Explore Geology
geology fieldnotes title

Blue Ridge


Virginia & North Carolina

cover of park brochure

park geology subheading
Photo of a section of the Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina & Virgina

The Blue Ridge Parkway extends 469 miles along the crests of the Southern Appalachians and links two eastern national parks: Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains.

Parkway Highlights in Virginia
Mile 0: Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro, Virgini6h winds 105 miles through Shenandoah National Park. U.S. 250 and l-64 take you to Charlottesville to the east and Staunton to the west.

5 to 9.3 Humpback Rocks has a selfguiding trail through a reconstructed mountain farmstead. A hiking trail from the parking area (at mile 6.1) leads 0.75 mile to "The Rocks", whose humped appearance gives the area its name. Greenstone self-guiding trail to (8.8)

10.7 Ravens Roost offers vistas of Torry Mountain and the Shenandoah to the west.

16 Sherando Lake is a recreation area in George Washington National Forest 4.5 miles from the parkway via Va. 814. Swimming, picnicking, camping.

29 Whetstone Ridge provided many a mountain man with a fine-grained sharpening stone.

34.4 Yankee Horse supposedly is where a hard-riding Union man's horse fell and had to be shot. See a reconstructed spur of an old logging railroad by walking to Wigwam Falls.

58 to 63.6 Otter Creek runs 10 miles down the Blue Ridge to the James River. Otters don't play here anymore, but people do. Otter Lake (63.1), fishing, trail.

63.8 At the James River and Kanawha Canal a footbridge leads across the river to the restored canal locks and exhibits. A self-guiding trail goes along the river bluff.

71 Petites Gap is named for a local family. The road to the west goes to Cave Mountain Lake, 7 miles away, in Jefferson National Forest. Swimming, picnicking, camping.

79.7 Onion Mountain's short loop trail takes you through rhododendron and mountain laurel, which bloom in early June.

83.4 Fallingwater Cascades can be seen along a 1.6-mile loop trail.

84 to 87 Peaks of Otter has been a popular location to see spectacular views and sunrises since the days of Thomas Jefferson. A shuttle bus follows an old carriage trail to Sharp Top.

114.9 Roanoke River Gorge opens before you from the overlook at the end of a 10 minute walk.

120.3 Roanoke Mountain is a 3.7-mile side trip. The one-way loop road takes you over the mountain for impressive views. Steep grades; towed vehicles prohibited.

129.6 Roanoke was a small town until after 1881 when the Shenandoah Valley Railroad came to town. Now it is the largest community along the parkway.

154.5 Smart View is just that; go to the Trail Cabin built in the 1890s and you'll see "a right smart view," especially in early May when the dogwoods bloom.

165 Flame Azaleas set the plateau ablaze in tones from yellow to deep red in mid-May.

167 to 174 Rocky Knob rises like the cresting of a wave to overlook Rock Castle Gorge.

176.1 Mabry Mill was operated by E. B. Mabry from 1910 to 1935. A trail takes you to his gristmill, sawmill, and blacksmith shop. Old-time skills are demonstrated in summer, apple butter and sorghum making in the fall.

188.8 Groundhog Mountain is a good place to see different kinds of country fences— snake, post and rail, and buck. Picnic grounds.

Parkway Highlights in North Carolina
Mile 217.5 Cumberland Knob, at 2,885 feet, is a delightful spot to walk through fields and woodlands.

218.6 Fox Hunters Paradise, a 10-minute walk, is where hunters could listen to their hounds baying in the valley below.

238.5 Brinegar Cabin was built by Martin Brinegar about 1880 and lived in until the 1930s when the homestead was purchased for the parkway from his widow. The original cabin stands here today.

238.5 to 244.7 Doughton Park was named for Congressman Robert L. Doughton, a staunch supporter and neighbor of the parkway. One of the best locations to see deer. Campground.

258.6 Northwood Trading Post is sponsored by the Northwest Development Association to keep alive the old crafts within North Carolina's 11 northwestern counties.

260.6 Jumpinoff Rocks, at the end of a short woodland trail, offers a beautiful vista.

264.4 The Lump provides sweeping views of the forested foothills.

272 E. B. Jeffress Park has a self-guiding trail to the Cascades and another trail goes to the old cabin and church.

285.1 Boone's Trace, which Daniel Boone blazed to the west, crosses near here.

292.7 to 295 Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, is the Parkway Craft Center. Hiking, lake, 25 miles of carriage roads.

295.1 to 298 Juilan Price Memorial Park, the former retreat of an insurance executive, offers a variety of short trails and a lake.

308.3 Flat Rock, a quartzite outcrop, is worth the walk for the superb view of Grandfather Mountain and Linville Valley.

316.3 Linville Falls roars through a dramatic, rugged gorge, an area donated to the parkway by John D. Rockefeller. Trails to overlooks of the falls.

320.7 Chestoa's View trail provides spectacular scenery.

331 Museum of North Carolina Minerals interprets the state's mineral wealth.

339 Crabtree Meadows turn pink in May. Walk to Crabtree Falls. Campground.

342.2 The Black Mountains, named for the dark green spruce and fir, include Mount Mitchell, highest point east of the Mississippi River.

355.4 Mount Mitchell State Park, reached via N.C. 128, has a picnic area and lookout tower.

363.4 to 369.6 Craggy Gardens seem covered with purple rhododendron in mid-June. Craggy Pinnacle Trail (364.1), self-guiding trail (364.6), road to picnic area and trails (367.6).

382 The Folk Art Center offers a look at traditional and contemporary crafts of the Appalachian Region through interpretive programs, a museum, and library.

408.8 Mount Pisgah was part of the George Vanderbilt estate. The estate became home of the first U.S. forestry school and the nucleus of the Pisgah National Forest.

422.4 Devil's Courthouse is a rugged exposed mountaintop rich in Cherokee legends. A walk to the bare rock summit yields a spectacular view of Pisgah National Forest.

431 Richland Balsam's self-guiding trail takes you through a remnant spruce-fir forest. Highest point on the parkway, 6,053 feet.

451.2 Waterrock Knob provides a panorama of the Great Smokies. Trail, exhibits, comfort station.

458.2 Heintooga Ridge spur road goes to a mile-high overlook 1.3 miles from the parkway.

Mile 469 Southern End of the Blue Ridge Parkway intersects with U.S. 441 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cherokee Reservation.

park maps subheading

The General park map handed out at the visitor center is available on the park's map webpage.

For information about topographic maps, geologic maps, and geologic data sets, please see the geologic maps page.

photo album subheading

A geology photo album for this park can be found here.

For information on other photo collections featuring National Park geology, please see the Image Sources page.

books, videos, cds subheading

Currently, we do not have a listing for a park-specific geoscience book. The park's geology may be described in regional or state geology texts.

Please visit the Geology Books and Media webpage for additional sources such as text books, theme books, CD ROMs, and technical reports.

Parks and Plates: The Geology of Our National Parks, Monuments & Seashores.
Lillie, Robert J., 2005.
W.W. Norton and Company.
ISBN 0-393-92407-6
9" x 10.75", paperback, 550 pages, full color throughout

The spectacular geology in our national parks provides the answers to many questions about the Earth. The answers can be appreciated through plate tectonics, an exciting way to understand the ongoing natural processes that sculpt our landscape. Parks and Plates is a visual and scientific voyage of discovery!

Ordering from your National Park Cooperative Associations' bookstores helps to support programs in the parks. Please visit the bookstore locator for park books and much more.

geologic research subheading


For information about permits that are required for conducting geologic research activities in National Parks, see the Permits Information page.

The NPS maintains a searchable data base of research needs that have been identified by parks.

A bibliography of geologic references is being prepared for each park through the Geologic Resources Evaluation Program (GRE). Please see the GRE website for more information and contacts.

selected links subheading

NPS Geology and Soils Partners

NRCS logoAssociation of American State Geologists
NRCS logoGeological Society of America
NRCS logoNatural Resource Conservation Service - Soils
USGS logo U.S. Geological Survey

teacher feature subheading

General information about the park's education and intrepretive programs is available on the park's education webpage.

For resources and information on teaching geology using National Park examples, see the Students & Teachers pages.
updated on 01/04/2005  I   http://nature.nps.gov/geology/parks/blri/index.cfm   I  Email: Webmaster
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