Driving the entire Blue Ridge Parkway, all at once, has been on my Bucket List for years! Yes, I have driven parts of it here and there, but I thought it would be fun to do it all in one day so that I could see how the elevations and scenery changes along the way. Usually I am the brains behind our adventures, but Ironman planned this one out himself so I was even more excited than usual (which is pretty hard)!
Friday morning, Ironman and I packed up, left town and headed towards Virginia.
We got a campsite in Otter Creek Campground because it was the closest available to the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. There were hardly any campers, so we felt like we had the place to ourselves. Unfortunately, we didn't realize that there was no place close to eat so we had to drive quite a ways to find dinner. I didn't mind though, since that meant more exploring!
Ironman decided that we should head towards Lynchburg, since it is a bigger city and would most likely have plenty of options for dinner. We were also excited that it is an older city and would probably have a lot of historical buildings downtown!
As you may have guessed if you follow this blog, we sort of travel without a plan. So, as Ironman drives, I google and try to figure out what we are doing. Waterstone Fire Roasted Pizza came up as one of the top recommendations for dinner (and we love pizza), so we headed that way. Let me say, we were not disappointed...and if you are near the area, you need to stop by and order The Big Island. Oh my goodness, it was delicious.
It was getting dark, so Ironman wanted to get back to camp and settle in for the night. If we are staying in a hotel, he doesn't care about the time or lighting, but when we camp, he always likes to be back at our tent before dark. So, we stopped by a little gas station for firewood and made it back just as it was time to turn on the flashlights. After a few hours reading by the fire and roasting marshmallows, we got into our little tent and called it a night.
As soon as we woke up, we packed up and headed out for a long day ahead of us...remember, we planned to drive the entire Blue Ridge Parkway in one day! Before going too far, we stopped on the Parkway at the Peaks of Otter Lodge. On the maps, it was recommended for food and we were hungry. I'm glad that we stopped, but I'm not sure it I would recommend you do so. The views were truly beautiful, but the place was packed, the food was ok and the prices were high. We are always so much happier when we choose the road less traveled and find some local diners in the little towns that we pass by.
And this is where the fun begins. There are so many overlooks to stop and take in the view, we didn't have time to stop at every single one. But, since some are better than others, we would choose those! The views were amazing all day long and I definitely got my fill of mountains and fall colors.
One place that was recommended along the trail was the Mabry Mill. A husband and wife used to live here and work here. It was incredible and a good reminder of how easy my life is today. We don't even realize how many modern conveniences we take for granted! This was the next place recommended for food on the Parkway maps, but it was packed and we weren't too hungry for lunch yet, so we continued on.
Once we crossed over into North Carolina, Ironman wanted to stop by and see Linville Falls. The place was absolutely packed (again)...to the point that it felt a little scary to drive on the road where people had parked half on the Parkway and were walking carelessly in front of and close to passing cars. Luckily, we found a place to park near the entrance and took the short hike to the falls.
Because Virginia is farther North, we assumed that the fall colors would be better, but we were disappointed and worried a little that we wouldn't see any changing leaves. However, as soon as we passed over into North Carolina, we were pleasantly surprised. There was barely any green left and it had all been replaced by golden yellows, burnt oranges and fiery reds. It was beautiful!
There were tons of tunnels along the trail, but none as long as the tunnels that we remembered having to take in between the Faroe Islands...now, those were long tunnels!
We stopped for a late picnic lunch and then Ironman began to worry that we wouldn't get to our campsite before dark. So, we picked up the pace and didn't make many more stops. The sunrise over the mountains this morning was beautiful, but the sunset was even better because the blue tones really came out and highlighted the mountains.
It's a good thing we made it to Mount Pisgah Campground before dark because we had a pretty difficult time finding our campsite. There was a parking space with arrows that pointed for us to walk through this little section of forest. Then, there was a clearing and a painted on number so that we knew that we were in the right spot. I'm pretty sure, if we had arrived after dark, we would have ended up in someone else's tent site or slept in the car! Last nights campground hadn't had any showers (we didn't know when we reserved it), so we were excited to get to this campground, only to discover that the water main busted and the campground was asking everyone to pack up and head out the next day.
As soon as we got the tent set up, we needed to get out our flashlights...so we made it just in time again and Ironman was relieved. We hopped back in the car and headed down the street to have dinner at the Pisgah Inn, which was the last food place recommended on the Parkway map. It was so packed that they said we would have to wait 2 hours. So, we got "carry out", but even had to wait about an hour on that! It was crazy, but again, the views were absolutely beautiful. However, I wouldn't recommend eating there, but finding a unique diner in a small nearby town. You may even be the type of camper that cooks your food, so that works too...haha. We just don't usually do that because I like to try out the local places as we travel!
Before we knew it, it was Sunday morning and time to pack up and head back home! We stopped by Brevard, NC to walk around the little town and grab some breakfast at Quotations Coffee. Unfortunately, since it was a Sunday morning, most of the adorable little shops were closed, so we were only able to window shop (this time).
So, that was a quick weekend. We drove to the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway and camped in Virginia, spent the day driving down the entire parkway and then camped in the southern end of the Parkway. I love that we saw everything, all at once, so that we have a better idea of what is on the trail and what we want to come back and see and do. Next time, we will take longer (maybe a week) and enjoy more of the Parkway. I recommend this drive to everyone. It was relaxing, a good chance for Ironman and I to catch up, beautiful views everywhere, lots of little towns to explore off the Parkway, tons of campgrounds and so much more! If you don't want to do the entire thing, I recommend just going to the Transylvania County area. There are hundreds of beautiful waterfalls to see and, of the entire Parkway, that's the area where the leaves were the most colorful!
Have you been on the Blue Ridge Parkway? If so, what is your favorite spot? We would love some recommendations for the next time we head that way!