Blue Ridge Parkway | ROANOKE RIVER OVERLOOK / ROANOKE RIVER TRAIL (114.9)

Roanoke River Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Roanoke River Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway

View: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ / 5  (from nearby bridge, not from the actual overlook)
Trails: Roanoke River Trail, Fisherman’s Trail
Picnic Tables: None

The purpose of the Roanoke River Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway is to provide a place to see the Roanoke River, but you’ll only catch glimpses of it through the trees. You can also see the Niagara hydroelectric dam from here, though trees also block most of the view. The dam has been around since 1906.

View of the Niagara hydroelectric dam on the Roanoke River from the Roanoke River Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway

View of the Niagara hydroelectric dam on the Roanoke River from the Roanoke River Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway

If you want the best view of the Roanoke River, walk back out to the Blue Ridge Parkway and take a left towards the bridge (if you were driving south you will have crossed it already). A pedestrian sidewalk runs along both sides of the bridge. To your left is a powerhouse building and the dam, but keep walking, for the best view is a little farther down and to the right.

Roanoke River as seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway Bridge

Roanoke River as seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway Bridge

Roanoke River power house and dam as seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway

Roanoke River power house and dam as seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway

If you want some exercise, you can hike the Roanoke River Trail, but keep in mind that even from a river viewing platform, you won’t see much worthwhile.

Roanoke River Trail

Roanoke River Trail starts at the Roanoke River Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Roanoke River Trail starts at the Roanoke River Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Length: estimated .5-mile loop, with spur trail to the river overlook
Time: 30 minutes
Difficulty: Moderate

The Roanoke River Trail is basically an out-and-back trail with a short loop on the end. As with just about any trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway, it is hilly, so be prepared to burn a few calories. The trail starts off downhill and passes a turnoff for the Fisherman’s Trail, an even steeper trail that leads down to the river. I did not hike it, but supposedly it comes out near the power house seen from the bridge and takes about a half hour, round trip, to hike.

The trail forks not long after passing the Fisherman’s Trail. The loop trail continues to the right, but if you want to see the river from an overlook, take the short detour to the left.

Take a right at the fork on the Blue Ridge Parkway's Roanoke River Trail to see the river from the viewing platform

Take a right at the fork on the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Roanoke River Trail to see the river from the viewing platform

This is the overlook mentioned on the sign in the parking lot near the start of the trail (“Pedestrian Overlook 1000 feet”). I suggest saving your strength, as the view is a little overgrown. For those who insist on hiking this detour, the round trip takes about five minutes.

View of the Roanoke River from the viewing platform on the Blue Ridge Parkway's Roanoke River Trail

View of the Roanoke River from the viewing platform on the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Roanoke River Trail

Once back to the main trail (if you chose to hike to the overlook), continue on the path marked “Loop Trail.” On this section you will find typical nature trail signage that points out trees and other plants in the area.

Within a few minutes the trail comes to an intersection marked by nothing but a tree stump. This is the start of the loop portion of the trail, so it makes no difference which way you go—continue straight or take a right. Either way, in five minutes you will be back at the stump and ready for the hike back to the parking lot. The hike to this point is downhill, so you now have a moderate uphill climb to finish your journey.

For information on other trails in the area, see the Roanoke Valley Hiking Trails web page.


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Last updated on December 7, 2023
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