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Blue Ridge Parkway
Stewarts Knob, Roanoke River Trail, Virginia's Explore Park, Roanoke Mountain, Mill Mountain, Chestnut Ridge
Roanoke, Virginia, is the largest city adjacent to the Parkway, and one whose popularity and growth has paralleled that of the parkway. It grew rapidly from its origins as Big Lick when, in 1882 the railroad became the town's major industry.
Roanoke offers many motels, bed & breakfast inns, as well as a downtown farmers' market surrounded by restaurants and museums. The Roanoke Mountain campground offers access to trails and Sunday evening music programs during the summer. Mill Mountain has a zoo and the famous Roanoke Star, plus the panoramic views of downtown Roanoke from the Star Trail.
A four mile drive around the summit of Roanoke Mountain offers great views of the valley. Roanoke is almost too close to the Parkway and it's apparent at some of the overlooks. Some overlooks are being allowed to become "overgrown" to hide the suburban expansion that is gripping this area.
There are four exits off the Parkway that can take you into Roanoke: US 460 at milepost 105.8, VA 24 at milepost 112.2, Mill Mountain Spur Road at milepost 120.4 and US 220 at milepost 121.4. There are new trails that are in discussions, plus other we may have missed.
NOTE: Virginia's Explore Park, a living history and outdoor recreation area was closed as of 11/18/2007. The park included various restored local historical structures and both hiking and biking trails, along with access to the Roanoke River for recreational use. The park is located near the gorge where the Roanoke River leaves the Roanoke Valley.
The county has since signed a 100 year lease with Larry Vander Maten, a Florida based entrepreneur, to develop Explore Park into a viable business. On April 28, 2009, Vander Maten revealed a plan to open a resort named "Blue Ridge America" featuring amenities which include an equestrian center, man-made lakes, retail shops, a golf course, conference center, spa, a system of overhead gondolas to transport around the park.
The National Park Service Visitor Center is still open seasonally (May-late October) in the area.
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