Green Getaway through the Plateau Region of the Parkway in Virginia
Asheville, NC to Floyd, VA and Back
Navigating Your Green Adventure
We started off our eco-friendly trip to the Floyd and Meadows of Dan areas of Virginia in Asheville, North Carolina. First, we mapped out our route along the main highways in Google Maps to get from NC to VA most efficiently – with the goal of picking up the Parkway in North Carolina just south of the Virginia border to make the most of what the first leg of Virginia’s Plateau Region of the Parkway has to offer. With our Virginia destinations in mind, we used the Interactive Parkway Map to plot out which Mileposts we’d like to cover along the Parkway to take in the scenery and stop off in the communities for lodging, shops, local food and art, and area wineries.
You may be wondering why we didn’t just take the BRP from Asheville straight on to our first stop. That’s definitely an option if you have the time – but with the speed limit set at 35-45 mph on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we would’ve needed to allot longer than the four days planned for this trip.
You may also wonder why we didn’t just use Waze, Google Maps, or our onboard navigation to plan the whole journey. This is because the Blue Ridge Parkway is a federally-maintained scenic byway. Although you will sometimes find your online mapping or GPS sends you along the Parkway in its directions, there may be difficulties in using other mapping sytems: the Blue Ridge Parkway doesn’t have a highway number (or typical addresses), cell reception is spotty at best along this mountainous road, and navigation apps and systems may be designed to take you the quickest route from Point A to Point B. The Blue Ridge Parkway may be the most beautiful route around, but it’s rarely the fastest.
Given all this, here are our pro tips for navigating your Parkway road trip:
1 – With the Mileposts of your stops in mind, look up the Access Point you want to use to get onto the Parkway using our Interactive Parkway Map. Then map your route to the Access Point using whatever navigation system you normally would.
2 – Write down your intended route in addition to putting it in your phone or onboard navigation. The reason for writing it down is in case you lose connectivity along the way or your navigation gets off track due to spotty reception.
3 – Bring along the print Blue Ridge Parkway Travel Planner and download the Blue Ridge Parkway Travel Planner app. You will find the Travel Planner’s layout by Milepost helpful when you get on the Parkway and don’t want to miss your intended stops, and the app’s Near Me feature helpful when you’re in areas with reception.
4 – Leave some extra time in your itinerary in case you get off path, and plan to travel in the daylight hours. You don’t need to worry about getting hopelessly lost – visitor centers and area communities are well-versed in where they are in relation to the Parkway – if you need to stop and ask or pick up an area map, you’ll find no shortage of Southern hospitality along the way. Mileposts on the Parkway roadside mark your way with the simplicity of days gone by – the numbers go up as you head north into Virginia and down as you go south toward North Carolina. Traveling by day also helps you avoid foggy conditions to get the best chance of seeing those stunning Blue Ridge views.
5 – Be open to adventure! Sometimes the best journeys are those that don’t go according to plan. The Blue Ridge Parkway is unique in that there are ample spots for a picnic on the fly or setting off down that trail in front of you that beckons you into the woods. Remembering the majesty of nature comes easy here. The experience of intentionally losing track of time while rediscovering wonder in the world is yours for the taking in the Blue Ridge Mountains. If you’ve been meaning to disconnect and take a break from technology, there’s no better place than the Blue Ridge Parkway.
If you’re on a family trip, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers an excellent opportunity to teach the kids map reading and navigation skills. Remember compasses? They’re helpful here. Approaching your trip with some flexibility and these tips in mind will help you have your best Blue Ridge vacation.
The Route for Our Eco-Tour of the Parkway
We found Hickory a natural stopping point for lunch between Asheville and our first stop in Virginia at the Grassy Creek Cabooses. We used TripAdvisor to find a restaurant with great local food not far from the highway, stretching our legs and breaking up the first day’s driving.
But as we were prepared for this, we just cruised on into Virginia via the interstate and remapped our route at the Welcome Center to get on the Parkway at the next Access Point just south of Grassy Creek Cabooses.
The Plateau Region of the Parkway is a delightful mix of scenery. Here, you will find not only those famed vistas of mountains and valleys but a paved ribbon of clear road through shaded rhododendron and mountain laurel forests blooming all around you. Chipmunks and deer may be seen peacefully in their natural habitat without ever getting out of the car. This section of Parkway is still host to agriculture and private homesteads – a tradition generations in the making – and you’ll find historic remnants of mountain life along the way.
After a leisurely drive along this portion of the Parkway, taking plenty of pictures along the way, we arrived at Grassy Creek Cabooses just in time to get settled in before one of those legendary Blue Ridge sunsets.
A member of the Virginia Green Alliance, Grassy Creek Cabooses is one of the most charming and unique overnight spots you could hope for. Historic train cabooses converted into private efficiencies, these sweet little rentals include grills, jacuzzi tubs, private bathrooms, fully-equipped kitchenettes and comfortable queen beds.
The serenity here is unmatched. Relaxing in a swing made for two on the sweeping front lawn to the sound of birdsongs makes you forget why you’d want cell coverage anyway. The cabooses do offer satellite tv, so we were able to check the weather and see a rainstorm brewing up by late afternoon in the Floyd area – we knew to get an early start in the morning for the best views of our next section of the Parkway.
Along the BRP into Floyd
We stopped off for a quick bite and couldn’t resist getting our own photos of the most photographed spot along the Blue Ridge Parkway – the historic Mabry Mill. This section of the Parkway also includes Puckett Cabin and the Blue Ridge Music Center, along with some gorgeous overlooks. We could’ve spent the better part of a day exploring these sights but continued on into Floyd to arrive by late morning. We found some excellent organic food options at local favorite Red Rooster Coffee (and checked in with civilization now that we were back in WiFi range), then set out to explore downtown Floyd, VA.
Our first stop was the Floyd Center for the Arts, where we picked up some locally-made souvenirs and got to peek in on the process of a new exhibit going up. The artists setting it up filled us in on the artwork on display, the community of crafters in the area, and the latest on the proposed pipeline project through the area.
Our next stop was the town center of Floyd. It’s great for a walkable adventure, with everything centrally located and ample on-street parking. We stopped in a quirky souvenir and convenience store with craft beers from near and far that easily outdoes similar stores in larger cities in both price and selection.
Across the street, we perused a gallery of renowned local artists and unique handcrafted furniture and (on a tip from a local) asked a shopkeeper where to find the big vintage store downtown. She pointed to a small table she’d bought there herself earlier that day and sent us off in the right direction. With floors full of antiques and vintage curiosities, these booths brim with local residents’ treasures and offer an upcycler’s dream come true. We had to visit the locally-owned hardware store and were not disappointed – here you’ll find anything you need to DIY a project or get your garden in full bloom.
We then headed a few blocks over to get checked in at Hotel Floyd before setting out for our evening’s festivities at Villa Appalaccia. Green-built and locally-focused with rooms named after regional sights and coffee provided by the local roaster we’d visited earlier, the hotel offers a convenient eco-friendly lodging option with quality amenities right in downtown Floyd.
A quick trip back along the BRP to the south brought us to Villa Appalaccia Winery, who was hosting a tasting and opening event under new ownership. The strong community spirit was apparent here as we met the local business owners, learned who would be at the marketing event we were co-hosting the next day, heard about the new area podcast capturing stories unique to mountain culture, and got the scoop on where to get a late dinner after the soiree. The winery features Italian grape varieties, which grow well in the Virginia mountains a few miles away, and it’s accessed right from the Parkway next to the Floyd Fest grounds.
Our twilight Parkway drive back to town was full of deer sightings and quiet beauty. Back at Hotel Floyd, we were met with a great night’s rest, a hearty breakfast with vegetarian options, and high-tech accommodations for our event the following morning. We were warmly welcomed by the Floyd Chamber of Commerce, Floyd County Tourism, and local business owners – with extra support by Citizens Coop capturing video of the event for airing on local tv and DogTown Roadhouse stepping up to cater lunch free of charge for all who attended.
Where Luxury and Eco-Friendly Meet
After meeting the owners in person and hearing all the rave reviews from locals, we had to stop in at Cocoa Mia before leaving town to sample their homemade chocolate. They also carry an impressive selection of fair trade and organic delicacies from around the world, and offer an inviting spot for gathering over a cup of coffee or sipping chocolate.
Chateau Morrisette graciously worked us in for the last tasting and tour of the day where we got to see the behind-the-scenes workings of the family winery. In our tour led by the grandson of the founders, we learned they began out of a simple love of wine in the cellar of their home – until neighbors’ demand brought them to establish as a business on their current spacious grounds.
The impressively large ceiling beams were harvested from downed trees and transported intact – until a certain curve in the road necessitated cutting some of them in half. The workmanship and love in this building are evident, with the back storage and utilitarian spaces crafted in the same fine fashion, and family pride in cutting no trees for construction.
Heading south along the Parkway again (for our eventual return to NC), our last stop of the trip was the glorious Primland Resort. Boasting 11,000 acres to explore, Primland is sure to delight your senses, whatever your fancy. Local food takes on a whole new meaning with their onsite gardens where they grow herbs for their teas and spices for their restaurants.
You can track your own game if you’re up to the task with guided hunting trips on the land – or get the best vegan, gluten-free dinner you’ve ever tasted made by the talented chefs. To drink like the locals, choose from offerings of moonshine cocktails, area wines and local craft brews.
At Primland, you find that commitment to sustainability doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the finest life offers: ramble the trails of the extensive grounds, drink in the awe-inspiring views from all sides, gaze upon Jupiter’s moons through the powerful telescopes in the observatory, take a refreshing swim in the chlorine-free pool, relax at the spa, then sink blissfully into sumptuous sheets at day’s end.
Though we were sad to see our time in Virginia’s Plateau Region of the Parkway draw to a close, emails and life’s responsibilities were calling so we skipped the scenic route and made our way along the interstate back to Asheville.
Our thanks to all our members and friends, old and new, who so warmly welcomed us to your hometowns. If you’ve yet to experience the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, we’ll be sharing more of our travels soon and can’t recommend the journey enough.