The trails found at the Carvins Cove reserve are some of the best anywhere.
Tucked amid the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Roanoke Valley’s outdoor scene is just as flourishing as the city life, offering miles of winding forest trails, rich historical landmarks and plenty of don’t-miss events. Here’s a look at the best parks in the Roanoke MSA.
Best Waterside Park
Smith Mountain Lake Community Park, Franklin County
Situated on a forested peninsula of the Smith Mountain Lake, SML Community Park offers 1.7 miles of walking trails, fishing, swimming, picnic areas and playgrounds. Wooded trails and waterfront views provide opportunities to spot regional wildlife and the park’s picturesque white sand beach is open throughout the summer for a family trip or weekend getaway.
Elmwood Park (under renovation), Roanoke City
Elmwood Park is home to annual events like the Strawberry Festival, Local Colors, Festival in the Park and many more. Located conveniently in downtown Roanoke, you can hop from the festival to the many surrounding shops, or grab a bite to eat in the renovated Market Square. The park’s 12-acres are filled with gardens and fountains and many places to sit for a quiet moment in the buzzing city.
Best Place to Catch a Game
Moyer Sports Complex, City of Salem
With four sports fields, a professional lighting system and a well-stocked concession stand, Moyer Sports Complex is the place to enjoy a night of baseball or fast pitch softball. Moyer hosts local, high school, collegiate and national championships, including the Salem High School and Roanoke College Girls Fast Pitch Softball Teams. A paved pathway circles the complex for walkers and joggers and there’s a volleyball court and a basketball half-court if you want to start a game of your own.
Best “Surf and Turf”
Virginia’s Explore Park, Roanoke County
Explore Park is a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts for its variety of land and water activities and its scenic 1,100 acres. Bikers can enjoy a 9-mile, IMBAsanctioned biking trail and there are 6 miles of wooded trials along with a mile-long Foresters Interpretive Trail for hikers. The Roanoke River, accessible at the park’s Rutrough Point, is a prime spot for fishing, kayaking and canoeing.
Best Nature Experience
Barbour’s Creek Wilderness Area, Craig County
There’s no better place to leave the city life behind than Barbour’s Creek Wilderness Area. As a designated wilderness area, extra care is given to preserve the area’s natural state, so a visit to Barbour’s Creek is always a pure outdoors experience. Over 100 species of birds have been identified in the Barbour’s Creek Wilderness and there are endless opportunities for hiking, camping and stargazing.
Best Family Spot
Greenfield Recreation Park, Botetourt County
With horseback riding, trail hiking and a playground for children, a day spent at the 125-acre Greenfield Recreation Park is always a full one. There’s a five-mile cross-country trail for runners and the Cherry Blossom Trail is lined with birdhouses to attract regional birds. The Botetourt Sports Complex located on park grounds often hosts local, regional and national tournaments, so grab a hotdog and watch the game as the perfect end to your family’s day at Greenfield.
Carvins Cove Natural Reserve, Roanoke County, Botetourt County
Grab a day’s pass at Carvins Cove Reserve and 12,700 acres of trails and wilderness are yours to explore. Over 30 miles of trails are available for hiking, running, horseback riding, and mountain biking ranging from beginner trails like the Happy Valley trail to more difficult trails like the Hi-Dee-Ho trail and the Gauntlet. The 550 miles of the Appalachian Trail are also accessible from the trails of Carvins Cove. The 800-acre Carvins Cove Reservoir is open to fishing and small-engine boating and there are picnic tables on the premises to enjoy a scenic lunch by the water.
Blue Ridge Parkway, Throughout the Shenandoah Valley
This 469-mile linear park snakes through our backyard and connects the Shenandoah National Park to NC’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Sites like the Peaks of Otter and Mabrys Mill are must-see landmarks near the Roanoke area or take a weekend to travel a longer stretch of the parkway and admire the spectacular views.
Roanoke River Greenway; Salem, Roanoke, Roanoke County
The ever-lengthening urban pathway has become a haven for runners, walkers, cyclists and little-wheel skaters as it snakes its way for what before too many years will be 18 miles of pathway from west of Salem through the cities of Salem and Roanoke and back into Roanoke County. To help fund the last four-mile gap, go to greenways.org.
Best Part of a 14-State “Park”
The Appalachian Trail
The A.T.'s 93 miles through Craig, Roanoke and Botetourt Counties as part of its journey from Maine to Georgia, and including “Virginia’s Triple Crown” – the beautiful precipices at Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs, which are all accessible with a drive a half hour or less from downtown Roanoke.