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Rocky Knob and Mabry Mill [MP 167 – 176.2]

destination-rocky-knobRocky Knob, located north of Floyd, Virginia, gets its name from the rocky appearance of the mountain on which it sits. Rocky Knob was one of the first developed areas built on the Parkway. Rock Castle Gorge, known for its beautiful rock crystalline quartz formations, was once home for several mountain families whose lives we remember through the apple orchards and abandoned stone chimneys. Today the Rocky Knob Recreational Area covers more than 4000 acres. It offers many diversions for visitors, including hiking trails, a visitor center, campground, backcountry camping and picnic area.

destination-mabry-millMabry Mill is nearby, chosen during the design / construction of the Parkway as an example of the watermills of the era and preserved. The mill was built by Edwin Boston Mabry (E.B. Mabry). E.B. Mabry began the construction of the mill in 1903. It was first a blacksmith and wheelwright shop, then became a saw mill. By 1905, it was in operation as a grist mill. By 1910 the front part of the mill was completed and included a lathe for turning out wheel hubs, a tongue and groove lathe, a planer and a jig-saw. Between 1905 and 1914 E.B. Mabry bought adjacent tracts of land, mostly for the purpose of acquiring more water power. The grist mill is fully restored and operational – visitors can see how water flows down the millrace and the giant wheel causes the grinding stone inside the mill to turn.

Excerpted from TripAdvisor reviews:

We ate a good breakfast on the back porch then toured the mill exhibits. One ranger was[…] doing real woodwork making a chair by hand, another one was spinning wool, both gave very interesting history presentations. We loved it there! It was stepping back in time! Very magical, even entertained my 10 yr old grandson while learning some history. ” — user Joyce M Candler

This is a great stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway for history buffs. The mill was built in 1910 and used until about 1936 as a combination grist, saw, and woodworking mill. Everything appears to be left in place, as if it was shut down at the end of the day long ago, expecting to be started up the next morning. There’s even a partly-sawn beam in place with the saw blade imbedded in it. The amount of physical labor to haul the materiel to the site, cut the timbers, build and assemble the mill, the blacksmith shop, etc. must have been herculean. Mr. Mabry even had to build two flumes in order to get enough water to the site to turn the immense water wheel.

We stopped there on a weekday, when not much was going on. Try to plan your stop on Saturday, when everything is open and volunteers will walk you through the mill, etc. and demonstrate how things work and were done. ” — user Joe D

Rocky Knob embodies low impact camping at its finest, from the superb hiking, to the friendly staff who take time to help first-time visitors feel at home, to the clean facilities and respectful rangers who go about maintaining the park without unduly disturbance. We have visited Rocky Knob overnight for several different summers, choosing this park for it’s location, but returning because of the exceptional peaceful ambiance. The campground is small–very simple, pleasant, and rural. As a launch point for a one or two-day bicycle ride, Rocky Knob is perfect, or for several days of relaxing dry camping with day hikes, some challenging, others suitable for the city-bound, this camping area will attract the visitor who treasures access to some of the East Coast’s most beautiful scenery. On our ridge line day hike, we discovered an Appalachian Trail hut left from the 50s when the trail cut through this area, and still in perfect condition with rough-hewn framing and stone floor. Even as a tenderfoot, I would sleep in that hut! The high pastures of this area of the Blue Ridge Parkway hum with wildlife and birds of all kinds, co-existing with the local cattle herds. The nearby restaurants are friendly and good. The motorcycling in the area is among the best we found, though our adventure this year on foot equalled the riding for woodland paths interspersed with views of the Blue Ridge folding away, quiet and stately in the morning sun. ” — user J T

Points of Interest
  • Rocky Knob Visitor Center [MP 169]
  • Picnic Area [MP 176.2]
  • Mabry Mill [MP 86]
Interpretive and Educational
  • During the summer months – interpreters offer demonstrations of traditional mountain crafts and free Bluegrass music concerts each Sunday at Mabry Mill.

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