Make 2018 unforgettable and visit all four of these notable sites located around the Commonwealth, creating your very own Virginia travel checklist for the New Year!
The Destination: “Paddle Your Glass Off Tour” with SouthEast Expeditions, Bayford
SouthEast Expeditions offers several guided tours for visitors looking to pair the beauty of Virginia’s Eastern Shore with a hands-on educational activity, such as learning about clam aquaculture as you gather a dozen or so straight out of the water to take back and enjoy for dinner. One of the most popular tours, however, is the “Paddle Your Glass Off Tour”, which begins in the small town of Bayford on the Eastern Shore. You’ll start with a short paddling clinic on land to get a feel for the equipment, and then head south on a short 45-minute paddle where you’ll spot plenty of wildlife, especially as you pass by Rabbit Island, a popular spot for nesting birds. Next, stop on the shores of Chatham Vineyards and walk through the property, where you’ll pass the Federalist-era Chatham home and 20 acres of vineyards. Sample some of the wines available at Chatham’s tasting room, followed by a tour of the facilities to learn about the winemaking process and the history of the vineyard. After the tour, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy a glass of wine, which you can pair with a selection of cheeses available for purchase, before kayaking back to the Bayford base. The “Paddle Your Glass Off Tour” costs $89 per person and includes kayak rentals, the tour guide, the winery tour and tasting, and a complimentary bottle of wine for every two paddlers.
The Destination: James Madison’s Montpelier, Orange
How much do you really know about James Madison? You’re probably aware that he was the fourth President of the United States and may also know that he was a Father of the Constitution, but did you know his wife Dolley is known as the first “First Lady” of the United States? Or that he was also an Architect of the Bill of Rights? A visit to James Madison’s lifelong home, Montpelier, will help you learn all that and more about the famous Virginian. Restored to its former glory, the home is shown through guided tours with historians well-versed on both the man and the time period he lived in. After walking through the home, tour the reconstructed enslaved community sites next door to learn about the African Americans that lived and served the Madison family, then check out the newest exhibit, The Mere Distinction of Colour, a moving display that covers the overall stories of slavery as well as personal stories of the slaves that lived at Montpelier. More than eight miles of wooded walking trails wind through the 2,650-acre historic property, providing scenic views of the surrounding landscapes, and after you’ve worked up an appetite wandering the estate, head to the David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center’s Exchange Café for some award-winning barbecue.
The Destination: Beartown Mountain, Lebanon
Located in the Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area in eastern Russell County, Beartown Mountain sits 4,689 feet above sea level, making it the seventh highest summit in Virginia. The scenery of Beartown Mountain is best seen from another peak, however, as it is known as one of the toughest hikes on the Eastern seaboard. There is no clear trail pathway leading to the plateaued summit of Beartown Mountain, and during the summer months much of the land is overgrown with rhododendron, briars, and thick brush not easily conquered. However, the mountain can be admired from several scenic vantage points in the area, including Flattop Mountain and Garden Mountain. These peaks are located within the Clinch Mountain Range, have summits reaching above 4,000 feet, and most importantly, have walking trails much more easily accessed than the sparsely marked trails of Beartown Mountain. If you’re looking for even more scenery, check out nearby Burke’s Garden, a spectacular topographical feature known as “God’s Thumbprint” for its unusual shape, and the Channels Natural Area Preserve, a collection of sandstone outcroppings formed over 400 million years.
The Destination: Spearhead Trails, St. Paul
Head to Spearhead Trails in Southwest Virginia for breathtaking scenery, extreme adventure, and endless fun all rolled into one trip. The five multi-use trail systems cater to ATV*, dirt bike, and mountain bike riders, as well as hikers looking to take in the surrounding landscape at a more leisurely pace. Featured on the Special Edition cover of the Virginia is for Lovers Travel Guide, the Mountain View Trail is comprised of almost 100 miles of trails and begins in the ATV-friendly town of St. Paul, with a second trailhead through Coeburn. There are several trail options for beginner and intermediate-level riders, but this trail system is heavily geared toward expert-level riders. In addition to ATVs, the Mountain View Trail is open to dirt bikes, mountain bikes, and hikers, with 17 miles of single track specifically designated for dirt bike riders. After taking on the Mountain View Trail System, explore a few of the other Spearhead Trail Systems:
- Stone Mountain
- Coal Canyon
- Original Pocahontas
- Coming Soon: The Clinch River Equestrian Trail, designated only for horseback riding.
*If you’re looking to tackle the trails but don’t have your own ATV, rent one from Southern Gap Outdoor Adventure in nearby Grundy.
Want more inspiration and information for planning your next Virginia vacation? Order the 2018 Virginia is for Lovers Travel Guide today!