Road trips are one classic American tradition — they are romanticized in films and iconic books that discuss the journey as not only a physical one, but also a spiritual one. Lucky for us, the United States has some of the most beautiful road trips in the world. With such vast land and a wide range of topography and climates, the U.S. boasts plenty of road trips to choose from in the country and plenty of beautiful sites to see on the way. One of the most popular American road trips is a scenic journey on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is a magnificent drive along the Eastern coast of the country.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is well known among road-trippers and receives more visitors than the Grand Canyon. There are tons of things to see and do along the way, with a total of 469 miles of sites to see stretching from Virginia to North Carolina. If you’re an adventurer looking to experience the best of the outdoors, the Blue Ridge Parkway is just the road trip for you. Here are some of the high points to hit while you’re there.
5.) National Parks
The Blue Ridge Parkway is connected by two national parks. Yes, two beautiful parks lie along the path of the Blue Ridge Parkway. That means two opportunities to be blown away by the breathtaking natural beauty on the East Coast.
Shenandoah National Park
The vast 200,000-acre national park sits just 75 miles outside of Washington, D.C., and is one of the places you can’t miss on your drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Shenandoah is a mostly forested filled with breathtaking waterfalls, mountains, hiking trails and even ancient caves. Some key things to do in Shenandoah are exploring the Luray Caverns, a network of underground columns that reach as tall as 140 feet. If you’re less into going underground and more into reaching new heights, Shenandoah has two amazing mountain peaks that’ll delight hikers. The views at Old Rag Mountain peak and Hawksbill Mountain are also must-sees.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
On the opposite end ofthe Blue Ridge Parkway and between the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee sits the Great Smoky Mountains, the most visited National Park in America. The Great Smoky Mountains offer plenty of things to do and see, and the park is known for its biodiversity and amazing wildlife. To see some of the wildlife in the park, be sure to head to Cades Cove, a valley in the Tennessee section of the park that is known for bears, deer and elk. In the Great Smoky Mountains, there is also one of the highest points in the Appalachian trail, the Clingman’s Dome.
4.) Amazing Hikes
The amazing hikes are not only found in the national parks, they can also be found on multiple stops throughout the 469 Parkway. Some of the hiking trails that stand out are Humpback Rocks and Three Ridges.
Located in Lyndhurst, Va., Humpback Rocks offers a breathtaking view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Rocks are a popular area to explore due to their close proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The usual hiking trail lasts about 1 mile at an elevation of 1,240 feet, but it can be extended into the Appalachian Trail for hiking junkies.
Backpackers flock to Virginia’s Three Ridges, which is near the Wintergreen Resort and Tye River. For nature lovers, Three Ridges is a challenging 15-mile climb that reaches 4,000 feet and offers views that are worth the challenging hike.
Adventure travel blogger Ryan Shauers of Desk to Dirtbag, has done the hike multiple times, and says it’s amazing for hiking and nature lovers and is also a great place for a wonderful camping experience.
3.) Outdoor Adventures
If you’re the type of traveler who is looking for a bit more of an adrenaline rush, then you’ll find plenty to do along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Besides the strenuous hikes and thousands-feet-high trails, there are also many fun activities anditineraries you can embark on. On the southern end of the parkway, just outside of Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC). The center’s main campus sits at the intersection of the Nantahala River and the Appalachian Trail.
NOC offers more than 120 group activities that’ll keep you on your toes. Take a thrilling ride through the Appalachian Trail on the mountain bike trip, enjoy kayaking or canoeing on the Fontana Lake. For even more adrenaline, zipline from ridge to ridge, or go whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River.
2.) Asheville, N.C.
Asheville, N.C., is a picturesque city in western North Carolina that is a favorite place to stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is a perfect city-break pit stop, where you can experience the city’s vibrant historical and arts culture, and enjoy some delicious food and shopping experiences while you’re at it.
Take a tour through the luxurious historical estate of George Washington Vanderbilt and the surrounding beautiful gardens. The Biltmore Estate is a popular tourist destination in Asheville and has been around since 1895. Guests can take a little trip back to the Gilded Age in the enormous estate that is also the largest privately owned house in the country.
Forage to Table
In Asheville, you can take advantage of being in a city surrounded by one of the most biodiverse temperate ecosystems, and experience unique forage-to-table-style dining. No Taste Like Home is the only tour company that offers forage-to-table experiences, where participants gather ingredients such as edible wild mushrooms, plants, berries and other fresh foods found in the surrounding areas. After foraging, participants get to enjoy the ingredients they collected at one of the local restaurants in what they call “find dining.”
Sliding Rock, N.C.
Just outside of Asheville is a waterfall experience that you can’t miss, especially if you’re road-tripping during the summer. Sliding Rock is basically nature’s slip ‘n’ slide, taking you down a 60-foot slope and into a pool of crisp water.
In Great Smoky Mountain National Park, there are multiple waterfalls that you can hike to and see, but Grotto Falls is the only waterfall that you can walk behind. After a three-mile hike up the trail, you’ll encounter the beautiful 25-foot-long cascades.
Crabtree Falls, N.C.
Crabtree Falls are a short 6 mile drive off of the Blue Ridge Parkway and should definitely be on your list. The Crabtree Falls are made up of a series of five waterfalls that in total fall 1,200 feet. It is one of the tallest sets of waterfalls east of the Mississippi River and can be viewed from either the car or after a hike for the adventurers.
What are your favorite road trips in America? Tell us below in the comments!
Planning your next road adventure? Check out our tips for Things You Need on a Road Trip.
*Featured image by Sun RV Resorts*