Thunder Ridge Overlook is a one of the best overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia to take in beautiful views. Not only is it one of the best sunset spots, Thunder Ridge is amazing any time of day.
Thunder Ridge is an overlook at milepost 74.7 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The overlook at Thunder Ridge provides a view of the Thunder Ridge Wilderness and James River Face Wilderness in Virginia.
It’s one of the best quick stops on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.
The View at Thunder Ridge Overlook
The view over the mountainous area reveals one of the larger wilderness areas in Virginia.
James River Face Wilderness is also the oldest in the Commonwealth. When I looked into this, I was surprised to see that it was only set aside as a wilderness area in 1975.
The daytime view at the overlook is great, but if you can get to the overlook at sunset you’ll get a real treat.
We love watching sunset from the Blue Ridge Parkway and Thunder Ridge is one of the best spots to catch the fading lights.
You can find beautiful views from the viewing platform or from the short hike that loops around the parking lot. The walking trail is very short and only takes a couple minutes to walk.
The overlook parking area is fairly narrow and not suitable for large vehicles, sorry RV roadtrippers. If you want a similar view of the mountains you can go to View Arnold Valley Overlook (Milepost 76). It’s the next overlook south on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Hiking at Thunder Ridge Overlook
A sign in the parking lot promises a 10 minute walk to complete the loop at Thunder Ridge. In reality the short trail at the overlook only takes a couple minutes. You can access the trail from the left side of the parking lot or from the overlook platform.
The short section of the trail you walk on is a tiny piece of the Appalachian Trail. You can extend your hike by going further on the Appalachian Trail.
Heading North a four mile section from Thunder Ridge Overlook travels to Petites Gap. This section cuts through the Thunder Ridge Wilderness. That four miles is one way, so unless you are hiking back bring a friend and another car.
Heading South the Appalachian Trail crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway twice and climbs to Apple Orchard Mountain and sits near a radar station that looks like a golf ball sitting on a gold tee. It’s one of the stranger things on the Blue Ridge Parkway and is a relic of the Cold War era. You can find some cool pictures of the structure here. The round trip for this hike is 5.5 miles.
You don’t need to head out into the wilderness to explore at the overlook. There is a series of boulders near the stone viewing platform. We usually climb around on these with our kids.
Best time to visit
Sunset is the best time to stop at Thunder Ridge for the views. Even during winter this section of the Blue Ridge Parkway is usually open. Still, you want to check the parkway closure list. When you check, the section you are looking for are 66.3 – 76.4 (VA Route 501 to Apple Orchard Parking Area).
At sunrise the morning light will be at your back. It’s still very pretty but there are better spots to visit if you are looking for the best sunrise spots.
During fall the hardwood forests that surround the overlook take on bright colors. The overlook sits at around 3500 feet and changes color sooner than much of the surrounding area.
High winds are common on this part of the Blue Ridge Parkway so your window to see the colors is limited before winter claims the high forests.
This is one of the best stops north of Peaks of Otter and one you shouldn’t skip if you are traveling on the parkway. Even if you just need to take a couple minutes and stretch you legs.
Looking for more awesome spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway? Check out our complete guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway for more of the best overlooks and stops to visit.