One of my favorite stops on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Mabry Mill (mile post 176) is a major park installation. It includes a main building with a restaurant and a large historic area with working water-powered grist and saw mill and a blacksmith shop that is original to the site, a log cabin, and other buildings. The Mabrys built and lived in a frame house that was dismantled in favor of the cabin, which was moved from a nearby plot, when the park was created.
The restaurant is worth the stop. We often eat breakfast there on our way home from trips. We can recommend the sweet potato pancakes. However, the entire facility closes at 5:00 p.m., so it is not a choice for dinner.
Besides the restaurant, the main building houses a store and rest rooms that are also accessible from outside. Note that the rest rooms are locked when the building closes, so do not expect to use them after 5:00 p.m.
In addition to jewelry, photographs, and tea towels, the store sells excellent stone
ground corn, good for grits or polenta. No, the corn is not ground at the mill on site, but nearby at a modern mill.
The main attraction is the mill and its pond. Ed and Lizzy Mabry built and operated the grist and sawmill and a separate blacksmith shop for three decades more than a century ago. The view of the mill across the pond is one of the most photographed spots on the Blue Ridge and is a favorite for calendars and postcards.
The grounds around the mill are beautiful, and the area offers a couple of short, paved walks, including one that follows the mill race back to the mountain stream that powers the mill and feeds the pond.
The mill and surrounding buildings are open to visitors. In summer and fall, the staff demonstrates the grist and saw mill as well as blacksmithing and other hand crafts and can discuss local history.
The mill is part of a larger area that includes Meadows of Dan and Rocky Knob (mile post 167), one of the best views of the Virginia portion of the Parkway. Extensive hiking trails, including paths through the 3,500-acre Castle Rock Gorge, offer woodland adventures. The Rocky Knob Campground has 32 RV and 78 tent sites and can be a good base for exploring the larger area.