Parkways, greenways, blueways, railways…they all conjure up a mental picture of scenic beauty, adventure, and exploration. There’s no time like the present to make that mental picture a reality.
Come travel all of the ‘ways of Virginia’s Blue Ridge.
NOTE - This post was updated in June 2019.
One of the most beautiful ways to explore Roanoke’s outdoors is by the series of trails known as the Roanoke Valley Greenways. The 30 miles of paved surface wind through neighborhoods, along parks, streams, and rivers, and offer some of the most stunning and underappreciated views of Roanoke and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Walk, cycle, or run from point to point, but be sure to appreciate the scenery and local highlights as you go.
Blue Sky Blueways
Free yourself for relaxation and fun on our rivers, or blueways, if you prefer. Blueways are water trails. Go with the flow to either connect to more streams or discover interesting stops along the way. Kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and even inner tubes are awesome ways to travel on a hot summer day in Virginia’s Blue Ridge.
- The Roanoke River Blueway is 45 miles long, beginning at East Montgomery County Park and ending at the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries boating access point at Hardy Road at Smith Mountain Lake.
- The Upper James River Water Trail is 45 miles long with many of those baring Virginia Scenic River designation. The Trail is broken into 11 segments beginning at the headwaters of the James River in Iron Gate. The trail flows to merge with the Maury River at Glasgow and ends in Snowden ahead of two dams. Four Class III rapids offer quite a ride on this blueway!
- At nearly 35 miles long, the Upper Blackwater River Blueway begins at the headwaters of Cahas Mountain and ends at Smith Mountain Lake. Class II rapids highlight this water-dependent blueway; keep an eye on the rain gauges to determine the best day for a trip.
- The Upper Pigg River Blueway is a short eight miles but they’re eight historic miles. This run from Waid Park to Lynch Riverside Park in Rocky Mount was an 18th century transportation lane for the area’s iron industry. Today it’s the site of the annual Pigg River Ramble held each May. The Franklin County Parks & Recreation Department has also recently launched a tube rental program at Waid Park!
America’s Favorite Drive
An unparalleled scenic drive in Virginia, the Blue Ridge Parkway courses through Virginia’s Blue Ridge offering a multitude of overlooks for travelers to stretch and get a view of the Valley below and mountains beyond. Expect to cruise at a peaceful 45 miles per hour on this legendary stretch of road; a good pace that allows time to pull over for views and attractions. Map of the Parkway access points in Virginia's Blue Ridge.
With our new train service on the Amtrak Northeast Regional line, travelers can ride the Amtrak train to Virginia’s Blue Ridge from cities like Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York, and Boston!
For the smallest rail fans and their families, the Zoo Choo at Mill Mountain Zoo is a must! Go for a spin around the zoo’s perimeter in a miniature model G-16 to see the animals from a different perspective.
No rail adventure around the region is complete without a visit to the Virginia Museum of Transportation and the O. Winston Link Museum. Walk through a history of the railroad in Roanoke, climb aboard locomotives, and appreciate the photography of O. Winston Link.