While in all honesty there’s 100s of things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s something that is easy to miss out on if you’re not aware of how to properly explore this area and in this post that’s what I’m going to show you how to do, alongside 15 of the best activities and places to check out in this area!
I’ve personally driven through the Blue Ridge Mountains twice so far and the first time I came here, I completely missed out on about 90% of what was possible to see there and that’s because I didn’t understand the layout of the region and how to explore it correctly, something that happens to many first time visitors too but on the second visit, I was able to do and see way more thanks to knowing what I’ll be sharing with you in this post (with map listings included below).
Here are the 15 best things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains for your first visit:
- Drive through the Blue Ridge Parkway
- Check out Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Visit Gatlinburg
- Hike to Falling Spring Falls
- Explore the Linn Cove Viaduct
- Natural Bridge State Park in Virginia
- Stay in one of the countless cabins in Blue Ridge
- Grandfather Mountain State Park
- Visit Sliding Rock
- Cheaha State Park
- Visit Moses H. Cone Memorial Park
- Hike to Rough Ridge Lookout
- Check out Stone Mountain State Park
- Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
- Little Switzerland
Before I get into the details of these places, let me first explain some important things about the Blue Ridge Mountains just to give you some background/context on them so you can properly understand how to explore the area:
What are the Blue Ridge Mountains?
The Blue Ridge Mountains are basically the southern part of the Appalachian Mountains. I have included a Blue Ridge Mountains map to show you the overall Appalachian Mountain range plus where the Blue Ridge section of them is. To be clear, all of this is part of the same Appalachian Mountain ranges.
Where are the Blue Ridge Mountains located?
So you’ve seen which section of the US they are in in term of the Appalachian Mountains, but there are actually 9 states in which the Blue Ridge Mountains officially run through and here are the details:
- The southern end of the Blue Ridge Mountains begins in Alabama.
- It then crosses through Georgia, up through North Carolina, Tennessee and several other states.
- It officially ends in Virginia but the mountain range (the Appalachian Mountain range of which it’s part of) continues further northeast all the way until Maine.
- The Blue Ridge Mountains range is over 500 miles long.
Here is a Blue Ridge Mountains map:
Best ways to explore the Blue Ridge Mountain range:
Although the 15 things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains below will show you specific spots to check out throughout the 500+ of this area, it’s important to know that because this area is so large, some people to choose to explore either the whole area, some parts of it or stay within the state where the Blue Ridge Mountains are located and see spots there. In other words, there’s many ways to do a road trip through this area and here are some common options:
- There are many people who do a Blue Ridge Mountains road trip along what is known as the Blue Ridge Parkway road. This typically takes about 4-5 days in total and I’ll cover more details on that drive below. They will either start in Georgia and go up to Virginia, or vice versa.
- There are also some people who travel along the same drive via motorcycles.
- Some people do a Blue Ridge Mountains road trip through an individual state where it runs through and it also the case that every single state along the Blue Ridge Mountains range has tons of things to see and do (hikes, parks, attractions, hotels, cabins, etc…).
The best way for you to decide what type of road trip you want to do through this area is to do the following:
- Decide if you want to do a road through the Blue Ridge Mountains via multiple states (or all of them).
- Decide if you want to stick to one state and just explore the Blue Ridge Mountains there.
You can use the 11 attractions below to decide which places look most interesting to you and let that help you decide whether you want to explore the whole area, or stay in a specific part of it.
The 15 best things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains:
Each of the following activities can be found in one or more states that make up the Blue Ridge Mountains and I’ll be showing you where to locate these areas/spots:
1) Blue Ridge Parkway scenic drive:
The Blue Ridge Parkway is basically the main road that takes you through the entire Blue Ridge Mountains Range. The best way to explain why this road is so famous is that it’s basically a VIP look into the most popular parts of this whole Blue Ridge Mountain range.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is also in my opinion one of the best scenic drives in North America (based on the ones I’ve done so far) and it’s ideal to travel through it anytime but winter (you’ll see many more beautiful sights throughout the other 3 seasons there).
The great news about this drive is that there’s countless access points within the Blue Ridge Mountains, between Georgia and Virginia that will put you on that drive and from there you can elect to drive however long on it that you want, including the entire road that spans for over 400 miles! In addition to that the Blue Ridge Parkway also has countless scenic stops you can make which take you to amazing overlooks like this:
There’s a stop every few minutes or so on this road that will usually allow you to park your car and take a look at the views. The bottom line is that if you wish to enjoy the most beautiful areas in the Blue Ridge Mountains, hope into the road there, and let it take you to those spots (you won’t be able to miss them).
2) Great Smoky Mountain National Park:
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is actually the most popular place to visit in all of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s located in Georgia and the southern section of the mountain range. Within it there are so many beautiful overlooks, hikes and things to do.
It’s also worth noting that within the entire range, the highest peaks are located in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. However if you keep following the Appalachian Mountains further northeast, you will eventually come across even larger regions known as the White Mountains in New Hampshire (that’s not part of the Blue Ridge Mountains though).
It’s arguably the most popular city to visit and stay at if you’re visiting the Blue Ridge Mountains and it’s located right by Smoky Mountains National Park. I’ve stayed in Gatlinburg twice and there is so much to do in this city that I will soon be writing up an entire article on that. Overall it has many amenities such as hotels, supermarkets, restaurants, and entertainment areas to check out such as extension bridges overlooking the national park, amusment parks, ski lifts to check out, even a “space needle” type area and much more!
4) Falling Spring Falls:
This is one of the most amazing waterfalls and hiking trails I’ve seen in the entire region. This particular one is located in the Virginia section of the Blue Ridge Mountains. While there’s plenty of trails and waterfalls to explore all across the Blue Ridge Mountains, I’m going to recommend this one because it’s one of the largest waterfalls in the area, mixed in with beautiful swimming holes and hiking trails around it. You can hike to the top of the waterfall but the best trail to see it is from the bottom and you will see signs to check that out on the parking lot to this place.
5) Linn Cove Viaduct:
The Linn Cove Viaduct is the most iconic bridge in the entire Blue Ridge Mountains region! It’s also located in the North Carolina section of the area. In fact, if you ever look up images for Blue Ridge Parkway, mountains or similar terms, you will often see pictures of this famous bridge.
This was actually one of the sights I sought to explore on my Blue Ridge Mountains road trip but again because of a lack of proper research and/or knowing where to look for it, I missed it. I am happy to say that I did drive over it the second time I visited this place. Besides driving over it, there is a parking lot and hiking trail on the southern end of it that takes you parralel to it to get great photos from. That same trail continues further to another great overlook I’ll be talking about shortly in this post!
6) Natural Bridge State Park:
Natural Bridge State Park is located in Virginia and is slightly outside the Blue Ridge Parkway (maybe a 1 hour drive), but if you are starting your road trip from the south, around the Virginia area is where things may get a little repetitive in terms of views, so a good way to stray a little of course but stay within the confines of the Appalachian Mountains is to visit this incredible park. It’s very scenic, is easy to walk around and of course the main natural bridge there is stunning to check out.
7) Cabins and lodging:
As amazing as it is to do a road trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains, another thing to consider doing here is renting a cabin near one of the most popular spots in the region. This is another highly popular thing many people do when they travel here which is why there are a plethora of cabin availability there. For example:
Most people who check out Blue Ridge Mountains generally check out Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the nearest town to it (Gatlinburg) has a lot of awesome cabins you can rent. By staying there, not only are you close to this park thereby letting you explore more of it but the cabins here are awesome too, offering a lot of amenities and this doesn’t just apply to the cabins near Great Smoky Mountains, but all throughout the Blue Ridge Mountain Range.
8) Grandfather Mountain State Park:
Grandfather Mountain State Park is easily a top 5 place you have to explore when you travel through the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s located in North Carolina and is also really close to the Linn Cove Viaduct bridge I mentioned earlier. Although you do need to pay to enter the park, the sights and attractions on it are worth it. Aside from seeing the Blue Ridge Mountains from this area, this place also has an amazing extension bridge you can across and get amazing photos and experiences from, alongside great hikes in the area like this:
9) Sliding Rock:
Sliding Rock is an awesome attraction to add to your Blue Ridge Mountains road trip in my opinion as it is right by the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s one of the longest natural rock formations which is incredibly fun to water slide on and it’s also easy to find. There are also additional places right by it worth hiking to including another waterfall called Moore Cove Falls. One thing to know before going there is that you will have to slightly deviate from the Blue Ridge Parkway to get to the parking area of this attraction, but it’s only about a 5-10 minute drive from it.
10) Cheaha State Park:
Cheaha State Park is located in the southernmost section of the Blue Ridge Mountains (it’s actually in Alabama) and within this park is also the highest point in the state. I had visited Cheaha State Park in 2023 and at the time had no idea that is was actually part of the same Blue Ridge region, but when I saw the mountains there, it made total sense why that would be the case.
Although my visit to Cheaha State Park I got to do a few hikes, see some nice overlooks and check out a few attractions in the park that really made me appreciate and recommend this place for you as well. Now I would only come here if you’re actually planning to do a Blue Ridge Mountains road trip from Alabama, because otherwise it’s better to just start in Georgia or Virginia.
11) Moses H. Cone Memorial Park:
This is another iconic spot in the North Carolina section of the range where you can explore a beautiful mansion and resort. The Moses Memorial Park area is great for people looking to check out more historical types of activities on the Blue Ridge Mountains. Aside from the area, you can explore the popular Cone Manor, do horseback riding, explore the hiking trails and some small lakes in the area. I would say this is one of the top family spots to check out on your trip to this area.
12) Rough Ridge Lookout:
The Rough Ridge Lookout is a few miles north of the Linn Cove Viaduct (you may be able to see it from the photo above) and the same trail which takes you to the Rough Ridge Lookout does intersect with the same hiking trail from the Viaduct I talked about earlier, but if you’re more looking to explore beautiful spots in the Blue Ridge vs doing long hikes, then I’d do that hike separately from this one. In this overlook’s case, you will stop by the Rough Ridge trailhead, and head south for about 1/4 miles to the lookout. On the same lookout, you will have a boardwalk that gets you amazing views.
13) Stone Mountain State Park:
Stone Mountain is one of the most unique mountains in the entire region because it’s basically a “bald” mountain you can hike on and in addition to that there are also several other sights within the park you should see too including:
- Stone Mountain Falls (it’s a very tall waterfall, cascading too).
- There are campgrounds across Stone Mountain.
- Another beautiful waterfall hike there worth checking out is Widow Creek Falls.
- Now if for whatever reason you can’t go into the park because of timing, you can actually see the Stone Mountain Overlook right from the Blue Ridge Parkway which I linked to.
14) Blue Ridge scenic railway:
The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway is one of the most unique ways to explore the Blue Ridge Mountains because it is entirely by train and a loop ride meaning you can continue exploring the rest of the activities above (or before). The attraction is 20+ miles, several hours long, very affordable, highly rated and I would personally recommend you try to do this train ride in the fall if you can.
15) Little Switzerland:
This is a small town located right on the Blue Ridge Parkway (within North Carolina). I came across this place on my last trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a seasonal place to stay in but it’s basically a very small village with a lot of sights, attractions (not just the Blue Ridge Mountains but within the town) that you can enjoy. In addition to that, there’s also lodging within Little Switzerland worth checking out that is also right on water (it’s very scenic).
Blue Ridge Mountain Map Listings:
- Blue Ridge Parkway
- Smoky Mountain National Park
- Falling Spring Falls
- Linn Cove Viaduct
- Natural Bridge State Park
- Blue Ridge Mountain cabin rentals
- Grandfather Mountain State Park
- Sliding Rock
- Cheaha State Park
- Moses H. Cone Memorial Park
- Rough Ridge Lookout trail
- Stone Mountain State Park
- Blue Ridge scenic railway
- Little Switzlerland
Other questions about the Blue Ridge Mountains:
Where are the Blue Ridge Mountains?
The Blue Ridge Mountains are in the eastern United States and officially span from Georgia up to Pennsylvania.
Which state has better Blue Ridge Mountains?
The best views of the Blue Ridge Mountains are around the Georgia and South Carolina areas.
Are the Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Mountains the same?
Yes, the Smoky Mountains are part of the southern end of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
What is Blue Ridge Mountain known for?
The Blue Ridge Mountains are mostly known for having amazing mountain views and the blue hue in the distance of them.
What is the best time to visit the Blue Ridge Mountains?
In my opinion, mid April (better for spring colors and less crowds) or late September (to see the autumn colors) is the best time to visit and explore the Blue Ridge Mountains.
More places to see near the Blue Ridge Mountains:
Finishing up your Blue Ridge Mountains road trip:
With these 15 spots, you now have an awesome opportunity to explore the Blue Ridge Mountains and if it’s possible for you to pick when to go, I would recommend during the fall (usually mid to late October) so you can see the fall foliage throughout. Keep in mind that because this area is so large, the foliage may differ depending on how far south or north you are, so make sure to plan the trip based on that.
As I also said before, there are 100’s of sights to see in this area, but the good news is that the first option in the above list (which is driving through the Blue Ridge Parkway), you will be able to have access to most of those sights and will be able to add on as many as you like in addition to the spots I mentioned above, meaning you’ll be able to do way more on your road trip here!