Although we wanted to start at MP 154 and make our stops along the way back, we decided to stop first at the Visitor Center at Virginia’s Explore Park.
Although the facility is a Visitor Center for the Parkway, it’s an interesting situation. Explore Park was founded in 1985 to draw visitors driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Roanoke area. Land was acquired and the site became a Virginia state park. Early ideas included a zoo and a historical theme park. A lack of investment funds led the park to become a more modest living history museum focused on the early history of Southwest Virginia. Today, the county of Roanoke runs the facility, and all buildings except the Visitor Center are closed. There are hiking trails and picnic areas that are maintained, and an effort is underway to bring concerts, etc. back to the location.
It is beautiful, and sad to see so much of it closed.
A nice 3D topographical map takes up a large part of the Visitor Center.
We took time to watch their movie presentation on the Parkway, and were later glad to find out it was the one we had missed at the Visitor Center in Asheville. The attendants at the Visitor Center here were very friendly; we enjoyed conversing with them.
These are the historic buildings now closed.
We enjoyed a picnic lunch while on the grounds.
The rest of this portion of the Parkway did not include any historical exhibits, so here are some of the scenic views from the day.
The scenic road over Roanoke Mountain (milepost 120.3) is a four mile one way loop road that affords stunning views of Roanoke, Roanoke Valley, and Mill Mountain.
Just as we reached the crest (elevation of a little over 2000) raindrops began to fall … we were able to watch the progression of the cloud and rains over the city below from the overlook.
Like so many other afternoons on this trip, we drove down the mountain and home through the rain.