Fall is here and the adventures through Virginia’s scenic byways will soon be vibrant with color and bustling with travelers looking for eye-popping views of fall foliage.
Virginia is home to five American Byways, a U.S. Department of Transportation national scenic byways designation.
Travelers on these winding and curvy drives will experience breathtaking vistas of natural beauty with distinct and diverse historic and cultural qualities.
Read on to learn about Virginia’s national scenic treasures!
Known as “America’s Favorite Drive,” the Blue Ridge Parkway meanders from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. The parkway follows the Appalachian Mountain chain and provides some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a registered National Parkway and All-American Road.
Region: Blue Ridge Highlands
Total mileage: 469 Miles
Route: Interstates 64, 81 and 77 have directions for accessing the parkway. Access the parkway from a number of points on either side of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Speed Limit: 45 MPH
Entry Fee: $0
Scenic overlooks, historic structures, hiking and walking trails and waterfalls are just some of the highlights along the parkway. Stops include Peaks of Otter, Mabry Mill and historic towns like Roanoke.
Tag your photos with #BlueRidgeParkway, #VAOutdoors and #LoveVA to share your experience.
Stretching from York River to the James River, the Colonial Parkway connects America’s Historic Triangle – Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown. A byway lined with incredible seasonal color, it was created by the National Park Service (NPS) over the course of 26 years, the parkway is surfaced differently than modern thoroughfares and includes brick bridges and tunnels.
Region: Coastal Virginia
Total Mileage: 23 miles
Starting and ending points in Virginia: Yorktown and Jamestown
Time to Drive: Approximately an hour
Route: From I-64 take exit 242A and follow 199 West to the Colonial Parkway or take exit 242 B for Yorktown to the Colonial Parkway.
Speed Limit: 45 MPH
You’ll pass through: Williamsburg
Colonial Parkway is part of the Colonial National Historical Park. The park includes 10,221 acres of connected historical storytelling between Historic Jamestowne, Yorktown Battlefield (both NPS managed) and Colonial Williamsburg.
The Skyline Drive is the main drag through the nearly 200,000-acre Shenandoah National Park. The drive is not only a designated National Scenic Byway, but also a National Historic Landmark. It runs the entire length of Shenandoah National Park and into the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
Region: Shenandoah Valley
Total Mileage: 105 miles
Time to Drive: 3 Hours
Speed Limit: 35 MPH
Entry Fee: $20
You’ll pass through: Thornton Gap, Swift Run Gap, Rockfish Gap
Fall is the most popular time to travel along Skyline Drive, with its colorful foliage from late September to mid-November. But spring offers the most colorful wildflowers along the drive, as well as blooming azaleas and mountain laurel.
Hiking, birding, wildlife trails and waterfalls are all activities travelers can enjoy. With 75 overlooks and plenty of places to stay, like Big Meadows Lodge, Skyland Resort and the Shenandoah National Park camping grounds, this drive is sure to be an adventure.
Don’t forget to check out Mary’s Rock Tunnel and tag all your photos with #FindYourPark, #VAOutdoors and #LOVEVA to share your experience!
Explore “Where America Happened” and discover the land of conflict and reunification. This journey will take you through America’s heritage with key locations during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. This historic byway will give you and your family a well-rounded excursion through the Piedmont Region of Virginia.
Region: Northern Virginia
Total Mileage: 180 miles long and 75 miles wide
Time to Drive: 4.5 hours
Speed Limit: Varies
Road Side Attractions:
This byway travels through a region with exceptional historic value. With five Virginia presidential homes found on this journey, including Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, it’s sure to be a great history lesson!
Don’t forget to stop in Charlottesville for rich cultural, natural and artistic history. Charlottesville will also offer a selection of first-rate museums, galleries, wineries, shops and parks dispersed throughout the area.
Just across the Potomac River from downtown Washington, D.C., is a Northern Virginia oasis in the heart of the nation’s capital – the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The lesser known “Memorial Parkway” was created specifically for scenic driving. It was designed in the 1930s as a scenic drive accessible for northern Virginia and nearby D.C.
Region: Northern Virginia
Total Mileage: 25-50 Miles
Starting and ending points in Virginia: McLean (near Virginia-Maryland state line) and Mount Vernon
Time to Drive: Approximately an hour.
Route: George Washington Memorial Parkway is accessible from I-495, I-95 and I-66.
Speed Limit: 20-50 MPH
Fees: Great Falls Park is the only site on the parkway with an entrance fee.
You’ll pass through: Arlington and Alexandria
Memorial Parkway stretches from Mount Vernon, home of George Washington, along the Virginia side of the Potomac past an array of scenic and historical sites, packing a lot into its relatively short distance.
In addition to having adjacent hiking trails, the drive also has overlooks and of course stops at cultural and historical sites. Beyond Mount Vernon, scenic drivers can visit Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, Jones Point Lighthouse and sobering Arlington National Cemetery, highlighted with a visit to the Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial.
Find one of the four parkway picnic areas and have a shady meal. Stop at the Claude Moore Farm and experience agrarian life back during the Revolutionary War period. Nearing the north end of the parkway you can explore Turkey Run Park, a fitting capstone to this lesser known Virginia national park scenic drive.