Take a drive that reaps rewards not with the scenery alone, but with the treasures along the way. The six trails below have been identified for their esteemed artisans and other relevant cultural experiences.
Rocky Knob area of the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Hidden Treasures Artisan Trail (HT) meanders through Patrick County in Southwest Virginia, leading you to and through a wealth of beauty. Marry it with the Floyd County Trail (FC) and the White Lightning Trail (WL) of Franklin County by way of the Blue Ridge Parkway, starting at Meadows of Dan. This trail is worthy of your 48 hours, be it weekday or weekend.
The Monticello Artisan Trail (MA) from the Blue Ridge Parkway through Nelson and Albemarle Counties pairs up nicely with the Nelson 151 Trail (151) and the Presidents Passport (PP) program. Mix, mingle, and be merry!
Where are you headed this fall in Virginia? Leave us a comment to tell us your favorite drive for foliage, your favorite festival, or whatever else you’d like to share about all the ways you LOVE fall in Virginia!
The great outdoors are calling your name. You must climb, paddle, run, or ride. But where? Enter the beautiful season of fall where the mercury slowly dips to moderate numbers and the shorter days are loaded with excitement.
Leaf Peeping in Lynchburg
Lynchburg is serving up fantastic outdoor recreation and you really don’t want to miss out on it.
Next up could be a lazy kayak trip with James River Float Company. After all that strenuous mountain work, this might be the perfect attraction.
Since you’ve gotten up close and personal with the foliage on the trail and admired its brilliance from the water, where else to see it but from the air? Call up Precision Windsports, Inc. They’ll get you up and flying in a light sport aircraft for a unique leaf-peeping vantage point.
This beautiful mountain reprieve tucked away in Giles County is the 1986 filming location for the incredible (am I biased?) Dirty Dancing featuring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. While the urge to stay at “Kellerman’s” is a persistent annual draw, Mountain Lake Lodge & Conservancy has been revamped for a new generation of family fun.
South Boston is your destination and horseback riding at Shangrila Guest Ranch is your pleasure for these 48 hours. An all-inclusive ranch, you’ll be more than comfortable in their log cabin, old home place or packhouse. If you’d rather try another accommodation, they’ll still let you saddle up with their beautiful horses. Ride, regardless of experience, for an hour or all day … just make an appointment!
Explore South Boston and Halifax, but be sure to try the barbecue at Smokin’ Jakes. That definitely has to be on your list.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is pure outdoor recreation. Start anywhere you like and you’re golden. For this purpose, let’s shoot down near Meadows of Dan and make a plan.
Blue Ridge Tree Climbing
Pick things up with Blue Ridge Tree Climbing, LLC. Instructor Bob Wray is inspiring, stating, “If you cannot remember the meaning of childhood magic, or do remember and want to get it back, then I suggest you simply climb a tree again.”
Find rest in a cozy little cabin nestled among Christmas trees at River Walk Cabins, or delight in the views from Woodberry Inn, where there’s a restaurant on site.
Ready to hit the road for a fun fall weekend? Actually, your 48 hours can be any day of the week you choose. In fact, I’d recommend you try for a mid-week jaunt, as mid-week rates are typically cheaper than weekend. Why not give it a go?
Explore Natural Tunnel State Park
Natural Tunnel State Park
Deep in the Heart of Appalachia is a state park that boasts a chair lift that’s perfect for foliage peeping – Natural Tunnel State Park. The park’s 10 mountain ridge cabins are welcoming, comfortable, and offer an amazing vantage point for those who love fall’s colors. All you need to bring is your food, condiments, toiletries and clothes; the rest is provided. Plenty of availability! $113-$390 depending on cabin size. Book Now
The 10-story natural tunnel is the main attraction here, with the aforementioned chair lift being a great highlight. The eight walking trails are easy; the longest is just over a mile. Two trails are open to cyclists. Of interest is Tunnel Trail to Log Cabin Trail where an original Carter Family Log Cabin sits.
It’s a winding road dotted with musical gems and talented artisans. Make Floyd your starting point as it’s the home of the famed Floyd Country Store and its Friday Night Jamboree. If you pick, bring your instrument to join in (it doesn’t have to be a Friday night for a pickin’ session)!
If you’re feeling like getting some easy exercise, head to Damascus, the midway point of the Virginia Creeper Trail. You’ll want to go west toward Abingdon and coast down hill. You’re welcome.
In Abingdon, make Heartwood one of your main destinations. It’s a fantastic place that offers a really great meal and many pretty handmade pieces, including jewelry, quilts, soaps, and more. Maybe they’ll ship some treasures home for you? Then it’s back to Damascus where a well-deserved, Southern Living-praised slice of chocolate cake awaits you at Creeper Trail Cafe.
Southwest Virginia will be quilted in the colors of fall before you know it. Don’t miss it and don’t miss more of our 48 Hour Fall Getaways in Virginia series. Read PART ONE and watch for part three coming soon!
If it’s fall in Virginia, it’s time to be on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive. Coasting across the peaks and looking down in the valleys … ahh! Good luck beating those views.
About the Blue Ridge Parkway
View from Humpback Rocks
Winding 469 miles from Afton to the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway was born out of President Roosevelt’s desire to create jobs in the midst of the Great Depression. Construction of the Parkway was started on the Virginia/North Carolina border in 1935 and was completed in 1983, connecting Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Shenandoah National Park. This year is the 30th anniversary of the completion of the Parkway and the 78th anniversary of its start.
In Addition to the Foliage
Sure, you travel the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy the amazing fall foliage, but what else is there to see and do up there?
Milepost 5 & 6 – Humpback Rocks – See Appalachian farm buildings of the 19th century and visit the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center for additional exhibits, a gift shop and restroom. If you like to hike, two miles from the parking lot is Humpback Mountain, part of the Appalachian Trail. It’s a strenuous, but very popular hike. Map
Peaks of Otter Lodge
Milepost 63.6 – The James River Visitor Center features an exhibit on the James River and Kanawha Canal, once a primary commercial route. A trail takes you to a restored 19th century lock, and if you like to fish, check out Otter Creek. It runs 10 miles down to the James, and Otter Lake is accessible from the Otter Creek Campground.
Milepost 83.1 – Fallingwater Cascades Trail is a National Recreation Trail, approximately 1.6 miles long and moderately strenuous.
Milepost 85.9 – Peaks of Otter are three peaks – Sharp Top, Flat Top and Harkening Hill. In this area you’ll find a restaurant, a 63-room lodge, lake and campground. The entirety of Peaks of Otter is a premier fall destination on the Parkway.
Also at 85.9:
Elk Run Trail is a self-guided nature loop = .8 mile; easy
Milepost 176.2 – Mabry Mill is not to be missed. It’s one of the most – if not the most – photographed sites on the Parkway. Get a bite to eat at the famed Mabry Mill Restaurant before exploring the mill, blacksmith shop, wheelwright and whiskey still. Demonstrations and tours are available. Be sure to find a treasure in the gift shop, too!
About Skyline Drive
Skyline Drive is 105.5 miles spanning the ridge of Shenandoah National Park. Ground was broken in July 1931 and the first 34-mile stretch from Swift Run Gap (Route 33) to Thornton Gap (Route 211) was completed in 1934. Thornton Gap to Front Royal (another 32 miles) was completed in 1936, and another 32.4 miles between Swift Run Gap and Jarman Gap was completed in 1939.
Of note is that Jarman Gap to Rockfish Gap was originally built as part of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Those 8.5 miles were completed in 1939 and were deeded to Shenandoah National Park in 1961.
In Addition to the Foliage
The highlight of Skyline Drive is, of course, Shenandoah National Park. Interestingly enough, the Drive existed before the Park came to be. Shenandoah National Park was authorized in 1926, established in 1935 and dedicated by President Roosevelt in 1936.
Hiking the Appalachian Trail through Shenandoah National Park
Seventy-five overlooks dot Skyline Drive and 518 miles of trails meander back and forth across it through Shenandoah National Park, making it a most impressive destination for leaf-peeping.
Milepost 21.5 – Overall Run Falls – If you’re looking for a great waterfall to hike to, this might be the one. With a 93′ drop, it’s the highest in Shenandoah National Park. The hike is a moderate 6.4 miles ’round trip to the falls and back.
Milepost 41.7 or 42.5 – Skyland Resort – Dating to 1886 and originally called Stony Man Camp, Skyland was a summer retreat for the Pollock family. Skyland is the highest point of Skyline Drive at 3,680 feet, overlooking the Shenandoah Valley. Stay here if you like, in one of the 178 accommodations. Enjoy the restaurant on site, too.
Milepost 42.6 – Whiteoak Canyon - Waterfalls ranging from 35 to 86 feet with swimming holes at the bottom of each are the reward for this 4.6-mile out-and-back hike to the upper falls. Want to see more? Add another 2.7 miles to your trip by descending further down the mountain. Map
Milepost 51.3 – Big Meadows Lodge – This lodge dates to 1939 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The stones were cut from Massanutten Mountain and the timber is native chestnut. Enjoy the Roosevelt Fried Chicken or New Deal Turkey Platter at the Spottswood Dining Room, if you find yourself hungry.
These two drives – two of “America’s Most Iconic Drives,” according to Travel + Leisure – are just the beginning of your Virginia drives for fall foliage, as we have more in store and coming soon. Be sure to subscribe to our blog to have the posts delivered directly to your inbox. We wouldn’t want you to miss a single thing about fall in Virginia.
Fall in Virginia. What is there to say except that it’s stunning, breathtaking, amazing, vibrant, crisp and that there must be at least one hundred more adjectives that can describe the immense beauty of the season. This fall promises to be especially incredible, as Virginia’s summer was wetter and cooler than usual – the perfect scenario for amazing foliage.
Who would you pick to stand by your side at a Blue Ridge Parkway overlook when the season is near or at peak? Probably your significant other, hand in hand. With that in mind, this is the first of eight posts that will give you grand ideas for ways to spend 48 hours in Virginia this fall. Enjoy!
Much Ado About Staunton
Virginia’s foliage spreads west to east and the Shenandoah Valley is one of the areas to see orange, red and yellow first. If you’re planning multiple fall getaways, start here.
I mentioned the food. Food is important and you want to make sure Zynodoa is on your “to eat” list. Zynodoa’s ingredients are locally sourced and esteemed Chef James Harris is at the helm. Harris has kitchen management at the Mobil five-star The Inn at Little Washington under his belt.
American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse
Autumn Splendor in the Cabin Capital of Virginia
Luray is the Cabin Capital of Virginia. If you’re looking for a sweet, snuggly place for the two of you to be alone, look no further.
Shenandoah Mountain Escape
Contact Shadow Mountain Escape to inquire about their luxury Ladybug or Bumblebee cabins. The last I checked, those two still had a Sunday-Monday availability in October. Mid-week stays are possible for the rest of fall.
Another great option for a fall cabin getaway is to call Shenandoah River Cabins to ask about their Angler, Drifter and Paddler cabins, which all sit riverfront, have a queen bed with fireplace and a private hot tub. Each cabin still has weekend availability for September and October.
From the center of this historic town, you’ll encounter several types of art galleries and can also schedule a plein air landscape painting lesson with artist Nora Harrington. Your handcrafted creation will be quite the memento to recall your trip.
Subscribe to receive our latest blog posts via email so you don’t miss a thing this fall! We have part two of the eight part 48 Hour Fall Getaways in Virginia series coming up Thursday, so keep an eye out.
LOVE is at the heart of every Virginia vacation. Virginia is for Lovers.