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Weaving 469 miles through Appalachia between Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountain National Parks, the Blue Ridge Parkway is as beautiful as the places it connects. Over the course of five days, you can explore hikes punctuated with expansive vistas, ride under-the-radar mountain bike meccas, and even zipline through the region’s dense forest canopy before hitting up cool local restaurants, breweries, and vineyards.
Do all this in an RV, and you can spend each night under the stars and each morning under a purple and pink sunrise. While there are plenty of options, Type Cs — the ones that look like the offspring of a U-Haul and a camper van — provide the best combination of comfort and maneuverability for a trip like this one. These rigs provide huge beds and full kitchens and baths, while still comfortably navigating the Parkway’s famous twists and turns (and clearing all the Parkway tunnel heights).
Afton, VA to Buchanan, VA: 78 Miles
Starting just steps away from the Blue Ridge Parkway, the journey begins with White Rock Falls. This classic trail boasts all the waterfalls, overlooks, and mountain laurel that make the Blue Ridge such a special place to tour. White Rock Falls is also a pleasant mix of challenging switchbacks and rewarding views, making it the perfect morning hike. After cooling off in one of the trail’s serene pools, head south to see one of Virginia‘s most recognizable formations: Natural Bridge. The state park surrounding the Natural Bridge also offers a zoo and safari park, if you’ve brought kids with you who still haven’t learned the glorious difference between “hiking” and “walking.”
For a break in the day, just east of Natural Bridge sits Peaks of Otter Winery, serving some of the East Coast’s finest wines in a beautiful setting. You can also enjoy the orchard that sweeps out around the winery by taking a tour. Watch the sun slowly set over the Blue Ridge while tasting wine, before turning into Middle Creek Campground in Buchanan to rest for the night.
Buchanan, VA to Floyd, VA: 72 Miles
For adventures by foot, climb to one of the most iconic views in Virginia at Mill Mountain Park. The famous Roanoke Star, a giant, illuminated star that watches over the entire town below, sits atop Mill Mountain and is synonymous with the Roanoke area. Reach the star through the myriad trails in the park, all by foot or mountain bike. There is also a nature center in the park that contains resources to learn about the natural beauty of the area and the history of Roanoke.
While in town, visit Starr Hill Brewery for a cold beer and lunch from an assortment of food trucks. The beer is phenomenal and the brewery frequently hosts live music, although there’s plenty of music to come as well.
Once you are feeling refreshed, it’s time to start wandering south to the farthest corner of Virginia and the cozy town of Floyd. The town has become a thriving community for art and music, with the Floyd Country Store at the center. The store hosts a live radio show, music classes, and visiting musicians that have carried on the tradition of country and bluegrass in the region. After dancing the night away, you can hang your hat just south of Floyd at Fancy Gap Campground, which is neither an actual gap, nor particularly fancy, but does offers full hookups.
Floyd, VA to Linville, NC: 140 Miles
As the Blue Ridge Parkway meanders southwest, you’ll cross into the great state of North Carolina and the Linville Gorge Wilderness, a diverse and pristine area rich with opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. At the top of the list is Grandfather Mountain, an accessible peak with a suspension bridge leading to jaw-dropping panoramas of the Pisgah National Forest. If the gorgeous precipices of Linville Gorge have you feeling vertically inspired, link up with Rock Dimensions Climbing Guides in Boone.
After climbing and rappelling throughout the gorge, it’s time to enjoy one of the other wonders that North Carolina has to offer: barbeque. Woodlands BBQ is a staple of the smoky, savory goodness that makes a great lunch stop on the Parkway. From there, head underground into North Carolina’s only cavern open for tours, Linville Caverns.
After experiencing all of Linville from the tallest peaks to below the earth, pull into Linville Falls RV Campground to rest for another big day on the parkway.
Linville, NC to Asheville, NC: 70 Miles
Nestled between the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests, Asheville is a trendy mountain town that’s one of the largest centers of outdoor recreation and adventure sports in all of the southeast. If you’re touring the Blue Ridge Parkway in search of anything hike, bike, climb, or boat-related, it’s a must-visit.
The route down from Linville runs through the heart of Pisgah, while the Nantahala sprawls south and southeast of the city. Hikers can head to Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi, or Pinnacle Park, for some of the region’s best views. Waterfall fans should point it toward Gorges State Park; fans of falling through water should check out Sliding Rock, and if you just want to go fishing, Asheville is crawling with outfitters who can set you up on the French Broad River.
Downtown Asheville teems with galleries, shops, and cafes, while the streets are full of musicians and other performers. The city has become arguably the hub of East Coast craft brewing, with more than 40 breweries that include home-grown, nationally famous ones like Wicked Weed and nationally famous ones that now call Asheville home, like New Belgium and Sierra Nevada.
Allow yourself enough time to drive an hour south and spend the night at Cove Creek Group Campground, which boasts ample space for RVs.
Asheville, NC to Bryson City, NC: 89 Miles
The Nantahala National Forest is the star of the show on the final day of the Blue Ridge Parkway tour. The road winds gracefully through old-growth forests and poplar groves, eventually reaching the powerful Nantahala River, which provides whitewater thrills and calm water chills for paddling enthusiasts of every stripe. Whether you’re looking to hit the river, or find hiking, mountain biking, and zip lining, the Nantahala Outdoor Center in Bryson City can help you identify local outfitters and guides for every ability level and inclination.
Bryson City is the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, right at the southernmost tip of the Blue Ridge Parkway, with plenty of great restaurants to wrap up the trip. The Nantahala Brewing Company has delicious brews on tap, centered in the middle of a picturesque downtown area. The brewery has a lively tap room with rotating music shows throughout the month, so there’s a high chance to get some dancing in.
There is no better way to end a Blue Ridge Parkway road trip than by driving up Clingman’s Dome, the highest mountain in the Smokies. At 6,643 feet, the Dome is just about 200 feet lower than Mount Mitchell to the northeast, and it provides numerous vistas and pullouts from which to enjoy an epic sunset before calling it a night at the nearby Grumpy Bear Campground.
The next day? Your options are unlimited — you’re driving an RV.
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