10 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes in Virginia

Last Updated on October 19, 2021

A drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway – in particular the 215-mile stretch across Virginia – rewards with spectacular views of mountains, lakes, waterfalls and wildflowers.

Savor the views from the car, hop out for an easy leg stretcher hike or plan to tackle a more strenuous hike in order to enjoy far-reaching views from up high.

Best Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes 

Here are 10 of the very best Blue Ridge Parkway hikes in Virginia to add to your growing list of must-do hikes in the Old Dominion (ordered as you drive north to south).

#1: Humpback Rocks (milepost 5.8)

Whether you take on Humpback Rocks as a 4.3-mile loop or a 2.0-mile out-and-back hike, you’re guaranteed to be stunned by 360-degree views at the jagged summit.

The ascent to the top is not for the faint of heart, but thankfully a handful of benches and a wooden staircase ease the trek to the very top where vistas are plentiful.

On the way down, re-trace your steps or follow along a leafy stretch of white-blazed Appalachian Trail to make your return to the Humpback Gap Overlook parking area.

#2: Jack Albright Loop (milepost 5.8)

The 3.8-mile hike on the Jack Albright Loop (also known as Dobie Mountain) shares a parking lot with the above Humpback Rocks hike. This means plan to arrive early.

The Glass Hollow Overlook at the 1.0-mile mark (counter-clockwise route) is not to be missed for overwhelmingly beautiful panoramas of the Rockfish Valley.

Keep your eyes open for the remains of a 1960’s plane crash – a Beechcraft Bonanza. You’ll find what’s left of the wreckage up an unmarked spur trail at the 2.5-mile mark.

#3: Dripping Rock South (milepost 9.6)

The short and sweet Dripping Rock South hike originates across the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Dripping Rock parking area (more a pull-out than a parking lot).

The 2.8-mile out-and-back hike guides you along a forested southbound section of the Appalachian Trail. Along the way, you’ll be wowed by two scenic overlooks.

The first overlook appears at the .5-mile mark, while the second overlook arrives at the 1.4-mile mark and serves as the turn-around point for this hike.

#4: White Rock Falls (milepost 18.5)

White Rock Falls

There’s a lot to love about this 4.4-mile loop hike to and beyond White Rock Falls, including creek crossings, rock scrambles, a waterfall and scenic overlooks.

Get up close to the 30-foot-tall tumbling falls, then take your shoes off to revel in the refreshing waterfall basin. Ahh, delightful.

Less than .5-mile past the falls, settle in at a rocky overlook with panoramic views. At the 2.7-mile mark, the Slacks Overlook awaits with vistas and a picnic table.

#5: Apple Orchard Falls (milepost 78.4)

The 2.9-mile out-and-back hike to dramatic 200-foot-tall Apple Orchard Falls begins at the Sunset Field Overlook. But first, savor the panoramas from the parking lot.

As you take your first steps, you’ll quickly become enveloped by the rich, green canopy of the forest. Cross streams, even wooden bridges, on the way to the falls.

At the 1.1-mile mark, you’ll spy an inviting waterfall. Break to re-hydrate, but press on, for this is not the waterfall you’ve worked so hard to reach. Soon.

#6: Fallingwater Cascades (milepost 83.1)

Fallingwater Cascades Trail-Falls

The 1.2-mile out-and-back hike to Fallingwater Cascades begins just across the Blue Ridge Parkway from the small parking area.

This easy hike along a forested trail to a gently cascading waterfall is a nice break from an afternoon drive along the parkway. Take off your shoes for a splash.

The waterfall is small, but it does offer a refreshing respite on a warm summer day. This hike can also be done as a loop hike if you continue the trail just past the falls.

#7: Flat Top (milepost 83.1)

This strenuous 5.7-mile out-and-back hike sees an elevation gain of nearly 1,800 feet, but it’s a small price to pay for outrageously beautiful views.

On the way up, break at the false summit at the 2.1-mile mark. This rocky outcrop wows with scenic vistas. Skip Cross Rock. The spur is steep and it’s very meh.

There’s not one single viewpoint at the very top, so hop around to different rocky outcrops to savor the panoramic views in various directions.

 #8: Harkening Hill (milepost 85.6)

Harkening Hill stands in the shadow of Sharp Top, the most popular of the three Peaks of Otter, but the views from the top are no less breathtaking.

You can complete this hike as a 2.8-mile out-and-back hike or a 3.2-mile loop hike, traipsing along leafy and serene stretches of trail.

A short spur trail before the summit leads you to Balance Rock. It was unique and worthy of mention on a sign. A second “balance rock” wows past the summit (counter-clockwise).

#9: Johnson Farm (milepost 85.6)

Johnson Farmhouse-Front

This easy hike can either be done on its own or coupled with Harkening Hill. Begin just to the right of the Peaks of Otter Visitor Center, across the byway from the lodge.

The main attraction on this hike is Johnson Farm, a family farmhouse that was built in 1854. It’s since been restored and includes a weaving shed and apple house.

You’ll also pass by what was once Hotel Mons, a popular mountain resort complex that closed in the 1930’s. Today, there is nothing more than a large clearing.

#10: Sharp Top (milepost 85.6)

The 3.3-mile out-and-back hike wows with 360-degree panoramas from atop Sharp Top. Even better, there are stone walkways, stairs and terraces at the summit.

There’s even a stone shelter that was once a restaurant in the 1950’s and 1960’s at the top of what was once thought to be Virginia’s highest peak.

On the way down, make time for the short spur trail to check out Buzzard’s Roost. Climb the massive rock for spectacular views across the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Falls at Otter Lake

Of course, there are more hiking trails to enjoy across Virginia’s 215-mile section of the Blue Ridge Parkway, even scenic pull-offs like Otter Lake at milepost 63.1.

I’m hoping to tackle more of the trails further south on this scenic byway in 2021. For now, enjoy and happy hiking.