3 Days 355 Miles
A Charming 3-Day Road Trip Along the Blue Ridge Parkway
With warm summers and snowy winters, North Carolina is one of the most stunning states all year long. From the mountainous, artsy city of Asheville to magic of the Blue Ridge Parkway, this three-day itinerary is filled with indoor and outdoor adventure, ending in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park. The trip’s final leg will include stunning waterfalls and the chance to explore more than 500 miles of hiking trails. Let’s get going!
Day 1 – Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville is nestled in the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, which run from Georgia to South Carolina and end in Pennsylvania. This is where we’ll be spending the first day of our trip.
River Arts District
You can’t explore Asheville without visiting the River Arts District. This community features historic buildings that were once tanneries, cotton mills, and more. Now, they’re repurposed as galleries and workspaces for various artists. You’ll find different mediums, from paintings to jewelry to browse. You can easily spend a few hours exploring the River Arts District, as there are over 200 artists featured in this area. It’s also a great spot to purchase a souvenir or two while supporting local artisans.
Next on the docket is viewing the incredible architecture that Asheville offers. The Biltmore Estate is a prime example of the incredible buildings found in Asheville. This estate is the biggest in the country and covers more than 125,000 acres. There’s quite a lot to do at this massive estate, including viewing an immersive art exhibit, spending the night, strolling through the gardens, viewing the French Broad River, and taking a horse-drawn carriage ride on the property. This is another attraction that you’ll want to section off a few hours of your day for, potentially longer. We suggest picking one or two activities at the Biltmore Estate so you have time to view other Asheville attractions.
Asheville is a foodie haven, featuring unique restaurants where you can forage for your food and some of the best BBQ around. For lunch, try Buxton Hall BBQ. Two James Beard Award-winning chefs created this restaurant; Elliott Moss and Meheran Irani. The meat is locally sourced from a friend’s farm and turned into some of the most delicious updated North Carolina BBQ dishes around.
Hopefully, you’ve saved room after enjoying a meal at Buxton Hall BBQ because a food tour is on the itinerary after. Since Asheville is so well-known for its food, it’s a must to sign up for one of the Asheville Food Tours. You’ll be able to try about seven different restaurants within walking distance of each other, sampling some of the city’s best spots for appetizers, wine, and more. Various options are available, including a downtown tour and a night tour.
After exploring Asheville all day, you can head to Pritchard Park to watch the drum circle if you still have energy left. This free event occurs every Friday throughout the seasons, apart from winter. It’s a great way to end the evening with music playing from various instruments and dancing.
Where to Stay Near Asheville
Afterward, head to your accommodations and get an early night’s sleep to prepare for the next day’s activities along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We recommend staying at The Lion and the Rose Bed & Breakfast. Each stay includes a two-course breakfast, complimentary Wi-Fi, outdoor seating areas, a backyard fire pit, and more cozy amenities.
Day 2 – Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge Parkway
The second day takes us along the Blue Ridge Parkway, also known as America’s favorite drive. This scenic drive starts in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and continues through Asheville to Shenandoah National Park—our final destination. It will take about four and a half hours to travel this route, so you’ll want to leave as early as possible.
There will be plenty of spots to stop at and enjoy along the parkway. You’ll be able to see historic mills, peer out into valleys with lush forests from overlooks, and sit next to powerful cascading waterfalls. Don’t miss the Porter Mountain View pullout.
Views, views, views. On the route from Asheville to Peaks of Otter Lodge, you’ll find many trails leading to sweeping vistas. If you want to start your day with a hike, consider Lane Pinnacle or Bullhead Mountain for stunning summits. The trailheads are a quick 30-40 minute drive from Asheville, so most of your driving will follow your hike if you opt for these routes.
If you’re looking for a hike closer to your end-of-day destination, Sharp Top Trail, though moderately-strenuous, is just over a mile to the top. You’ll see gorgeous views of Abbott Lake and the Blue Ridge Mountains from the top.
Some of the best stargazing on the East Coast happens along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Astronomy programs run most of the year for guided experience beneath the night sky.
Where to Stay on the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Peaks of Otter Lodge puts gorgeous views of Sharp Top Mountain and Abbott Lake on display from your room window. Relax but the lakeside fire pits in this tranquil slice of Blue Ridge Mountain paradise. Did we mention it’s pet-friendly?!
Day 3: Shenandoah National Park
Once you arrive in Shenandoah National Park, you’ll be rewarded with views of lush rolling mountains and incredible hiking trails. Choose from more than 500 miles to trails, suitable for all ages and skill levels. If you want to learn a new skill or two, check out the course schedules for Basic Outdoor Survival Skills or Map & Compass Navigation.
Rock climbing in Shenandoah National Park is another top activity. Rock climbing opportunities are available throughout the park for all skill levels. Sign up for a guided class with Shenandoah Mountain Guides.
If you choose one of the courses or rock climbing classes, you’ll need to adjust your plans to arrive in time.
Where to Stay Near Shenandoah National Park
Along the park’s scenic Skyline Drive, there are multiple accommodation options available. Skyland is located at mile 41.7 and mile 42.5. This overnight stay provides some of the best views, as it’s found at the highest elevation point on Skyline Drive. You can choose from cabins, rooms, or suites. There are even dog-friendly rooms for those who want to bring a furry friend along.
Traveling through Asheville, Boone, and Shenandoah National Park is an unforgettable experience. These areas have the perfect combination of outdoor and indoor activities, making it a trip everyone can enjoy.