The Blue Ridge Mountains are the oldest mountains in the world with one of the most diverse ecosystems of any deciduous forest. So this is one of the best road trips in the U.S. This section of the Appalachia mountains is in the Southeast U.S. from Western Virginia down to Western North Carolina, Eastern Tennessee, North Georgia, and Northwest South Carolina.
This road trip is one of the most Epic Road Trips To Take In The United States!
I grew up near the Blue Ridge Mountains in Tennessee, so I know this region well. My 12-day road trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains will let you experience the region’s best cities, waterfalls, hikes, scenic drives, and, of course, the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Parks.
So here’s the best itinerary for a Blue Ridge Mountains Road Trip!
3 Nights in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Start your road trip in the U.S.’s most-visited national park, the Great Smoky Mountains. This park spans the Tennessee and North Carolina border, but you’ll want to stay on the Tennessee side of the park on your first three days.
For your accommodation, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg have hotels for every budget and preference. You could splurge on Blackberry Farm, a luxury hotel and resort that’s one of the only housing options inside the park. There are also RV and campsites near every park entrance. If you’re here from April – November, you should consider glamping at Under Canvas Smoky Mountains.
Check out my Great Smoky Mountains National Park Guide for the best hikes, waterfalls, scenic drives, and guided activities. My top recommendations are Spruce Flats Falls (pictured above), Cades Cove, and the Foothills Parkway.
2 Nights in Highlands, NC
Get an early start on day four because you’re going to drive the Newfound Gap Road to the park’s North Carolina side. This is one of the most popular drives in the park, so starting early will let you beat some of the crowds. Take your time on this drive. There are many overlooks, and Clingman’s Dome is worth the short detour.
Once you finish this scenic drive, head to the Bryson City park entrance and drive the Road To Nowhere. This six-mile road takes you on a lovely drive into the park before dead-ending at a tunnel. This road was never completed, so you’ll find a wonderful trail system on the other side of the tunnel.
Then make the roughly hour and a half drive to Highlands, North Carolina, for two nights. This charming town is located high in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and it’s one of my favorite getaways in the Southeast U.S.
I recommend staying at the Old Edwards Inn and Spa or 200 Main. Top things to do in Highlands are savoring the foodie scene, driving the Cullasaja River Gorge (also known as the Waterfall Byway), and hiking Whiteside Mountain.
2 Nights in Asheville, NC
On day six of your road trip, leave Highlands and drive to Whitewater Falls. This is one of my favorite waterfalls, and you’ll want to make sure you see it from the Upper Overlook and walk down the stairs to the Lower Overlook.
Then head to Asheville, North Carolina. I recommend staying at the Omni Grove Park Inn, the Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville Autograph Collection, or The Inn on Biltmore Estate. Spend the rest of the day exploring downtown and the arts walk and treat yourself to a fine meal.
For your second day in Asheville (and the seventh day of your road trip), visit the Biltmore Estate. This lavish mansion is one of the most European-feeling places in the U.S. Plan to spend the whole day here touring the house and gardens, and then I recommend you do a wine tasting and/or a guided horseback ride through the property.
1 Night along the Blue Ridge Parkway
On day eight of your road trip, head north from Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Your driving goal for this day is to get to about mile marker 212 on the Parkway. This isn’t a very long drive from Asheville, but you’re going to want to spend the whole day making stops along the way.
The best places on the Parkway between Asheville and where you’ll want to stop for the night are The Folk Art Center, Craggy Gardens, Mount Mitchell State Park (highest point east of the Mississippi River), Linville Falls, and the Linn Cove Viaduct (pictured above).
My top recommendations for where to stay the night are Galax, Virginia (has a great music scene and the Blue Ridge Music Center), or Mt. Airy, North Carolina, of Andy Griffith fame (it’s just a short drive from the Parkway).
3 Nights in Shenandoah National Park
From wherever you stayed the night, you’re going to want to keep heading north on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Spend the whole day making stops along your way – my favorites are Groundhog Mountain Overlook, Mabry Mill, Rocky Knob, Roanoke Valley Overlook, Fallingwater Cascades Loop, and Sherando Lake – before arriving at Shenandoah National Park.
Lodging inside Shenandoah National park includes Skyland, Big Meadows Lodge, Lew Mountain Cabins, PATC Cabins, and five rustic campsites that open in the spring, summer, and fall. If you’re bringing an RV or motorhome, the campgrounds inside the park have no electrical, water, or sewer hookups, so you might want to reserve a spot at an RV park just outside the national park.
During your time in Shenandoah National Park, the best activities to do are Skyline Drive, Luray Caverns, Old Rag Mountain hike (strenuous), Whiteoak Canyon Falls hike (moderate), ranger-led activities, stargazing, and hike part of the Appalachian Trail.
Plan Your Trip
Need help planning your road trip? Then you should use Roadtrippers, my favorite app for mapping-out road trips and finding Roadside America stops. If you’re going to rent a car, then I recommend Momondo, and if you want to rent an RV (which would be SO much fun for a Blue Ridge Mountains road trip), you should use RVshare.
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This post is not a sponsored post, and, as always, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this Blue Ridge Mountains road trip itinerary are entirely my own. Some of the links in this Blue Ridge Mountains road trip itinerary are affiliate links, and, at no cost to you, I may earn a small commission.