There are so many things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains, it would be impossible for us to cover all of them here, but we're sure going to try to hit on the big ones for you.
Things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains include: hiking, viewing wildlife, scenic drives, finding waterfalls, swimming, rafting, visiting attractions, and much more. When visiting the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains, you're sure to find tons of things to do everyone!
To give you just a few ideas of things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains, here are are our top 50 Things you MUST do in the Blue Ridge Mountains this summer!
1 - Hike to the top of Mount LeConte
Mount LeConte, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the quintessential Smoky Mountain Hike, offering a challenge, incredible views, and lots of scenic variety.
How often do you get a chance to hike up to the top of one fo the tallest peaks on the east coast AND visit a remote lodge? If you're a hiker, this is a must do activity, and be sure to get you an exclusive t-shirt that is only available at the very top! >> See our guide for details!
2 - Drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway
One of the most beautiful and scenic drives in the world is along the Blue Ridge Parkway through Virginia and North Carolina. The views along the 469 mile long Blue Ridge Parkway, from Skyline Drive in Virginia, to Cherokee the western border of North Carolina.
The Parkway is full of scenic views, historic stops of interest, waterfalls, hiking trails, and wildlife. This is one drive everyone should do, and should be on the top of your list! >> See our Blue Ridge Parkway guide for details!
3 - See the Elk in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Hundreds of years ago, Elk were a common site in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but were eventually hunted out and became extinct. In 2003, they were reintroduced into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Cataloochee Valley, and have prospered.
Today they can be found in Cataloochee Valley, Maggie Valley, Cherokee, and Bryson City. They are amazing to watch from a distance, especially in the Fall during Rut Season. >> Learn more about the Elk in our guide!
4 - Hike to the top of Clingman's Dome
The Highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at 6,643 feet never fails to deliver. The drive to Clingmans Dome is an adventure itself, at 7 miles to the parking area. The parking area provides stunning views, but for even better views, you can hike up the steep .5 mile trail to the concrete observation tower, for full 360 degree views, that are outstanding.
Clingmans Dome is not far from Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge TN.
The weather can be very unpredictable at "the dome", so dress in layers, and don't be too disappointed if it's a bit fogged in. While at the time, take a quick side adventure on the Appalachian Trail that runs right next to the Observation tower! >> See our Clingmans Dome guide for more information
5 - Stand on the top of North Carolina's Highest Mountain
Mount Mitchell, at 6,684' in elevation, is the tallest mountain in North Carolina and the highest point east of the Mississippi. Mouth Mitchell State Park is located off the Blue Ridge Parkway, north of Asheville NC. Mount Mitchell State park is beautiful, and offers incredible views, dense evergreen forest, hiking and recreation areas.
The highlight of your visit will be the summit and observation deck, providing 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains. We also recommend hiking on the nature trail as well.
>> Visit the website for more information
6 - Visit one of the most iconic structures on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Mabry Mill
One of the most, if not the most famous historic structure on the Blue Ridge Parkway, is Mabry Mill at Milepost 176 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia near Floyd Virginia. This operating and historic mill has been an attraction for visitors for many years, and is a favorite stopping point along the Parkway.
You can visit the mill, see cultural demonstrations, and see the decades-long tradition of Sunday afternoon music and dancing. Be sure to stop by the restaurant and gift shop as well. >> Learn more about Mabry Mill
7 - Watch a sunset at Waterrock Knob
One of the highest points on the Parkway, Waterrock Knob provides stunning views of the surround Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains, from the parking lot.
One of the unique aspects of this observation area, is that it provides both sunrise and sunset views. You'll often find Parkway visitors here in the evenings to enjoy a sunset, while the kids play in the fields in the middle of the parking area. Located not far from Maggie Valley NC
For a more brisk adventure, hike up the short but steep trail to the top. There are restrooms and a gift shop here as well. >> See our Waterrock Knob Guide for more information
8 - Drive down the back mountain, Heintooga Round Bottom Road
One of the best and most beautiful back mountain roads you can drive is Heintooga Round Bottom road, which winds its way down the mountain sides for 14 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Cherokee. The road is gravel, and often rough in some locations. Along the way, you'll see wildflowers, scenic views, creeks, waterfalls, and wildlife.
While a 4x4 isn't required, it is recommended just for ground clearance. >> See our Heintooga Round Bottom Road Guide for more information
9 - Ride the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Bryson City NC
All aboard, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, departing daily from Bryson City NC. This wonderful tourism railroad offers both steam and diesel train rides to various locations and lengths. All of them offer beautiful views fo the surround Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains, and are fun for the whole family.
They also offer a number of unique event excursions for holidays, dinner trains, and more. >> Learn more about the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, on their website.
10 - Stand on top of the Chimney, at Chimney Rock State Park
Chimney Rock State Park, has been attracting visitors since the late 1800s, when it was originally opened to the public. The massive chimney, that you can stand on top of, provides incredible views of Lake Lure NC and the surrounding mountains. Chimney Rock provides hiking trails, and incredibly beautiful waterfall, and mind-blowing views.
The park makes for a great weekend destination, with surround accommodations in Chimney Rock and Lake Lure NC. >> See our Chimney Rock State Park Guide for more information.
11 - Buy fresh ground corn meal at Mingus Mill, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
One of the most technologically advanced mills during it's time, Mingus Mill, located near the Oconoluftee Visitor center makes for a wonderful historic visit. This operating (during the summer) mill, is not only beautiful, but fascinating to watch. The mill operates daily, and you can purchase ground corn meal in the mill itself.
Bring the family, and spend some time in the creek and hike around the mill itself. >> Learn more about Mingus Mill in our guide.
12 - Go swimming in the crisp and cool waters of Midnight Hole
One of the most beautiful and popular swimming holes is located in in the Big Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Midnight hole provides crisp, cool and clear waters to cool off in on a hot summer day. "The hole" also provides large rocks you can jump off of, and plunge into the deep waters.
To reach Midnight Hole, it's a 3 mile roundtrip hike, and well worth it. >> See our Guide to Midnight Hole for more information
13 - Walk behind a waterfall, at Dry Falls
Dry Falls, contrary to its name, is anything but dry. Dry Falls is located off Highway 64 hear Highlands NC, and is a beautiful heavily flowing waterfall that you can actually walk behind. There is a short trail from the parking lot that takes you down to the falls, and under and behind it.
For those who cannot walk or hike down, there is a very nice viewing area that provides a beautiful view of Dry Falls. >> See our Dry Falls Guide for more information
ALWAYS PRACTICE LEAVE NO TRACE: Learn all about how you can be a good steward of these mountains when visiting.
14 - Shop at Mast General Store
No visit the mountains of North Carolina is complete without a visit to one of the many Mast General Store locations. The original store opened in Valle Crucis in 1883, and very quickly became the largest general store in the area. Since then the store has expanded to many other locations, including: Waynesville, Asheville, Hendersonville, Boone, and other locations.
Each store still retains that old-timey store feeling, with lots of merchandise for sale, old-time candy barrels for the kids, and outdoor clothing and food items. >> Learn more about Mast General Store
15 - Have dinner at the famous Daniel Boone Inn in Boone NC
The Daniel Boone Inn, located in Boone NC has been serving home cooked meals, just like Grandma used to make, for over 50 years.
Their family family style meals are very popular with visitors, and the Inn is considered a must stop for good eats in the Boone and Western NC areas of the Blue Ridge Mountains. >> Learn more about the Daniel Boone Inn
16 - Visit Dollywood
When most people think of the mountains, the name Dolly Parton often comes to mind. In addition to singing, Dolly really knows how to create a wonderful amusement park, that provides fun for the whole family.
Dollywood is located in Pigeon Forge TN, and is the goto amusement park for the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains. The park features thrilling rides, live shows, a waterpark, accommodations, excellent food, and is just absolutely beautiful, with its mountain theme. >> Learn more about Dollywood
17 - Have dinner at the Old Mill, in Pigeon Forge TN
One of our favorite places to eat when visiting Pigeon Forge TN is The Old Mill restaurant. The Old Mill is exactly that, a 200-year old Mill that has been turned into a really excellent family restaurant and set of associated shops.
The restaurant serves hearty Southern classics in a family-style and beautiful historic setting. The food is delicious. While waiting, you can explore the mill grounds, go down by the water, and shop. >> Learn more about the Old Mill Restaurant
18 - Explore underground at Luray Caverns
Luray Caverns is one the largest and most beautiful underground caves in the Eastern United States. The caverns are located just outside of Luray Virginia, in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley.
Visit Geology’s Hall of Fame. Tours along lighted, paved walkways lead visitors through cathedral-sized rooms with ceilings 10-stories high, towering stone formations, and natural wonders at every turn. >> Learn more about Luray Caverns
19 - Ride the Blue Ridge Railroad in Blue Ridge GA
Another wonderful train ride in the southern Blue Ridge mountains is the Blue Ridge Scenic Railroad, located in popular Blue Ridge GA. The train has multiple excursions through the surrounding mountains and countryside of Blue Ridge GA.
The train has a 2-hour layover in a town that sits on the border of TN and GA, so you can stand in two states at once! >> Learn more about the Blue Ridge Scenic Railroad
20 - Visit a natural bridge in Virginia
Natural Bridge State Park, is located in Natural Bridge Virginia, and is a popular destination for those visiting the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains. The park is the 37th state park in the United states, and features the 215-foot tall Natural Bridge. The bridge is naturally carved by Cedar Creek, which flows below it.
You'll also find beautiful forest, scenic views, hiking trails, a waterfall, an Indian village, and visitor center.
21 - Zipline through the tree tops
Zipping through the forests and mountains of the Blue Ridge is an experience that is beyond exhilarating, and an experience we would highly recommend. Fortunately there are a number of places you can visit.
We have done a visited a number of them, and really enjoyed Canopy Ridge Farm in Lake Lure NC (featured in our video above), and Navitat Canopy Adventures north of Asheville NC. Both provide great guides, wonderful scenery, and great courses.
22 - Go white water rafting
An incredibly popular outdoor activity in the Blue Ridge Mountains is white water rafting. You get to experience the thrill of going over the rapids, enjoy the incredible scenic views, and marvel at the surrounding mountains, and crystal clear water.
There are literally hundreds of wonderful rafting companies in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but our favorites are: The Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) and Wildwater Pigeon.
23 - See the triumphant story of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
More than six million people have seen and loved the heart-wrenching action and soaring triumph of this historic Cherokee story. “Unto These Hills” has shared the tale of Cherokee life from 1780 to the twenty-first century with visitors. >> Learn More about Unto These Hills
24 - Go on a Safari in the Virginia mountains!
You wouldn't think you could go on a family Safari in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, but you sure can! This 180 acre property is a drive-through Safari, where you can see the animals run with abandon. You can take your time as you drive through the 3-mile safari, and even feed the animals through your vehicle windows! >> Learn more about Virginia Safari Park
25 - Visit the waterpark at Massanutten in Virginia
Massanutten waterpark, located in the massive 6,000 acre mountain retreat of Massanutten Resort, is both an indoor and outdoor waterpark, located in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
The resort as accommodations and numerous activities, beyond just the waterpark. The park includes numerous slides, pools, and water activities for all ages. >> Learn More about hotels and cabins near Massanutten
26 - Go tubing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Tubing in the Blue Ridge Mountains is always popular in the warm summer months. What makes tubing in Deep Creek a little different, is that you're in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The water is crisp and cool, you're surrounded by natural mountain forest and scenery, and it's very inexpensive. There is a campground in Deep Creek, and Bryson City NC is nearby for restaurants, hotel and cabin options.
27 - Go tubing in Helen GA
Shoot the 'Hootch! Helen GA is a popular destination in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia, the town is famous for its Bavarian architecture and culture, as well as being nearby to a number of attractions. Helen is full of restaurants, shops, hotels and cabins.
Helen is also a popular spot for tubing, where you can enjoy hours of tubing along the Chattahoochee River through Helen.
28 - Visit an old Mountain Farm
Located just outside of Cherokee NC, at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is the Oconoluftee visitors center, which features a historic mountain farm museum. During the summer months, the museum is very active with displays and live animals.
The structures are original, and brought in from various locations in the national park. Be sure to explore the beautiful Oconoluftee River while there, and visit nearby Mingus Mill. >> Learn more about the Oconoluftee Visitor Center
29 - Walk across the mile high swinging bridge
Located near the top of Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, visitors have been walking across the "Mile high swinging bridge" for decades. The bridge opened in 1952, and is at an elevation of 5,305 feet, between two peaks near the top of the mountain. Grandfather mountain also features hiking trails, gift shops, a zoo, museum, and other activities. >> Learn more about Grandfather Mountain
30 - Go horseback riding in high elevations of the Blue Ridge
Take a horseback ride through the Blue Ridge and/or Great Smoky Mountains for a unique way to see these beautiful mountains, and explore them. Riding is available for everyone, and for different skill levels.
Many of the stable options provide various riding options, including mountain top rides for incredible views. We highly recommend Smokemont Ridging Stables in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
31 - Explore the abandoned Daisy Town resort
Located in the historic logging area of Elkmont, Daisy Town was a mountain getaway for the more affluent from nearby Knoxville. The famous Appalachian resort closed down with the formation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the 1930s, and today, Daisy Town is literally a Ghost town in the mountains.
Elkmont isn't far from Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge TN. Visit and explore this unique historic area, and walkthrough the restored old homes. >> Learn more about Elkmont
32 - Try to find the historic hidden cabin of artist, Mayna Treanor Avent
Mayna Avent was a famous artist, often spent the summer in her cabin, how located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This cabin, built in 1845 and purchased by the Avent family in 1918, was used as her summer art studio for 20 years.
The cabin has been restored and is maintained, and you can both visit and walk through this historic site, located in the Elkmont area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Be sure to visit the small room off the main porch, which has a guest registry, copies of Mayna's artwork, and information on the cabin itself. See our Elkmont Guide for information on how to access this beautiful old cabin.
33 - Plunge off the boulders at Midnight Hole
Nothing says summer fun for families, than waterparks, and what's even better? Natural waterparks. Look no further than Midnight Hole in the Big Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At Midnight Hole you can swim in the crisp crystal clear waters of Big Creek, or for the more daring, jump from the tall rocks, and plunge into the deep waters.
This is an adventure your family and kids will remember, and will be itching to come back to.
34 - Drive the 11-mile loop road through Cades Cove to see historic buildings and wildlife
The most visited area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and for good reason, is Cades Cove. This historic settlement area, located in the Eastern TN section of the park is full of history, wildlife, beautiful scenery ... and bears.
While there are black bears all throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, your chance of seeing one in Cades Cove is significantly higher than any other area of the park.
In Cades Cove you can drive the 11-mile loop road, to see the entire Cove, historic structures, wildlife, and to access the hiking trails, and the incredibly popular Abrams Falls. Be sure to stop at he visitor center at the half-way mark, and tour the mill. Oh, and the nice cream at the Trading Company, at the beginning and end of the loop is a MUST.
35 - Visit and ride the historic Tweetsie Railroad in Boone NC
Visit the Carolina's first theme park and return to the wild west as you ride behind Tweetsie's historic narrow gauge steam engines, and experience the thrills of the amusement rides, live shows, food and family-fun!
For more than 60 years, Tweetsie Railroad, located in Blowing Rock NC, as been providing families with memories and Wild West Adventure. The park is on the National Register of Historic Places, and has something for the whole family to enjoy. Be sure to check-out their annual events as well, such as A Day Out with Thomas, Ghost Train, and Tweetsie Christmas!
36 - See the tallest waterfall on the east coast, at over 800 feet tall
Whitewater Falls is located in Gorges State Park, near Sapphire and Highlands NC. It may surprise you to know, that Whitewater Falls from top to bottom, is over 800' tall AND the largest waterfall on the East Coast - Yes, taller than Niagra.
This stunning Falls is also Handicap accessible to the viewing deck (assistance is recommended), and you the more adventurous can hike down to the base of the falls as well.
37 - Slide down a natural rock waterslide
Sliding Rock, located near Brevard NC is one of the largest natural attractions in North Carolina. This natural roadside water slide attracts families from all over, who love sliding down the smooth rocks, and plunging into the crisp and cool pool below.
Get there early, as the parking area fills up fast. There are lifeguards on duty during prime season and a small admission fee to enter. Trust us, your kids and grandkids will LOVE this place.
38 - Take the kids mining for Gems
The Blue Ridge Mountains are full of gem mines, where kids and adults can pan the waters for hidden treasure and learn a little bit about geology while they're at it. See our favorite Gem Mines in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
39 - Visit an Apple Festival
When many people think of Fall in the Blue Ridge Mountains, they think of beautiful color, crisp cool temperatures, and Apples. Apples? Yes, Apples. Mountain Apples in the Fall are a special treat, and have been for centuries. In fact, many areas have been celebrating annual Apple Harvests for many many years.
Apple Festivals have apples (of course), baked apple goods, apple treats, live music, arts, crafts, dancing, games, and much more. Two of the largest Apple Festivals are the annual Waynesville NC Apple Festival and the NC Apple Festival in Hendersonville NC. Ellijay GA also has a number of Apple festival and events each year.
40 - Have a picnic, and watch the Sunset with 360 degree views
Grab some take out, or stop by the grocery store to grab some food, and then head up into the higher elevations for a picnic and a sunset. One of our favorite spots is Waterrock Knob, near Maggie Valley NC off the Blue Ridge Parkway, but there are many others, including Doughton Park in North Carolina (pictured above).
41 - Explore below the mountain at Linville Caverns
Various areas of the Blue Ridge Mountains have natural caverns that you can visit and explore. These underground caverns offer a unique way to see the mountains from a different perspective, and many have very interesting histories. For example, Linville Caverns has a bottomless pool, and was also used as Civil War hide-out for deserters.
Notable Caverns you and your family can explore include: Luray Caverns in Virginia, Linville Caverns in NC, and Forbidden Caverns and Ruby Falls in TN.
42 - Find the "Hiker's Tunnel" in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Located under the road to Clingmans dome, this hidden tunnel, commonly called the "Hiker's Tunnel" is driven over my 10s of thousands of people per year. Most, don't even know it's there. The tunnel is historic and part of the remains of an old trail that used to go through the area until the park moved some roads for better accessibility.
Can you find it?
43 -Visit the most popular waterfall on the Blue Ridge Parkway
The most popular waterfall on the Blue Ridge Parkway, is located at MP339.5, and just 1.5 miles down a trail. This 70 foot, heavy flow waterfall is stunning and incredibly photogenic, making it a very popular destination for parkway visitors.
If you're traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway, or just love finding waterfalls, Crabtree Falls should be on the top of your list. >> Learn all about Crabtree Falls in our guide.
44 - Pick Fresh Mountain Apples
In #39, we talked about how mountains and apples just kind of go together. Well, did you know that not only can you visit and get fresh mountain apples in the Fall, but you can also pick your own at select Apple orchards?
This is a great family activity, and will definitely help the kids realize that Apples just don't grow on trees ... oh wait, nevermind. Anyway, Apple Orchards in the Blue Ridge Mountains often have lots more to do, including games, hayrides, samples of baked apple products, and much more.
Visiting a Blue Ridge Mountain Apple Orchard is a great way to not only bring home some delicious apples, but to spend some great family time in the mountains as well.
Top Orchards that we would recommend include: Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge GA, The Orchard at Altapass, off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Grandad's Apples in Hendersonville NC.
45 - Ring the bell at the old Church in Little Cataloochee
Many have heard of Cataloochee Valley, and driven through to see the Elk. That part of Cataloochee Valley is called "Big Cataloochee", but did you know there is a "Little Cataloochee" as well? There is, but you can't drive to it, you have to hike. BUT, the hike is beautiful, well worth it, and along the way, you'll see a number of historic buildings, and be taken back in time.
The highlight of the hike is Little Cataloochee Baptist Church. This old restored church sits on the the top of a mountain, and has been fully restored to the way it was. The church also has a historic graveyard, with many old graves. The church even has a working bell you can ring, and the sounds of that bell echoing through the hollers of Cataloochee Valley will transport you to Sunday mornings, when everyone gather at the church.
46 - Follow the Yellow Brick Road
Did you know, that the remains of a very popular 70s theme park still opens a couple of times a year? Yes, you can visit the mountains of Western North Carolina, and follow the yellow brick road! The closed (but not open again), Land of Oz theme park, opens a few times a year for special events, that well, are just amazing.
The highlight event is Autumn in Oz, where you can visit the park, do the self guided tour, visit Dorothy's home, have to run inside when the tornado arrives, and then appear in the Land of Oz. Once there, you get to travel the yellow brick road and meet all of the characters, and then finally arrive in Emerald City to see the Wizard.
The park has been restored, and is simply beautiful and a real treat for both children and adults to visit. Land of Oz is located in Beech Mountain NC.
47 - Stand at the top of an old Fire Tower
Fire towers in the early 1900s were prevalent, and key to early identification of fires. In today's world, with aircraft, cell phones, and drones, most fire towers are gone, and the ones remaining really aren't used, and just remain as historical structures.
Fortunately there are a few that remain in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and make for excellent adventures, and deliver spectacular views. One very popular one is Frying Pan Tower at MP450. The fire tower is visible from the Parkway, and about a 1.5 mile hike from the parking area.
The tower is generally open, and you can climb to the top for incredible 360 degree views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.
48 - Visit the largest privately owned home in the US
The largest privately owned home in the United States is located in Asheville NC. Biltmore Estate opened on Christmas eve in 1895, after nearly 6 years of construction. The estate consisted of 625,000 acres, most of it now Pisgah National Forest. The home was built by George Vanderbilt, and Asheville was selected due to Mr. Vanderbilt's love of these mountains, and the city of Asheville.
Today, the home and gardens are open to the public. The estate now has multiple restaurants, shops, a winery, and more. The house and grounds are simply gorgeous, and offer visitors an exceptional experience.
49 - Explore to Gorge in Georgia's Blue Ridge
We had no idea there was a beautiful gorge and waterfall in North Georgia. We just happened to be driving back from a visit to Helen, GA and decided to check it out. Turns out, Tallulah Gorge is a great hike, absolutely beautiful waterfall, and has a super cool suspension bridge that you can cross over.
Tallulah Gorge is definitely a place you should visit for beautiful views, and a gorgeous waterfall. We visited in the Fall, and the colors and scenery were stunning.
50 - Climb to the top, where the Devil holds court
Devil's Courthouse, at MP422.4 is a popular stopping point along the Blue Ridge Parkway, due to the beautiful long distance views, and large rock faces of the mountain itself.
What many don't realize is that you can also make the short but steep hike up to the very top for more incredible views. The woods that you hike through on the way up are gorgeous, making this a nice hike, that delivers fantastic views at the end.
The name of the mountain roots to Cherokee folklore, where they believed the Devil had court in the caves below the mountain.