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Premiere Drive: Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains

by

USA, Virginia, View from Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah National Park 1-3-2-2Thomas R. & Deborah A. Fletcher

            Technically, it is two roads, Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway , two roads in two National Park units (the parkway is a National Parkway and All-American Roadway).  In reality, it is a continuous, sinuous strand of two-lane asphalt lacing together some of America ’s most stunning views.  Combined, they must be Virginia ’s premiere scenic drive.  These roads through Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains are a favorite with the traveling public, especially as crisp nights bring on the multi-hued shades that drape the ridges and valleys in a mosaic of rich fall color. 

The drive and the views are a delight to the senses.  The brisk, fresh air rustles through the crackly leaves.  Gone is the mugginess of summer.  The musky aroma of the fall woods fills the air.  A chattering squirrel announces its presence.  The magnificent scenery stuns the eye. 

            Skyline Drive bisects Shenandoah National Park , extending from its northern terminus in Front Royal south to Waynesboro .  The road plunges through wooded forests of oak, bursting forth onto exposed ridgeline, twisting and turning, snaking along the spine of the View from   Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Mountains,   Shenandoah National Park, Hazel Run Overlook 1-3-33-18Blue Ridge .  Around nearly every turn there seems to be an expansive view of either the Shenandoah Valley to the west or the Piedmont Country to the east. 

            The road definitely meets its design objective, dramatically displaying the scenic beauty of the area.  With nearly eighty overlooks in its 105-mile length, plan on progressing slowly, as you’ll more than likely be stopping often.  Skyline Drive ends with the southern boundary of Shenandoah National Park in Waynesboro , where the Blue Ridge Parkway begins. 

The Blue Ridge Parkway extends 469 miles southward linking Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in  Cherokee, North Carolina.  Inspired by Skyline Drive , the Blue Ridge Parkway began as a public works project, with work beginning September 11, 1935.  The parkway will celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2010.  The entire project of joining the two National Parks by one roadway wasn’t officially completed until September 11, 1987.  Designed for leisure travel, the parkway speed limit is 45 MPH.  The parkway can be entered or exited via any US or state highway intersection—and there are many.  Numbered mileposts make convenient parkway reference points.The Blue Ridge Parkway, Humpback Rocks 1-3-198-12

Humpback Rocks Visitor Center and Mabry Mill offer insight into Southern Appalachian culture.  At Driving Comfort 120x60Humpback Rocks Visitor Center , a short ¼ mile walk allows one to see how an 1890’s working mountain farm looked; cabin, chicken house, barn, garden and various farm implements.  Costumed living history re-enactors bring history to life, as they describe life on a mountain farm.  At Mabry Mill see a working, water-driven mill grinding corn, or catch one of the many farming demonstrations (such as making apple butter or lye soap) held at the mill throughout the primary traveling season (mid-April through early-November).

The Blue Ridge Parkway, Humpback Rocks 1-3-197-15A hike up the Humpback Rocks Trail is a strenuous two-mile hike, but well worth the effort.  Be sure to carry water and wear appropriate footwear; a hiking boot that covers the ankle.  The rocks offer spectacular views out over Rockfish and Shenandoah Valleys .

            Traveling these roads for their beauty alone is enough for most people.  For those who venture out, there are numerous opportunities for side trips to nearby towns or attractions a short distance from either Skyline Drive or the Blue Ridge Parkway .  Stop at one of the many picnic spots, explore a picturesque mountain trail, or see one of the nearby attractions. 

Wildlife is a common sight along both hiking trails and the roadway, from the plentiful squirrels and deer, to the more obscure black bear and wild turkey.  The serene environment is enjoyed by both humans and wildlife.  A deer raises its head from grazing, pausing briefly, begins grazing again, barely noticing the passing hikers barely fifteen yards away.  Squirrels scurry about gathering acorns for winter.

   The Sugar Tree Inn,   Vesuvious,  Virginia  D-04-1927         If a romantic diversion is what one has in mind, we highly recommend the Sugar Tree Inn (Milepost 27 on the Blue Ridge Parkway ) in Steeles Tavern, Virginia.  Constructed of hand-hewn logs reclaimed from historic Shenandoah Valley structures, the elegantly rustic, romantic inn is situated at an elevation of 2800 feet, a prime location for vivid fall color in the surrounding hardwood forest. 

            Dinners at the inn are available by 24 hours advance reservations, Wednesday through Saturday. Enjoy the elegance of gourmet dining by candlelight, complimented by a fine Virginia wine, topped with a soak in the whirlpool tub.  Not a bad ending to a delightful day on the road.

Our dinner at the inn was great, but the breakfast was nothing short of incredible.  Owners Jeff and Becky Chanter put together quite a feed. The inn’s signature breakfast dish is Becky’s baked oatmeal; a tasty, semi-crunchy, delightful consistency, hard-to-describe delight.  Since it is the inn’s signature breakfast item, Becky doesn’t share precise cooking details.  We don’t know what she does, but she does it very well.  It is quite unlike any oatmeal we’ve ever had.

Looking for an historic diversion?  Virginia ’s Explore Park may fit the bill.  Explore Park is the place to learn more of the history and heritage of the Roanoke Valley, the largest metropolitan area in Virginia’s Blue Ridge region (Milepost 115).  Known as Big Lick until a name change in 1882, the city of Roanoke is located at what once was a fork in the Great Wagon Road.  By 1775 the road passed through the Roanoke Valley as it stretched some 700 miles from Pennsylvania to South Carolina.  From the fork, the options were the Wilderness Road leading west into Tennessee or the Carolina Road leading south into the Carolinas and Georgia.

Tickets to the historic area are sold at the Arthur Taubman Welcome Center .  The center is the place to gain an overview of the park’s offerings.  Explore Park focuses on three time periods: 1671, 1757, and 1850.  Stroll through the historic section of the park as living history interpreters, recreations and historic structures bring early Virginia history to life. 

The Totero Village portrays the written account of the Native American village encountered by those first European settlers (1671).  Living history interpreters depict the culture of the woodland Native Americans that made their home in Virginia ’s Blue Ridge and Piedmont areas in the late 17th century. Virginia's Explore Park, 1757 Frontier Fort D-04-1951 The 1757 Frontier Fort was modeled after an August County frontier family fort.  The 1850’s section shows a frontier community: a one room schoolhouse (Kemp’s Ford School ), farm house, and blacksmith shop.  Kemp’s Ford School was originally located near the Blackwater River in Franklin County.  The blacksmith shop, a replica, is the equivalent of an 1850’s “service station.”  It would have been a busy place along the Great Wagon Road in the 1850’s. 

The park celebrates Virginia ’s role in westward expansion of the nation, but it is more than history.  Mountain biking is an option.  The park has 12 miles of biking trails.  Rentals are available in the visitors’ center.  Hiking—six miles of hiking trails, canoeing, and kayaking are other outdoor activities to be explored in the park.

Need an outdoor diversion?  Primland Resort is a 14,000 acre outdoorSunrise over Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, view from the Primland Resort D-04-1959 person’s dream.  The resort is in a prime Blue Ridge location in the Meadows of Dan.  There are streams to fish and hills to hunt (quail, pheasant, wild turkey, and deer).  ATV’s, horseback riding, tennis and sporting clays are a few more options to keep guests busy.

“If it isn’t illegal or too immoral, we’ll do it,” says Steve Helms Vice President, General Manager of the resort’s policy of keeping guests satisfied.

 

Stock photography by Thomas R. Fletcher at Alamy

If You Go:

Stony Man Mountain Trail and Overlook, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia D-04-1898Stony Man Mountain Trail and Overlook,  Shenandoah National Park, Virginia Stony Man Mountain Trail and Overlook, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia D-04-1901 Stony Man Mountain Trail and Overlook, Shenandoah National Park  Virginia
Arnold  Valley Overlook,  The Blue Ridge Parkway,  Virginia  D-04-1939 Arnold Valley Overlook, The Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia The Peaks of Otter,   The Blue Ridge Parkway,  Virginia  D-04-1941 The Peaks of Otter, The Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia

The Sugar Tree Inn,   Vesuvious,  Virginia D-04-1927 The Sugar Tree Inn, Vesuvious, Virginia  

540-377-2197

Dawn over the  Shenandoah Valley from Skyland Lodge D-04-1905 Dawn over the Shenandoah Valley from Skyland Lodge 540-743-5108

http://www.visitshenandoah.com/ 

USA, Virginia, View from Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah National Park 1-3-2-2 View from Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah National Park The Blue Ridge Parkway, Humpback Rocks 1-3-197-15Roanoke Valley CVB

1010 Shenandoah Avenue, NE

Roanoke VA   24011

800-635-5535

Web: www.visitroanokeva.com

"The Cookie Lady," Afton, Virginia D-04-1912 "The Cookie Lady," Afton, Virginia The Blue Ridge Parkway, view near Arnold Valley Overlook D-04-1930 The Blue Ridge Parkway, view near Arnold Valley Overlook

The Blue Ridge Parkway, Humpback Rocks 1-3-199-19 The Blue Ridge Parkway Association .
P. O. Box 2136
Asheville, NC 28802-2136

www.blueridgeparkway.org

Parkway headquarters: http://www.nps.gov/blri

The Blue Ridge Parkway, Humpback Rocks 1-3-198-12 The Blue Ridge Parkway, Humpback Rocks

HotelsCombined.Com

Sunrise over Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, view from the Primland Resort D-04-1959 Sunrise over Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, view from the Primland Resort Phone: 276-251-8012

Virginia's Explore Park D-04-1951  Virginia's Explore Park,
Milepost 115 Blue Ridge Parkway
P.O. Box 8508

  Roanoke , VA   24014
Phone:  540-427-1800 

 800-842-9163

Web:    http://www.explorepark.org/  

Open Wednesday through Saturday 10 AM – 5 PM, Sunday 12 PM -5 PM

Clay shooting at the Primland Resort D-04-1973 Clay shooting at the Primland Resort--not for men only, ladies can test their skills as well.

Clay shooting at the Primland Resort D-04-1971 Clay shooting at the Primland Resort

4621 Busted Rock Road

Meadows of Dan , VA 24120

Phone: 276-251-8012

Web: www.primland.com

View from   Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Mountains,   Shenandoah National Park, Hazel Run Overlook 1-3-33-18 View from Skyline Drive , Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah National Park , Hazel Run Overlook USA, Virginia, View from Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah National Park 1-3-155-16 View from Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah National Park
Arnold  Valley Overlook,   The Blue Ridge Parkway,  Virginia D-04-1938Arnold Valley Overlook, The Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia   Arnold  Valley Overlook,   The Blue Ridge Parkway,  Virginia D-04-1931 Arnold Valley Overlook, The Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia  
Mothers and children explore Native American ways at Virginia's Explore Park D-04-1948 Mothers and children explore Native American ways at Virginia's Explore Park The Peaks of Otter,   The Blue Ridge Parkway,  Virginia D-04-1942 The Peaks of Otter, The Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia

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