Blue Ridge Parkway | DOUGHTON PARK PICNIC AREA (MP 241.1)

Picnic tables at the Doughton Park Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Picnic tables at the Doughton Park Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Doughton Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway is typically open from early May until the end of October. The exact dates of operation change each year, so before heading out on a picnic, be sure to get the latest schedule on the National Park Service’s official Operating Hours and Seasons web page for the Parkway.

Across from the Bluffs Restaurant, which is right on the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a road that leads to the old Bluffs Lodge, some trails, and the Doughton Park Picnic Area, formerly known as The Bluffs Picnic Area. The road forks not far from the turnoff, and staying to the right takes you to the picnic area. Tables and grills, which are all taken on a first come, first served basis, have been placed at five sections along a long road that ends in a loop. Modern restrooms are located at the first and second sections. Parking is done is a common lot, and you must carry your picnic supplies to the tables.

The first section is to be avoided if possible unless you really want to be off on your own. You cannot see any tables from the parking area because they lie down a long, steep, downhill paved path that winds back into the forest. I needed my hiking poles just to get in and out of the place. At the bottom is a mini-trail system that you must hike along just to find the tables that are spread out over the area. I saw three tables but was not about to start looking for the rest, especially since I had no idea how far I would have to hike—or even if there were more tables to be found. Also, most of the tables at the Doughton Park Picnic Area are new, but these are old, so it appears that the National Park Service has forgotten about this section.

Picnic table at the first section of the Doughton Park Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Picnic table at the first section of the Doughton Park Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The second section is similar to the first in that you can’t see any tables from the road and must walk down a steep path to get to them. The only difference is that you don’t have to hike around looking for the tables, as they are all near the bottom of the hill. A restroom is located at the bottom of the hill as well.

Second section of the Doughton Park Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Second section of the Doughton Park Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The third parking area is a little more level. There are eight tables and six grills situated on what amounts to three terraces. Four are located near the road and somewhat easy to get to, two are down a steep hill but not too far away from the parking area, and the other two are really far below.

Third section of the Doughton Park Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Third section of the Doughton Park Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Table near the road at the Doughton Park Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Table near the road at the Doughton Park Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

A fourth parking area holds a dozen vehicles, but as far as I could tell, there is only one picnic table and a grill. These are located at the bottom of a steep hill, and there are no steps to make it easy to get to.

Lone table at the fourth section of the Doughton Park Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Lone table at the fourth section of the Doughton Park Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The best spot for a picnic is at the loop at the end of the picnic area road. There aren’t many tables here, but they are the easiest to get to. A cluster of tables surrounds a lone tree, while others are situated on a scenic hill and require a little more effort to reach. However, if you are going to climb to a table, these would be the only ones at Doughton Park Picnic Area worth the effort, for you can get a great view of the surrounding mountains and valley from here. There aren’t much more than a half dozen tables at this section, and there are no grills.

View from one of the tables at the end of the road to the Doughton Park Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

View from one of the tables at the end of the road to the Doughton Park Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Picnic tables at the end of the road to the Doughton Park Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Picnic tables at the end of the road to the Doughton Park Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Panoramic view from the loop section of the Doughton Park Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway (click to enlarge)

Panoramic view from the loop section of the Doughton Park Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway (click to enlarge)

The end of the picnic area road is also where you will find one of the many trailheads for the Bluff Mountain Trail, a 7.5-mile one-way trail that follows the Blue Ridge Parkway from Brinegar Cabin to the Basin Cove Overlook. The summit of Bluff Mountain is just a .4-mile round trip hike from here.

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Last updated on November 13, 2023
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