The Shenandoah Valley is one of the top vacation spots in Virginia because of its access to outdoor excellence in all seasons. While some of our trails may be more challenging to hike in the winter, there’s plenty to do here when the weather gets cold. Read on for our picks for the activities and lodgings that will help you have a wonderful winter getaway.
Winter Fun at Bryce Resort
One of the best places to take advantage of all winter has to offer is 400-acre Bryce Resort, which is located just west of Mount Jackson. Bryce has plenty to do in all seasons of the year, but it really shines in winter and was recently named one of North America’s top family-friendly ski resorts by Travel & Leisure. Zip up to the top of the slopes on one of the high-speed lifts and take your pick from eight slopes, which offer routes for various levels of technical skill. Don’t worry if there’s a newbie in your party. This resort boasts a top-rated ski and snowboard school for kids as young as 4 ½. You can also pick from three on-site restaurants for when you need to warm up with a bite to eat. If you decide you need a change of pace from skiing, Bryce Resort also offers snow tubing and an ice skating rink. Bring your own gear or rent it at the resort. Another good option for an intense adventure is to sign up for an endurance event like a snowshoeing tour with Rev3Endurance. The 1.5-mile excursions are open to participants eight and older. Gear (and post-adventure beverages) will be provided, so all you need to do is strap on your snowshoes and bring your endurance to the slopes.
Bryce Resort doesn’t operate lodgings onsite, but nearby Cedar Ridge Lodge will house even the largest of families or friend groups. The lodge’s “upscale rustic/western style” and large rooms will please you, once you finally drag yourself away from the incredible views to be had on the wrap-around deck. Warm up by a crackling fire or watch the stars from the hottub. There’s also a well appointed kitchen, a billiards table, and a lower-level great room if everyone needs to spread out.
Hiking and Staying in Page County and Luray, the Cabin Capital of Virginia
A winter getaway in Page County and Luray should include cold weather hiking and a return to a snug home base. Plan to start your winter getaway by renting one of the hundreds of cabins available in Luray and Page County, also known as the Cabin Capital of Virginia. Cabins range in size, number of guests they’ll sleep, and amenities. Some are newly built luxury spaces in town, while others are far more rustic and remote, embracing the peace and quiet of nature. Browse cabins here or call Luray-Page County Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center for a personal match!
After you’ve enjoyed your night away from home and relished your coffee and the view, head outside. You can’t beat the hiking at Shenandoah National Park or the views from the overlooks along the Skyline Drive. Urban hikers will have fun looking for birds and other small wildlife while walking the Luray Hawksbill Greenway, a paved, two-mile nature trail that’s just steps away from Luray’s vibrant downtown. Shenandoah’s Big Gem Park has a largely undeveloped area that is ideal for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. Hike or bike the trails twining through the 68 acres, and if you have kids, let them play on the playground. Another entertaining activity is working together to track down the geocache hidden in the park. Other good outdoor spaces include the hiking the trails at 39-acre Arrowhead Lake, Shenandoah’s River Park and Landing, and Stanley’s Ed Good Park. Folks with kids will appreciate letting them burn off steam at Ralph H. Dean Recreation Park, where there’s a large playground and incredible views of the mountains.
Winter Sports in Rockingham County
Get ready to spin and leap on the ice at Bridgewater’s Generations Park. Because of Covid, the rink’s capacity has been limited to 27 skaters. You can schedule your hour-long session ahead of time by signing up online. If you don’t have your own skates, the park offers limited rentals, and they have “walkers” for those who are just starting out.
After your personal Ice Capades, you’ll have earned some lunch at The Cracked Pillar Pub and then drop by the Dayton Market for a wide selection of local goods. Your lodging for the night should be at Silver Lake Bed and Breakfast, which is a beautiful home, parts of which date back to the 1750s. The house has been modernized for comfort and convenience, but still retains its historic charm with cabin details and bluestone chimneys. You’ll feel pampered by generously sized, romantic rooms, high-quality linens, and a large porch for relaxing. You’ll also delight in the gourmet breakfasts that showcase local ingredients.
Massanutten Resort excels at many things, but its winter sports are a highlight. There’s something to captivate the entire family and hills and thrills for all ability levels. Winter sports include skiing, snowboarding, and tubing on a variety of slopes. You can also stay at the bottom of the mountain and ice skate on the enormous rink.
If you’re near Massanutten for a second day, you’ll want to spend it at the indoor water park. The water stays a balmy 84 degrees, and comes in the form of slides, lazy rivers, and a FlowRider® Endless Wave to perfect your surfing skills. Even your youngest kids will find delight in the Frog Pond, which is only 12 inches deep and pops with bright colors and kid-sized attractions like slides, swings, and sprinklers. Due to Covid regulations, tickets must be purchased ahead of time.
After an action-packed day, stop by nearby Cave Hill Farms Brewery to warm up with a delicious craft brew.
If you want to stay close to the slopes, Massanutten has lodging options ranging from condos to hotel rooms. A second option is to drive 20 minutes to Harrisonburg to eat, shop, and relax. You’ll find a variety of lodging types including luxury hotels like the elegant and amenity-rich Hotel Madison, where you’ll be hard-pressed to choose between a mountain or a downtown view. Getaway properties like the By the Side of the Road will please you with their privacy and charm. Harrisonburg also has all the popular brand hotels known for their consistency, convenience and comfortable familiarity.
Unwind in One of Augusta County’s Historic Properties and Hike the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest
When the weather crisps up, it’s time to explore the hundreds of miles of trails lacing the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. Whether you’re interested in shorter hikes for families, day hikes, or backpacking treks, you’ll find places to hike in both the eastern and western parts of the county. Here’s a link to some of our favorite trails. For families with young children, Augusta Springs Park is flat and only about ¾-mile long, but interpretive signage provides information about chances to explore the great outdoors.
When it’s time to retire for the night, head to Meadowlark Ridge Bed and Breakfast, where you can snuggle up in cozy accommodations surrounded by the countryside. Relax by the fire with a glass of wine or explore the grounds – 16 acres of forest and meadows. In the morning, sip your coffee while taking in the view and then savour a fresh breakfast featuring local ingredients. The rooms are clad in pine and feature local, organic toiletry products.
Staunton’s Historic Downtown and Parks
Head to historic Staunton for your winter getaway. There’s much to see in the walkable downtown, and many galleries, boutiques, and restaurants to choose from. A proud member of Historic Hotels of America, Hotel 24 South is an excellent home base for your adventure. This stately building opened in 1924 and received a sleek, modern update in 2018. You’ll feel like royalty walking through the grand lobby or having a drink by the fireplace in the lounge. The rooms and suites offer amenities like pillow-top mattresses, access to a fitness center, heated pool, and business center. You can even bring your dog!
Must-visit places in Staunton include the American Shakespeare Center, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, and the Frontier Culture Museum. You’ll also want to get out and get moving in one of our parks. You can walk to tiny Woodrow Park from Hotel 24. You’ll go through the Wharf historic District and climb the stairs to the iron Sears Hill Bridge, which crosses the railroad tracks and the historic train station. Woodrow Park’s overlook commands some of the best views of the city and is a wonderful place to practice your photography skills.
Those looking for a longer hike should visit Montgomery Hall Park. The 148-acre park has playgrounds, tennis courts, and sports fields, but what really shines is the large swath of quiet woodlands and the miles of hiking/mountain biking trails they contain. You’ll find peace and solitude and views of rolling hills on the trails.
Cozy Up in a B&B and then Venture Through Waynesboro’s Newly Opened Historic Railroad Tunnel
When you book your stay at Waynesboro’s Heritage Hill B&B, you’ll need to decide whether you prefer your mountain views doused with dawn or colored by the setting sun. This beautiful historic home has been updated and features all the comforts you desire, including a breakfast guests rave about, fluffy towels and robes, a firepit, and a few friendly cats and dogs on the premises. The pampering you receive will have you returning again and again. It has a peaceful, countryside feel to it, and you can see all your favorite stars at night, but it’s just minutes from all the dining and shopping opportunities of Waynesboro. It’s also just six miles from the Rockfish Gap entrance to Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Heritage Hill will pack you a picnic basket, complete with a bottle of local wine, to take on your adventure.
Want to stay reasonably warm on your winter outing? We recommend hiking or biking the 2.25-mile Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel, which keeps a constant temperature of 50 degrees year round. The tunnel was completed for the railroad in 1858 and used for about 75 years until it was replaced with a tunnel for larger trains. Newly restored, the trail stretches from the western trailhead in Waynesboro all the way through the mountain to the eastern trailhead in Nelson County. Once the longest of its kind in North America, the tunnel stretches for nearly a mile and isn’t lit, so you’ll need to bring your flashlights or headlamps to explore.
Dream in Historic Lexington and Explore Natural Bridge State Park
Start your visit to Rockbridge County by checking in at The Georges. The 2020 Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards ranked this Lexington inn as the #2 city hotel in America. It also comes in #53 of the top 100 hotels in the world! While the hotel is historic, it has been thoughtfully updated into 18 designer accommodations. The rooms boast special touches like unique artwork, gorgeous views, and luxury linens. The hotel’s location is central, and you’ll love exploring walkable Lexington for shopping and dining. If you want to stay on the premises, you’ll enjoy fine dining at Haywood’s Piano Bar and Grill or libations and upscale pub fare at TAPS lounge.
After breakfast at the inn, take your time driving south and admiring the scenery. Natural Bridge State Park is ideal for people of all ages. The highlight is the easily accessed Cedar Creek Trail that leads under the 215-foot limestone arch. Look up to see Thomas Jefferson’s initials! There are actually seven miles of hiking in the park, and families will love the Children’s Discovery Area, where kids can play, climb, dig, and explore in a natural setting. Use self-guiding materials to learn about animals, birds, and insects that can be found in and around the park. If you’re feeling sleuthy, look for the engraved J.R.R. Tolkien quote.
There’s plenty of winter fun to be had in the Shenandoah Valley. Start making your travel plans today!