Spend a weekend in Roanoke and you’ll learn one thing very quickly: this city has a lot of scenic overlooks. The Roanoke Star is probably the most iconic thing you’ll notice about the city as you first arrive but did you know you can drive up there and stand at a scenic overlook just below the star? Along with two more overlooks on Mill Mountain, two on Roanoke Mountain, and Virginia’s Explore Park this city has your need for mountain overlooks covered.
Roanoke Tourism: https://www.visitroanokeva.com/
The Roanoke Star has been an icon of Virginia’s Blue Ridge since 1949. The 88′ tall star perched atop Mill Mountain draws everyone’s attention, especially at night, but it’s also possible to visit the star itself. At the base of the star is a scenic overlook with the best view of the city and Roanoke Valley. Visitors can see as far as the airport and other nearby cities.
The weather gets pretty chilly up there, especially in the fall and winter, but it is absolutely worth the effort to get bundled up for the view. The overlook is open 24/7 so come back at night for a stunning view of the twinkling city lights and traffic passing along the highways.
Parking: There is parking for about a dozen vehicles at the very top of the mountain behind the Roanoke Star. If these are taken drive down the mountain to the Discover Center and park there, then use the Mill Mountain Greenway trail to hike back to the overlook.
A short concrete path, the Mill Mountain Greenway, begins near the Roanoke Star and takes visitors to the first of two additional overlooks in Mill Mountain Park. The first overlook has a similar view to the Roanoke Star Overlook but it’s a little more overgrown there.
Parking: For this and the next overlook the best parking is at the Discover Center.
The third and final overlook on Mill Mountain is located in the Wildflower Garden. This smaller wooden overlook faces a different direction toward a quieter part of town. It’s still a nice view, especially at night, but not as good as the other two on the mountain.
Virginia’s Explore Park is a county owned and operated park just off the Blue Ridge Parkway with dozens of hiking trails, acres of forest and rolling hills, a few historical buildings, and a visitor center. The short connector road between the Parkway and the visitor center features a few nice scenic overlooks. The immediate land surrounding the road is flat but then mountains suddenly climb against the horizon and make for interesting backdrops. These overlooks are easy to get to and don’t involved any walking at all; you could enjoy them from the comfort of your vehicle.
The Mill Mountain Overlook is the first of two beautiful scenic overlooks on Roanoke Mountain off the Blue Ridge Parkway. A one-way loop road takes vehicles across the mountain to both overlooks.
This first overlook has a great view of Mill Mountain (where the first three overlooks were located) and portions of the city and valley beyond. The views are particularly stunning near sunset but it’s really a place to visit any time of the day throughout the year.
Parking: The parking area for this overlook is small and sometimes crowded. Be careful if you decide to pass this overlook since the road is one-way; if you want to go back you will have to exit onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and start the road across the mountain again.
The second overlook is the Roanoke Mountain Overlook. This view is completely opposite from the ones on Mill Mountain but with it’s view southwest it’s the perfect spot to watch the sunset. Bring a few chairs or a blanket, spread out on the small patch of grass at the edge of the sidewalk, and enjoy your time.
Parking: The final short section of the road to the top becomes two-way so you can loop around the overlook and come back if you need to. The parking area is large with plenty of room for lots of vehicles.