You could drive the entire Blue Ridge Parkway from Virginia to North Carolina, not getting off of it the entire time, and have a tremendous trip. Still, you will have missed some pretty epic hiking trails and incredible views along the way. It is worth taking the time to get off the Blue Ridge Parkway and stop at a few places that offer views you don’t want to miss.
My husband and I took a one week road trip last September to explore the scenic drive that is the Blue Ridge Parkway. We thought a week would be plenty of time to drive the entire parkway, which starts at the end of the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and ends at the beginning of the Smokey Mountains National Park.
However, while I was planning our stops along the way, I soon realized a week would only allow us to see a small fragment of the natural beauty this Appalachian Mountainous area had to offer. To really dig in, we needed to not only take several hikes along the way, but also get off the road and onto highways near the parkway to see a few natural wonders unique to the Virginia area just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.
3 Places Near The Blue Ridge Parkway In Virginia That Are Worth The Stop
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Crabtree Falls, Virginia
When people hear the words Crabtree Falls and Blue Ridge Parkway in a sentence, they think of Crabtree Falls in North Carolina since it is a stop along the road. But just off the parkway in Virginia is another waterfall with the same name and it is one of the tallest waterfalls in the eastern United States. The trail follows beside the waterfall and is roughly two miles straight up and two miles down, but it is worth the effort.
Bring plenty of water and a snack to enjoy at the lookout area at the tippy top of the falls. From there, you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding area while listening to the sound of the waterfall roaring down the rocks. Once you have rested your legs from the steep climb up, you can start your journey down beside the waterfall again, enjoying the views along the way one last time.
Natural Bridge State Park, Virginia
When I was planning out our trip on and off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, I went back and forth about whether Natural Bridge State Park would be worth getting off the parkway to visit. Jack and I have seen several natural bridges already, including the one in the State Park by the same name in the Red River Gorge Area Of Kentucky.
At 200 feet tall and 90 feet wide, the natural bridge is awe-inspiring and well worth a visit. One cannot truly grasp how massive this arch is unless they see it in person. Creation truly is more powerful than man.
While you are walking under the arch, make sure to look for what is believed to be George Washington’s initials carved into the side of the arch.
And don’t skip the short trail beyond the arch. It is a beautiful and easy hike that ends in a waterfall and teaches you a few things about the area’s history along the way.
To get there, you need to get off the Blue Ridge Parkway mile marker 63. The state park is just 15 miles off the Parkway from there.
Devil’s Marbleyard, Jefferson National Forest, Virginia
The trailhead for Devil’s Marbleyard is roughly a twenty-minute drive from Natural Bridge State Park. If you can physically manage scrambling rocks as well as hiking up a steep trail, the views from Devil’s Marbleyard make it a must-hike.
The trail is deceivingly flat initially, but soon turns to a gradual uphill path that quickly becomes a very steep and rocky climb. Finally, you will see the hillside of boulders peaking through the lush green trees. When you make your way out onto the boulders, you will be treated to views of the green hilly countryside for miles and miles.
We didn’t climb up to the top of the boulders. Preferring instead to soak up the views about midway. It really is up to you whether you want to make the summit or not. We felt that the views couldn’t get much better than where we were, and we also felt that our rock scrambling skills were not advanced enough for such a climb.
Once you are done hiking this trail, you may want to go further up the road and find a place to camp within the Jefferson National Forest. Or you can grab the campsite the night before you hike the Devil’s Marbleyard so that you start your hike in the cool of the morning; that is what we did.
Our Campsite In The Jefferson National Forest
Our campsite in the woods of Jefferson National forest was quiet, with just the sound of the creek flowing nearby. From the safety of our truck camper, we had a bear sighting–it was climbing up the hill on the other side of the road from our campground. It was one of my favorite campgrounds we stayed at during our Virginia Blue Ridge Parkway adventure.
I hope you take the time to get off the parkway and explore these excellent Virginia sites–you won’t regret it.
Are you looking for an alternative to busy and expensive campgrounds and one-night Walmart stops on the way to your destination? Check out our post about our first time using Boondockers Welcome.