Providing a craggy, tree-flanked frame to edge Virginia’s Piedmont region, the Blue Ridge Mountains are the beloved retreat of city-dwellers over for the weekend, locals, and sightseeing travelers from far-removed continents.
To travel their length in the state of Virginia alone (particularly eschewing faster interstates for the scenic route) would more than fill a very long day; Skyline Drive, which traverses the mountains through Shenandoah National Park, alone is a three-hour trip.
There is easy access to the national forests and peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains as they cut across southwestern Virginia from towns like Roanoke, Lynchburg, Blacksburg and Abingdon. Popular recreation areas in this general vicinity include the George Washington National Forest, the Thomas Jefferson National Forest and Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. Here, as with other sections of this mountain range, find a variety of outdoor pursuits, from horseback riding (and horse camping) to hiking, biking and fishing.
Virginia’s four downhill ski areas occupy slopes farther north, near the state’s central stretch of blue-hued peaks. Meandering along above the sweeping valleys on either side of the range is the Blue Ridge Parkway, like Skyline Drive a scenic byway that curves precariously past dramatic drop-offs and shady forest. State parks and tourist sights like the Natural Bridge can be found to either side, linked to the parkway by local roads which in turn connect to larger arteries, like Interstate 81, and at its northern end, Interstate 64, only a short drive from Charlottesville. On the other side of I-64 find the start of the state’s only national park, Shenandoah, which stretches 105 miles northeast to Front Royal.
The mountains lose some of their drama as they continue north of the park, though find here still a selection of places to do a bit of hiking or enjoy other outdoor pursuits.