With 10 states in our coverage, we know there are hole-in-the-wall restaurants, off-the-beaten path views, and treasured local events that slide under our radar. That’s why we asked you, the reader, to help us in finding the best destinations, personalities, events, outdoor businesses, and après-adventure fuel in the Blue Ridge! Here are the 87 bests from Georgia to West Virginia.


Hiking Trail

Greenbrier River Trail, W.Va

RUNNER UP: Appalachian Trail

HONORABLE MENTION: Endless Wall Trail, W.Va.

Stretching for 78 miles along the Greenbrier River, this rail trail is a scenic glimpse into West Virginia’s storied past. Along the way, hikers can get a taste of the wild and wonderful state’s most remote gems like Watoga State Park, Seneca State Forest, and the Monongahela National Forest.

A.T. Section

McAfees Knob, Catawba, Va.

RUNNER UP: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, N.C. and Tenn.

HONORABLE MENTION: The Priest & Three Ridges, Va.

Arguably the most iconic spot along the Virginia portion of the Appalachian Trail, you’ll want to bring a camera with you during your hike to McAfees. From the parking lot off of VA311, it’s a burly 4.5-mile climb of 1,700’ to the cliffs, but the effort is well-worth it, especially if you can motivate before sunrise.

Swimming Hole

Blue Hole, Charlottesville, Va.

RUNNER UP: Sliding Rock, N.C.


One glimpse at the sparkling blue waters of this swimming hole will make this hike-to-dip an instant classic in your adventure repertoire. Often less crowded than nearby swimming holes, Blue Hole is just 1.5 miles down the Moormans River Trail.

Running Trail

Greenbrier River Trail, W.Va

RUNNER UP: Virginia Creeper Trail, Va.

HONORABLE MENTION: Bent Creek Experimental Forest, N.C.

At 78 miles, the Greenbrier River Trail is perfectly poised to be an ultra runner’s FKT. The last time such a feat was accomplished was the summer of 2014. Lewisburg-based runner Jim Moore ran the length of the trail in just under 19 hours. Can you top him? If 78 miles is a little (or a lot) too much, check out the Great Greenbrier River Race, a mini-triathlon held each year on the last weekend of April.

Paddling River

Gauley River, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: New River, N.C., Va., W.Va.


Celebrated every fall, the Gauley River has it all—big water, stunning clifflines, and just enough challenge to keep even the pros stoked. The Upper and Lower sections both are a playboater’s wet dreams come true.

Climbing Crag

New River Gorge, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: Pisgah National Forest, N.C.

HONORABLE MENTION: Wintergreen Resort, Va.

If you don’t already live out of your car, the New River Gorge will make you want to. With over 3,000 established sport and trad routes and hundreds more boulder problems, you can camp (at the American Alpine Club Campground) and climb to your heart’s content for an entire year and still barely scratch the surface of Nuttal sandstone goodness.


Bear Den Campground,

Spruce Pine, N.C.

RUNNER UP: Greenbrier River Campground, W.Va.

HONORABLE MENTION: ACE Adventure Resort, W.Va.

If exploration of the Blue Ridge Parkway is what you’re after, there’s no better place to base yourself than Bear Den Campground. Located just past milepost 324.8, you can rough it out in your tent or spend a luxurious weekend in a cabin. Warning—some cabins may feature an indoor Jacuzzi. If you quit your job and go missing, we’ll know where to look.

Biking Trail

Carvins Cove Trails,

Roanoke, Va.

RUNNER UP: Dupont State Forest Trails, N.C.


Just eight miles from downtown Roanoke, Va., lies Carvins Cove, the second largest municipal park in the country. Aside from killer views of the 800-acre reservoir, mountain bikers can expect over 60 miles of singletrack fit for any skill level.

Urban Park

James River Park System, Richmond, Va.

RUNNER UP: Urban Wilderness, Tenn.

HONORABLE MENTION: Great Falls Park, Md. and Va.

Boat, bike, climb, or just saunter your way through this 550-acre urban gem. The James River itself features class II-III+ rapids and can become especially rowdy at higher water. The intricate singletrack system that runs the length of the river offers runners and riders alike countless opportunities for loops.

Ski Run

Oz Run, Beech Mountain, N.C.

RUNNER UP: Cupp Run, Snowshoe Mountain, W.Va.

HONORABLE MENTION: Lower Shay’s Revenge, Snowshoe Mountain, W.Va.

What makes this intermediate-level run so great? Could it be that it sits on the backside of the resort, with its very own quad chair lift? Could it be the stunning view you get of western North Carolina mountains rolling along the horizon? Could it be that there’s a literal yellow brick road awaiting you on this magical cruise through Oz? The answer is yes. And then some.


Beech Mountain’s terrain park regularly updates features so you can slide and grind every weekend and never get bored.

Terrain Park

Beech Mountain, N.C.

RUNNER UP: Appalachian Ski Mountain, N.C.

HONORABLE MENTION: Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Penn.

Stay mellow  with Beech’s Meadows Freestyle Terrain beginner-friendly boxes and rails or step it up with the more advanced jumps and kickers of Powder Bowl Freestyle Terrain. Powder pending, you can even link the two terrain parks together to make one helluva freestyle ride down the mountain.

SUP Spot

James River, Richmond, Va.

RUNNER UP: Summersville Lake, W.Va.

HONORABLE MENTION: New River, Va., N.C., and W.Va.

With five SUP outfitters in and around Richmond, the James River is quickly becoming a hotbed for standup paddlers. Learn your strokes on the quiet stretches of the Upper, or cruise downstream past Reedy Creek to the class III+ whitewater that awaits. Or, maybe floating’s more your style, in which case, might I recommend one of the city’s plethora of SUP yoga classes?

Fly Fishing River / Creek

Mossy Creek, Va.

RUNNER UP: Davidson River, N.C

HONORABLE MENTION: Watauga River, N.C. and Tenn.

If not for the tough-to-catch, yet worth-the-sweat brown trout fishing, the picturesque farmland alone is worth a visit to Mossy Creek. Even the most experienced angler will meet his/her match on the banks of the Mossy, as no wading is permitted and the fish here are exceptionally observant. Yet for those with the skill, and the patience, tales of 25-inch brownie bites should be enough to stifle the frustration.

Best Flatwater

Summersville Lake, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: Smith Mountain Lake, Va.


Built by the Army Corps of Engineers in the mid-‘60s, Summersville Lake offers visitors over 60 miles of shoreline for exploring. The stunning rock formations that burst from the lake’s surface are popular among deep-water soloists while the habitats those same boulders create are ideal for small mouth and large mouth bass, channel catfish, crappie, bluegill, and walleye.

Spot Along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Grandfather Mountain, N.C.

RUNNER UP: Humpback Rocks, Va.


Situated amid arguably the most iconic miles of North Carolina’s portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the views of Grandfather Mountain here are simply incomparable. Popular with leaf peepers during the autumn season, the curves of the Linn Cove Viaduct hug the mountainside and are truly emblematic of the spirit of the parkway. This is a must-do Sunday drive if you haven’t ventured yet.

Experience breathtaking views of Grandfather Mountain along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Experience breathtaking views of Grandfather Mountain along the Blue Ridge Parkway.


Cascade Falls, Pembroke, Va.

RUNNER UP: Linville Falls, N.C.

HONORABLE MENTION: Crabtree Falls, Va.

Nestled in the Cascades Recreation Area of the Jefferson National Forest, this 69-foot waterfall is a gem year round. Hike the Upper and Lower Trail for a four-mile round trip outing that showcases not only the falls but also the moss-covered boulders, dense rhododendron thickets, and the crystal-clear waters of Little Stony Creek that make this area almost otherworldly.

Wilderness Area

Dolly Sods Wilderness,

Davis, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: Linville Gorge Wilderness, N.C.

HONORABLE MENTION: Cranberry Wilderness, W.Va.

Take one step onto the burly trails of Dolly Sods and you’ll know you’re somewhere special. The Sods consume over 17,000 acres of the Monongahela National Forest and feature ferns, spruce, and bogs typical of ecotypes found in southern Canada. The Sods are often muddy, cold, and wet, but if you can hold out for a break in the clouds, you may just witness the most spectacular sky of your life.

Kid-Friendly Outdoor Destination

ACE Adventure Resort, Minden, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: Beech Mountain, N.C.

HONORABLE MENTION: Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education, N.C.

At ACE Adventure Resort, families don’t have to fret about finding age-appropriate adventures for their young’uns. Be it a float down the Upper New or an onsite Kids Camp session at the ACE Adventure Lake, parents will find more than enough activities to keep the kids busy for an afternoon or week.

Pet-Friendly Outdoor Destination

U.S. National Whitewater Center, Charlotte, N.C.


HONORABLE MENTION: (TIE) black balsam knob and bent creek experimental forest

Play for a day at the USNWC and bring Fido, too. The facility hosts over 20 miles of trail that weave along the Catawba River, and all of it is open to the enjoyment of your furry four-legged friends.

Place for Outdoor Singles to Live

Roanoke, Va.

RUNNER UP:  Asheville, N.C.

HONORABLE MENTION: Charlottesville, Va.

Though just two years ago, the Huffington Post listed Roanoke as one of the six best places to retire in the U.S., the city is undergoing a transformation. With in-town trails and greenway systems, vibrant farm-to-table and craft beer movements, not to mention a low cost of living, what young professional wouldn’t want to relocate to this mid-sized mountain town?

Place to Engage in Illicit and Nefarious Activities

Fayetteville, West Virginia



On the surface, Fayetteville may appear like any summer rafting town, but dig a little deeper, and you may just find yourself walking under the New River Gorge bridge at night with a bellyful of PBRs from Charlie’s Pub. We call that character building.

Place to Raise an Outdoor Family

Roanoke, Va.

RUNNER UP: Fayetteville, W.Va.


Considering Virginia’s school systems  rank among the best in the U.S., it should come as no surprise that many are choosing to raise their families in the heart of the Old Dominion. What’s more, Roanoke’s big city amenities and small town feel make life in the Star City safe, convenient, and far from boring.

Place to Play Hooky

New River Gorge, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: Pisgah National Forest, N.C.

HONORABLE MENTION: Wintergreen Resort, Va.

At least if anyone phones to question your “sickness” or that “appointment” you scheduled months ago, you probably won’t have enough service for the call to come through. When the winter blues have you down and out, keep an eye on Fayetteville’s forecast. The area is known to have bizarrely warm and sunny winter days.

Luxury Destination

The Greenbrier,

White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: Biltmore Estate, N.C.

HONORABLE MENTION: The Omni Grove Park Inn, N.C.

The lavish halls and plush rooms of the historic Greenbrier are fit for royalty. Enjoy carriage rides and massages, golf rounds and poker games, all in the setting of West Virginia’s majestic mountainscape.

State in the Southeast /Mid-Atlantic for Outdoor Adventure


RUNNER UP: West Virginia


Virginia is for lovers…of adventure, that is. No matter the season, whatever the weather, Virginia literally has it all. Surf the beaches to the east, explore the swamps to the south, or boat, bike, and hike your way throughout the rugged mountains to the west.

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