The Loops Overlook

An exhibit panel sits in a grassy area with mountains in the background
Wayside at The Loops Overlook

NPS Photo

Quick Facts

Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Parking - Auto, Scenic View/Photo Spot

Railroad enthusiasts prize The Loops Overlook because it provides views of the trains ascending the Blue Ridge mountains from the valley below. The engineering marvel known as “The Loops” was constructed between 1905 and 1908 with the original intention of connecting the coalfields of Kentucky with the cotton mills of the Carolina Piedmont. It is 13.5 miles long, and contains 18 tunnels and many switchback curves -- giving “The Loops” its name. The trains are best viewed after the leaves fall from the trees.

The Overlook provides views to the north, northeast, east and southeast. To the north, lies McKinney Gap named for Charles McKinney (1780-1852) through which the North Toe River Valley can be viewed. To the east, lie Jackson Knob and the Peppers Creek Valley. To the southeast, lie the Linville Ridge, Dobson Knob and Bald Knob. 

Due to its eastward facing orientation, the Loops Overlook is an excellent place to watch the sunrise and is generally dark enough after nightfall to observe any astronomical phenomenon that occur in that portion of the sky.

The Loops is also a prime location to witness the natural phenomenon known as a fogfall.  When atmospheric conditions are right, fog forms in the North Toe River Valley, travels through McKinney Gap and because the fog is heavier than the surrounding air cascades down the slopes into the valley below.  This river of fog plunging through the gap and down the steep mountainside can rival the views of the parkway's most beautiful waterfalls.  The fogfall phenomenon occurs most frequently in the mornings from Mid-August to Early October. 

The Loops Overlook provides views of the Historic Orchard at Altapass lying directly below the overlook. The Historic Orchard at Altapass has been in operation for well over a century and was originally created by the Clinchfield Railroad in 1908.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Last updated: January 20, 2021