Top 12 Ways to Explore Virginia’s Blue Ridge

Before you know it, winter will have melted away and spring will be beckoning you to the great outdoors. Start with Virginia’s Blue Ridge, a paradise of outdoor adventures and scenic beauty. Hike a bit of the Appalachian Trail, fish a mountain lake, drive the Blue Ridge Parkway, run on a gorgeous greenway … the options are endless. Here’s some help narrowing it down.
See the stunning McAfee Knob on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia
Stunning McAfee Knob on the Appalachian Trail—WOW

Hike a Piece of the Appalachian Trail

Anyone will tell you to hike to the McAfee Knob first and foremost—the most photographed location on the Appalachian Trail. For an 8.5-mile round-trip hike, you’ll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the mountains and a breathtaking experience of Virginia’s wilderness.

Visit Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia
Smith Mountain Lake

Visit Smith Mountain Lake

Pick your spot from 500 miles of beautiful shoreline. Fish, camp, picnic, or just relax by the water with the family. Boat rentals and lodging are available in multiple locations along the lake. This area is a destination in and of itself if you are looking to escape for a weekend.

Mountain Bike at Carvins Cove in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains
Carvins Cove mountain biking

Mountain Bike at Carvins Cove Natural Reserve

The second largest municipal park in the US, Carvins Cove has plenty to offer—over 60 miles of scenic multi-use trails, including 50 miles of singletrack for epic mountain biking. Load up your bike or tie on those walking shoes for a day at the Reserve.

Go canoeing or paddling on the Upper James River in Virginia
Upper James River

Check out the Upper James River Water Trail

“Wet” your appetite (pun totally intended) for Virginia paddling on this gorgeous waterway with its cascading falls and rock walls. If paddling is not your deal, you can enjoy a tranquil picnic on the banks, or fish for fresh trout.

Take a scenic drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
Blue Ridge Parkway

Take in Views of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

Ready for the ultimate American auto-tour? The Blue Ridge Parkway is addictive, so beware; it boasts grand views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, cozy picnic spots, overlooks with historical information, access to numerous hiking trails, and surprises around every hairpin turn. Take in a view from above and spend an hour or two exploring this incredible scenic byway.

Explore miles of Greenway in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains
Roanoke Valley Greenway

Enjoy 30 Miles of Lush Greenway

Maybe you want to get in a good power walk or run, but want to stay away from the woods? The Roanoke Valley Greenways may serve your purpose. Traipse over bridges, through the trees, and past lovely views of the city and of the mountains as you enjoy Virginia’s Blue Ridge from the comfort of the path.

Find treasures when you go Geocaching in downtown Roanoke
Find treasures when you go Geocaching downtown

Try Geocaching in Roanoke

For an outdoor adventure right in town, consider geocaching, which is growing in popularity throughout the world. There are geocaches in downtown Roanoke and scattered throughout the area. Check in at the Roanoke Valley Visitor Information Center to learn more.

Hike the Dragons Tooth Trail in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains

Rock Climb on the Dragon’s Tooth Trail

Now for a challenge. The Dragon’s Tooth sounds a bit rough, and it is; expect a tough hike with an amazing payoff. This rugged trail will take you past rock outcroppings, astonishing views, and of course, to the Dragon’s Tooth itself, a spire of rock standing 35 feet above its surroundings.

See wildlife in Virginia's State Parks
Watch wildlife

Visit Virginia’s State Parks

Picnic, hike, fish, watch wildlife, or just relax with the family at one of Virginia’s beautiful State Parks. Close at hand, you’ll find Smith Mountain Lake State Park, Fairy Stone State Park, and Claytor Lake State Park, all of which offer camping and cabin rentals in addition to great water access.

Hike the Mill Mountain Star Trail in Virginia's Blue Ridge
Mill Mountain Star Trail—What a view!

Hike the Mill Mountain Star Trail

Doesn’t it sound intriguing? Believe it or not, this trail really does take you to a star—the world’s largest freestanding man-made one, overlooking Roanoke Valley. Start at Mill Mountain’s base and work your way to the summit, where you can check out the star and the views, and enjoy a family picnic while you’re there.

Hike the Roaring Run Trail in Virginia's Blue Ridge
Roaring Run Trail

Take A Trip To Roaring Run

For a family-friendly adventure, try an excursion to Roaring Run Recreation Area. Walk along a trail that follows the Roaring Run stream past rock walls and over footbridges. You will also find a 19th century iron ore furnace that was used during the pre-Civil War era. Plan for a picnic here or an afternoon of pleasant fishing.

Hike Sharp Top Mountain part of Virginia's Blue Ridge
Sharp Top Mountain

See The World On Sharp Top Mountain

The Sharp Top Mountain trail will take you to a photographer’s dream—360-degree views of the mountains, the valleys below, and of the Peaks of Otter Lodge. Excellent, challenging hiking abounds here, and visitors can enjoy close proximity to the action by checking in at the Lodge, which boasts delicious buffet meals and even better views. This area is also a fisherman’s paradise, as nearby Abbott Lake is chock full of bass, catfish, blue gill, and more.

Ready to plan your vacation to Virginia’s Blue Ridge? Learn more about lodging, dining, and additional outdoor activities at


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