Learn more about the fun recreation opportunities throughout Virginia’s Blue Ridge, including Botetourt, Franklin and Roanoke counties, Roanoke City and Salem.
Hit the Appalachian Trail thanks to several access points in Botetourt, including Tinker Mountain around mile 713.
Visit the Buchanan Swinging Bridge, the most recognized structure in town. At 366 feet long, the historic landmark offers a beautiful view of the James River, with scenic views of the Blue Ridge and Alleghany Mountains.
The Upper James River Water Trail is ideal for any type of fun you seek, with whitewater thrills (with Class I and II rapids), canoe and kayak paddling, daytime floats, fishing or camping trips.
Take care of your equipment needs at Twin River Outfitters, where you can rent gear, glamping tents and campsites, and even book a shuttle service to your next water adventure.
Buchanan’s Jennings Creek is an exciting stream stocked with trout; it feeds to the James River and you can enjoy fishing, swimming, paddling and more. Different parts of the creek are ideal for swimming or even Class II or III runs.
Grab your family, coworkers or friends, and take a break from a technology-filled world with Muddy Squirrel. They can’t wait to help you reconnect with your crew, with outdoor activities made to strengthen your bonds and build rich experiences together.
Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24
Cycling in Virginia’s Blue Ridge is unlike any other, further proven when the Women’s Pro Cycling Team relocated their base of operations to Botetourt County in January 2022. The Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24 program develops many of the most successful American female cyclists to date and creates opportunities for elite, junior and para-cycling athletes.
Botetourt County played a significant role when Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge, along with the City of Roanoke, hosted the 2022 USA Cycling Amateur Road National Championships. Several hundred athletes from all over the country visited our region to earn national titles in the road race, individual time trial and criterium.
Whether you seek fun on land or water, Franklin County has it all for outdoor enthusiasts.
It’s no wonder Smith Mountain Lake, the second-largest body of freshwater in Virginia, is known as the “Jewel of the Blue Ridge Mountains!” Offering 500 miles of shoreline, it expands for 40 miles and offers more than 1,500 acres, hiking trails, picnic areas and ranger programs, such as guided night hikes and canoe trips — no shortage of fun here!
Smith Mountain Lake State Park isn’t just for water enthusiasts — it’s also a perfect spot for swimming, fishing and boating, as well as hiking, biking, camping, picnicking and more.
Take in the natural scenic beauty of Philpott Lake, shared by Franklin, Henry and Patrick counties. The 3,000-acre reservoir features 100 miles of undeveloped shorelines, a marina, tournament fishing dock, nine boat launches, eight campgrounds, birding and wildlife trails and six beaches are just a snippet of great adventures to be had here.
Near Rocky Mount and featuring over five miles of trails, Waid Park is a popular destination for tubing and mountain biking. The trails offer lovely views of nature and Franklin County’s quiet countryside.
Conveniently located just outside Rocky Mount, the Grassy Hill Natural Area Preserve is a 6.5-mile hiking trail system with access to 1,295 acres of deciduous forest mixed with a few Virginia pines.
Virginia’s Blue Ridge: Recreation Fast Facts
- Home to the most visited national park in the U.S.—the Blue Ridge Parkway
- Home to the second largest municipal park in the U.S. —Carvins Cove Nature Preserve
- Home to the most photographed point along the Appalachian Trail—McAfee Knob
- A Silver Level Ride Center—International Mountain Bicycling Association
- A 5-minute drive from metro to mountains
- More than 1,000 miles of trail and 30+ miles of greenway
- Four large lakes and two major rivers offering paddling and fishing opportunities
- 120 miles of Appalachian Trail winding through the region
Virginia’s Blue Ridge has no shortage of incredible outdoor gems, with majestic mountain backdrops, relaxing river retreats and everything in between. We’re consistently voted a top destination for outdoor adventures, offering activities for all skills and interest levels. As the largest city along the Appalachian Trail and Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway, Roanoke and the surrounding region offer more than 1,000 miles of hiking, biking and paddling trails.
Take a Hike:
We’ve got hiking trails for all skills and levels.
Visitors and locals alike can tackle the Triple Crown of Virginia, made up of the three iconic peaks — Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs.
Head up to Mill Mountain, where you can enjoy a gorgeous day of hiking and biking, plus admire the iconic Mill Mountain Star and visit the Mill Mountain Zoo, Wildflower Garden and Discovery Center.
Hit the Road:
We’ve been named one of the Top 10 most bike-friendly areas in the country, with 300+ miles of MTB trails and more than 35 miles of paved space for biking on the Roanoke Valley Greenways.
We’re home to Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24 professional women’s Olympic Development Cycling Team representing the Paris 2024 Olympics. The high-performance elite, junior development and para-cycling athletes are the most successful American female cyclists to date!
Bikers of all skills and levels can enjoy rentals and self-guided bicycle tours — you can even design your routes around themes like public art, LOVEworks signs, ice cream and more!
Float Your Boat:
The Roanoke River was recognized as America’s “Best Urban Kayaking Spot” in the 2022 USA Today 10 Best Readers’ Choice Travel Awards. You’ll enjoy canoeing, kayaking, fishing, tubing, wading, wildlife viewing or other recreational opportunities, all within the city limits.
Our 45 miles of blueways range from flatwater to Class II rapids, offering tubing, fishing, kayaking, canoeing and birding. And you can’t skip Carvins Cove Natural Reserve, located only seven miles from North Roanoke, where 12,000 acres of forests, a 630-acre reservoir and 60 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding await.
Start your water adventure at Twin River Outfitters, who will help with any outdoors needs, whether it’s an equipment rental, paddling experience or planning a day trip full of water fun or an overnight glamping adventure.
The Blue Ridge Marathon Series has earned its title as “America’s Toughest Road Marathon” by challenging runners with over 7,430 ft. in elevation change, more than any other road marathon in the U.S.
Roanoke’s IRONMAN 70.3 features an incredible course with the opportunity to swim at Carvins Cove, bicycle on the Blue Ridge Parkway and run along the Roanoke River Greenway.
The Star City Half-Marathon & 10K, one of the longest-standing running events in Roanoke, features an after party with local food, beverages and music.
Nearly 10,000 participants wake up early Thanksgiving morning each year to participate in the Drumstick Dash, with event proceeds supporting the work of the Rescue Mission of Roanoke.
Jingle Bell Run/Walk is a fun and festive way to kick off your holidays by helping support the Arthritis Foundation. Participants are encouraged to wear a holiday-themed costume or to tie jingle bells to their shoelaces.
Roanoke County (and Vinton)
There’s no shortage of fun things to do outdoors throughout Roanoke County. Whether you take a trail or paddle a blueway, you’ll find a breathtaking view of Roanoke’s Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains. Visitors have access to blueways via Explore Park, Roanoke River and Green Hill Park.
No matter where you go, remember to Leave No Trace, packing up the trash you see and staying on the designated trails to help preserve our beautiful spaces for years to come.
Recognized by USA Today Travel as one of the most spectacular hikes in the United States, McAfee Knob is an iconic spot, with stunning, 270-degree panoramic views of the surrounding valley and mountains. It was also prominently featured in the 2015 movie, “A Walk in the Woods,” starring Robert Redford.
Dragon’s Tooth, just west of Catawba, is a five-mile loop featuring a fun rock scramble and a view from atop one of Virginia’s most interesting rock formations. It’s considered part of the ‘Triple Crown’ of Virginia hiking that also includes McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs.
The Appalachian Trail is one of the most iconic scenic hiking trails in the world and it has a number of access points in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. With dozens of short and long hikes, easy to strenuous, you can find trail loops that peak at waterfalls and cliffs, always promising spectacular views.
Outdoor lovers can choose their own adventure, from traversing trails, floating rivers and even playing at a nationally ranked golf course. Camping, kayaking, mountain biking, hikes and more can be enjoyed across Roanoke County’s nature opportunities.
Explore Park is where adventure begins! Explore hundreds of acres of rolling hills, pristine woodlands, hiking trails, river frontage and outdoor adventure, soar through the trees on the Treetop Quest aerial adventure course or stay overnight in a cabin, yurt or primitive campsite.
Also in Explore Park, Blue Ridge Bike Center includes a skills loop, intermediate connector trail and a new parking lot. A starting place for individuals and families to ride, practice trail techniques and build their mountain bike skills, each trail element was designed for beginner and intermediate skills development.
Feel like a kid again at Camp Roanoke, with outdoor adventures such as canoeing, field games, hiking, campfires and a challenge course complete with a 44-foot climbing tower.
The Glade Creek and Wolf Creek Greenways continue to grow each year, and are great for hiking, walking, trail running and nature trips.
Splash Valley Water Park is an outdoor aquatic facility featuring two 34-foot high slides, a current river, children’s sprayground and more! A great place to cool off during the summer months, Splash Valley is located directly adjacent to Roanoke County’s Green Ridge Recreation Center.
Lancerlot Sports Complex in Vinton is an 85,000-square-foot facility, home to many programs, classes and tenants involved in hockey, health and fitness and swimming. Their ice rink hosts games at every level, practices and all kinds of programming from youth practice and leagues, collegiate games and adult leagues, plus figure skating and public skating sessions!
Billy Sample Field at Kiwanis Park
Kiwanis Park is the Home of the Salem High School Varsity, Junior Varsity and the Roanoke College Men’s Baseball Teams. This facility hosts events which draw state and national athletes and spectators. The events held at this facility range from youth, adult, high school, collegiate and national levels.
The Farmers Market is located on the corner of Broad St. and Main St. in downtown. In an effort to provide a convenient location for local farmers to sell their products, the City of Salem constructed the market in 1992. Visitors to the market will find a homegrown bounty of fresh produce (organically grown available), home-baked goodies, landscape and garden plants, honey, eggs, antibiotic and hormone free grass finished meats, greenery, jams, and jellies.
Several times during the summer months, the market is turned into a concert venue hosting acts from all different musical genres.
Locations throughout the City of Salem
The Roanoke River Greenway in Salem is part of a larger multi-jurisdictional project to build a trail through the four localities within the Roanoke Valley. Currently approximately four miles of the Greenway has been completed within the City. Several other phases are in planning. Salem is also home to the Mason Creek Greenway, and the Hanging Rock Battlefield Trail. The portion of the Roanoke River Greenway around the Moyer Sports Complex has been designated the David Smith Trail. See the full map HERE.
James I. Moyer Complex
The James I. Moyer Sports Complex is one of Salem’s premier recreational facilities. The complex opened in April of 1992, and hosts many different athletic events and tournaments. Typically events are held an average of 230 days a year, with an annual attendance of approximately 250,000 guests.
Lake Spring Park
Lake Spring had been a popular attraction for citizens and visitors dating back to the late 1800s when the area was home to the once popular Lake Spring Hotel. In more recent times, Lake Spring Park has been the site of hundreds of wedding photos, prom pictures and, to this day, it is easily the most photographed place in the city.
Longwood Park is the largest park in Salem. The park has 5 shelters – 2 can be reserved – and an amphitheater for evening concerts and movies.
Roanoke River Blueway
The Roanoke River Blueway offers a unique combination of urban, front country, and back country recreation opportunities in the upper Roanoke River watershed. Enjoy canoeing, kayaking, fishing, tubing, wading, wildlife viewing, and watershed education – with convenient access to other outdoor and cultural amenities in Virginia’s Blue Ridge.
Rotary Dog Park
Dogs are not allowed in Salem’s public parks, even if they are on a leash, but the new dog park has remedied that problem and given dog owners a place to exercise their animals and socialize.
Salem Municipal Golf Course
Salem Municipal Golf Course was built in 1919 on a 46 acre tract of land just a few blocks from the center of the city. The picturesque par 34, nine-hole, 2400 yard course is the perfect place for new golfers of any age to learn the game in a relaxing atmosphere.