Adventure Us: Rocky Knob and Mabry Mill

In the waning days of fall, the mountains still offer adventure and scenic beauty to families suffering from cabin fever! One of the best known and best loved spots nearby is the Rocky Knob and Mabry Mill area, south of Roanoke on the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

In this ten mile stretch of the Parkway south of Floyd, you can experience great hiking, breathtaking overlooks, picturesque old buildings, and a taste of Appalachian history.

Wonderful views pepper the area, and one of the best is the Saddle overlook, with long, sweeping views of the ridges and valleys to the east – as well as views of the higher ridges and the distinctive Buffalo Mountain to the west. Heading south, further overlooks provide a better view of Rock Castle Gorge. This deep hollow is home to beautiful forests, a cascading waterfall along Rock Castle Creek, and some historic ruins – and enterprising hikers can see it all in the 11-mile Rock Castle Gorge Loop. This strenuous hike has an 1800 foot elevation change as you hike into, then out of, the gorge, but you will be rewarded with many excellent views! For generations, this area was home to the Rock Castle community, whose families farmed the pastures and mountainsides. You can still see signs of the old homesteads. For those who want to explore the valley without so much exertion, drive back north to the intersection of the Parkway with Route 8, then turn down past Tuggles Gap, wind your way to the bottom of the mountain, and take the fire road (Rt 605) to the end. Here you can park, enjoy walking the trail along the beautiful creek, and see the old CCC campsite.

Back on the Parkway, the Rocky Knob Visitor Center offers more views and lots of room to picnic. (The visitor center building is currently closed, but the grounds and picnic area are open.) Traveling south just a few more miles brings you to one of the most photographed spots on the Parkway: Mabry Mill. This vintage structure was an operating gristmill and sawmill from 1910 until 1936. Around the mill grounds, you can investigate several other restored buildings and old farm implements that document rural life in Appalachia a hundred years ago. The mill is still working, and demonstrations are put on during the summer season. While the gift shop and restaurant are now closed for the season, there are still many opportunities for picnicking and exploring on the grounds.

If you’re feeling stir-crazy, don’t let the cold deter you – bundle up and get out to enjoy some exercise, some beautiful views, and some historical sights!

On the way home, stop in Floyd, enjoy more local attractions, and choose from one of the town’s excellent restaurants! 

Name: Blue Ridge Parkway, Mileposts 166-176, Meadows of Dan, VA 24120 

Time from Roanoke: 1 – 1.5 hours

Activity Options: Trails, views, picnicking, history

Nearby Food: Several options in Floyd; Bent Mountain Bistro 

Nearby Attractions: Floyd Country Store, Floyd Farmers Market, Bottom Creek Gorge

More Adventure Us

Cristy Carr

Cristy and her family keep busy writing, tutoring, homeschooling, homesteading, and adventuring in the beautiful Appalachian mountains.
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