The northern section of a road trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway is admittedly one of the sparsest sections, but that will just give you more time to enjoy what is there. Begin with the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center, enjoy the breathtaking view from Ravens Roost, and walk along an old logging railroad.
- Brief History of the Blue Ridge Parkway
- What is a Milepost?
- Parking on the Blue Ridge Parkway
- Waynesboro, VA
- North Entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway
- 1. Humpback Rocks Visitor Center at Milepost 5.8
- 2. Ravens Roost Overlook at Milepost 10.7
- 3. Yankee Horse Ridge at Milepost 34.4
- 4. Highway 60 at Milepost 45.6
- Lexington, VA
Brief History of the Blue Ridge Parkway
In 1935 construction began on a scenic road to connect the two most popular national parks on the east coast: Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Most of the Parkway was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps throughout the 30s. When construction was finally finished in 1987, just 52 years after it was started, the Parkway stretched 469 miles between Waynesboro, Virginia and Cherokee, North Carolina.
What is a Milepost?
Overlooks, attractions, and interchanges are all marked by mileposts on the Blue Ridge Parkway. These are literally posts with miles marked on them. Milepost 0 is located in Waynesboro, VA and increases to Milepost 469 in Cherokee, NC.
The mileposts are located on the side of the Parkway every full mile. If you see tenths of a mile for a particular destination this is an estimate.
Parking on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Over the years I’ve chatted with a few park rangers and learned some things about parking on the Blue Ridge Parkway that was both surprising and helpful.
- Parking is allowed anywhere on the Parkway that is NPS property and does not damage or destroy anything
- Parking is allowed in the fields, on the shoulders of the Parkway, and on non-paved area just so long as all four tires of the vehicle are off the paved Parkway
- Overnight parking is allowed if you’re hiking into the backcountry, but it is advised to call the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center and let them know
- Sleeping overnight in cars or RVs is only allowed in designated campgrounds
Waynesboro is a great place to spend the night before beginning a road trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s also a convenient location for exploring the southern half of Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive.
The Waynesboro Heritage Museum is a good place to learn the deep history of the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia. If you’d rather stay outside on a gorgeous day Waynesboro has three different historic districts to walk and enjoy.
This small town is starting to really grow big on the craft brewery scene. Stable Craft Brewery started in 2016 with a large tasting room inside a converted old barn. Basic City Beer Company is another great place to visit inside a renovated iron foundry. Both of these local establishments also have a pretty good food menu (because it goes perfect with craft beer).
If you really want to check out some craft beers try the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail with about a dozen locations between Lexington, Waynesboro, Staunton, and Harrisburg.
Visit Waynesboro 301 West Main Street, Waynesboro, VA | 540-942-6512 | http://www.visitwaynesboro.net/
Where to Stay in Waynesboro
Exit 94 off Interstate 64 is a great place to spend a night while traveling through Waynesboro. There are a few good hotels here and it’s just ten minutes from downtown in one direction and the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway in another.
The Residence Inn is my top recommendation for families in town. The hotel has a King Studio room with a king bed and sleeper sofa, and a 2 Room Suite with a king bed and sleeper sofa. Each room includes a kitchenette and everything you would need to prepares some meals.
Holiday Inn Express is always a sure bet. This hotel has quite a few rooms to choose from and includes a rather nice breakfast in the morning.
The Best Western Plus is my top recommendation for general travelers. The hotel includes a really nice indoor swimming pool, rooms with king and queen beds, and a free breakfast.
North Entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway
The easiest way to get to the Parkway from Waynesboro is to follow Main Street out of town. Just across a river at the edge of town the road becomes Three Notched Mountain Highway and climbs up the mountain to an intersection with I-64.
If you’d rather arrive by interstate you would take Exit 99. The exit ends at Three Nothced Mountain Highway (Highway 250). Pass beneath the interstate and look for a short road on the right leading to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
1. Humpback Rocks Visitor Center at Milepost 5.8
The Humpback Rocks Visitor Center is the first place you’ll find information about the Blue Ridge Parkway on this road trip. Even if you already have everything you need it’s a great first stop. The visitor center includes a small information desk, gift shop, and a place to collect your National Park Passport stamp.
While you’re there be sure to visit the Outdoor Farm Museum. It’s located at the end of the parking lot along a very short and easy to hike trail. The outdoor exhibit includes a frontier house and garden space.
At the Humpback Gap Overlook at Milepost 6 you can access the Humpback Rocks Trail. The 7.8-mile roundtrip hike includes Humpback Rocks, Humpback Mountain, and the Humpback Rocks Picnic Area. A popular day hike is the 2-mile roundtrip hike to Humpback Rock that includes a strenuous 700’ climb to a breathtaking view.
2. Ravens Roost Overlook at Milepost 10.7
The first time I pulled up to this overlook it literally took my breath away, although I do have to admit that’s because it was about 30-degrees and a stiff blowing wind hit me kinda hard. But when I came back a year later on a warm summer day I was once again amazed by this stunning overlook.
A stone wall along the edge of the parking lot is the perfect place to grab a seat and look over the flat terrain of the Shenandoah Valley. It’s rather amazing to think this is still part of the Appalachian Mountains.
Just a little further down a concrete walking path is a beautiful sight at Ravens Roost: a single pine tree growing in the rocky cliffs. This is a stunning view and one of my favorite places on the Parkway to hang a hammock. In fact that last time I visited I wasn’t alone; a group of four other day trippers strung up some hammocks and joined me.
3. Yankee Horse Ridge at Milepost 34.4
A lot of the scenic overlooks you’ll come across on the Parkway have grown up over the years and no longer offer a view. After awhile you get kinda used to it and when you pull off the Parkway to see nothing but trees you don’t even stop.
Don’t make that mistake at Yankee Horse Ridge. I wanted to stretch my legs the first time I visited this overlook. Walk up a few steps and you’ll find a railroad track embedded in the ground, spanning a small creek on an old wooden bridge. It’s the remnants of an old logging railroad, one of many that used to cross these mountains.
4. Highway 60 at Milepost 45.6
From this intersection it is just 5 miles along a curvy road into the town of Buena Vista, VA and then an additional five miles into Lexington. You can also access I-81 just before reaching Lexington.
The best way to spend an evening getting to know Lexington is with a horse drawn carriage tour with Lexington Carriage Company. They’ll tell you all about the history of this town and point out some great places to visit like the Stonewall Jackson House. Talk a stroll through downtown Lexington to browse locally-made arts and crafts in various galleries and shops.
Where to Stay in Lexington
Located on Main Street and walking distance to everything, The Robert E. Lee Hotel is my top recommendation for place to stay in Lexington. The hotel features free on-site parking, breakfast included with the room, and rooms with king and queen beds and a King Suite with sleeper sofa.
The Hampton Inn is also located in the downtown historic district. The cozy hotel features a nice outdoor swimming pool with hot tub, free on site parking, and and rooms including one or two king or queen beds.
The Country Inn & Suites is located at Exit 55 off Interstate 64. It’s a fantastic place to stay with an indoor swimming pool, good breakfast included with the room, and king and queen bedrooms.
The Best Western Plus is located at the same interstate exit about ten minutes from downtown Lexington. The hotel features an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, breakfast included with the room, and a Queen Room with two queen beds and sleeper sofa, making this perfect for families.