Looking to spice up your drive between Nashville and Washington DC and make it a road trip?
The fastest way is through the I-40 E and I-81 N, and while without stopping, you could complete the distance in less than 10 hours, a few fun stops along the way will make your road trip take a quantum leap.
But what is there to see between Nashville and Washington DC? Actually, a lot!
I have made a comprehensive list of all the best potential stops along the way, and there’s truly something for everybody.
From fun attractions to hiking trails or even alpaca farms, let’s see what the road trip has to offer:
Nashville to DC Road trip: 8 State and National Parks for the Outdoor Lovers
1. Steele Creek Park
Visiting Steele Creek Park requires little to no deviation from the main road, and makes for a perfect mid-drive break immersed in nature.
At an affordable price of $2, you’ll enter the park’s immense grounds and have access to the stunning lakefront.
The Steele Creek Park also features two hiking paths, one of which is around 1 mile long, perfect to stretch your legs after driving.
2. Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Located just a couple of hours from Nashville and easily reachable from the highway, Great Smoky Mountain National Park is one of the most popular natural attractions in the region.
In the park, you’ll find an ample choice of panoramic hiking trails (including part of the famous Appalachian Trail) and several viewpoints overlooking the mountains.
The park is also notoriously a great spot for observing wildlife, from black bears to elks, deers, and more.
Plus: entering the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is free!
3. Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park
For the biking enthusiasts: Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park will give you a great excuse to take a break from the road, and include in your trip a well-deserved biking session surrounded by stunning nature.
The path is routinely maintained and well kept, and the hiking and biking trails will lead you to little bodies of water, wooded areas, and other hidden gems.
4. Grayson Highlands State Park
The Grayson Highlands State Park boasts over 4 thousand acres of lush vegetation and high peaks, including the highest peak in Virginia, Mount Rogers.
The park is famous for its unique population of wild horses, a spectacle of nature worth taking a deviation from the main road.
Grayson Highlands State Park also includes a well-equipped campground, meaning you could just as easily spend the night on the premises, and get back on the road the day after.
5. Hungry Mother State Park
Located a few miles after Kingsport and complete with a charming creekside campground, Hungry Mother State Park would be perfect for an overnight stop.
In the fall, the red foilage makes the park simply stunning, and during the summer you can enjoy a bath or sunbathe on the sandy beach by the lakeshore.
6. Rock Island State Park
Blessed with huge beautiful waterfalls, Rock Island State Park is one of the travelers’ favorite stops along the way, and definitely one of the most scenic.
The Twin Falls will take your breath away as you stand by the water flowing and crashing on the body of water below.
While being popular, the Rock Island State Park is not a crowded or excessively touristic spot, so you can expect to relax and find some peace.
7. Frozen Head State Park
Hiking in the Frozen Head State Park is a succession of charming greeks, delightful waterfalls, and breathtaking views of the dense forest of the park.
The “Frozen Head” peak can be reached after a somewhat strenuous hike, but it will reward your efforts with an incredible 360-degree view of the natural surroundings.
8. New River Trail State Park
This unique state park consists of a hiking path that follows the New River for over 57 miles.
Perfect for a peaceful walk by the waterside, or for biking, the New River Trail State Park will immediately relax you after hours of driving.
Wooden platforms and suspended bridges substitute from time to time the regular path, making the trail a truly charming and photogenic location.
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Nashville to DC Road trip: 3 Natural Caverns to Explore
9. Shenandoah Caverns
Exploring the Shenandoah Caverns is an experience you’ll hardly forget. The caves stretch under the ground in all directions, and you’ll be able to follow many paths and explore the different high-ceiled rooms.
The natural formations of the Shenandoah Caverns are truly something else, with huge stalactites hanging from the ceiling and many “chandelier-like” rock formations that will blow your mind.
The caves are also illuminated with colorful light, making the atmosphere even more magical.
10. Appalachian Caverns
Take a break from the road to enjoy a 1-hour underground guided tour, and explore with knowledgeable local experts the impressive Appalachian Caverns.
While venturing down, you’ll be able to admire the many stalagmites and stalactites, and on your way back, a huge gift shop complete with hundreds of stones and crystals awaits you!
11. Luray Caverns
On the road from Nashville to Dc, you can travel four thousand years in the past at the Luray Caverns.
This is a really popular location among tourists, and a great idea for a brief stop along the way, especially if you’re traveling during the summer and are looking for some time away from the heat.
These caves are huge and it will take around 1 hour and a half to explore them properly, especially if you love to stop and take pictures.
The ancient natural rock formations were polished by water during the centuries, and have developed the most interesting shapes.
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Nashville to DC Road trip: the perfect stop for Animal Lovers
12. Lake Farm Alpacas
Hop off the car to spend some time with one of the cutest animals on the planet: the alpacas. At the Lake Farm Alpacas, you’ll learn more about this rare species, their history, and lifestyle, while being surrounded by dozens of examples.
You’ll be able to take pictures with the alpacas (just imagine the selfies) and even feed the animals with the help of the staff.
This is a great location for anybody who loves animals but is especially great for children, and in general traveling with family.
Can’t get enough of the animals? Check out the 11 Best Zoos in the US to Visit in 2022.
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13. Mile High Swinging Bridge and Grandfather Mountain
For those who enjoy historical architecture and engineering, check out the Mile High Swinging Bridge overlooking Grandfather Mountain.
The suspended bridge was built in 1952 and it is meant for people to walk over, offering one of the best views of Grandfather Mountain and the surrounding park.
This is not only a thrilling experience (imagine looking down from a one-mile height!), but because of the privileged 360 panoramic views, is also a great photo opportunity.
14. Birthplace of Country Music Museum
On the road from Nashville, stop by at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.
For the fans of country music, this is the perfect setting for an educational and fun break.
Through the exhibit, you’ll learn more about technology’s impact on people’s access to country music, and how the genre spread over time.
If you want, you’ll also have the opportunity to register your singing voice, cover famous country songs and take the recording home.
And what about pre-history? Read more about the 22 Best Dinosaur Museums in the US for a fun afternoon for the whole family.
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15. CLIMB Works Smoky Mountains – Zipline Tour
Are you an adrenaline junkie? Or maybe looking for a way to overcome your fear of heights, and have a great time?
The Zipline Tour at the Smoky Mountains is one of the most scenic and fun you’ll come across in your life, and the breathtaking view while “flying” over the National Park will stay with you forever.
The staff will guide you through every step, making this a great experience even for the faint of heart.
If this sounds like your kind of afternoon, you can book here your zipline tour.
16. The Garden Maze at Luray Caverns
Tired of driving in the same direction? The Garden Maze at Luray Caverns will make you hesitate at every turn, and doubt all your decisions… in a fun way.
Over half a mile of the maze, with more than 40 crossroads and deceiving signs, will eventually lead you to the finish line, but not before tiring you out.
If you want, you can book your tickets in advance here on the official maze website.
What to do at your final destination?
While the road trip itself has plenty to offer, you may be wondering what to do at your final destination.
If you’re traveling to Nashville and you need some inspiration, check out my article on 3 Days In Nashville: An Itinerary For First-Timers, an itinerary guide full of suggestions that will make your trip truly memorable.
For those traveling to DC who like to stick to a budget, here are the 10 Best Free Things to Do in Washington, D.C.