The Scenic Route: 11 Drives for ’11
by Casey | Posted on September 7th, 2011
Virginia is gorgeous in fall with 15 million acres putting on a colorful show. Want to know our opinion on the best drives to take in the sights? For 2011, we give you 11 Stunning Fall Drives.
The Skyline Drive is a legendary roadway celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. It’s more than a scenic route. Here are a few ideas for your drive:
- Guided tour of Rapidan Camp, the private retreat of President Herbert Hoover.
- Junior Ranger programs are perfect for the kids.
- Dusk brings the deer to the roadside and meadows, and you’ll certainly be surprised when the eastern black bear crosses the road ahead of you. Cameras are pretty much mandatory.
- Dining at Skyland Resort or Big Meadows Lodge is a decadent experience.
- The 24-mile Colonial National Historical Parkway is a Scenic Byway connecting Jamestown and Yorktown. If it’s your heart’s desire to escape the busyness of the Hampton Roads area, wind along this peaceful corridor.
- The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail meanders through Southwest Virginia and traces the musical roots of Virginia’s bluegrass and Old Time music. Higher mountain elevations make it a wonderful drive for your day-long leaf peeping pleasure. Consider:
- The Blue Ridge Parkway is a path of delight for those who love fall color. Begin/end in either Waynesboro or Galax for a 215-mile drive. Don’t miss:
- The hiking trails are plentiful. Who knows, there might be a waterfall waiting at the end for you!
- Living history demonstrations are available at the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center.
- Mabry Mill is definitely the most photographed site on the Parkway, and maybe in the country. Don’t miss out on getting your own proof of visitation.
- Chateau Morrisette offers wine tastings and romantic dinners.
- Luthiers work to create fiddles and mandolins at the Blue Ridge Music Center.
If you’ve never crossed the Bay to the Eastern Shore, do it this fall. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is half the adventure as it carries you 17 miles across the Bay. When you arrive, you’ll find yourself smitten with the small towns.
- To shoot from the tip of the Shore to Maryland, stay on Route 13. It’s 70 miles and you’ll want to stop in quaint Onancock along the way. However …
- If you take Route 175 from the VA/MD border, you’ll find the famed Chincoteague ponies at the end.
- If you take Route 184 from the southern tip, you’ll find sweet Cape Charles with its beach, Bay Creek Resort, and superb dining.
- From historic Lexington take Route 39 west. It’s a fun drive that runs along Goshen Pass – a boulder-strewn gorge the Maury River courses through. Do stop at the scenic overlook for the view on high, and then pull off to get the down low. Amazingly beautiful foliage curtains the steep mountainsides, and birds of prey frequent the area. Continue on to Hot Springs. By way of Highway 220 south, you’ll find The Homestead, a renowned four-season resort offering golf, horseback riding, carriage rides, and more. Their quaint boutiques will make any shopper swoon.
- Loudoun County is Virginia’s hotbed for outstanding wine and cuisine. This is one drive you’ll want to pair with.
- Beginning in Leesburg, head south on Highway 15, then west on Highway 50. Stop at Chrysalis Vineyards for a taste of whatever’s flowing that day. Head into Middleburg for great shopping in Virginia’s horse country. Market Salamander offers a gourmet picnic, if you’d like one for later.
- Head back east and pick up Route 748 north, then 734 northwest for Philomont General Store, a historic, fun stop before you arrive at Great Country Farms in Bluemont. Head east on Route 7 for Purcellville and then north on 287. Choose from a variety of wineries to spread your picnic blanket. Leesburg offers amazing dining. Enjoy!
- Route 11 is the road less traveled through the Shenandoah Valley, and one you’ll want to be on this fall. It parallels Interstate 81 and delivers drivers to sweet small towns. For a great beginning/end, choose Staunton and Winchester. Noted for their historic hotels, you can’t go wrong spending time in either city. Along the way and not too far off the beaten path, consider:
The Nelson Scenic Loop is a relatively new trail utilizing four Scenic Byways and traversing 50 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Just west of Charlottesville, it’s a leisurely day trip.
- Virginia’s Piedmont puts on a show with their three presidential homes near Charlottesville.
- Head out early and make Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello your first stop. Drive east on Route 53 to Jefferson Vineyards for a tour and tasting. Take Route 732 and then 729 northwest to Highway 250. Drive a short distance to Route 22 north. A beautiful route of historic farms, route 231 will take you to Keswick Hall, a most elegant inn, then proceed to Gordonsville for shopping and a visit at the Exchange Hotel Civil War Museum.
- From Gordonsville, travel Route 231 to Orange for lunch at Elmwood at Sparks, a casual bistro with delicious eats. Roll on the Constitution Highway (Route 20) to Montpelier, home of President James and Dolley and Madison. Stroll the grounds and enjoy the tour of the newly restored home before having dinner at Barboursville Vineyards’ Palladio Restaurant.
- Take rural Route 6 along the James River from just west of Richmond to Walton’s Mountain. As you meander through Goochland and Scottsville, note the historic churches, courthouses and homes. Take County Road 800 to arrive in Schuyler, where the Walton’s Mountain Museum is located. Schuyler is the home of Earl Hamner, the creator of the classic television series “The Waltons.”
For more great ideas about how to spend your fall in Virginia, visit Virginia.org/Fall.