Road Trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway: Roanoke to Galax, VA

Written by
Jason Barnette
Posted on
April 19, 2019
Located in This Road Trip Collection
Visit Mabry Mill, take a detour into Floyd, and enjoy some local wineries on this road trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

This 94.5-mile road trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway rides along some of the lower elevations, but still offers a few exciting things to see and do. Visit a couple of local wineries, take a tour into a music known for local music, and take a walk around the iconic Mabry Mill.

This is Section 3 of the Road Trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469-mile drive from Waynesboro, Virginia to Cherokee, North Carolina. Follow the link to learn more about the other sections.

 

Section 3: Roanoke, VA to Galax, VA

94.5 miles

1. Highway 220 at Milepost 120.5

This interchange is the easiest for accessing food, gas, and lodging off the Parkway. It’s an indirect route that will lead into downtown Roanoke.

2. Smart View Recreation Area at Milepost 154.5

This small recreation area is a great place to stretch the legs after the first long drive on the Parkway. The road loops around several picnic tables and a couple of shelters. There are two restroom facilities at the recreation area. Be sure to stop and admire the stunning view from the Trail Family Cabin. It must’ve been pretty nice to have a cabin here long ago. Imagine the night sky for a moment.

3. Rakes Mill Pond at Milepost 162.4

As far as simple pull-offs go, Rakes Mill Pond is one of the prettiest on the Parkway. All that remains of the old mill today is the dam backing up a small creek. After heavy rains the wall will spill over the top in a nice funnel of water.

4. Highway 8 at Milepost 165.2

Exit here and drive about 6 miles into the small town of Floyd, VA.

Floyd, VA

Floyd is one of those “blink and you’ll miss it” kind of town, but I know you won’t blink because you’ll want to see this. The Floyd Country Store has become a popular destination over the years with the rise in popularity of local bluegrass music. The only time I have visited this store I found a group of maybe thirty people inside sitting in a circle playing music for hours.

There are a couple of shops with local arts and crafts for sale along Locust Street. Walk around the corner and grab something to eat at the Blue Ridge Café. After that, head back to the Parkway because you’ve seen all there is to see in Floyd.

5. Rocky Knob Campground at Milepost 167.5

The Rocky Knob Campground is one of my favorites to visit because it’s kinda in the middle of nowhere on the Parkway. Located about halfway between Roanoke and Galax, it’s in a less-frequently traveled route on the Parkway so that means less average visitors.

The campground features 81 tent sites and 28 RV sites around four loops. Each loop has a restroom facility and potable water access, however there are no showers or hookups. Loop T has pull-through sites for large RVs and travel trailers. Loop C is a “generator free” loop.

6. Rocky Knob Visitor Center at Milepost 169

The Rocky Knob Visitor Center is a reminder of something that used to be on the Blue Ridge Parkway long ago: gas stations. When the Parkway was first built in the 50s and 60s vehicles needed gasoline more frequently than now. Still, there were only a few gas stations on the Parkway even in the beginning.

Today there are no gas stations on the Parkway. This one was eventually converted into a visitor center. Inside the small one-room visitor center is a nice gift shop. There are restrooms attached to the side of the building.

Villa Appalaccia Winery

One of the newest additions to Virginia Farm Winery is Villa Appalaccia. Located just off the Parkway it’s a great place to stop for awhile, enjoy some wine in their tasting room, and admire the beautiful Italian décor.

Chateau Morrisette

One of the most popular wineries in Virginia, Chateau Morrisette is now run by the third generation of the same family to own the property. The magnificent tasting room is a great place to enjoy sampling their wines, take a guided tour through their production facility, and admire the architecture in the building made from reclaimed materials.

The Chateau Morrisette Restaurant next door has a full menu offering appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, and entrees. They also offer their own wines by the glass or bottle. I’ve always been partial to the Red Mountain Laurel, but one of the owner’s favorites is The Black Dog.

7. Mabry Mill at Milepost 176.2

You might recognize the iconic Mabry Mill as soon as you pass it. The large grist mill with the spinning wheel beside a large pond is probably the most-photographed destination on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Use the large parking lot if possible, but these spots tend to disappear during warm days, holidays, and weekends. There is ample overflow parking behind the mill. Just passed the parking lot on the left (if you’re traveling south) is a turn off on the Parkway; turn left onto that road and you’ll see a large field on the right with parking.

There is a short, flat trail to walk through and around Mabry Mill. The trail begins at the end of the parking lot with a view looking straight at Mabry Mill where the traditional photos are captured (including mine). The trail crosses over the aqueduct, winds around the blacksmith shop and a few other buildings, and brings you to Mabry’s Mill. Often times during the peak season and on weekends the mill is open so you can walk inside.

The Mabry Mill Restaurant is open Monday-Thursday 7:30a.m.-5p.m. and Friday-Sunday 7:30a.m.-6p.m. Stop in for some wonderful country cooking in a comfortable atmosphere. The wait can get a little long during the peak foliage but it’s worth the wait. While you’re waiting you might want to browse the small gift shop.

8. Groundhog Mountain Overlook at Milepost 189

The Groundhog Mountain Overlook is a great place to stretch your legs and admire a beautiful view. There are picnic tables and nice restrooms located here as well. Walk up the short trail to the two-story observation tower. The view at the top of the tower is pretty awesome over the landscape.

9. Puckett Cabin at Milepost 190

Located on the right side (heading south) of the Parkway is the small Puckett Cabin. Orelena Puckett was a midwife who delivered more than 1,000 babies during her career. Ironically, she lost all 24 of her own children during infancy. There is a short trail to walk around the property where she spent the latter half of her life.

10. Highway 52 at Milepost 199.5

This interchange will get you to Interstate 77 in 2 miles and Hillsville, VA in 8 miles.

Hillsville, VA

The “downtown” of Hillsville is maybe a block long at best, but it’s still a neat town to visit if only briefly. The Hillsville Diner and Pizza Perfect on Main are a couple of good places to grab food on Main Street. Heading out of town toward Galax is The Mason Jar, a quaint country restaurant with a long bar, comfortable seating, and pretty good food (I can still taste the spiciness of the Texmex Burger).

The Southwest Virginia Farmers’ Market is located about halfway between Hillsville and Galax beside I-77. The market is open year-round with fruits, vegetables, and baked goods from locals. It’s a great place to visit for a pint of strawberries or a dozen apples.

Did you know? On March 14, 1912, in the packed Carroll County Courthouse, Floyd Allen was convicted of assaulting sheriff’s deputies who had arrested two of his nephews and sentenced to a year in prison. Almost at once Allen stood up and calmly stated, “Gentlemen, I just ain’t a-goin’.” To this day no one knows who fired the first shot but five minutes later fifty-seven bullets had flown through the courtroom killing the judge, prosecutor, sheriff, and two others.  Locally it’s known as “The Courthouse Tragedy” and if you visit the courthouse on Main Street you can still see two bullet holes in the wooden staircase, the last two bullets Floyd Allen ever fired.

Booking.com

11. The Blue Ridge Music Center at Milepost 213

The Blue Ridge Music Center was established to preserve and display the heritage with a nice gift shop, information, and live performances throughout the year. A small museum displays all kinds of musical instruments along with the history of folk and bluegrass music.

The music center also has some restrooms and information if all you need is a quick pit stop. But as soon as you hear the iconic sound of a banjo or fiddle you’ll want to stay awhile.

12. Highway 89 at Milepost 215

From this interchange it is a 7-mile drive along a two-lane road into Galax, VA.

Galax, VA

Galax is a small town that bills itself as the “Gateway to the Blue Ridge Parkway.” It’s a beautiful town with baskets full of flowers hanging from the lampposts along the clean sidewalks. The small town is host to the annual Old Fiddlers’ Convention. Hundreds of festival attendees and performers descend on the small town each spring for the convention packed with live music literally on every corner in town.

What to Do The Galax Visitor’s Center is right in the middle of town and makes a great first stop to learn about the town. Barr’s Fiddle Shop has been around since forever and still sells fiddles along with other musical instruments. Chapters Bookshop is one of the small locally owned bookstores that makes you want to find a comfy chair and read a good book for awhile, though I recommend buying the book first.

The Rex Theatre opened its doors as a movie theater are 1939. In the 90s the theater was purchased by the Galax Downtown Merchants Association, completely renovated and revitalized, and in 1999 began broadcasting the annual Blue Ridge Backroads Live. The live musical show featuring bluegrass music begins every Saturday night at 7pm.

Where to Eat If you’re just a tad bit hungry you can find some great food at the Twisted Fork Bistro or Galax Smokehouse. Both offer full menus with lots of options like sandwiches, pasta, and BBQ. My favorite place to eat in Galax is the recently-opened Creek Bottom Brewing Company. This local restaurant and brewery always has some good craft beer on tap and a brick oven for some fantastic wood fired pizza. Booking.com

More Information

Visit Galax, VA

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