10 Best Virginia Mountain Towns to Visit

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The beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains stretch approximately 550 miles, from North Georgia to southern Pennsylvania.

But the State of Virginia is home to 300+ linear miles of mountains, which cover the western side of the state from Bristol north to Winchester.

Within the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia you’ll find a stellar array of attractions, including Shenandoah National Park, the Shenandoah Valley, Washington & Jefferson National Forests, and our favorite Virginia State Parks

Many of these places can be accessed via the world-renowned Blue Ridge Parkway, which is where you’ll find access to some of the region’s best hiking trails, waterfalls, and stunning scenic overlooks. 

Other than Little Switzerland NC and Peaks of Otter VA, there are very few places to stay on the BRP. But there are an outstanding array of Virginia mountain towns along the way that are well worth visiting for a few days. 

From the Civil War history of Lexington and the WWII memorial in Bedford to the music history of Bristol and the burgeoning metropolis of Roanoke, each of the mountain towns in Virginia has its own unique offerings. 

Read on for an in-depth guide to our favorite Virginia mountain towns in my native state, including some history of each small town as well as an overview of the best activities, attractions, restaurants, and more! 

READ MORE: 10 Great Romantic Getaways in Virginia for Couples

Best Virginia Mountain Towns Guide

(Arranged alphabetically)

  1. Bedford
  2. Big Stone Gap
  3. Bristol
  4. Charlottesville 
  5. Damascus
  6. Lexington
  7. Luray
  8. Norton
  9. Roanoke 
  10. Waynesboro

READ MORE: The 20 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks in NC & VA

National D Day Memorial in Bedford VA
National D Day Memorial in Bedford VA by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

1. Bedford VA

Size: 6.81 sq miles • Population: 6,299 • Official Website

One of our favorite small Virginia towns, Bedford VA has remained a “small cultural mecca” in Virginia since its founding in 1890.

Nestled between Lynchburg and Roanoke, Bedford is full of artisan crafts and Appalachian music, as well as modern industries like manufacturing, textiles, and graphic design.

Located right off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 86, this charming mountain town is best known for the impressive National D-Day Memorial as well as the Elks National Home. 

For outdoor enthusiasts, Peaks of Otter Lodge and Sharp Top Mountain are just 11 miles away, and Smith Mountain Lake State Park is 22 miles to the south. 

For accommodations in Bedford VA, check out the 2-bedroom, pet-friendly Restored 1840s Downtown Loft, a 1-bedroom Guest house for rent, or the 2-bedroom Bedford Town Cottage.

READ MORE: The 10 Most Festive Christmas Towns in Virginia to Visit

Best Virginia small towns - southwest Virginia museum, big stone gap
Photo courtesy of Ked Meade Photography and BigStoneGap.com

2. Big Stone Gap VA

Size: 4.94 sq miles • Population: 5,700 • Official Website

One of the best small mountain towns in SWVA, Big Stone Gap is just 11 miles south of Norton, another great little  Blue Ridge mountain town you’ll find on our list.  

Located in coal country, this Virginia small town packs a mighty punch with its cozy hometown feel and vibrant array of activities, attractions, and accommodations.

Founded in 1856, Big Stone Gap is part of Main Street America, a national network of 1,200+ towns committed to creating stronger communities through preservation and the expansion of high-quality development.

Big Stone Gap is full of historic sites, including the June Tolliver House, John Fox Jr. Museum, and the Southwest Virginia Museum.

Nature lovers will want to get outside and take a stroll on the Greenbelt Walking & Bicycle Trail, which was voted “Best Hiking Trail in Wise County” in 2022.

Head to downtown Big Stone Gap for popular restaurants like Good Times Coal Fired Pizza & Pub and Curklins. You can also stay at the welcoming Carousel House Bed & Breakfast or the budget-friendly Quality Inn & Suites

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in SWVA (Southwest Virginia)

Mountain towns in Virginia - Bristol VA, Bristol TN, Bristol sign
Photo Courtesy of Believe In Bristol

3. Bristol VA/TN

Size: 13.20 sq miles • Population: 17,219 • Official Website

One of the best Virginia small towns, Bristol sits on the border between Virginia and Tennessee. As you’re walking down State Street, you can be in both states simultaneously, with one foot on either side of the yellow lines.

Double the states means this mountain town offers double the activities and attractions. South Holston Lake is a beloved summer retreat with picturesque views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Racing fans love the Bristol Motor Speedway, which is home to annual NASCAR races and the Pinnacle Speedway In Lights (a popular Christmas lights display that marks the beginning of Christmas in Virginia).

Bristol is also home to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. It documents the 1927 Bristol Sessions, which gave country and bluegrass icons like the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers their first big break. 

If you want to hear some live music, you can catch a show at either The Paramount Center for the Arts or The Cameo Theater.

Feeling hungry? Grab a burger and a shake at The Burger Bar, or enjoy some delicious homemade fudge from The Southern Churn.

If you want to make a weekend of it, check out the newly constructed hotels in downtown Bristol, such as  The Bristol Hotel or The Sessions Hotel.

READ MORE: 20 Ways to Celebrate Christmas in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Best Virginia towns - Jefferson bust next to bottles of wine
Photo Courtesy Jefferson Vineyards

4. Charlottesville VA

Size: 10.3 sq miles • Population: 46,553 • Official Website

Charlottesville is widely considered one of the best Virginia towns because of its rich sense of history and culture, seamless blending the past, present, and future.

Visitors can learn about the history of the area and its most famous inhabitants at Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, and Highland, the former home of U.S. President James Monroe.

Charlottesville is also home to The University of Virginia, a beautiful campus with esteemed educational quality that was founded by Jefferson back in 1819.

This is a great area to visit some of the best Virginia wineries, including the Eastwood Farm & Winery, Gabriele Rausse Winery, and Wineworks Extended. 

There are some top-notch Charlottesville restaurants to choose from, including the Ivy Inn (American), Maya (Southern), Orzo Kitchen & Bar (Italian), and Petit Pois (French).

If you want to spend a night or a weekend in town, check out the historic 200 South Street Inn (B&B), the 5-star Keswick Hall, or the Metta Gem 2-bdrm Bungalow.

READ MORE: Apple Picking in Virginia: The 15 Best VA Apple Orchards to Visit

Virginia Creeper Trail in Damascus VA, photo via Virginia.org
Virginia Creeper Trail, photo via Virginia.org

5. Damascus VA

Size: 0.8 sq miles • Population: 947 • Official Website

The Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail is located less than 40 miles north of Boone NC, winding from Abingdon VA through Damascus VA and moving southeast. 

This 35-mile trail’s highest point is right along the VA-NC state border, but its highlight is the 17-mile downhill slope along the picturesque Whitetop Laurel River.

So it’s no surprise that the cute Virginia town of Damascus is known as “Trail Town USA.” It’s a Blue Ridge Mountains hotspot due in large part to the popularity of the famous trail among mountain bikers and hikers alike.

But as beautiful as the surrounding scenery may be, Downtown Damascus charms locals and tourists with its impressive array of local art galleries, boutiques, gift shops, cafes, and restaurants.

After a busy day on the trails, rest your weary bones at the 3-bedroom pet-friendly rental on the Virginia Creeper Trail , a 1-bedroom Cozy Damacus Home, or a pet-friendly 3-bedroom A-Frame home in the woods.

READ MORE:The 10 Best Things to Do in Staunton VA

Stonewall Jackson House in Lexington VA
Stonewall Jackson House, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

6. Lexington VA

Size:  2.5 sq miles • Population: 7,320 • Official Website

Established in 1977, Lexington is a small Virginia town named after the American Revolution’s Battle of Lexington.

This area is full of historic attractions, including two historic colleges (Washington & Lee University and Virginia Military Institute), the Stonewall Jackson House, and Oak Grove Cemetery. A horse-drawn carriage tour is a great way to see them all in a few short hours.  

But there are still plenty of other things to do in Lexington, even if you’re not a history buff. You’ll find cute coffee shops, antique stores, tasteful art galleries, and some fantastic downtown Lexington restaurants

Designated as one of four International Dark Sky Parks in Virginia, the Natural Bridge State Park features the geological formation it’s named for and excellent stargazing, hiking trails, and a disc golf course.

Accommodations in downtown Lexington include the Stonegate B&B, the Brierley Hill B&B, and the restored historic Hampton Inn right in the heart of town. 

If you visit during Parents Weekend or a big game, you may need to find availability further from the town. We recommend Steeles Tavern Manor B&B, a lovely romantic getaway just 17 miles north of town.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Lexington VA & Natural Bridge VA

Historic House in Shenandoah Heritage Village in Luray VA
House in Shenandoah Heritage Village in Luray VA, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

7. Luray VA

Size:  4.7 sq miles • Population: 4,831 • Official Website

Established in 1812, Luray VA has a long-standing reputation as one of the best Virginia mountain towns because it offers a mix of small town charm and proximity to Washington D.C. (93 miles east).

Located in the Shenandoah Valley just 13 miles east of I-81, Luray’s prime location makes it one of the most popular gateways to Shenandoah National Park (9.5 miles east).

There are lots of fun things to do in Luray, from visiting Luray Caverns (the largest caverns in the eastern US) and exploring the Luray Hawksbill Greenway to kayaking the Shenandoah River and picnicking at Lake Arrowhead

History buffs will enjoy interesting attractions such as the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum, Shenandoah Heritage Village, and Luray Valley Museum. 

You can also explore the 75 historic buildings that earned Luray’s Downtown Historic District recognition as a National Historic District.

If you’re planning a multi-day trip to visit Luray, accommodations options include the fabulous 5-star Hotel Laurance, the historic Mimslyn Inn, South Court Inn B&B, or Piney Hill B&B Cottages.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Luray VA (Gateway to Shenandoah)

Virginia small towns - Woodbooger Sanctuary - Norton VA
Photo Courtesy of Norton, VA

8. Norton VA

Size:  7.5 sq miles • Population: 3,687 • Official Website

This rural town in Southwest Virginia– the smallest incorporated city in VA– is known for its small Appalachian Mountain town beauty and myriad outdoor recreation opportunities.

The mountain town in Virginia’s motto is “Get Outside in Norton,” because it offers many scenic locations and picturesque hiking trails, including the High Knob Observation Tower and Flag Rock Recreation Area.

But watch out for the Woodbooger! Local Appalachian folklore suggests that there is a fearsome Bigfoot-like creature lurking in the woods that surround the town.

At the Flag Rock Recreation Area, you’ll even find a statue of the beast, You can also visit The Woodbooger Restaurant in downtown Norton for tastyburgers, entrees, and desserts. 

Hotels and other accommodations in Norton are somewhat limited. But visitors may be interested in the Super 8 by Wyndham, or a 3-bedroom Appalachian mountain home located 1.4 miles from the center of town.

Alternatively you can drive to Wise, the closest Virginia small town, where you’ll find the 5-star Inn at Wise (just 4.1 miles from Norton).

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in SWVA (Southwest Virginia)

Best Roanoke Breweries - Big Lick Brewery
Big Lick Brewery, Roanoke VA photo by Emma Gallagher

9. Roanoke VA

Size:  43 sq miles • Population: 100,011 • Official Website

Established in 1740, the city of Roanoke is known as the “capital of the Blue Ridge” because it offers astonishing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.

The most iconic Roanoke attractions include the 100-foot-tall Roanoke Star in Mill Mountain Park. Originally built for Christmas, it now stands as a “symbol of the friendliness, industrial and civic progress of Roanoke.”

For fun, visit Center in the Square in downtown Roanoke, which is home to the Harrison Museum of African American Culture, Kids Square, the Roanoke Pinball Museum, the Science Museum of Western Virginia, and more.

You will also find many top-notch Roanoke restaurants and breweries in the downtown area. 

If you’re seeking outdoor recreation, you can tackle the famous McAfee Knob hike on the Appalachian Trail, or enjoy mountain biking, boating, and horseback riding in Carvins Cove Natural Reserve.

Great places to stay in Roanoke VA include the Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, The Liberty Trust, and Hilton’s Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center. For a personal touch, try Shirley’s B&B or the Black Lantern Inn B&B.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Roanoke VA

Best mountain towns in Virginia -Picnic Shelter on South River Greenway Trail in Waynesboro VA
South River Greenway Trail in Waynesboro VA, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

10. Waynesboro VA

Size: 15.4 sq miles • Population: 22,196 • Official Website

There’s an impressive array of things to do in Waynesboro VA, with its ideal location at the crossroads of the Appalachian Trail, Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive, and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

If you’re looking for outdoor thrills, Waynesboro is a great place for fly-fishing, hiking, camping under the stars, or kayaking on the South River.

You can also visit the impressive Grand Caverns, or walk the South River Greenway Trail.

Waynesboro has a great cultural scene, including the historic Wayne Theatre and the Waynesboro Street Art Trail, as well as historic attractions like Swannanoa Palace and the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel. 

The town is also close to one of the best ski resorts in Virginia, Wintergreen Resort, which is home to the longest hill for snow tubing in Virginia

After a long day on the slopes, grab a bite at delicious Waynesboro restaurants such as Heritage On Main, Green Leaf Grill, the River Burger Bar, or Stella, Bella & Lucy’s. -by Molly Frazier; lead image of Lexington VA by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett


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!