Picknicking on the Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a uniquely motorized experience, so there’s no surprise that the classic Parkway visit is a day trip that includes a roadside picnic. Fourteen major picnic areas line the route, often situated by scenic streams and lofty vantage points.
Parkway picnic areas can have restrooms, grills or fireplaces, water fountains, picnic shelters, and refuse disposal/recycling facilities. Larger sites accommodate groups (many mountain families, churches, and civic groups target the nearby Parkway for gatherings). Nevertheless, the picnic areas often have single tables situated off alone. Overlooks, parking areas, and some trailheads also feature tables, so be on the lookout. And some folks just pull off the road onto a grassy shoulder and throw a blanket by the car in the shade (this is permitted, just don't park where you'll damage the roadside).
Here are some major picnic spots—
Humpback Rocks Picnic Area (Milepost 8.5)—This picnic area’s 98 sites and restrooms overview the eastern side of the Blue Ridge.
James River Overlook (Milepost 63.8)—Tables, restrooms, and a visitor center sit beside the expansive James River as if flows through the Blue Ridge.
Peaks of Otter Picnic Area (Milepost 86)—These 62 picnic sites, and restrooms sit on the flank of Flat Top Mountain below Lake Abbott.
Smart View Picnic Area (Milepost 154.5)—
Encircled by a trail, this picnic area has 42 sites, restrooms, and a picnic shelter.
Rocky Knob Picnic Area (Milepost 169)—
Near the park’s contact station, there are 72 sites, restrooms, and a picnic shelter.
Groundhog Mountain Picnic Area (Milepost 189)—
Besides 26 picnic sites and restrooms, there’s a great view from an observation tower and an exhibit on the various rail fences favored by mountain farmers.
Cumberland Knob Picnic Area (Milepost 217.5)—
There are 33 sites and restrooms in the picnic area. Additional tables line the contact station parking lot beside a path to Cumberland Knob’s gentle summit where there’s a picnic trail shelter.
Doughton Park Picnic Area (Milepost 241.1)—
Fifty-six picnic sites sprawl east of the Parkway overlooking Bluffs Lodge. From the end loop, a short meadow walk and left on the Bluff Ridge Trail leads to a log cabin picnic shelter with fine views.
Jeffress Park (Milepost 272)—
Great valley views, restrooms, and thirty picnic tables flank the Cascades Parking Overlook, the start of a wonderful, 1.2-mile waterfall walk.
Price Picnic Area (Milepost 296.4)—
Located between Price Lake and Price Campground, 100 picnic sites and restrooms line a meandering stream at the start of the strenuous 4.9-mile Boone Fork Trail loop.
Linville Falls Picnic Area (Milepost 316.5)—
This picnic spot’s 100 sites and restrooms lie along the banks of the Linville River as it courses toward Linville Falls.
Crabtree Meadows Picnic Area (Milepost 340.2)—
South of Crabtree Meadows Campground, the picnic area’s 82 sites overlook an airy vista east of the Parkway. Restrooms.
Craggy Gardens Picnic Area (Milepost 367.6)—
Just off the Parkway in Bear Pen Gap, Craggy Gardens’ 86 sites are cool and breezy at 5,220 feet. Take the Craggy Gardens Trail and it quickly leads to a kiosk lunch site and on to meadow views from a classic, recently restored picnic shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Mount Pisgah Picnic Area (Milepost 407.8)—
On the west side of the Parkway, Mount Pisgah has 50 sites, with bear-proof trashcans, restrooms, and a .5-mile link to the Mt. Pisgah Trail (which creates a 3.6-mile strenuous roundtrip hike to the top).