. Stop whenever you want to explore views or hikes! We recommend you stay near Boone or Blowing Rock. Recommended Stops:
Linn Cove Viaduct & Rough Ridge Trail
Day 2: Plan to make your way from North Carolina into Virginia on this trip. Stay near Roanoke. Recommended stops:
Moses Can Fire Tower (~ 5 mile hike)
Thunder Ridge Trailhead.
Crabtree Falls (Virginia).
Day 3: Head toward Shenandoah. If you want to, explore Skyline Drive, maybe taking a stroll on the Appalachian Trail at a road crossing. Turn back around whenever you’re ready. We recommend tracing your steps back on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s slower but that’s what vacation is all about, right? And the views are quite different depending on the day, weather, and direction you’re heading. It will feel like a totally different experience.
Day 4: Finish up with a leisurely drive back to the start. If you’re in a rush to get home, you can get off the parkway and take interstates to get there faster. Try to linger while you’re out because once you’re home, you’re almost sure to wish you could be back on the parkway. Recommended stops:
Crabtree Falls (North Carolina)
Black Balsam Knob (Art Loeb Trail) just past Asheville & Craggy Gardens.
Pro Tip: This book is an updated version of our guide to the parkway. It details all kinds of hiking trails, including the recommendations we made here.