Called "America's Favorite Drive," the Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs through North Carolina and Virginia, is an Appalachian treasure. It's one of the truly great, underrated, and scenic road trips to take in the United States, especially east of the Mississippi.
Designated a National Parkway (like a national park, but for roads) and run by the National Park Service, the Blue Ridge Parkway was first built under Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 and was called the Appalachian Scenic Highway. The parkway runs along the Blue Ridge mountains and links the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Shenandoah National Park across the two states. Though the two major national parks are the biggest attractions, there are endless spectacular views and activities along the Blue Ridge Parkway, from wildflowers, hiking trails, and picnic areas to the Pisgah National Forest, Grandfather Mountain, Waterrock Knob, Graveyard Fields, the Devil's Courthouse and the Biltmore Estate. (Not to mention, you know, the majestic Appalachian Mountains throughout.)
One of the great charms of this scenic byway is all the cool towns it runs through. From Asheville, North Carolina to the legendary doomed colony of Roanoke, Virginia and even the Cherokee Indian Reservation, the places you can stop for meals, shopping, a cup of coffee and more are a small town lover's dream.
By far one of the most unique and fun places to stop and spend some time is the Pisgah Inn, Pisgah Mountain (of course) at milepost 408.6 near Asheville. The mountain lodge and inn has shops, dining, and a gorgeous view of the countryside. Definitely worth a stop for a meal or a place to sleep.
Another must-stop site on the Blue Ridge Parkway is the Folk Art Center in Asheville, North Carolina. Home to the Southern Highland Craft Guild, the center showcases some of the absolute best traditional and contemporary crafts that come out of the Southern Appalachians.
If it's the highlights of the scenic drive you're after, few if any sights beat the Linn Cove Viaduct, a 1,243 feet long, concrete segmental bridge that snakes around Grandfather Mountain. The elevated views are legitimately stunning.
Other destinations of note include Craggy Gardens and its gorgeous rhododendrons plus various options for gorgeous mountaintop views.
Whether you travel it for the small towns or the views, the Blueridge Parkway is a must drive for any road trip enthusiast.
This article was originally published in July of 2019.