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Blue Ridge Mountains road trip

The Blue Ridge Mountains are the oldest mountains in the world with one of the most diverse ecosystems of any deciduous forest. So this is one of the best road trips in the U.S. This section of the Appalachia mountains is in the Southeast U.S. from Western Virginia down to Western North Carolina, Eastern Tennessee, North Georgia, and Northwest South Carolina.

Epic Road Trips To Take In The United States!

I grew up near the Blue Ridge Mountains in Tennessee, so I know this region well. My 12-day road trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains will let you experience the region’s best cities, waterfalls, hikes, scenic drives, and, of course, the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Parks.

So here’s the best itinerary for a Blue Ridge Mountains Road Trip!
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Blue Ridge Mountains road trip

3 Nights in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Start your road trip in the U.S.’s most-visited national park, the Great Smoky Mountains. This park spans the Tennessee and North Carolina border, but you’ll want to stay on the Tennessee side of the park on your first three days.

Tips for Visiting Popular National Parks

For your accommodation, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg have hotels for every budget and preference. There are also RV and campsites near every park entrance. And I’ve rounded up the coolest vacation homes near the Great Smoky Mountains.

Check out my Great Smoky Mountains National Park Guide for the best hikes, waterfalls, scenic drives, and guided activities. My top recommendations are Spruce Flats Falls (pictured above), Cades Cove, and the Foothills Parkway.

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Blue Ridge Mountains road trip
Blue Ridge Mountains road trip
Blue Ridge Mountains road trip

2 Nights in Highlands, NC

Get an early start on day four because you’re going to drive the Newfound Gap Road to the park’s North Carolina side. This is one of the most popular drives in the park, so starting early will let you beat some of the crowds. Take your time on this drive. There are many overlooks, and Clingman’s Dome is worth the short detour.

Once you finish this scenic drive, head to the Bryson City park entrance and drive the Road To Nowhere. This six-mile road takes you on a lovely drive into the park before dead-ending at a tunnel. This road was never completed, so you’ll find a wonderful trail system on the other side of the tunnel.

Then make the roughly hour and a half drive to Highlands, North Carolina, for two nights. This charming town is located high in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and it’s one of my favorite getaways in the Southeast U.S.

I recommend staying at the Old Edwards Inn and Spa or 200 Main. Top things to do in Highlands are savoring the foodie scene, driving the Cullasaja River Gorge (also known as the Waterfall Byway), and hiking Whiteside Mountain.

Your Travel Guide To Highlands, NC
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Blue Ridge Mountains road trip

2 Nights in Asheville, NC

On day six of your road trip, leave Highlands and drive to Whitewater Falls. This is one of my favorite waterfalls, and you’ll want to make sure you see it from the Upper Overlook and walk down the stairs to the Lower Overlook.

Then head to Asheville, North Carolina. My favorite hotels are the Omni Grove Park Inn and The Inn on Biltmore Estate. Spend the rest of the day exploring downtown and the art walk and treat yourself to a fine meal.

The Best Hotels in Asheville

For your second day in Asheville (and the seventh day of your road trip), visit the Biltmore Estate. This lavish mansion is one of the most European-feeling places in the U.S. Plan to spend the whole day here touring the house and gardens, and then I recommend you do a wine tasting and/or a guided horseback ride through the property.

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Blue Ridge Mountains road trip

1 Night along the Blue Ridge Parkway

On day eight of your road trip, head north from Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Your driving goal for this day is to get to about mile marker 212 on the Parkway. This isn’t a very long drive from Asheville, but you’re going to want to spend the whole day making stops along the way.

The best places on the Parkway between Asheville and where you’ll want to stop for the night are The Folk Art Center, Craggy Gardens, Mount Mitchell State Park (highest point east of the Mississippi River), Linville Falls, and the Linn Cove Viaduct (pictured above).

My top recommendations for where to stay the night are Galax, Virginia (for a great music scene and the Blue Ridge Music Center), or Mt. Airy, North Carolina, of Andy Griffith fame (it’s just a short drive from the Parkway).

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Blue Ridge Mountains road trip

3 Nights in Shenandoah National Park

3 Nights in Shenandoah National Park

From wherever you stayed the night, you’re going to want to keep heading north on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Spend the whole day making stops along your way – my favorites are Groundhog Mountain Overlook, Mabry Mill, Rocky Knob, Roanoke Valley Overlook, Fallingwater Cascades Loop, and Sherando Lake – before arriving at Shenandoah National Park.

Lodging inside Shenandoah National park includes Skyland, Big Meadows Lodge, Lew Mountain Cabins, PATC Cabins, and five rustic campsites that open in the spring, summer, and fall. If you’re bringing an RV or motorhome, the campgrounds inside the park have no electrical, water, or sewer hookups, so you might want to reserve a spot at an RV park just outside the national park.

During your time in Shenandoah National Park, the best activities to do are Skyline Drive, Luray Caverns, Old Rag Mountain hike (strenuous), Whiteoak Canyon Falls hike (moderate), ranger-led activities, stargazing, and hike part of the Appalachian Trail.

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Plan Your Trip

Need help planning your road trip? Then you should use Roadtrippers, my favorite app for mapping-out road trips and finding Roadside America stops. If you’re going to rent a car, then I recommend Momondo, and if you want to rent an RV (which would be SO much fun for a Blue Ridge Mountains road trip), you should use RVshare.

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Shop My Road Trip Essentials
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Is there anything you’d add to this Blue Ridge Mountains road trip? If so, share in the comments!
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For Planning The Rest Of Your Southeast U.S. Trip
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Frequently Asked Questions
  • Where should I stay in Blue Ridge Mountains?

    Best Hotels in the Blue Ridge Mountains:

    1. Salamander Resort & Spa

    2. The Omni Grove Park Inn

    3. Old Edwards Inn and Spa

    4. The Martha Washington Inn and Spa

    5. The Inn on Biltmore Estate

    6. Hotel Domestique

    7. Blackberry Farms

    8. The Swag

  • How long does it take to drive the whole Blue Ridge Parkway?

    Without stopping, it would take you about 12 hours to drive the entire Blue Ridge Parkway. But the Blue Ridge Mountains have so much more than just the Parkway to explore!

    Give yourself at least 10-14 days to drive the Blue Ridge Mountains. This will give you plenty of time to explore the cities, hike in the state parks, pull off at quirky Roadside America Stops, and enjoy this incredible part of the country.

  • What is there to see in the Blue Ridge Mountains?

    The Best Places To Visit in the Blue Ridge Mountains:

    1. The Great Smoky Mountains

    2. Highlands, North Carolina

    3. Asheville, North Carolina

    4. The Blue Ridge Parkway

    5. The Linn Cove Viaduct

    6. Mount Mitchell State Park

    7. The Blue Ridge Music Center

    8. Craggy Gardens

    9. Shenandoah National Park

  • What is the best scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway?

    You can’t go wrong with any section of the Blue Ridge Parkway! But my favorite part of this road trip is from the Great Smoky Mountains to Asheville, then up to the Linn Cove Viaduct.

  • What is the best time of year to visit the Blue Ridge Mountains?

    Fall is the most beautiful time to visit the Blue Ridge Mountains because of the foliage change and perfect temperatures. But this is the busiest and most expensive season, so prepare for accommodation prices to be at their peak.

    Summer and Spring are also beautiful times to visit the Blue Ridge Mountains. During Winter, the Blue Ridge Mountains have a lot of snow, which can be beautiful, but it can also cause road, trail, and attraction closures.

  • Is it worth driving the Blue Ridge Parkway?

    Yes! This is one of the best scenic drives in the country. The Blue Ridge Parkway takes you through some of the region’s best national parks, towns, cities, hikes, and state parks.

  • Is driving the Blue Ridge Parkway scary?

    No, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a leisurely scenic drive. There are curves and elevation gains because you’re going through the Appalachia Mountains. But there are no tight switch-backs or mountain drop-offs.

  • Are the Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Mountains the same?

    The Great Smoky Mountains are a subrange of the Blue Ridge Mountains. So The Smokies are the Blue Ridge Mountains, but only a portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains are the Great Smoky Mountains.

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This post is not a sponsored post, and, as always, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this Blue Ridge Mountains road trip itinerary are entirely my own. Some of the links in this Blue Ridge Mountains road trip itinerary are affiliate links, and, at no cost to you, I may earn a small commission.

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