Blue Ridge Parkway | ROANOKE MOUNTAIN PICNIC AREA (MP 120.5)

The Blue Ridge Parkway's Roanoke Mountain Picnic Area is the former Roanoke Mountain Campground

The Blue Ridge Parkway’s Roanoke Mountain Picnic Area is the former Roanoke Mountain Campground

The Roanoke Mountain Picnic Area is located a mile from the Blue Ridge Parkway on Mill Mountain Parkway. The picnic area is the former Roanoke Mountain Campground, which was closed a while back and finally reopened as a day use area. There are roughly five dozen picnicking sites, each with its own table and grill. A restroom facility and access to the Chestnut Ridge Trail is also available. All facilities are managed by the National Park Service and are part of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The picnic area is open year-round.

Other than preventing people from sleeping, nothing was actually done to convert the campground into a picnic area. Even the tent pads and lantern posts remain. Traditional stand-up grills are absent, so cooking must be done on campground-style fire rings situated on the ground. A grilling surface is provided. Furthermore, since there never was a group camping area, there is no group picnicking area. Each site is set up to accommodate an individual, a small group of friends, or one family. All tables are taken on a first come, first served basis.

The benefit of being a former drive-in campground is that all picnic sites have their own parking spots. This makes Roanoke Mountain Picnic Area one of the most convenient on the Blue Ridge Parkway, for you don’t have to carry your food and other gear very far.

Parking spot next to the picnic table and grill at the Blue Ridge Parkway's Roanoke Mountain Picnic Area

Parking spot next to the picnic table and grill at the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Roanoke Mountain Picnic Area

However, just because you can park next to your picnic site doesn’t mean picnicking is going to be effort free. While there are a few level sites, the Roanoke Mountain Picnic Area is very hilly, and nearly all of the picnic tables are located either up- or downhill from the parking spot. Even the few sites for disabled visitors are located on a hill, though there is a paved walkway leading to them. Assistance pushing the wheelchair up the hill would certainly be welcome.

One of the more hilly picnic spots at the Blue Ridge Parkway's Roanoke Mountain Picnic Area

One of the more hilly picnic spots at the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Roanoke Mountain Picnic Area

Unfortunately, convenience works against the picnic area as far as appeal is concerned. There are very few open areas where kids can play. Most sites lend themselves to seclusion and lack the carefree, picnicking atmosphere. As a result, Roanoke Mountain Picnic Area is a place where you might stop for a quick bite to eat instead of eating in your car, not the place where you would bring the family for a Saturday afternoon picnic. Roanoke’s Mill Mountain Park is just up the road, and it has a picnic area with pavilion, plus a zoo, playground, and plenty of outdoor recreation activities such as zip lines.

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Last updated on December 7, 2023
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