Mention the Blue Ridge Parkway to anyone and I bet the first image they have in their head is the Mabry Mill. This decades-old grist mill is one of the most iconic locations on the Parkway and one of the most visited sites year-round. But there is so much more to do than just snap a photo of the mill, and I’m gonna tell you all about it.
Mabry Mill is located at Milepost 176 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Meadows of Dan, Virginia. The large site includes the still-operational mill, several historical buildings, a short interpretive trail, and a restaurant. It’s a popular site year-round with visitors traveling from all over to see the iconic mill and picturesque pond.
Spring is a great time to visit the site before the summer tourism season begins. Rhododendron bushes around the pond will bloom around late-May and early-June. The weather is comfortable enough for long walks around the buildings without the summer humidity.
Summer is still a great time to visit, especially at the restaurant. With longer hours it is easier to get a great meal after taking a walk around the historical buildings. Often times there will be demonstrations at the mill or blacksmith shop, especially on weekends in the summer.
Fall is another great time to visit because of the changing colors. Large oak trees surround the mill and provide excellent photographic subjects. The leaves hit peak about mid-October each year.
Winter is a good time to visit, if you can visit. Sections of the Parkway are frequently closed during inclement weather like ice and snow. The mill itself is locked up tight during the winter months so the wheel will not be turning. The restaurant is closed November-April. However, if you can make it to the mill, it is a beautiful site with a fresh layer of snow on the ground or the pond frozen from the frigid winter temperatures.
During the summer months visitors will hike around the 1/2-mile interpretive trail. It starts at one end of the parking lot with “that” view people always see of Mabry Mill. The trail bends to the right and crosses over one of the aquaducts that brings water to the mill. The trail then winds around several historical buildings, each with an informational sign detailing local history.
If the wheel is turning, chances are good the door is also open with someone working inside. Step inside the mill for a chance to see how a grist mill works and enjoy the view from one of the large windows. The people working the mill are usually chatty and friendly so feel free to ask questions!
The restaurant also includes a large gift shop next door. The wait at the restaurant can be quite long during peak times and closes between 5p.m. and 6p.m. each night. Arrive early for a fantastic breakfast featuring delicious local maple syrup.
Mabry Mill is located about 35 miles from Galax, 40 miles from Christiansburg, and 60 miles from Roanoke. The easiest way to get to the mill is by Exit 14 on Interstate 77, turn toward Hillsville, continue along Highway 58 about 23 miles to the Blue Ridge Parkway, turn left, and travel about 2 miles to the mill. But the more scenic route is to take Exit 8 on the interstate toward Fancy Gap, follow the signs to the Parkway, and travel about 23 miles to the mill.
Whichever route you choose, just be sure to give yourself some time to explore the historic mill and grab something to eat. If the main parking lot is full, don’t fret; there is an overflow parking area behind the interpretive trail. At the very least slow down as you pass Mabry Mill and enjoy the iconic site.