Blue Ridge Parkway National Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway in fall. Photo by Shutterstock.
If the family road trip is what you're looking for, why not take one on a national parkway. You don't have to drive all 469 miles to enjoy the Blue Ridge Parkway. You enjoy the drive with breath taking views. You can make stops to get out of the car at scenic overlooks. There are also campsites available for longer trips, trails and a number of great visitor centers.
WHAT TO SEE
There's a lot of see and do over 469 miles of the parkway. Have a picnic by the water near the James River or the Julian Price Memorial Park (where you can also rent a canoe). You can check to see if there's a concert playing at the Blue Ridge Music Center. Hike to a waterfall, like Linville Falls or Crabtree Falls. Chat with a ranger at the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center or check out some art at the Folk Art Center. Go back in time with a stop at Mabry Mill or Doughton Park.
Information on all these places can be found on the parks website.
WHERE TO STAY
There are two lodges where guests can stay overnight at the Blur Ridge Parkway, one in Virginia and one in North Carolina.
The Peak of the Otter Lodge is located in Virginia. off of milepost 86. Guests can make reservations at www.peaksofotter.com. In North Carolina, south of Asheville at milepost 408.6, is the Pisgah Inn. Guests can make reservations for rooms there at pisgahinn.com.
The Parkway also has eight campgrounds. Campsites can be reserved six months in advance through www.recreation.gov. Campsites are also available on a first come first serve basis. Either way, the fee is $20/per night. All campsites have potable water, and comfort centers with toilets and sinks. There are also dump stations for recreation vehicles, which are $3 for non-campers. Julian Price and Mount Pisgah campgrounds have showers, also $3 to use if you are not camping.
Passes are required for back country camping and backcountry campers must camp only at designated sites.
WHERE TO EAT
Within the parkway, you can purchase food at Pisgah Inn or Peaks of Otter Lodge. There are also a number of places to eat right off the parkway. You can search for them at blueridgeparway.org.
It's also a great place to pack your own picnic and enjoy a picnic along the way on one of your stops.
BEST HIKES FOR FAMILIES
There are so many great hiking trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway. On the website, you can look up hikes in Virginia as well as North Carolina. The website even has a separate section for hikes to waterfalls, though one of the falls can be seen from the car.
If you're traveling with kids, we recommend the TRACK trails program. The hikes should be suitable for kids (in terms of difficulty and length) and there are activities that will keep the engaged. Though TRACK trails is not only in Blue Ridge Parkway, it is still a unique program, so we encourage families to check it out.
BEST TIPS FOR KIDS
Like other National Park Service units, kids can earn a junior ranger badge at Blue Ridge Parkway. You can get a book at one of the many visitor centers. The locations are on the website. Complete 10 activities, return to any visitor center and get a badge.
Kids can also participate in the TRACK trails program. This is a fun program for the entire family. The TRACK trails are self-guided hikes that are appropriate for families. Each of the trails in the program have a brochure for the trail. The brochure has activities that turn the hike into a family adventure. You can get more information on the program and find locations on where to pick up the brochures at