Southern Appalachian Mountains Vacation Ideas Southern Appalachian Mountains - Road Trip Planner

Places to Visit in West Virginia, Roanoke, Asheville, NC, Shenandoah Mountains

Things to do / Travel Guide

The southern Appalachian Mountains form a long strip running across the borders of West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee. The mountains are this region's lifeblood, and virtually every place you'll want to visit is connected to them. Either it's a scenic highway or trail, or a cultural or historical highlight. From the Mountain State – West Virginia – to the Great Smokies, the attractions in the southern Appalachian Mountains region will give you a whole new perspective of mountains and mountain life, less than a day's drive from most of the population of the Eastern United States.

The Appalachian Trail

You can't have the southern Appalachian Mountains without the Appalachian Trail. The trail starts in Georgia and ends in Maine, along the way running through this entire region start to finish. The highest mountain on the trail is Clingmans Dome, in Tennessee. The trail passes right through Harpers Ferry, parallels the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway in many places, and straddles the North Carolina-Tennessee border for more than 200 miles.

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Harpers Ferry National Park, as well as the town of the same name located within, is awash with history and scenery. The town is situated where the Shenandoah River meets with the Potomac River, less than an hour from the DC suburbs. Thomas Jefferson once called the area one of nature's most stupendous. It's the site of an old U.S. armory, and it's where John Brown led his abolitionist revolt. You can also go whitewater rafting in the waters, and hiking is also prime in the area.

Potomac Highlands, West Virginia

It's in the Potomac Highlands area, West Virginia's panhandle, that we meet the region's first mountains, the Alleghenies. Many outdoor activities are available in these scenic high and lowlands, and many more are specifically available along the Highland Scenic Highway.

New River/Greenbrier Valley, West Virginia

Biking, whitewater rafting, fishing, and rock climbing all dominate along the rivers in the New River/Greenbrier Valley area, in southeast West Virginia. Specifically, the areas to look out for are the New River Gorge, Bluestone River, and Gauley River.

Shenandoah Valley, Virginia

The Shenandoah Valley's attractions are the scenic Shenandoah Mountains and Shenandoah River, the fierce and decisive battles that took place during the Civil War, the verdant farmland, and the famous vineyards. The Skyline Drive runs mostly along the Shenandoah Mountains' western ridges, for spectacular views of the valley. Activities in the area include riding horses in the lush valley and farmland, going to see Natural Bridge, and seeing reenactments of the Civil War battles like the Battle of Cross Keys.

Luray Caverns, Virginia

Just west of the Shenandoah Valley lies Luray Caverns, the largest, and one of the best, series of caverns on the East Coast. Visit for the weird rock formations that look like columns, fried eggs, and jellyfish. The formations that look like an organ - surprise - really are an organ, and it plays actual music. You enter with a tour, which takes about 20 minutes; the caverns are open every day of the year.

Skyline Drive

This 105-mile road is its own National Park. It runs the length of much of the Shenandoah Valley; from the mountains it traverses the views are of the mountains themselves and of the valley far bellow. The best times to visit are in the spring, for the flowers, or in the fall, for the changing colors of the foliage.

Blue Ridge Parkway

From south of the Shenandoah Valley Nation Park, through southern Virginia, down into North Carolina to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park - the Blue Ridge Parkway allows you to see the Blue Ridge Mountains in all their glory. The whole route is almost 500 miles long, but the parkway itself is only 800 feet wide. You can get out of the car almost whenever you want and admire the scenery - mountains, meadows, waterfalls, cliffs, etc. Linn Cove Viaduct, in the North Carolina segment, is an awesome way to wrap it all up.

Roanoke, Virginia

This city is situated where the Roanoke River passes through the Blue Ridge Mountains. It's a good city to stay at while you explore the area, with nice bed and breakfasts. The city is smack on the path of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville has had a colorful past, and its present is quite bright, too. Artists, college students, retirees, and young professionals have all been drawn to this city in which the history was always respected and nurtured. The downtown is one of the nicest in the whole South, filled with Arts and Crafts and Art Deco masterpieces.

Biltmore Estate, North Carolina

This is one of the greatest members of mansions from the Gilded Age, and North Carolina's ticket to that exclusive club. It was built by George Vanderbilt, and today it remains the largest privately-owned residence in the U.S. Despite its private ownership, it's been open to the public for touring since 1930. At 175,000 square feet, how many times does your house fit into this edifice?

Mount Mitchell

One of the highest peaks in the Eastern United States, and the highest in the Appalachian Mountains - Mount Mitchell is a relaxing “walk in the park” up to the summit. It's located in the range called the Black Mountains, and the views from on high – 6,684 feet high – on a clear day, are special indeed. Fir and spruce trees line the ridge to the summit. The mountain is in the State Park that bears its name, and you can use the city of Burnsville, North Carolina as a landmark.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains is the most-visited National Park in the country, receiving most of its visitors from all over the South and the East. The range is the southernmost of the Appalachians, but to many it is the most beautiful. The Smokies get their name from the haze that perpetually hangs over them; the haze is natural and a product of the hydrocarbons the trees emit.

You can cross the park through the middle on U.S. Highway 441, and many trails and some more roads branch off from it. All in all, there are 850 miles of trails in the park, 51 official trails. Things to see include: Clingman's Dome - the highest mountain in the park, Mount Le Conte - the third-tallest mountain in the East, Cades Cove - a ghost town, and Cataloochee Valley - a ghost valley, where there used to be human settlement but there isn't anymore.

Knoxville, Tennessee

This country music-saturated city has in its past been a capital, a railroad stop, an industrial center, and a college town; it's been regarded as a city of the South, and of the Wild West, when Kentucky was about as far west as most Americans ever got. Knoxville is often called the Gateway to the Smokies. All these different facets shine forth on a visit, making it a great city to explore and soak up.

Places to Visit in Roanoke, Asheville, Smoky, Blue Ridge, Shenandoah and Southern Appalachian Mountains

Sort By: Rating | Name
Skyline Drive - Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Abingdon, VA
Greeneville, TN
Highlands, NC
Lewisburg, WV
Lexington, VA
Linville Falls, NC
Monticello, VA
Organ Cave