The 10 Best Things to Do in Bedford VA (BRP MP 85.6–90.9)

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Founded in 1782 (when it was originally known as Liberty), Bedford VA is one of our favorite small towns in the Shenandoah Valley

Located about 28 miles east of Roanoke VA, Bedford is a popular place to stop during Blue Ridge Parkway road trips.

The 469-mile scenic route passes right by two of the most beloved Bedford VA attractions, the Peaks of Otter Lodge and Sharp Top Mountain (one of the three “Peaks of Otter”).  

But Bedford also has its fair share of historic sites (including the National D-Day Memorial), artisan crafts, Appalachian music, and opportunities for outdoor recreation. 

Read on for our in-depth guide to the best things to do in Bedford VA, including all of our favorite museums, restaurants, hiking trails, waterfalls, and Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks

READ MORE: The 10 Best Small Towns in Virginia to Visit


Best Places to Stay Near Bedford VA

  1. Restored 1840’s Downtown Bedford Loft (upstairs pet & kid-friendly 2bd/1ba, w/fireplace)
  2. Remodeled 1920’s Downtown Bedford Loft (upstairs kid-friendly, 3bd/1ba apt w/Kitchenette)
  3. Private Main Level House (kid-friendly, 2bd/1ba kid friendly w/porches & fire pit)
  4. Private Farmhouse Apartment (adults only, 1bd/1ba tranquil getaway w/pond & mt. views)
  5. Quaint Cottage (kid-friendly, 2bd/2ba on beautiful country rd w/mountain views)
  6. Mayhew Farms Cottage (kid-friendly, 2bd/1ba on old farm w/mt. view, pond & horses)
  7. Restored 1800s Buchanan Log Cabin (kid-friendly, secluded 2bd/1ba on 9-Mile Creek w/firepit)


Best Things to Do in Bedford VA Guide

  1. Bedford Museum & Geneaological Library
  2. Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
  3. Explore Downtown Bedford 
  4. Family Fun at Johnson’s Orchard/Peaks of Otter Winery
  5. Hike the Fallingwater Cascades Trail
  6. Honor WWII Veterans at the National D-Day Memorial 
  7. See Stunning Views From Sharp Top Mountain
  8. Stroll Around Abbott Lake at the Peaks of Otter Lodge 
  9. Tour Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest
  10. Visit Smith Mountain Lake State Park

READ MORE: The 10 Best Virginia Mountain Resorts to Visit

Bedford Museum & Geneaological Library in Downtown Bedford VA
Bedford Museum & Geneaological Library

1. Bedford Museum & Geneaological Library

If you’re interested in Virginia history (or tracing the ancestry of relatives who lived there), the 3-story Bedford Museum & Geneaolgical Library in Downtown Bedford is a great place to start. 

The museum offers exhibits on the area’s early Native American inhabitants, African-American residents, and WWI and WWII history. It includes a room devoted to Company A, 116th Battalion, 29th Infantry, a.k.a. The Bedford Boys. 

They also have a floor devoted to temporary exhibits that change every 6 to 18 months. When we visited, the exhibit was on the history of “Scouting in Bedford County.”

Their ground floor is largely devoted to a Genealogical Library, and the museum offers research assistance for genealogists outside the local area.

Admission to the museum is free, but donations are encouraged. For most of the year the museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10AM to 5PM. 

READ MORE: 30 Fun Facts About Appalachian Scots-Irish History & Culture

Blue Ridge Parkway Overlook near Bedford Virginia
View from the Blue Ridge Parkway near Bedford Virginia

2. Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway

The BRP passes right by the Peaks of Otter, so Bedford VA is a great base for exploring some of our favorite overlooks, hiking trails, and parks located along the 469-mile scenic route.

Our favorite Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks in the area include the Otter Lake Overlook (MP 63.1), the James River Visitor Center (MP 63.6, which has a pedestrian bridge with stunning river views), Apple Orchard Mountain Overlook (MP 76.5), and View Headforemost Mountain (MP 81.9). 

Popular Blue Ridge Parkway hikes nearby include the 3.5-mile Lower Otter Creek Trail (MP 62.5), the 5.3-mile Apple Orchard Mountain Trail (MP 74.6, the highest point on the BRP in VA), the 3-mile Sharp Top Mountain Trail (MP 86), and the easy 1-mile Abbott Lake Trail at the Peaks of Otter Lodge (MP 85.4).

There are also some fantastic Blue Ridge Parkway waterfall hikes nearby, including the challenging 2.6-mile Apple Orchard Falls Trail (MP 78), the moderate 3-mile Doyles River Falls Trail (MP 81.1), and the moderate 3.6-mile Jones Run Falls Trail (MP 84.1) 

READ MORE: How to Plan an Amazing Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip

The Historic Bedford County Courthouse in Downtown Bedford VA
The Historic Bedford County Courthouse

3. Explore Downtown Bedford 

With a population of around 6,600 people, the small town of Bedford VA is nicknamed “The World’s Best Little Town.” 

Bordered by the Blue Ridge Mountains to the north and Smith Mountain Lake to the south, Bedford was best known as a railroad town until the 1960s, with 3 Southern Railway/Norfolk & Western Railroad trains operating daily.

Bedford Station has now been transformed into Liberty Station, one of the best Bedford restaurants.

It’s one of several cool historic sites in Downtown Bedford, including the Bedford County Courthouse, Bedford Boys Tribute Center, and Bedford Historic Meetinghouse.

Other Downtown Bedford attractions of note include the Bedford Area Welcome Center, Bedford Museum, Bedford VA Farmerds Market, Bower Center for the Arts, and Centertown Park. 

READ MORE: The 10 Best Virginia Mountain Towns to Visit

4. Family Fun at Johnson’s Orchard/Peaks of Otter Winery

Planning to visit Bedford with the family? You won’t want to miss Johnson’s Orchard, one of our favorite places for apple picking in Virginia!

This orchard is part of a 200+ acre farm that was owned by the Johnson family long before the Civil War. In addition to 7,500 apple trees, they also grow nectarines, peaches, plums, and pumpkins.

It’s also home to one of the most popular Virginia wineries, the Peaks of Otter Winery, which produces 35 different fruit wines. Their farm market offers wine tastings, as well as apple cider, fresh fruit, jams, jellies, and much more. 

They also have a sunflower field that’s great for selfies, a huge Johnny Appleseed statue, a picnic pavilion, hiking trails, and host several festivals and other special events throughout the year. 

READ MORE: Apple Picking in Virginia: The 20 Best VA Apple Orchards to Visit

5. Hike the Fallingwater Cascades Trail

Located at Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 83, just 1.3 miles southeast of the Peaks of Otter Lodge, the Fallingwater Cascades Trail is one of our favorite hiking trails in Virginia.

Part of the Fallingwater-Flat Top National Recreation Trail, this moderately difficult, 1.7-mile trek makes a gradual descent through gorgeous hardwood forest into a gorge, with views of Flat Top and Sharp Top along the way. 

Once you reach the bottom, there will be a bit of rock-hopping to cross Fallingwater Creek. Take caution here, as water levels rise quickly when it rains, and the rocks can get slippery. 

But it’s well worth the effort to see one of the best waterfalls in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, which drops 100 feet as it winds its way down a large outcropping of rock.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Virginia Waterfalls for Hiking

National D Day Memorial in Bedford VA
National D Day Memorial in Bedford VA

6. Honor WWII Veterans at the National D-Day Memorial 

Around 24,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Nazi-occupied Normandy on June 6, 1944. By the end of the day there were at least 10,000 Allied casualties, with 4,414 confirmed dead. 

Soldiers from the 29th Infantry Division were among the first to hit the beach that morning, coming under heavy fire from Germans. Company A, from the Virginia National Guard in Bedford, was completely annihilated on arrival.

Attracting around 60,000 visitors a year, the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford was dedicated to those who died in the famously bloody battle by President George W. Bush in 2001.

The monument includes a 44-foot-tall arch with the word “Overlord” (the code name for the D-Day operation) inscribed on it, a reflecting pool, and myriad statues and plaques honoring the fallen soldiers. 

You don’t have to have a passion for WWII history to be emotionally moved by the experience, especially once you understand the devastating impact D-Day had on this small Virginia mountain town.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Civil War Battlefields in Virginia to Visit

Sharp Top Mountain Trail View in Bedford VA
Sharp Top Mountain View, photo courtesy

7. See Stunning Views From Sharp Top Mountain

The Peaks of Otter are comprised of 3 Blue Ridge Mountains– Sharp Top, Flat Top, and Harkening Hill– that overlook Abbott Lake and the town of Bedford.

We had an incredible view of Sharp Top from our room at the Peaks of Otter Lodge, one of our favorite Blue Ridge Mountain resorts in Virginia. 

For the best views of the area, hardy hikers can tackle the 1.5-mile Sharp Top Mountain Trail.

This strenuous trek climbs to the Sharp Top summit at 3,875 feet, which offers jaw-dropping views of the Peaks of Otter that are even more sensational when the Fall colors start popping!

If you want those views without a difficult hike, take the Sharp Top Mountain Shuttle, which takes you to within 1,500 feet of the summit. Round trip rates are $15 for adults and $7 for children ages 2 to 12. 

READ MORE: Virginia Fall Foliage: The 15 Best Places to See Fall Colors in VA

Couple Walking the Abbott Lake Trail at the Peaks of Otter Lodge in Bedford VA
Couple Walking the Abbott Lake Trail at the Peaks of Otter Lodge

8. Stroll Around Abbott Lake at the Peaks of Otter Lodge 

One of the most historic mountain resorts along the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Peaks of Otter Lodge and Abbott Lake were constructed by the National Park Service and opened in 1964. 

The 63-room hotel is a classic National Parks-style lodge, with comfortable rooms (2 Double beds or one King) that have flat-screen TVs, coffee makers, and a patio or balcony offering excellent views of the lake.

It’s located right at the base of the Peaks of Otter, with a great restaurant, cozy bar, gift shop/country store, lakeside fire pits, and lots of hiking trails nearby.

But our favorite trail was the 0.9-mile Abbott Lake loop, which is relatively flat, paved, and ADA-accessible.

It has excellent views of Sharp Top, and a bridge and dock that offer great birdwatching.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Campgrounds in Virginia

Tour of Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest in Bedford VA
Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest

9. Tour Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest

If you love unvarnished Appalachian history, tours of Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest offer fascinating insights into the later years of our 3rd U.S. President’s life. 

Located in Lynchburg VA (18 miles from Bedford), Poplar Forest is a plantation retreat designed by Jefferson himself. He inherited the bucolic property from his father-in-law in 1773, but didn’t begin working on it until 1806. 

Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1971, Poplar Forest is operated as a historic museum by a nonprofit corporation. They’re responsible for the ongoing archaeological study, and restoration work completed in 2023.

Our guided tour was led by a historian who told us all about the enslaved Africans who worked the tobacco and wheat fields, tended to the needs of Jefferson and his grandchildren, and built/maintained the unique octagonal house.

As much as we loved the home’s architectural design and period decor, we were equally fascinated by the slave quarters, which had excellent exhibits on the many African-Americans who lived and worked there. 

READ MORE: 15 Great Romantic Getaways in Virginia for Couples

Mary Gabbett at Smith Mountain Lake State Park in Virginia
Mary Gabbett at Smith Mountain Lake State Park in Bedford VA

10. Visit Smith Mountain Lake State Park

One of our favorite Virginia State Parks, Smith Mountain Lake is also one of the largest, most beautiful lakes in Virginia.

The lake covers 220,000 acres, including a 500-foot-long beach for sunbathing and swimming, boat rentals and ramps, and a public pier for fishing. Even ski boats and jet skis are allowed here.

Anglers will find great opportunities here, with bass and catfish among the most common catches. There are 13 hiking trails for exploring the park’s forests, coves, and scenic vistas, ranging from half a mile to 3 miles.

Overnight facilities in the park include cabin rentals, bunkhouses, and full-service campgrounds with 70 campsites (including 26 tent-only sites).

There’s also a historic tobacco barn, a Visitor Center full of exhibits, and a Discovery Center for kids that offers special events (such as guided hikes, wildlife-focused ranger talks, and more). –by Bret Love; all photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett unless otherwise noted

Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

The BRMTG was created by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett, the award-winning team behind the world-renowned responsible travel website Green Global Travel. Born and raised in North Georgia, Editor-In-Chief Bret Love grew up hiking and camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his family. A professional writer/editor since 1995, he's covered travel and culture for 100+ publications, including American Way, Destination Marriott, Georgia Travel Guide, National Geographic, and Southbound. In 2010 he co-founded the award-winning website, Green Global Travel, which is ranked among the world's top travel blogs. Since launching BRMTG in 2020, he and Mary Gabbett have visited 50+ Blue Ridge Mountain towns together. Though she lived in NYC for 14 years, photographer/Business Manager Mary Gabbett's family has Georgia roots dating back 200+ years. Her great-grandfather was President of the Western Railroad of Alabama. Before moving to Atlanta in 1989, she fell in love with the North GA mountains, where her aunt owned a cabin. In 2010 she co-founded Green Global Travel, and has since traveled to more than 40 countries on six continents. Her photos have appeared in numerous travel publications (including National Geographic and Southbound) and various textbooks.