John Muir wrote, “the mountains are calling and I must go.” And so should you. Head straight for Virginia’s Blue Ridge and crush Friday with a long weekend of trail explorations.
We have picked our favorites for hiking, biking, and even paddling. Give them a go and show us how things look when you share on social media with the hashtag #BlueRidgeDay.
McAfee Knob | Catawba
McAfee Knob is perhaps the most iconic lookout along the Appalachian Trail, the 2,178-mile trek from Georgia to Maine. Without a doubt, it’s the most photographed. Once you make the three-mile hike out to the rock that looks like a diving platform, you’ll understand why. Panoramic 270-degree views showcase the Catawba Valley to the Roanoke Valley with North Mountain and Tinker Cliffs in between.
Roaring Run Trail | Eagle Rock
Roaring Run Recreation Area includes the Roaring Run Trail that leads to the 19th century Roaring Run Furnace, an iron ore furnace that happens to be on the National Register of Historic Places. As you make your way through the area, you’ll cross the run several times and encounter falls along the way. Roaring Run is a favorite place for everyone because it’s a fairly easy experience that pays off with memory-making moments.
Dragon’s Tooth | Catawba
The jagged spire amidst a rock outcrop atop Cove Mountain in Catawba is known as Dragon’s Tooth. It’s not an easy formation to access, but those who make it there are rewarded with a unique 35-foot geological formation (the Dragon’s Tooth itself) and sweeping views.
Carvins Cove Natural Reserve | Roanoke
Within the 12,500-acre Carvins Cove Natural Reserve are nearly 60 miles of trails – plenty of which are single track. The intensity and variety of the trail system have made Carvins Cove one of the top mountain biking destinations on the East Coast. Buckle up for thrilling descents like that of The Trough, or more magical experiences like a ride through the Enchanted Forest. As cliché as it sounds, there really is a trail for just about everyone at Carvins Cove.
Mill Mountain Park | Roanoke
Home of the Roanoke Star, Mill Mountain is a “must” for any cyclist coming to or living in Roanoke. Several trails of varying degrees of difficulty wind up and around the mountain, which offers nice views of the city below. There are about 10 miles of trails to choose from and plenty of incentive to reach the top. Picnic, take a #RoanokeStarSelfie, wander the wildflower garden, visit the Mill Mountain Zoo, and check out the Mill Mountain Discovery Center.
Explore Park | Roanoke
At Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 115 is Explore Park, one of the best places for mountain biking in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. More than nine miles weave through the park, including a trail that parallels the Roanoke River. Beware pedestrians and enjoy this beautiful space that is also on the Virginia Birding & Wildlife Trail.
Anyone visiting Virginia’s Blue Ridge without a bike can easily rent one from Roanoke Mountain Adventures, an outfitter that also offers guided trips.
The Upper James River Water Trail is a 64-mile paradise for paddlers and those who love to float … fishermen, too, for that matter. 59 miles of the trail are designated Virginia Scenic River, as the mountains put on quite a show as you float by. Guides and equipment rentals are available at Twin River Outfitters in Buchanan.
The Roanoke River Blueway is a 45-mile stretch of outdoor bliss. Paddle sections of the blueway to connect greenways for a well-rounded experience in and around Roanoke. The Roanoke River is great for tubing, kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. Don’t forget your Virginia fishing license! Consider stopping by Roanoke Mountain Adventures for kayak, SUP, and tube rentals!
At 32 square miles, Smith Mountain Lake is Virginia’s largest man-made lake. The on-the-water experiences are limited only by your imagination. Rent a boat or jet ski, swim at Smith Mountain Lake State Park beach, dine on the water with a Virginia Dare cruise, or let a carp suck your toes at Bridgewater Marina. However you choose to spend your #SML day, it’ll be better than any day in the office.
When you #CrushFridayVA, you’re reclaiming your vacation days, of which 662 million go unused each year. Such a travesty. Extend your weekend getaway in Virginia’s Blue Ridge when you take Fridays off and let your hair down.