If you are headed to the eastern part of the United States, you will likely come across the Blue Ridge Mountains. The 600-mile mountain range is a segment of the Appalachian Mountains spread across 8 states: Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. It is over 1 billion years old and appears from a distance like slow rolling waves across the landscape, blue in tint and lush in vegetation. The characteristic blue appearance results from trees releasing hydrocarbons into the atmosphere and is magnified by poor air quality because of pollution. Millions of years of erosion have long since worn off any harsh or jagged peaks found in younger mountain ranges like the Tetons – the tallest peaks in Blue Ridge reaching just over 6,000 ft in elevation. It is a landscape steeped in history and the perfect destination for a road trip.
Fortunately, the mountains are highly accessible by car or motorcycle, and most areas do not require tolls, permits, or passes to visit. A road trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains is an unforgettable experience and perfect for the family. You will enjoy incredible views of the gently rolling mountains, a temperate climate, and a healthy ecosystem lush with vegetation and brimming with wildlife.
Read on to learn more about Road Trips in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
There are so many road trip options along the Blue Ridge Mountains. You will find incredible views, verdure, and wildlife among them. We recommend looking at maps in state sections as it is difficult to find maps that cover the mountain range in its entirety. The links below have information regarding the accessibility of the drives. Below are four drives we highly recommend:
Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is undoubtedly one of the grandest scenic drives in the United States. It covers over 400 miles and connects the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in North Carolina. It is free to drive. Lodging is offered in various forms – camping, hotels, short-term vacation rentals, and cabins.
The Skyline Drive
Located in Virginia, Skyline Drive extends 100 miles and ends at the north end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It requires an entrance fee at the national park. One neat feature of the Skyline Drive is that it runs parallel to the famed Appalachian Hiking Trail.
Newfound Gap Road in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park
The Newfound Gap Road takes you from Cherokee, NC, to Gatlinburg, TN. It traverses the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. If you are looking for a road trip that finishes in a touristy area perfect for families, this is the road trip for you.
Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway in Georgia
This road takes you 40 miles across the Chattahoochee National Forest. The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway is stunning in the fall when red, yellow, and orange tree colors are vibrant. Stop at the observation tower at Brasstown Bald for incredible views.
Stops Along the Way
Smoky Mountain National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee – the most visited National Park in the US, with over 850 miles of hiking trails.
Mount Mitchell in Burnsville, NC – highest peak in the eastern United States at 6,684 ft. above sea level.
New River accessible in Galax, VA – ironically named- is the oldest river in North America.
Linville Gorge in Marion, NC – the deepest gorge east of the Grand Canyon.
Whitewater Falls in Jackson County, NC – the tallest falls east of the Rocky Mountains.
Luray Caverns in Luray, VA – the most extensive cavern system in the eastern US.
Devil’s Courthouse in North Carolina – long-distance overlook with nearly 360-degree views.
Shenandoah National Park in Virginia – a historic destination meets unmatched scenic landscapes.
Climate and Weather
The temperate climate of the Blue Ridge Mountains allows for a range of temperatures without extremes. In the late Spring and Summer, it is warm enough to swim in mountain springs; in the winter, it is cold enough for snow. The Fall is an enticing time for road trips because of the magnificent fall colors and inviting temperatures. As with any other mountain range, the higher elevations will have cooler temperatures. When traveling, be sure to pack appropriate clothing for various temperatures, as nights can be particularly cool in higher elevations, and days can be sweltering in higher elevations exposed to the sun at midday.
Spring – best for hiking and overlooks
Summer – best for swimming and waterfall hikes
Fall – best for driving, hiking, and camping
Winter – best for cabin weekends and hiking
Plan your road trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains for an unforgettable experience in one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world.