Virginia’s Most Exciting Road Cycling Routes

by Johnny Molloy | Posted: Jun 9, 2017 | Updated: Jun 15, 2017

Comments: 1 Comment

Do you find yourself daydreaming of clipping on your pedals, then biking down a quiet two-lane road through relaxing Virginia countryside? Does the ultra-beautiful yet challenging Blue Ridge Parkway call you to pedal its heights? Have you dreamed of bicycling the history-laden Colonial Parkway? Do you want to follow one of the official US bike routes criss-crossing Virginia, stopping to dine at quaint eateries, perusing towns small and large, visiting historic sights? Virginia features a series of road cycling routes that will sate your desires for all the above. So grab your helmet, grease your chain, pump up your tires and get ready to road cycle Virginia.

 

–BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY–

Nearby Towns: Waynesboro, Buena Vista, Glasgow, Buchanan, Roanoke, Floyd, Fancy Gap

Road Cycle Route Overview: The Blue Ridge Parkway is Virginia’s signature road biking experience. Virginia hosts 216 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway, a linear national park coursing atop the Appalachians. The Parkway begins near Waynesboro and winds southwest to the North Carolina state line. Concrete posts — numbered every mile — keep you apprised of your whereabouts. The Parkway has limited entrances and exits. Plenty of wildlife can and will be seen. Furthermore, auto tourists expect to see bicyclists on the Parkway, thus will be on the lookout for us. Bicyclers will enjoy alluring sights, picturesque pullovers — and deer crossing the road.

Most bicyclers touring Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway are experienced and in good shape. They are prepared for elevation variations of 3,000 feet, where this Virginia asphalt ribbon winds over mountains, down to gaps and over creeks and rivers.

Bicycling on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Non-bicycling outdoor possibilities await — walks to waterfalls, hikes to historic sites, or camping where you can reconnect with nature.

Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway offers still more possibilities. Take in some traditional Appalachian music at the Blue Ridge Music Center. How about overnight lodging overlooking a lake reflecting craggy mountains above? Have a mountaintop meal at a country restaurant or have your own picnic. Whether it is a few days or a few hours, a road bike trip on Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway will scratch your mountain itch.

Blue Ridge Parkway Highlights:

Waynesboro to the James River – 64 miles

  • Waynesboro – The Iris Inn, Wayne Theater, Frontier Culture Museum, Grand Caverns, Jakes Bar and Grill, EPF Smokehouse
  • Humpback Rocks Visitor Center, William J. Carter Farm, Hike to Humpback Rocks

The Blue Ridge Parkway lies below Humpback Rocks with the Shenandoah valley beyond

  • White Rock Falls from The Slacks Overlook
  • Yankee Horse Ridge– Wigwam Falls and a reconstructed logging railroad
  • Buena Vista — Original Italian Pizza, Canoe/kayak Maury River
  • Only Parkway tunnel in Virginia, boring 630 feet through Bluff Mountain
  • James River Visitor Center, side trip to lovely Lynchburg or iconic Natural Bridge

James River to Roanoke – 56 miles

  • Lowest and highest elevation on Parkway in Virginia
  • White Rock Falls from The Slacks Overlook
  • Sunset Fields Overlook view; walk down to 200-foot Apple Orchard Falls.
  • Peaks of Otter area — camp, fish, see historic sights and even stay in a lakefront lodge. Destinations such the historic Johnson Farm, Sharp Top, Flat Top, Fallingwater Cascades, and Abbott Lake make this a must stop.
  • Town of Bedford – National D-Day Memorial, Bedford Museum & Genealogical Library, Liberty Station – Restaurant in a former train depot
  • Great Valley Overlook
  • Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center, Explore Park — historic buildings and nature trails
  • Roanoke — Wasena City Tap Room and Grill, Mill Mountain Park, Roanoke Star, Virginia Museum of Transportation, Science Museum of Western Virginia

Roanoke to Blue Ridge Music Center – 98 miles

  • More pastoral than the two previous sections of the Parkway
  • Roanoke Mountain, trails and vast picnic area
  • Roanoke Valley Overlook
  • Smart View, historic cabin, picnicking and woodsy trails
  • Rocky Knob — a collection of scenery and activities — Views abound from the high meadows here. Rock Castle Gorge or stop in the visitor center and learn about the network of rewarding nature trails. Overnight at Rocky Knob Campground.

Blue Ridge Parkway, near Rocky Knob Recreation Area, Milepost 170.

  • Mabry Mill — the most photographed spot on the entire Blue Ridge Parkway. Visit the restored mill astride a reflecting pool where living history displays are held.
  • Groundhog Mountain Tower
  • Blue Ridge Music Center– Parkway venue offering a variety of Appalachian music
  • Enter North Carolina 3 miles beyond Blue Ridge Music Center

 

–SKYLINE DRIVE–

Nearby Towns: Front Royal, Luray, Waynesboro, Elkton, Charlottesville

Road Cycle Route Overview: When it comes to Virginia road cycling experiences, Skyline Drive is second only to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Skyline Drive, one of the first touring roads ever constructed on the planet, travels for over 100 miles down the spine of Shenandoah National Park. Skyline Drive has 75 overlooks and connects to all the major visitor centers, campgrounds, lodges, picnic areas and most trailheads. Concrete posts numbered every mile keep you apprised of your whereabouts. The two-lane asphalt ribbon is a first rate road bicycling endeavor. Skyline Drive is mostly pedaled by experienced road bicyclers, due to the ups and downs along the world’s first scenic motor route.

Scenic Skyline Drive

Visit sights historical, natural and cultural — waterfalls, overlooks, or pioneer homesites. Overnight at several roadside campgrounds. Dine and overnight at one or two lodges after enjoying an informative ranger program. Admire the plethora of wildflowers and trees that inhabit of in Virginia’s first and greatest national park. The park contains a wide array of flora and fauna as it rises from a mere 550 feet at its lowest elevation to over 4,000 feet atop Hawksbill. Quartz, granite, and greenstone outcrops jut above the diverse forest, allowing far-flung views of the Blue Ridge and surrounding Shenandoah Valley. It is this beauty near and far that create the special Shenandoah experience.

Skyline Drive Highlights:

Front Royal to Thornton Gap – 31 miles

  • Front Royal – Paddle Shenandoah River, Joe’s Steakhouse, The Wine and Duck Restaurant, Skyline Caverns, Poe’s Southfork Campground
  • Historic Dickey Ridge Visitor Center with a stellar view
  • Visit old homesites on Fox Hollow Interpretive Trail
  • Hogback Overlook, longest overlook in the park
  • Overall Run Falls
  • Mathews Arm Campground
  • Elkwallow Wayside — ice cream and/or sandwiches
  • Thornton Hollow Overlook
  • Luray – Luray Caverns, Luray Rescue Zoo, Paddle South Fork Shenandoah River, 55 East Main Brew House and Grill

Skyline Drive

Thornton Gap to Swift Run Gap – 34 miles

  • Highest point on Skyline Drive
  • Marys Rock –360-degree
  • Pinnacles Overlook views and a nearby picnic area.
  • Skyland Lodge
  • Hike to Stony Man, highest spot on the Appalachian Trail in the park *Hawksbill, the park’s highest peak, 360 degree views
  • Big Meadows — lodge, campground, visitor center, dining and picnicking
  • Dark Hollow Falls, Rose River Falls
  • Lewis Spring Falls
  • Camp Rapidan, historic Presidential retreat
  • Bearfence Mountain Rock Scramble — 360-degree views
  • Lewis Mountain Campground and cabins
  • 83-foot South River Falls from the South River Picnic Area
  • Elkton – Massanutten Resort, Terri’s Country Café, Cave Hill Farm B&B

Swift Run Gap to Rockfish Gap – 40 miles

  • Longest and most quiet section of Skyline Drive
  • Extensive rock formations, talus slopes, and outcrops
  • Rocky Mount Overlook

  • Rockytop Overlook
  • Loft Mountain — camp store and the largest campground in the park
  • Dundo Picnic Area and group camp
  • Browns Gap – waterfall hikes
  • Chimney Rock from Riprap parking area
  • Waynesboro – The Iris Inn, Wayne Theater, Frontier Culture Museum, Grand Caverns, Jakes Bar and Grill, EPF Smokehouse

 

–US BIKE ROUTE 1–

Nearby Towns: Victoria, Burkeville, Richmond, Ashland, Fredericksburg, Springfield, Fort Belvoir, Mount Vernon, Alexandria, Arlington

Road Cycle Route Overview: US Bike Route 1 is a pedaling route slated to run from Maine to Florida, passing through Virginia along the way. The north-south route through Virginia is already an officially certified portion of US Bike Route 1. The rolling Piedmont route traverses 283 miles from the North Carolina line near Buggs Island Lake Dam (Lake Kerr) up to Washington D.C. For your convenience, the Virginia Department of Transportation has turn-by-turn cue sheets for you to download. A mix of mostly rural with some urban cycling, the route wanders the Virginia Piedmont before rolling into history and culture rich Richmond. From there it aims north for D.C. in mostly rural terrain to reach Fredericksburg. It makes its way into the northern Virginia metroplex, finally saddling alongside the Potomac, enjoying a prolonged greenway stretch to reach D.C. The rolling terrain is never perfectly flat, but it doesn’t have the challenging mountain pulls of the Blue Ridge Parkway or Skyline Drive.

Mount Vernon Bike Trail

Heading north from North Carolina you’ll experience Virginia’s biggest lake right off the bat, availing aquatic possibilities from boating to paddling on massive Buggs Island Lake in friendly Southside Virginia. In Richmond, ride along the James River to experience the meld of Virginia’s past through museums and monuments with additional recreation opportunities, from walking to rafting to camping. Dining options increase here. Continue north, passing historic downtown Fredericksburg amid battlefields and beside Prince William Forest Park. Join the Mount Vernon Trail — a greenway — and scoot along the Potomac River, avoiding traffic to enter D.C.

US Bike Route 1 Highlights:

North Carolina line to Richmond – 120 miles

  • Buggs Island Lake (Lake Kerr)
  • Town of Victoria -Uptown Coffee Café
  • Twin Lakes State Park
  • Burkeville – Sailors Creek Battlefield State Park, Bravo Italian Grill
  • Amelia Court House — Mario’s Italian & Country
  • Paddling Swift Creek Reservoir
  • James River Park
  • Richmond –Virginia State Capitol, Edgar Allen Poe Museum, Agecroft Hall, The American Civil War Museum- White House and Museum of the Confederacy, 7 Hills Brewing Company. The Tobacco Company Restaurant, Riverwalk, Belle Isle, LuLu’s Eatery, Segway of Richmond, Forest Hill Park, The One Bed and Breakfast

Edgar Allan Poe Museum

Richmond to Arlington – 163 miles

  • Meadow Farm Museum at Crump Park
  • Lake Anna
  • Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park
  • Fredericksburg – Sedona Taphouse, Happy Endings Bar & Grille, James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library, The Inn at the Olde Silk Mill, Hugh Mercer Apothecary – a museum of Colonial Medicine
  • Rappahannock River Blueway
  • Prince William Forest Park — camping
  • Mount Vernon, Washington’s home
  • Jones Point Lighthouse
  • Alexandria — Potomac Heritage Trail, Lee-Fendall House, African American Heritage Memorial Park, Old Town Alexandria, Rustico Restaurant & Bar

Old Town Alexandria

  • Arlington – Arlington House, Lady Bird Johnson Park, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Ray’s The Steaks

 

–US BIKE ROUTE 76–

Nearby Towns: Yorktown, Williamsburg, Richmond, Charlottesville, Christiansburg, Damascus, Haysi

Road Cycle Route Overview: US Bike Route 76 is an official bicycle route whose Virginia portion starts at Yorktown in the east and heads westerly for 552 miles through the Old Dominion to end at the Kentucky state line near Breaks Interstate Park. The rest of the route continues to Missouri. Originally developed in conjunction with our country’s Bicentennial (hence the 76 in the name), US Bike Route 76 is signed and marked through Virginia. The Virginia Department of Transportation has turn-by-turn cue sheets for you to download, whether you go west to east or east to west. The route follows the changing landscape of Virginia heading west from the Atlantic Coastal Plain into the Piedmont and Lake Anna, eventually working into the Appalachian Range via Charlottesville. It then works southwesterly down the Shenandoah Valley then the Great Valley of Virginia, keeping southwesterly nearly to Tennessee before turning northwest through Southwest Virginia to eventually make the Kentucky border.

Governor's Palace at Colonial Williamsburg

Heading west from Yorktown up the James River Valley, pass Colonial Williamsburg with its Revolutionary history, then go earlier back in time to Jamestown Island, site of the first official English Thanksgiving. Visit yet another era skirting around Richmond. See big Lake Anna, then come to Jefferson’s Charlottesville. Cross the Blue Ridge, briefly joining the Blue Ridge Parkway before bicycling the bucolic and beautiful Shenandoah Valley. Cross ridges and enter the massive New River Valley with its outdoor prospects. Next comes a trip through the Virginia Highlands – the state’s rooftop – before dropping into America’s most famed trail town of Damascus. Cut across remote ridge and valley country, then the under-visited Arrowhead of Virginia, where The Channels and other geological highlights are exposed. End near famed Breaks Interstate Park and see the “Grand Canyon of the South”.

US Bike Route 76 Highlights:

Yorktown to Charlottesville – 192 miles

  • Yorktown – American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, On the Hill Art Gallery, Yorktown Beach, Yorktown Pub
  • Williamsburg — Alewerks Brewing Company, Colonial National Historical Park
  • Historic Jamestowne Visitor Center
  • Jamestown Settlement Museum
  • Jamestown Pie Company
  • Upper Shirley Winery
  • Richmond National Battlefield Park
  • Richmond –Virginia State Capitol, Edgar Allen Poe Museum, Agecroft Hall, The American Civil War Museum-White House and Museum of the Confederacy, 7 Hills Brewing Company. The Tobacco Company Restaurant, Riverwalk, Belle Isle, LuLu’s Eatery, Segway of Richmond, Forest Hill Park, The One Bed and Breakfast
  • Castle Glen Estates Farm and Winery
  • Lake Anna
  • Charlottesville — Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Pen Park, Tavola Italian Bistro, South Street Brewery, Immersion Escape Rooms, Kemper Park, Michie Tavern circa 1784

Monticello

Charlottesville to Wytheville – 126 miles:

  • Blue Ridge Parkway –Humpback Rocks Visitor Center, William J. Carter Farm, Humpback Rocks.
  • White Rock Falls from The Slacks Overlook
  • St. Marys Wilderness
  • Lexington — Robert E. Lee Chapel & Museum, Canoe/Kayak Maury River, George Marshall Museum, Blue Sky Bakery, Brew Ridge Taps, Robert E. Lee Hotel
  • Natural Bridge National Landmark

Natural Bridge Park

  • Upper James River Blueway near Buchanan
  • Tinker Cliffs, Dragons Tooth
  • Beliveau Estate Winery
  • Christiansburg — The Oaks Victorian Inn, Summit Restaurant
  • Radford — Glencoe Museum
  • Paddle New River
  • Claytor Lake State Park
  • Pulaski – New River Trail
  • The Mansion at Fort Chiswell
  • Wytheville – African American Heritage Museum, Log House 1776 Restaurant, Moon Dog Brick Oven, Trinkle Mansion Bed & Breakfast

Wytheville to Breaks Interstate Park – 134 miles

  • Mount Rogers High Country
  • Grindstone Campground
  • Virginia Creeper Trail
  • Fishing Whitetop Laurel Creek
  • Damascus – Appalachian Trail, Mount Rogers Outfitters, Iron Mountain Trail, The Damascus Brewery, Hey Joe’s Tacos
  • The Great Channels of Virginia
  • Honaker – Farmer’s Table Restaurant, Honaker Heritage Museum
  • Haysi — Main Street Pizzeria & Grill, Veterans Memorial Walk of Honor
  • Breaks Interstate Park

Breaks Interstate Park

  • Kentucky state line

 

–EAST COAST GREENWAY–

Nearby Towns: Arlington, Alexandria, Richmond, Williamsburg

Road Cycle Route Overview: As the name implies, the uncompleted yet ambitious project that is the East Coast Greenway (ECG) seeks to cobble together various greenways (aka shared use trails) from Key West, Florida to the Canadian border in northern Maine. Eventually the East Coast Greenway is to stretch 3,000 plus miles, plus another 2,000 miles of what planners call ‘complimentary routes.”. Here in Virginia, the ECG is only partly completed, but is expected to cover a total of 299 miles starting in Arlington on to Richmond through South Hill and down to Clarksville before entering North Carolina.

A complimentary route — known as the Historical Coastal Route — spurs east from Richmond down the James River corridor using the Virginia Capital Trail to reach Williamsburg. After a gap, the ECG complimentary route joins the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail to reach North Carolina. The Historic Coastal Route will stretch 139 miles when completed.

Virginia Capital Trail

Leaving Washington D.C., the ECG joins the Mount Vernon Trail 18 miles to Mount Vernon, passing many sights along the way, including Arlington Memorial Cemetery, Theodore Roosevelt Island, picnic areas, and wildlife preserves. Enjoy a multitude of Potomac River views. Unfortunately, the ECG experiences a huge gap all the way to South Hill, where it joins the Tobacco Heritage Trail, which is mostly flat. The ECG passes by large plantations as well as big Buggs Island Lake (aka Lake Kerr) before leaving the state.

The complimentary route, the Historic Coastal Route, leaves east from Richmond, tracing the 52 mile Virginia Capital Trail through the lower James River Valley, linking Richmond to Williamsburg, and connecting smaller communities in between, and is steeped in history, passing through eras of Virginia’s past from the Civil War to the Revolutionary War to the founding of Jamestown in the 1600s. The next complete segment follows the Great Dismal Canal Trail, yet another historic transportation platform.

East Coast Greenway Highlights:

  • Arlington to Clarksville – 299 miles
  • Mount Vernon Trail
  • Arlington – Arlington House, Lady Bird Johnson Park, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Epic Smokehouse, haiphoon Restaurant
  • Alexandria — Potomac Heritage Trail, Lee-Fendall House, African American Heritage Memorial Park, Old Town Alexandria, Rustico Restaurant & Bar
  • Jones Point lighthouse
  • Mount Vernon, Washington’s home

TRAIL GAP

  • Lawrenceville – Tobacco Heritage Trail

Tobacco Heritage Trail

  • South Hill – Tobacco Farm Life Museum of Virginia, Colonial Theatre, The Hungry Farmer Restaurant, Brian’s Steakhouse
  • Chase City
  • Rudds Creek Campground
  • Occoneechee State Park
  • Clarksville – Prestwould Plantation
  • North Carolina state line

ECG Historic Coastal Route Richmond to N.C. line – 139 miles

  • Virginia Capital Trail
  • Richmond – Riverwalk, Edgar Allen Poe Museum, Belle Isle, Virginia State Capitol
  • Four Mile Creek Park
  • Richmond National Battlefield Park
  • Upper Shirley Vineyards
  • Charles City – Sherwood Forest Plantation
  • Chickahominy Riverfront Park
  • Jamestown Settlement, Historic Jamestowne
  • Busch Gardens Williamsburg

busch gardens roller coasters at howl o scream

  • Yorktown Battlefield – Colonial National Historical Park

TRAIL GAP

  • Great Dismal Swamp Canal Trail
  • Chesapeake Campground
  • Lake Drummond
  • *North Carolina state line

 

–COLONIAL PARKWAY–

Nearby Towns: Jamestown, Williamsburg, Yorktown

Road Cycle Route Overview: Part of 10,000-acre Colonial National Historical Park, preserving much of the historic triangle of Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown, the 23-mile Colonial Parkway is a scenic roadway linking Yorktown and the York River to Jamestown and the James River. A low speed limit and being a scenic byway makes it ideal for road bicyclists. Furthermore, the roadway was intentionally integrated into the historic and natural features of the land through which it travels, adding intrinsic value to the experience.

The Colonial Parkway starts at Yorktown Battlefield, where you can pedal additional park roads through the site of America’s decisive victory over the British during the Revolutionary War. The roadway cruises alongside the York River, with pullovers, then passes through the heart of Colonial Williamsburg and its sights. Next, the Parkway comes along and parallels the banks of the tidal James River to reach Jamestown Settlement, a re-creation of the real thing, and Historic Jamestowne, which you reach and can even bicycle a loop on the island where the first colonists settled in Jamestown. The whole route displays Virginia history at its finest.

Colonial Parkway Highlights:

  • Yorktown –Riverwalk Landing, Cornwallis Cave, Riverwalk Restaurant, Patriot Tours & Provisions, York River Inn Bed & Breakfast, Watermen’s Museum, Yorktown Pub

Yorktown Victory Center

  • Battle of Yorktown Visitor Center
  • American Revolution Museum at Yorktown
  • Sandy Point
  • New Quarter Park
  • Williamsburg – Governor’s Palace, Williamsburg Lodge, Williamsburg Private Tours, Fat Canary Restaurant, Muscarelle Museum of Art, The Virginia Beer Company
  • Busch Gardens Williamsburg
  • Jamestown Settlement
  • Powhatan Creek Blueway
  • Archaearium Archaeology Museum
  • Historic Jamestowne
  • Island Drive – scenic road through Historic Jamestowne
 

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