Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway: America’s Longest Scenic Drive

from The Most Scenic Drives in America | 217

10. Blue Ridge Music Center
Throughout the summer months, the warm air of the Blue Ridge Mountains echoes to the sounds of outdoor summer concerts featuring old-time and contemporary mountain music. A new music interpretive center is slated to open in summer 2005, and it will expand the already enjoyable offerings by sharing the history of mountain music in the region.

11. Cumberland Knob
The parkway crosses the Virginia-North Carolina state line just before milepost 217 in a rolling pastoral landscape of farms, fields, and forests. Among those who surveyed this boundary back in 1749 was Peter Jefferson, father of our third (and, Virginia is proud to claim, our most scholarly) president.

Just beyond the visitor center at the Cumberland Knob Recreation Area, you’ll find the intriguingly named overlook known as Fox Hunters Paradise. Here, accompanied by the doleful baying of hounds, hunters once galloped through the woods below in pursuit of the elusive red fox. This magnificent viewpoint looks out over steep tree-covered bluffs toward the gentler slopes of the Piedmont country to the east.

12. Doughton Park
South of Cumberland Knob the parkway curves gently through lovely meadows and passes into blustery (especially in winter) Air Bellows Gap. Farther ahead lies the serene and grassy Doughton Park area, where a restaurant, lodge, and campground welcome visitors. At dawn and dusk deer come to feed in these rolling fields, always alert and quick to bound back into the safety of the surrounding forest. Less shy are the tuneful juncos that hop and flit around the lodge.

13. Jumpinoff Rocks
Another of the drive’s whimsically named spots, Jumpinoff Rocks (dubbed by local folks) lies at the end of a half-mile path fringed with trailing arbutus and cinnamonbush. Once you get there, don’t jump off the rocks; just enjoy the lofty Blue Ridge Mountain panorama. Farther along the drive, past E. B. Jeffress Park and Deep Gap, the parkway crosses Daniel Boone’s Trace (near milepost 285), a path once scouted by the legendary frontiersman, mountain man, and farmer himself.

14. Moses H. Cone Memorial Park
Just before the turn of the century, Moses Cone, a textile magnate who was known as the Denim King, chose this site for his country estate he called Flat Top Manor. Building this mountaintop hideaway was not easy; materials had to be hauled up by oxcart. Once Cone was settled here, he planted several apple orchards and built 25 miles of carriage roads on his property; today, these shady lanes induce visitors to explore the nearby hills and lakes. Cone’s mansion, with its impressive columned entryway, is now a parkway crafts center and gift shop.

On the ancient slopes of Grandfather Mountain, a few miles farther along, the first signs of the spruce-fir forest of the North Carolina high country begin to appear as dark green swatches in the blanket of forest. Here, too, is the amazing Linn Cove Viaduct, bending gracefully around the eastern slope of the peak. Elevated on seven pillars to avoid environmental damage, the quarter-mile-long viaduct was formed of 153 individually designed segments. The bridge was dedicated in 1987 and marked the official completion of the Blue Ridge Parkway, 52 years after it was begun.