12 Road Trips for Fall

by Casey Higgins | Posted on September 4th, 2012

More than 3,000 miles of beauty await you this fall in Virginia. Mountains, shore, small towns and rolling countryside are accented with 15 million acres of vibrant color and you won’t want to miss it. To help you completely connect on your classic fall roadtrip, check out these 12 fall drives.

Loudoun County

Loudoun County

  1. Drive a Classic – The Blue Ridge Parkway stretches from Shenandoah National Park south through Virginia and beyond. It’s a family favorite since the 1930s and its beauty is unmatched. Check out the wineries along the way like Chateau Morrisette and Villa Appalaccia, as well as luxury accommodations and outdoor fun at Wintergreen and Primland resorts. Ears for great music will want to tune in to Floyd Country Store, Rex Theater and the Blue Ridge Music Center, but photographers delight in the iconic Mabry Mill – a traditional stop for generations.
  2. Ride the Sky – Winding through Shenandoah National Park for 105 miles is Skyline Drive with its 75 overlooks, trails, educational programs and guided hikes. Dining and lodging are within the park, too.
  3. Take a Trip Through American HistoryJamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg are connected by the 23-mile Colonial Parkway which highlights vistas of the James and York rivers and pristine pine and hardwood forests.
  4. Blaze a Trail Through the Pass – Get into the color after you’ve gazed upon it. Goshen Pass is the treasure of Route 39 from Lexington west. Carved by the Maury River, the Pass is a three-mile gorge with swimming holes and gigantic boulders perfect for perching and enjoying the view.
  5. Pathway of Presidents – The Charlottesville area is home to American presidents, great wineries and spectacular fall scenery. Visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, James Monroe’s Ash Lawn Highland and James Madison’s Montpelier, an experience made more pleasurable by the splendid scenic drives that link these historic homes. Routes 22, 20 and 231 wind through the pastoral Virginia Piedmont and through the memorable small towns of Gordonsville and Orange where good shopping and dining abound. Visit the wineries of the Monticello Wine Trail, as Mr. Jefferson would recommend.
  6. Relax in “God’s Thumbprint” – High in the mountains of Southwest Virginia is a bowl-shaped valley resembling the impression left by a giant thumb. Named “Burkes Garden” for an early explorer, the valley contains some of the most fertile soil in Virginia producing unmatched flora. An autumn drive through Burke’s Garden always gets a thumb’s up.
  7. Harvest the Scenery – Northern Virginia’s Loudoun County is a favorite getaway place because of its abundant wineries, back roads finds, U-pick farms and fabulous restaurants. It also contains a wonderful web of scenic byways. Fall harvest in Loudoun is a time of celebration. Kids love the activities at Loudoun’s farms, picking pumpkins, petting alpacas and scampering through corn mazes. The wineries get in on the act too, hosting special events during October Virginia Wine Month: Discover Your Local Crush. Loudoun also has the kind of restaurants that make news in national food publications. The setting is one of the prettiest in Virginia and the scenic roads all seem to lead to something extraordinary.
  8. Follow the Birds – Virginia’s Eastern Shore, the peninsula between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic, is in the direct migratory path of songbirds and raptors. In the fall the Shore is a haven for bird watchers and nature lovers. Stops along the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail provide vantage points to spot birds and other animals in the wild. Rt. 600, running from the southern tip of the Eastern Shore to the town of Nassawadox is a Virginia Scenic Byway, meandering along salt marshes and farmers’ fields.

    Back of the Dragon

    Back of the Dragon

  9. Take the Colonial Route – Modern Rt. 5 follows the trace of the old Colonial road between Williamsburg and Richmond paralleling the James River. Significant vestiges of those days remain along the way. Dating to 1613, Shirley Plantation has been home to the 11 generations of the Carter Family and is America’s oldest family-run business. President William Henry Harrison was born at nearby Berkeley Plantation which is where the famous bugle call Taps was written and hosts the annual Virginia Thanksgiving Festival. The Bed & Breakfast Piney Grove at Southall’s Tavern hosts fun progressive dinners and other special functions. Parts of the roadway are canopied in lush tunnel of trees and a high bridge leads over the Chickahominy River.
  10. Find the “Daughter of the Stars” – Shenandoah is a Native American word meaning “Daughter of the Stars.” During the day light twinkles off the clear, bubbling rivers and creeks while on clear nights the stars seem to shimmer with a special glow. Shenandoah County lies in the heart of the famous Valley of Virginia. Nearly every road in the county is picturesque, running alongside brooks and creeks and past centuries-old farmsteads. One of those roads leads across Meem’s Bottom Covered Bridge which spans the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. Historic Highway 11 goes through superb small towns, farm markets, antique stores and roadside attractions.
  11. Visit The Waltons - Nelson County is the home of the fictional Walton Family, creation of Nelson native Earl Hamner and the first family of television in the 1970s and ‘80s. Running through the county is Rt. 151, “Main Street of the Rockfish Valley.” Just on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the valley is a place of splendor as well as fun. Wineries, craft breweries, small towns, Bed and Breakfast and natural beauty are around every bend in the road. While in the area, also take a drive on the Nelson Scenic Loop, a 50-mile route along the shoulder of the mountains that leads past one of Virginia’s great beauty spots, Crabtree Falls.
  12. Ride on a Dragon’s Back – Motorcyclists from across the country love to cruise along Rt. 16 between the towns of Tazewell and Marion . The panoramic vistas are as inspiring as the road is fun to maneuver. The up-and-down meanderings of this ribbon of road has led it to be called the Back of the Dragon, but be assured that this serpent is friendly to both cars and motorcycles.

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4 Comments

Gail says:

Route 311 exit 142 from Interstate 81,crosses both Catawba mountain,and Pott’s mountain,both beautiful ,all of Craig county is awe inspiring.

Nicole says:

Hooray for the inclusion of Route 5, aka New Market Road, once known as River Road and arguably the nation’s second oldest roadway (or oldest, depending on the historians in the room). Pocahontas, John Smith, John Rolfe and others followed this path, centuries before it was named a Scenic Byway.

Margaret says:

If you’ve never visited George Washington’s Birthplace, you should go when the leaves are changing–its beautiful. Where? Westmoreland County, 10 minutes from Colonial Beach, 40 minutes from Fredericksburg, an hour from Richmond and one hour 20 minutes from D.C.—on Rt. 3. Check it out on a suny day when the leaves are changing. And 15 minutes further down Rt. 3 is Stratford Hall, where Robert E. Lee was born, plus his 2 uncles who signed the Declaration of Independence. For lunch/dinner, check out the restaurants in Colonial Beach

Suzanne Locking says:

Another beautiful byway in SW Virginia is Route 58 from Damascus up to Konnarock and then along the plateau near Grayson Highlands, Mt. Rogers, and Whitetop Mountain. The road is twisty and the going slow, but it’s gorgeous all times of the year. In spring the mountain laurels are amazing and in autumn there’s a glorious mix of hardwoods in full color and evergreens.