Fall is swiftly approaching, and I can think of no better way to experience its crisp air and vibrant foliage than on a leisurely road trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Parkway stretches from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley to the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, with dozens of jaw-dropping vistas along the way. It’s a truly gorgeous stretch of the country, and fall is the perfect time to take it all in.
Fall foliage in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Start your trip with a rejuvenating stay at The Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Virginia. With a staff-to-room ratio of 4-to-1, this Relais & Chateaux property is full of charm and elegance, and the dining is sumptuous. Spend a day or two here before starting your journey along the parkway, which admittedly will be full of leaf-peepers in autumn. Just acknowledge that you’ll be taking it slow, and soak up the views.
The Inn at Little Washington
Your trip will begin in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, a vast mountain wilderness of oak, hickory, birch, dogwood and chestnut trees. History buffs will want to explore the Civil War history of the area, especially in the town of Winchester, which changed hands 72 times during the Civil War.
Continue on to Roanoke, Virginia, which is home to some great museums on African-American culture and history. The O. Winston Link Museum is also great for its 1950s photography—exploring the museum is like stepping back in time.
About two-and-a-half hours after you’ve left Roanoke, you’ll arrive on the North Carolina segment of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The next major town along the route is Boone, North Carolina. This mountain town is home to Appalachian State University, and it has a laid-back vibe. Go mining for gemstones at Foggy Mountain Gem Mine, or hike at Howard Knob Park.
Howard Knob Park, Boone
Just past Boone, you’ve earned yourself another day of pampering at a stellar hotel. Westglow Resort & Spa in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, is a destination in itself. With 10 spa treatment rooms, plus light-filled rooms for yoga, aerobic workouts and even individual sessions with personal trainers, you’ll be able to stretch out and relax after all that driving. Oh, and the views are spectacular.
The Relaxation Room at Westglow
It may be tempting to spend all your time in this magnificent hotel, but don’t miss the charming town of Blowing Rock. It’s dotted with quaint antique shops, galleries and restaurants. Fall is the perfect season to grab a cup of coffee and window-shop in the town center.
After you’ve had time to enjoy Blowing Rock and the facilities at Westglow, continue on to one of my favorite cities, Asheville. Asheville merits a several-day stay, as there’s plenty to do, including wonderful restaurants, music and shopping, plus the gorgeous Biltmore Estate, as well as plenty of great hiking within driving distance. Stay at the Omni Grove Park Inn (don’t miss drinks with a stunning view on the terrace) or at The Inn on Biltmore Estate.
Omni Grove Park Inn terrace
When you’re ready to savor the last bit of the Blue Ridge Parkway, continue on to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where you’ll have even more opportunities for hiking and strolling in the mountains. The foliage will be a stunning end to your drive, and you might even spot some wildlife, including bears, deer, elk and wild turkeys.
Have you ever driven the Blue Ridge Parkway? Any tips for avoiding the crowds during prime foliage season? Let us know !!