It’s pretty easy to see the fall foliage on the Blue Ridge Parkway: just go for a drive. The changing elevation and winding road often lead to some amazing places to see the fall colors for a couple of weeks each year. But what are the best places to be sure to visit? I sat down and made this list of twenty-five picturesque places to see the fall foliage on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Are you ready to #GoForaDrive?
1. Ravens Roost Overlook (Milepost 10.7)
One of my favorite scenic overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway is just 20 minutes from the northern end in Waynesboro, Virginia. A low stone wall makes the perfect place to sit and enjoy the panorama view of the Shenandoah Valley to the west. Take a walk to the south end of the parking lot to find a lone tree among a rocky outcropping for a breathtaking view of a nearby mountain range.
2. Irish Creek Valley Overlook (Milepost 42.2)
The Irish Creek Valley Overlook is one of the most stunning scenic overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. Looking westward a narrow gap between two nearby mountains reveals the Shenandoah Valley beyond. This is a great place to catch warm autumn sunsets!
3. James River Visitor Center (Milepost 63.7)
At just 650’ above sea level the bridge crossing over the James River is the lowest point on the entire Blue Ridge Parkway. Want to know an inside tip? There is a pedestrian bridge beneath the vehicle bridge over the James River!
Walk across that bridge about midway and take a look to the left for a spectacular view of fall colors along the James River with a mountain in the distance. Continue across the river to explore the remnants of Battery Creek Lock or take a leisure 0.4-mile walk through the Trail of Trees.
4. Thunder Ridge Overlook (Milepost 74.7)
The Thunder Ridge Overlook is one of those scenic overlooks you could drive past a hundred times and not know what is there. The parking area is just off the Parkway and the scenic overlook is at the end of a very short and easy five-minute walk.
The overlook is situated on a rocky outcropping with a commanding westward view of mountain ridges and valleys. It’s far enough from the Parkway to offer almost perfect silence to enjoy the view.
5. Peaks of Otter (Milepost 86)
The Peaks of Otter is one of the most popular places to visit on the Blue Ridge Parkway, especially during the peak of fall foliage. The Peaks of Otter Lodge will frequently book all their rooms months in advance as people eagerly hope their reservation coincides with the fall colors.
Even if you’re not spending the night there is plenty to see and do at the Peaks of Otter. Go for a walk on the 1-mile Abbott Lake Loop Trail to enjoy the fall foliage from different perspectives. After a vigorous hike head over to the picnic area to snag a table along a quiet stream in a forest teeming with fall colors.
6. Roanoke Mountain (Milepost 120.3)
At Milepost 120.3 the one-lane, one-way Roanoke Mountain Road crosses the mountain and leads to one of my favorite scenic overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Mill Mountain Overlook is just above a rocky outcropping with a view of nearby Mill Mountain with the city of Roanoke hidden behind.
At the top of the road is the Roanoke Mountain Overlook facing the opposite direction. This overlook is a great place for catching a sunset. A short trail leads through the forest the actual summit of Roanoke Mountain.
7. Roanoke Valley Overlook (Milepost 129.6)
Another of my favorite scenic overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway doesn’t offer the sweeping panorama vista you might want, but it still has a pretty nice view. The pull-off has a short, paved path leading to some boulders at the edge of the Parkway near a bridge. The view of the bridge, Parkway, and Roanoke Valley is one of my favorite places to visit in the autumn.
8. Rock Castle Gorge Overlook (Milepost 168.8)
Most of the Blue Ridge Parkway through Virginia is surrounded by low-lying valleys. The Rock Castle Gorge Overlook is one of the best places to enjoy the view of the valleys in the state. A lone pine tree stands in the middle of an otherwise panorama view looking east, making this a good place to catch an autumn sunrise.
9. Mabry Mill (Milepost 176.2)
Mabry Mill is one of the most iconic destinations on the Blue Ridge Parkway and it becomes super popular during the peak of fall foliage. The grist mill, complete with renovated aqueduct, is typically open for exploration on October weekends with the wheel rotating at the edge of the mill pond.
An easy trail meanders through the several buildings beside the mill and even crosses over the aqueduct at one point. It’s a great place to stretch your legs and enjoy some beautiful fall colors.
10. Fox Hunter’s Paradise (Milepost 218.6)
The scenic overlook at Fox Hunter’s Paradise is my favorite hidden discoveries on the Blue Ridge Parkway. From the Parkway the overlook seems like nothing all that special with a somewhat nice view from a parking lot.
But you need to take the short, paved road leading off the Parkway a couple hundred feet to a hidden parking lot. A short, flat and easy to walk trail leads to a scenic overlook hidden in the dense forest overlooking the mountains to the southeast.
11. Wildcat Rock (Milepost 241.1)
Speaking of favorite hidden discoveries, I found Wildcat Rock during a fall foliage road trip a few years ago and I have been back a dozen times since. This hidden scenic overlook is one of my favorites on the Parkway.
The overlook is located inside Doughton Park. The entrance to the park is just across the road from the Doughton Park Visitor Center. In a back corner is a small parking lot and a set of stone steps leading to two scenic overlooks high atop the mountains.
The panorama view from either overlook is absolutely breathtaking. The first time I saw it during the peak of fall colors I couldn’t help but laugh at just how awesome this planet can be. I recommend taking a collapsible chair because you’ll want to spend some time up there.
12. Thunder Hill Overlook (Milepost 290.5)
During one of my end-to-end road trip adventures on the Blue Ridge Parkway people as far away as Roanoke told me I needed to visit this scenic overlook. By the time I arrived it was already after dark so I waited until the next morning to visit the overlook. It was November 1 and the fog was so thick I couldn’t see the Parkway from the parking lot.
It took a few more tries before I was finally able to enjoy the view from this overlook and understand why it is so popular. This overlook provides one of the few uninterrupted panorama views on the Parkway. But even better is the view across the Parkway beside a rustic fence looking at the towering mountains in the distance.
13. Moses H. Cone Memorial Park (Milepost 294)
The Moses H. Cone Memorial Park is probably the largest and most active park on the Blue Ridge Parkway. At the heart of the park is the Parkway Craft Center, located inside Cone Manor. The craft center has a small visitor center, lots of locally-made arts and crafts, and you can take a guided tour of the upper floor of the mansion.
Bass Lake at the bottom of the property (viewable from the front porch of Cone Manor) is a popular place during the peak of fall colors. A 0.8-mile loop trail circles the entire lake and offers views of mountains, wildlife, and fall colors.
The park also features several miles of horseback riding trails. I am all for letting the horse do all the walking so I can just enjoy the views in all directions.
14. Julian Price Memorial Park (Milepost 297)
My favorite park along the Blue Ridge Parkway is Julian Price Memorial Park. Located around Julian Price Lake the park has lots of hiking trails, kayaking and canoeing on the lake, and a campground.
The Julian Price Lake Overlook at Milepost 296.7 is a fantastic place to enjoy the peak of fall foliage. A large parking area offers easy access to the 2.7-mile Price Lake Loop Trail. But my favorite thing to do here is take a collapsible chair to the other end of the bridge and enjoy the calm water of the lake with a clear view of Grandfather Mountain.
15. Linn Cove Viaduct (Milepost 316)
The iconic Linn Cove Viaduct is probably the most recognizable destination on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Have you ever wanted to capture “that” photo of the curving bridge that nearly every other photographer has captured? There is a spur trail near the Yonahlosee Overlook at Milepost 303.9 leading to the Tanawha Trail where you can find a spot to capture that photo.
The Linn Cove Viaduct Visitor Center has a neat video about the construction of the bridge. There are restrooms near the visitor center and access to the Tanawha Trail where you can hike beneath the viaduct, eventually climb the mountainside, and come out above the viaduct.
Although not a part of the Blue Ridge Parkway it’s just not possible to talk about best places to see fall foliage without including this mountain top destination. The privately-owned Grandfather Mountain is a rather amazing attraction with a small zoo, restaurant and fudge shop, museum, and the infamous Mile High Swinging Bridge.
16. Grandfather Mountain Overlook (Milepost 306.6)
Further down the Parkway is the Grandfather Mountain Overlook with the best view of Grandfather Mountain. Did you know Grandfather Mountain is actually a collection of three mountain peaks on a single range?
17. Linville Falls (Milepost 316)
A 1.5-mile spur road leads to the Linville Falls Visitor Center and one of my favorite outdoor adventures during the peak of fall foliage. Visitors typically hike the 1.6-mile out-and-back Linville Falls Trail to enjoy views of the waterfall from three overlooks: Upper Falls Overlook, Chimney View Overlook, and Erwin’s View.
More adventurous hikers may want to try the strenuous 1.4-mile out-and-back Plunge Basin Trail. This trail passes the Plunge Basin Overlook on the opposite side of the ravine from the Linville Falls Trail and then descends nearly 600’ to the very bottom of the waterfall.
The easiest waterfall to see is one that is typically forgotten and very well hidden: Dugger’s Creek Falls. This small 8’ waterfall is located on a 0.25-mile trail from far end of the parking lot. A rustic footbridge crosses a narrow gap about thirty feet from the waterfall for a gorgeous view.
18. Chestoa View (Milepost 320.7)
Chestoa View is another of my favorite hidden discoveries on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This scenic overlook is at the end of a very short primitive trail from the parking lot and down a flight of steps. The overlook has a commanding view of the nearby Linville Gorge, although you cannot see the waterfall.
19. Mt. Mitchell State Park (Milepost 355.4)
The bittersweet thing about summiting Mount Mitchell is that the top of the mountain has no trees with leaves the turn colors, but it is a pretty good place to enjoy the colors you can see at the lower elevations. At 6,684’ Mount Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi River so it’s definitely worth a visit.
While the hike to the summit along the concrete path is short and easy, there is another way to enjoy the views of fall foliage in this North Carolina state park. Go for a hike on the Black Mountain Crest Trail to visit several other “southern sixers” peaks and catch gorgeous views of the local landscape.
READ MORE: Road Trip to the Southern Sixers
20. Craggy Gardens (Milepost 364.5)
Most of Craggy Gardens is covered in rhododendron that looks gorgeous in the late spring when they bloom but during the peak of fall foliage it’s still just as green as ever. However, some of the views from these overlooks will be perfect for spotting local fall colors!
Craggy Gardens Visitor Center has a pretty nice view straight from the parking lot, no hiking required. The 0.5-mile hike on the Craggy Knob Trail leads to the bald knob with sweeping 360-degree views.
My favorite view, however, is from Craggy Pinnacle. The moderate 1.4-mile out-and-back trail leads to a couple of scenic overlooks a couple hundred feet above the Parkway. These views are absolutely gorgeous year-round and particularly amazing during the peak of fall foliage.
21. Lane Pinnacle Overlook (Milepost 372.1)
The Lane Pinnacle Overlook is located on the south end of the 15-mile Asheville Watershed. As the Parkway passes through the 17,500-acre protected wilderness vehicles are not allowed to make any stops.
The view is breathtaking and just might tide you over a bit on the long stretch without other overlooks. The panorama view of the nearby mountains is a great place to see the fall foliage at an elevation just below the Parkway.
22. Mount Pisgah (Milepost 408.6)
There are three amazing places to enjoy the fall foliage at Mount Pisgah. The first is Buck Spring Gap Overlook at Milepost 407.6. Park here to enjoy an eastward view from the gap. A short trail leads to the remains of Buck Spring Lodge, a former hunting resort for the builders of the Biltmore.
The Mount Pisgah Overlook is within walking distance of Buck Spring Gap and faces westward. This overlook is perfectly for catching the sunset during the peak of fall foliage. The 3.2-mile Mount Pisgah Trail leads to the summit of the mountain where you’ll find a wooden observation deck with pretty amazing views.
The final place in this area to enjoy the fall foliage is at the Pisgah Inn. This two-story lodge has been a favorite place to stay during the peak of fall foliage for decades now. The rooms usually book up early but you can still enjoy the view from the restaurant or take a walk around the property during your visit.
23. Devil’s Courthouse (Milepost 422.4)
The 1-mile out-and-back trail leading to the summit of Devil’s Courthouse is pretty strenuous but well worth the effort for a breathtaking view. The top of the rocky knob features commanding panorama views in all directions and makes the perfect place to enjoy the peak of fall foliage.
24. Cowee Mountain Overlook (Milepost 430.7)
The Cowee Mountain Overlook is my favorite on the entire Blue Ridge Parkway. Although the nearby Richland Balsam Overlook is the highest point on the Parkway at 6,053’, the view from Cowee Mountain is much better.
A large parking area has plenty of room for cars, RVs, and travel trailers. I usually just pull up beside the sidewalk at the edge of the parking lot and put out a collapsible chair for a couple of hours. Sunset here is always the best view, especially during the peak of fall foliage.
25. Waterrock Knob (Milepost 451.2)
Waterrock Knob is a favorite among Blue Ridge Parkway travelers. It’s about 30 minutes from Cherokee and Great Smoky Mountains National Park so it’s a nice detour for a half-day trip. The parking area is quite large and offers a view in all directions, just not from one spot. Looking westward the Great Smoky Mountains covers the horizon with the small town of Cherokee at the foot.
Take the 1.2-mile out-and-back Waterrock Knob Trail to the summit of the mountain about 400’ above the parking lot. The first quarter mile of the hike leads to a fairly nice overlook, but the top of the mountain offers an uninterrupted 360-degree view.