Ok…enough with the sentimental “I’ll miss Virginia boo hoo boo hoo” posts.
My wife and I were on a walk discussing where we would visit on a future return to the east coast. This post is what we imagined would be the PERFECT 11 day roadtrip.
Seriously…I want people to actually do this trip and tell me how it goes! I will be so envious.
After 3 years of exploration you can trust me that this trip would absolutely be one of your favorites of ALL TIME!
I’m calling it the Like a Bigfoot Ultimate North Carolina and Virginia Roadtrip.
DAY 1: ASHEVILLE, NC
Our favorite town in North Carolina (and quite possibly the country). Good food, good beer, any outdoor activity you could possibly want, there’s always something going on but it still feels like a small town.
Drive south on the Blue Ridge Parkway (particularly as the leaves are changing color in October), hike up some high bluffs around Black Balsam Knob, cool off by jumping into your choice of waterfalls (Skinny Dip Falls is our favorite), grab a late morning breakfast at Sunny Point Cafe, tour one of the thirty craft breweries in town, pick up some tacos from White Duck Taco and drive north on the Blue Ridge Parkway to experience the highest mountain east of the Mississippi, Mt. Mitchell, for a gorgeous sunset picnic. COME ON SON! PERFECT DAY! (Huge smile on my face writing this! Seriously this would be the absolute perfect day)
DAYS 2-4: LINVILLE GORGE
Spend the next few days backpacking around the Linville Gorge. You will find solitude and adventure as you hike around the “Grand Canyon of the East”. I ran Shortoff Mountain to Table Rock one day this summer and would highly suggest making a nice long 22 mile loop by traversing form there down into the gorge and hiking back along the Linville Gorge Trail next to the river! You could probably do this in two days, but should extend it into three so you can take in the views, cool off in the river, boulder up a few of the rocks, and really experience all the Gorge has to offer.
DAY 5: GRAYSON HIGHLANDS STATE PARK
Next I would drive north past Boone into Southern Virginia and spend a day and night backcountry camping in Grayson Highlands State Park. Hang out with wild ponies (who doesn’t want to do this!), check out the Rhododendron blooms and take in some of the best views in all of the Appalachian Mountains. The park is almost exclusively on balds (what Easterners call mountain tops without trees) so the views are jaw dropping. This would be a great place to spend a night just chilling out by the campfire, eating snacks made with a mountain pie iron!
DAY 6: HIGHWAY 58
Next, you HAVE to drive the Crooked Road (Highway 58) through southwestern Virginia. This is known as Virginia’s Musical Heritage and was significant in the history of Bluegrass music. Here’s an awesome New York Times article about this drive. Trust me though…gorgeous. This is what the south is all about- Maple tree-covered mountains, hills dotted with grazing cattle next to tiny red barns, winding rivers, quaint churches…the drive is absolutely perfect, so take your time and take it all in.
DAY 7: APPALACHIAN TRAIL (MCAFEE KNOB AND DRAGONS TOOTH)
Eventually you will veer north to Roanoke where you are within hiking distance of two of the prettiest spots on the Appalachian trail. Mcafee Knob is the most photographed spot on the 2,000 mile trail for a reason and, if you happen to get up there for a sunrise, get ready to experience nature at its best! Strap those hiking shoes on for a long day though…as a hike up and back Mcafee is 8 miles and Dragons tooth is at least 6 (Dragons Tooth is shorter but a lot more challenging as it is definitely a steeper and more rocky). If you get down in time then head into Roanoke and get dinner at the River and Rail restaurant. I’m adamant that it’s the best fried chicken in Virginia and I will arm wrestle anyone who disagrees!
DAY 8-9: SHENANDOAH VALLEY
You can’t go to Virginia and not visit the most popular national park in the nation. You can do more hiking along the Appalachian Trail and summiting Old Rag Mountain or you can choose to do what my family and I did every year….get a cabin and chill. Hang out in the forest next to the twisty and turny Shenandoah River and simply relax with a cup of coffee for the perfect morning.
DAYS 11-12: FALSE CAPE STATE PARK
Ok this is pushing it and a trip here will easily be the longest drive on the trip, but, as an Iowa boy, I feel like traveling to a coastal state necessitates a visit the ocean. So wake up early, drive 4-5 hours to the coast, and…this is super important…speed past the tourist trap that is Virginia Beach…as fast as possible! In my estimation, if you want a beach then you gotta earn the beach! People are not allowed to drive into False Cape State Park so you must earn it by backpacking in the 4 miles or by taking a boat. This park is a rare place of isolation on the east coast, which means you will have about 6 miles of pristine beach to YOURSELF! This has to be one of the only spots in the country where you can experience this, so a visit here is a MUST. Relaxing by a campfire with a bottle of wine on an empty beach sounds like the perfect way to end a vacation to me!
Hope you enjoyed this! If you want more specifics about trails, campsites, restaurants, directions etc, you can always comment below or email me at email@example.com and I’ll do my best to help you plan a trip!
As you can tell, my family and I have really enjoyed exploring this beautiful area of the country and writing this post has made me SUPER EXCITED to vacation here someday in the future(when my girls are a little older). Can’t wait to come back!