Essential Guide to A Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip

Blue Ridge Parkway

Spanning 469 miles from North Carolina to Virginia, the Blue Ridge Parkway is easily one of the most beautiful and popular scenic drives in the U.S. It showcases the best of North Georgia and the Appalachian Mountains and even runs through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Blue Ridge, Georgia, or start from the beginning in Cherokee, North Carolina. You’ll follow Spur 60 all the way to Murphy, North Carolina, where you’ll switch to Hwy 74/19 and continue on to Andrews and Nantahala. The Parkway ends at milepost 469. A drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, whether for a few hours or for a day, is a must on a North Georgia getaway. 

The Blue Ridge Parkway is book-ended by two national parks: Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, primarily in Tennessee. Explore either for hundreds of miles of hiking trails, go horseback riding, enjoy biking, and more. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the country and is one of the only ones to offer FREE entrance year-round. Pop in to one of the visitor centers there for more information about the history of the area, outdoor activities, and more. 

What You’ll See Along the Parkway 

The drive offers visitors a close-up look at the biodiversity of the area. It’s home to a wide range of wildlife, varied terrain, changing climates, unique plants and flowers, panoramic views, waterfalls, natural wonders, picnic areas, small towns, and more. It also boasts lots of record-holding sights, including the eastern U.S.’s highest mountain peak (Mount Mitchell), North America’s oldest river (New River), the highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains (Whitewater Falls), the state of Georgia’s highest peak (Brasstown Bald), and the deepest gorge east of the Grand Canyon (Linville Gorge, home to Linville Falls, Milepost 316). 

One unique stop at Milepost 364 is Craggy Gardens, where rhododendrons grow tall and lush. Or you can stop by Blowing Rock, which is an interesting rock formation over the Johns River Gorge. Grandfather Mountain (seen from Linn Cove Viaduct) is another favorite stop along this drive. This International Biosphere Reserve houses 7 environmental habitats, so it’s home to black bears, cougars, bald eagles, golden eagles, white-tailed deer, and river otters. More fun stops along the way include Mabry Mill (milepost 176), Natural Bridge (about 15 minutes off the Blue Ridge Parkway), Blue Ridge Music Center (did someone say bluegrass?), the Folk Art Center, and Biltmore Estate – a sprawling Asheville, North Carolina estate with impressive rhododendron gardens. 

A Stop in Beautiful Blue Ridge

A scenic drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway will take you for hundreds of miles, through charming mountain towns, to historic stops, past rushing waterfalls, by scenic overlooks, and beyond. One of our favorite stops is in beautiful Blue Ridge, Georgia, a charming mountain town you have to see to really experience. 

Downtown Blue Ridge offers delicious farm-to-table restaurants, local sweet shops focused on the details, unique boutiques, art galleries showcasing local talents, and community events perfect for families, friends, and couples. 

More North Georgia Scenic Drives to Enjoy 

Cohutta Wilderness – 4-wheel Drive Ride
Looking to take the road less traveled…or at least the one road more challenging? Enjoy lush forests and a sparkling mountain lake on this scenic drive from Blue Ridge to Ellijay. Travel through the Cohutta Wilderness for about 3 to 5 hours, but be prepared. This drive is highly recommended for only 4-wheel drive SUVs – for people who are skilled and practiced driving this type of vehicle in tougher terrain.

Cohutta-Chattahoochee Scenic Byway 
This beautiful drive through the Chattahoochee National Forest takes drivers from Cohutta to Ellijay – with lovely mountain towns, scenic mountain vistas, historic sites, and state parks along the way. Pack up a picnic, turn on some tunes, and hit the road for this classic North Georgia scenic drive! Enjoy 50+ gorgeous miles of the most classic North Georgia sights. 

Popular Stops + Sights:

  • Dalton & Chatsworth
  • Prater’s Mill 
  • Fort Mountain State Park 
  • Chief Vann House Historic Site 
  • Apple Orchards in Ellijay (B.J. Reece, Hillcrest, and Red Apple Barn)

Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway 
Blairsville, Georgia 
Hwy 17/75, Hwy 180, Hwy 348, I-75
Winding its way for about 40 miles through the Chattahoochee National Forest, the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway lives up to its scenic name. Make your way to the highest point in the state of Georgia (Brasstown Bald) for 360-degree views, stop at scenic overlooks for impressive Blue Ridge Mountain views, and take breaks for waterfall hikes on this gorgeous drive. 

Popular Stops + Sights:

  • Duke Creek Falls 
  • Appalachian Trail 
  • Brasstown Bald 
  • Anna Ruby Falls 
  • Hidden Creek
  • Raven Cliff Falls 
  • Tray Mountain Wilderness 
  • Vogel State Park

Scenic Highway 197
The backroads are calling…and I must go. If you’re looking for lush, tree-studded drives, historic stops, great fishing, and sparkling lake views, a road trip on Scenic Hwy 197 is just the ticket. The drive begins in historic Clarkesville and highlights the beauty of the lakes, lots of local arts, and more. 

Popular Stops + Sights:

  • Lake Burton
  • Lake Rabun
  • Lake Seed 
  • Historic Batesville 
  • Moccasin Creek State Park 
  • Grandpa Watts’ Water Ground Mill 
  • Soque River 
  • Mark of the Potter 

Country road, take me home…will be playing in your mind on this beautiful drive. Wind your way through the countryside and stop off at state parks, historic sites, and some beautiful overlooks. The drive is about 76 miles roundtrip and can range from about 2-3 hours to a full day if you enjoy lots of great stops in Blue Ridge, Suches, Blairsville, and Morganton. 

Popular Stops + Sights:

  • Historic Skeenah ill
  • Swinging Bridge over the Toccoa River
  • Chattahoochee National Fish Hatchery 
  • Vogel State Park
  • Lake Winfield Scott 

Toccoa Ranger District Driving Tour 
Begin your scenic drive in Blue Ridge, Georgia, and make your way to the neighboring towns of Dahlonega and Ellijay. You’ll wind through the Chattahoochee National Forest for tree-studded views, rolling hills, fields of wildflowers, and wildlife. It’s about 100 miles roundtrip from Blue Ridge and includes some top North Georgia stops. 

Popular Stops + Sights:

  • Serenberry Vineyards 
  • Old Skeenah Mill
  • Suspension Bridge over the Toccoa River 
  • Chattahoochee National Fish Hatchery 
  • Suches
  • Chestatee Overlook 
  • Amicalola Falls State Park
  • Burt’s Farm 
  • Apple Orchards in Ellijay