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Ridge Region: Weekend Trip Sample

A two-day trip from Afton Mountain and Rockfish Gap (Milepost 0) to the Peaks of Otter (Milepost 86) and on to Roanoke, the largest metropolitan area on the Parkway, offers plenty of time to experience this region and highlight the ridge-top driving experience, including magnificent views of the flora and fauna of Appalachian hardwood forests and sweeping vistas of the Great Valley of Virginia.

Day One


Arrive at the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center (Milepost 5.8) and spend an hour or so exploring exhibits about pioneer life in the mountains. Choose a guidebook or literature from the information desk or gift shop library before strolling through the outdoor farm museum where, during warmer months, costumed interpreters explain the generalized life style of subsistence farmers. Adventurous hikers can extend their visit by climbing to the top of Humpback Rocks (2.0 miles and strenuous) for a breathtaking view of the Shenandoah Valley to the west and Rockfish Valley to the east. From the Visitor Center, head south on the Parkway to Greenstone Overlook (Milepost 8.8) for a spectacular view and brief introduction to some geology of the Blue Ridge region. Another quick stop at Yankee Horse Ridge (Milepost 34.4) reveals the remnants of an old logging railroad and a beautiful stream and waterfall, all within sight of the parking area.

Mid-Late Afternoon

As you arrive in the lower elevations of Otter Creek (Milepost 60-63), stroll along the flat trail that leads around Otter Lake to James River (3.5 total miles and moderate). Many of the overlooks along the road have tables where you can stop and enjoy lunch. Arrive at James River Visitor Center (Milepost 63.8) by mid-afternoon and learn about the Kanawha Canal and the water gap formed here in the mountains. A quick stroll (.2 miles) on the pedestrian walkway leads to a restored canal lock on the other side of the river, a reminder of the Parkway’s proximity to many unique stories of cultural and natural history. Continue south on the Parkway while gaining nearly 3,300 feet in elevation in just 12 miles! At Thunder Ridge (Milepost 74.7) a short leg-stretcher trail (.1 mile) rewards you with sweeping views of Arnold’s Valley and Thunder Ridge Wilderness areas as well as a distant view of the Allegheny Mountains. The overlook also gives you the right to say you have been on the Appalachian Trail, the 2,000-mile hiking trail from Georgia to Maine!

Late Afternoon - Early Evening

Arrive in late afternoon at the Peaks of Otter (Milepost 86) for a night in the lodge or under the stars at the Peaks of Otter Campground. Advance reservations strongly recommended. 

Day Two


Following a centuries-old tradition, you may choose to hike up Sharp Top (1.6 miles one way and strenuous) at sunrise or catch the first bus shuttle in the morning that transports you near the summit. Enjoy the interpretive exhibits highlighting the “lure of the mountains” through the centuries at the Nature Center and the Peaks of Otter Visitor Center. A hike to the restored 1930s Johnson Farm (2.1 mile moderate loop) and lunch in the lodge will complete your Peaks of Otter experience.

Mid-Late Afternoon

By midday, continue south toward Roanoke, with views toward the eastern Piedmont and to the west across the Shenandoah Valley and distant Alleghenies. The Appalachian Trail winds in and out of almost every overlook along this section and many visitors hike out-and-back from parking areas or between overlooks. At Harvey’s Knob (Milepost 95.3), exhibits explain the patterns of hawk migration that are seen here in the fall. If the time of year is right, you may see “hawk watchers” who will help you identify the magnificent creatures overhead.

Late Afternoon - Early Evening

Multiple overlooks offer good places to stop and enjoy a sunset from the crest of the mountains before heading down into Roanoke Valley. Any of the marked exits will provide opportunities to explore the many additional lodging, dining and attractions of Roanoke.

Highlights & Happenings

  • James River & Otter Creek, MP 60-63.8
  • At the lowest elevation along the Parkway, visitors can hike, camp, fish, have a picnic, and see restored Battery Creek Lock from the Kanawha Canal.
  • Peaks of Otter, MP 86
  • With stunning views, natural beauty, and the surrounding Jefferson National Forest, it’s no wonder the Peaks of Otter area has attracted people to the region for more than 8,000 years.
  • Waterrock Knob, MP 451.2
  • An ideal spot for watching sunrise and sunsets across the rugged mountains, Waterrock Knob Visitor Center sits at almost 6,000 feet elevation.
  • Julian Price Memorial Park, MP 297
  • Price Park is a haven for relaxation and recreation with the 47-acre Price Lake as its focal point. Visitors enjoy one of the most popular and largest picnic areas on the Parkway, along with camping, boating and fishing on Price Lake, and ample oppor
  • Folk Art Center, Milepost 382
  • Open year round, the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway showcases the finest in traditional and contemporary craft of the Southern Appalachians.
  • Rocky Knob & Mabry Mill, MP 169, 176.2
  • These Parkway treasures offer many opportunities for visitors including hiking, camping, picnicking, and one of the most-photographed structures along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
  • Craggy Gardens, MP 364
  • For generations, visitors have headed for the Craggies in June, typically the prime time for viewing the pink and purple blooms of Catawba rhododendrons that blanket much of the area.
  • Fall Color - Tips for Leaf Season
  • Tips for planning your scenic drive or vacation to see the fall color along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
  • What To Do
  • The Blue Ridge Parkway is more than a road – it is a beautiful journey that entices visitors to explore a 469-mile gateway to America’s rich cultural heritage.
  • Blooms & Wildlife Watching
  • Don't forget your cameras and binoculars when visiting the Blue Ridge Parkway! Learn when and where to see blooms along your journey.
  • Hiking Trails
  • A journey on the Blue Ridge Parkway offers motorists spectacular views of Southern Appalachia’s diverse beauty for 469.1 uninterrupted miles.
  • Blue Ridge Parkway Directory & Travel Planner
  • The 68th edition of the Blue Ridge Parkway Directory & Travel Planner is your ultimate source for planning a trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains.
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