Blue Ridge Mountains Activities
Worth getting out of bed for...
- Grandfather Mountain at milepost 305 in Linville, North Carolina, is the highest point of this section of the mist-covered range. Walk across the unnervingly swaying bridge, suspended a mile above sea level, to take in the peak-filled panoramas.
- Arts and culture
- The Appalachian Arts Center in Claypool, Virginia, showcases pottery, vintage textiles and woodwork, all the handiwork of local artisans (+1 276 596 9188; apparts.sw.edu). Visit historic Mabry Mill Settlement to relive the pioneer days; you’ll find a gristmill, blacksmith shop and whiskey still. On Sundays in October, a live bluegrass band plays while you learn how to make apple butter with resident experts.
- Something for nothing
- Catching the Fall foliage as it shifts from green to burnt orange and amber is a must-see along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The colour change starts in the highest elevations in early October and peaks by the beginning of November.
- Hot sauce, Coca-Cola memorabilia and local preserves line the shelves and walls of Mount Airy’s Mayberry on Main at 192 North Main Street (+1 336 719 0405; www.mayberryonmain.com). Pick up hand-rolled truffles, blueberry cheesecake and lemon chiffon fudge at Nancy’s Candy Co at 165 North Main Street in Meadows of Dan (+1 800-328-3834; www.nancyshomemadefudge.com).
- Drive to one of Shenandoah National Park’s waterfalls – try Jones Falls at milepost 84.1 off Skyline Drive about an hour away from Waynesboro, Virginia.
- Perfect picnic
- Pick up a snack of pulled-pork sandwiched in corn pancakes at the Mabry Mill Restaurant, then drive to one of the first tamed spots of the mountain range, Rocky Knob (no sniggering at the back), between mileposts 167 and 169. Health nuts can pick up fresh fruits and vegetables at the Poor Farmer’s Market at 2616 Jeb Stuart Highway in Meadows of Dan (+1 276 952 2670; www.poorfarmersmarket.biz).
- Spend some time exploring Stone Mountain State Park in Roaring Gap, North Carolina. This granite mass has unexpected pops of plant life and shrubbery dotting its surface. Not a hiker? Fish, climb or picnic instead (+1 336 957 8185).
- Get your little one certified as a Junior Ranger by completing a course of hands-on activities in one of North Carolina’s 39 state parks. Kids will learn to identify wildlife by their tracks and eating habits, make maps and learn other ranger skills from the genuine article (www.ncparks.gov).
- Catch a bluegrass band at the Blue Ridge Music Center amphitheatre off the parkway at milepost 21, near Galax, Virginia. It opens for the season in late April (+1 276 236 5309; www.blueridgemusiccenter.org). The Virginia Creeper Trail, one of the best mountain biking trails in the area, follows a railroad track from the late 1880s. This scenic strip starts in Abingdon and goes to Whitetop over trestles on restored, rideable paths. Horse riders and hikers are welcome too (www.vacreepertrail.com).
- Don’t miss the wildflowers in bloom along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Buttercups and wild strawberries line the road in March. Queen Anne’s lace, flame azaleas and mountain laurel come to life in May.
October Celebrate the shade-shifting foliage at the Autumn Leaves Festival in Mount Airy with bluegrass bands, crafts from local artists and soul food including burgers, barbecue ribs and cornbread (www.autumnleavesfestival.com). July Wayside Bluegrass Festival in Stuart showcases this jangly genre in its homeland (www.waysidepark.com). Floyd Fest, a four-day celebration of art and music features more than 50 performers, yoga workshops and plenty of kids’ activities. Look for milepost 170.5 off the Blue Ridge Parkway (www.floydfest.com). August Beauty queens, pie-makers and crafters converge at the State Peach Festival in Stuart, Virginia.