Rockbridge County is the southern gateway to the Shenandoah Valley. Conveniently located at the junction of I-81 and I-64 W, visitors have fast and easy access to our “big backyard” – 100,000 acres of public forests, parks, recreation areas and two rivers where outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels can hike, bike, paddle, fish and camp.
Lexington is the perfect hub for this outdoor lover’s itinerary. The historic downtown is completely walkable and boasts over 65 indie-owned shops and eateries, in addition to numerous museums, historic sites and tours. Stay at one of the three hotels within walking distance of the historic district and universities: Hampton Inn Col Alto,The Georges Inn, ranked the #2 hotel in the U.S. by Travel + Leisure, orThe Gin Hotel, an Ascend property.
Cross Natural Bridge State Park off your bucket-list. The geological wonder is an awe-inspiring 215-foot high limestone arch carved from Cedar Creek, and is estimated to be 450 million years old. Today, the Virginia State Park offers educational programs, over 6 miles of trails and the Kids in Parks Track Trail and a NatureExplore play area at the new Children’s Discovery Area.
Photo Credit: Shannon Terry
Get a new perspective of the Blue Ridge Mountains! Spend the afternoon paddling, fishing and wildlife viewing on the 65 miles of the Upper James River Water Trail. This waterway features Class I-III rapids, ensuring paddlers a segment suitable to their skill level. Bring your own equipment or utilize an outfitter who will provide gear and shuttle transportation.
After a jaunt on the river or trail, “Drink in the Shenandoah Valley” with a cold craft brew along the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail. Relax and enjoy the companionship of good friends amidst beautiful farms and mountains, breathe in the scent of ancient forests on a hike, explore a fascinating new community, taste the fresh flavors of a farm-to-table meal, or listen to music under the stars as you discover a new favorite band. Don’t forget to get your Beerwerks Passport stamped at 8 of the 15 breweries to receive a commemorative Beerwerks t-shirt and bragging rights.
Stable Craft Brewing, Photo Credit: Nikki Nargi
Get an early start on 2 wheels as you breeze past pastoral landscapes, quaint cities and towns, and historic, natural and cultural resources with a Rockbridge County cycling route.
Experts can start in charming Buena Vista, an Appalachian Trail Community, and climb their way to the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway, “America’s Favorite Drive.”
The Lexington/Goshen Pass Loop will wind along the Maury River on Rt. 39, Appalachian Waters Scenic Byway with many pull offs to enjoy river access and views of Goshen Pass, a three mile-long gorge in the Goshen and Little North Mountain Wildlife Management Area.
Or peddle around the Villages of Fairfield, Raphone and Brownsburg on a “tour de farm” route visiting farms, a vineyard, grist mill, community museum and more rural beauty than you can imagine. Many of the stops are members of the Fields of Gold Farm Trail.
And for those looking for an epic cross county experience, cycle a segment of the TransAmerica Bike Trail along Scenic Byway Rt. 56. And for those who wish to explore the natural beauty from behind a windshield, any of these routes make the perfect scenic drive.
Put on your walking shoes and explore Glen Maury Park in Buena Vista. This 315-acre park includes camping, hiking/mountain bike trails, fishing on the Maury River, an Olympic-sized pool, playing fields, picnic areas, and the 18-hole Rick Jacobson designed links course. Catch a bluegrass, gospel or beach music concert. Stroll the Buena Vista Riverwalk, a two-mile flood wall that connects the park to the nearby Chessie Nature Trail.
The Chessie Nature Trail parallels the Maury River, connecting Lexington and Buena Vista. A 7-mile rail-trail, the Chessie’s path is part of the old Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad bed as well as canal towpaths and boat lochs. It’s the perfect place to hike and run because it’s easily accessible while also boasting abundant natural beauty, wildlife, and farmsteads.
There are Hidden Gems just waiting to be discovered in Rockbridge County!
Take a peaceful moment and discover the flora and fauna tucked away just 1.6 miles from the historic downtown district at the Boxerwood Nature Center and Woodland Garden, a 15-acre arboretum featuring over 12,000 trees, fields, woodlands, ponds, and native and unusual plant specimens. There is a Kids Play Trail and Fairy Forest and a summer music series for the young at heart. Go on a high-tech treasure hunt using GPS coordinates to locate hidden geocaches.
The Gems of Rockbridge Geocaching Trail consists of ten geocaches that are strategically placed to highlight the natural beauty and cultural heritage of the gateway communities along the Blue Ridge Parkway: Vesuvius, Buena Vista, Lexington, Glasgow, and Natural Bridge.
Looking for a decadent slice of homemade pie? Local jams, jellies and pickles? A souvenir to take home? Visit a nostalgic Country Store! Opened in 1954, Layne’s Country Store is famous for their Virginia Country Ham and Hoop Cheese sandwich, which was ranked in the top 10 “Top 50 places in Virginia to get a country ham sandwich” by USAToday.
Gertie’s Country Store & Deli in Vesuvius was a finalist on the Blue Ridge Parkway Foodie Tour with their infused pulled pork BBQ sandwich. The store’s walls are covered with signatures from visitors from around the world, and is a convenient stopover for travelers on the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail, who can camp out back for free.
To come full circle, visit the Brownsburg Museum’s new exhibit, “Cradle to Coffin: Remembering the Country Store,” which includes an actual screen door where visitors step back in time and enter a one-room replica of a country store. The replica is complete with chairs so you can sit and “loaf” – which was the “term of art” used by the men of the village when they hung out at Whitesell’s Grocery or Swope’s store or Bud Wade’s barber shop and pool hall.
You’ll want to remember your “Small Towns, Big Backyard” road trip with a photo in front of the Natural Bridge State Park LoveWork. Designed by Mark Cline – famous for his life-size fiberglass dinosaurs and Foamhenge, a true to scale replica of Stonehenge. This installation includes elements that represent Rockbridge County, including the Natural Bridge, Lace Falls, wildlife such as deer and eagles, paddling on the James River, and stunning rock formations…what Rockbridge County is named after! This LoveWork is scheduled for installation by October 2020.
Wanderlove is about doing what you love with the people you love. Experience the unspoiled views and hidden gems in our mountain community of Highland County. Plan your next road trip at www.highlandcounty.org.
Photo Credit: Blue Ridge GeoGraphics
Highland County is one of the least populated counties east of the Mississippi River and is ideal for those seeking solitude and a refreshing sense of freedom. Known for its breathtaking beauty and rural charm, Highland is characterized by stunning forests, dark night skies, pristine waterways, small towns and open farmland. Our high elevations are key to the success of the local maple syrup industry. Highland County is home to the headwaters of the James and Potomac Rivers and has an overall abundance of clean mountain spring water.
Check out the following sweet spots as you plan your itinerary to Highland County.
Sweet Spot #1: Climb the Sounding Knob Fire Tower
Photo Credit: Blue Ridge GeoGraphics
It’s easy to elevate your travel experience in Highland, but now you can get even higher. Over 100 steps up the Sounding Knob Fire Tower will give you a lasting memory – and maybe even some wobbly legs! How many mountain ranges can you see? The tower was constructed in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and then it was disassembled and removed from its original location on Sounding Knob in 2002. In 2017, it was restored by the generosity of Skip Jones and Steve Good. It now overlooks Monterey on top of Jack Mountain. It is located up a gravel drive on Sounding Knob Road just 1.3 miles south of its intersection with Rt. 250. Enjoy one of the best views in Virginia now through November 1, 2020 from sunrise to sunset every day. The practice of social distancing is required, and please be sure to exit right when leaving Sounding Knob Road and entering Rt. 250. Vehicles with very low clearance may have difficulty with water breaks on Sounding Knob Road, but most vehicles have no issues.
Sweet Spot #2: Taste Pure Deliciousness on the New Virginia Maple Syrup Trail
Photo Credit: Valerie Lowry
Highland County is well known for its maple syrup industry, being one of the most southern places in the U.S. that the sweet “liquid gold” can consistently be produced. Maple syrup producers and their sugar camps dot the landscape, each with their own stories, history and techniques. Because of the freezing and thawing cycle in late winter and early spring, the county hosts an annual Maple Festival during the second and third weekends in March. Outside of that March timeframe throughout the year, eight Highland County sugar camps plan to be open by appointment for you to explore for a tour, local syrup sample and fun. Get insights on farm life, take a hike at some areas, and learn how many producers are even expanding to other tree syrups like hickory, walnut and birch. Pick up an official passport, get yours stamped after each sugar camp visit, and if you complete all eight, you’ll even get a free gift! Set to begin in September of 2020, learn where your syrup comes from and experience this unique agritourism adventure! Get full details on the brand new Virginia Maple Syrup page, and call ahead to each syrup producer for details and COVID-19 protocol.
Sweet Spot #3: Find All the Beautiful Shapes and Colors on the Barn Quilt Trail
Photo Credit: David Cockerham
What are those painted wooden quilt blocks adorned on barns and houses in Highland County? They are barn quilts! Beginning in 2011, Highland County was the first county in Virginia to have its very own Barn Quilt Trail. Starting in mid-September, pick up a copy of the newly revised Barn Quilt Trail brochure or view the online version to locate over 50 unique barn quilts on a leisurely country ride. With interesting names like “Five Reds,” “Colaw Apple,” or “Jacob’s Ladder,” each barn quilt tells a story, usually with significant special meaning about the owner, nature, family, business or design. When you follow the Highland County Barn Quilt Trail, you’ll wind your way through our back roads with a purpose. Enjoy the beauty of our hills and hollows, fields and forests and the stories of the people who are part of this community. Can you spot them all?
Sweet Spot #4: Take a Hike on Unspoiled, Sparsely-Populated Trails
Photo Credit: Doug Puffenbarger
Get off the road and lace up your boots for some hiking in the clean mountain air. Four trails are featured in Highland County’s section of Virginia’s Western Highlands Trail Guide. The Shenandoah Mountain Trail is an easy 6-mile hike that’s also part of the Great Eastern Trail. It awaits you at the top of Shenandoah Mountain on Rt. 250 along the border of Highland and Augusta Counties. Traveling west, you can hike the 2.6-mile McDowell Battlefield Trail that leads to the top of Sitlington Hill and the core of the McDowell Battlefield, with interpretive information from Civil War Trails along the steady incline. In the remote Laurel Fork area of northern Highland County lies the Locust Spring Run and Buck Run Trail with 6 miles of moderate to difficult features. The Paddy Knob Trail straddles Virginia and West Virginia to the foundation stones of an old lookout tower, offering easy to moderate hiking of .5 to 7 miles.
Sweet Spot #5: Relax with Fishing Along the Cool, Clean Streams and Ponds
Fishing is a great way to get away! Highland County offers three rivers for public fishing: the Bullpasture, the Potomac and Laurel Fork. Favorites like rainbow, brown and brook trout swim the pure mountain streams. Discover more information on places to go and regulations with Fish Virginia First or the Department of Wildlife Resources. If you need a guide, check out Bull Mountain Guide Service. If you want a fun experience with children to introduce them to fishing, visit Hiner Town Trout Fishing, roughly one mile north of Monterey off of Potomac River Road (Rt. 220) at 222 Hiner’s Lane, where you can fish in a small pond from 9 am to 7 pm Monday through Saturday or by reservation on Sunday at 540-679-6194 (if you call before Saturday). Children even receive a prize if they catch a golden trout! You keep what you catch at $5 a pound (cash or check), but there are no licenses required or pole/bait restrictions. Being outside, family units must remain six feet apart. Finally, if you are just in the mood to taste some fish without hooking “the big one”, get your fresh or frozen trout at the Virginia Trout Company at 5480 Potomac River Road, Monday through Wednesday from 8 am to noon.
Sweet Spot #6: Discover the History of an Area That Looks Much the Same as It Did Over 100 Years Ago
Photo Credit: Highland County Chamber of Commerce
The Highland Historical Society runs a beautiful museum known as The Mansion House that served as a hospital during the Battle of McDowell in May of 1862. Located at 161 Mansion House Road in McDowell, you can learn more about the significance of the Battle of McDowell during the Civil War with the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Orientation Center, get acquainted with local ancestors and the formation of the county, and catch a glimpse of the 1921 classic silent movie filmed in Highland County, Tol’able David. The Mansion House accepts free-will donations for entry and is open Thursday through Saturday from 11 am to 4 pm through the end of October. More info can be found at www.highlandcountyhistory.com. You can even catch a virtual view of their two newest exhibits, Early Handmade Furniture in Highland County and a Preview of the Jones/McCoy House Museum Collection II, at their website! More information on the Civil War history and trails in the area can be found at www.civilwartrails.org and www.shenandoahatwar.org.
Rt. 250 and Rt. 220 are the two main roads to be traveled in Highland, intersecting at the county seat of Monterey in the center of the county. If you’re visiting from Shenandoah Valley in places like Staunton, you’ll arrive along Rt. 250 and continue northwest over several mountains, arriving first in the town of McDowell and then onward for fifteen more minutes to Monterey. If you continue along Rt. 250, you’ll end up with more mountain vista views and find yourself in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. If you’re visiting from the southwest from locations like Roanoke, you’ll take Rt. 220 to Monterey, and if you continue onward you’ll eventually come to Pendleton County, West Virginia. A detour along the back country roads anywhere in the county will lead you to new experiences and views. For a map to help plan your trip, check out the Highland County Motorcycle Guide brochure or view VDOT’s Highland County Map.
Feeling the itch to discover more? That’s your Wanderlove calling, and we have you covered! Find out more about the businesses and organizations of Highland County, including places to stay, eat and unwind at www.highlandcounty.org, or learn more about other destinations at www.Virginia.org/WanderLove. Happy travels!
Wanderlust is defined as a strong desire to travel, but here in Virginia, we call that feeling WanderLove. And while travel is a little bit different in 2020 due to COVID-19, you can still explore Virginia’s endless beauty with an epic road trip! To help you plan your next vacation out on the open road, we’ll be sharing a few of the most scenic and adventure-filled routes through the Commonwealth, including the best outdoor adventures, important sites, restaurants, and lodging options to add to your itinerary.
Winding through 469 miles of the storied Appalachian Mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway extends from Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. This scenic roadway begins in Afton and continues south, and key communities along this fee-free route include Waynesboro (Milepost 0), Buena Vista (Milepost 46), Buchanan (Milepost 86), Roanoke, and Fancy Gap (Milepost 200). The speed limit along the Blue Ridge Parkway is 45 miles per hour, so this iconic Virginia road trip adventure is perfect for those that are looking to take their time and enjoy the journey. Follow our guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway to find the best restaurants, hotels, wineries, and can’t-miss sites along the way!
Photo Credit: Cameron Davidson
**While we have shared COVID-19 alternate hours and closures when possible, please contact individual businesses before visiting, as these details may change at any time. Inclement weather may close the Parkway. Call 828-298-039 or check the real-time closure map for status.
BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY: FROM AFTON TO ROANOKE
116 miles, approximately 3 hours 5 minutes
As the Blue Ridge Parkway runs entirely through mountain terrain, there are countless outdoor activities located along the route. You’ll find hiking opportunities around every bend, from quick jaunts that allow you to stretch your legs to 30-mile sections of the Appalachian Trail that involve overnight backpacking.
From the North Entrance of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Afton, the Humpback Rocks region hasseveral hiking trails, but the most popular is the Humpback Rocks Trails, a short but strenuous 1-mile climb directly to the rocks. There is also a secondary route to the Humpback Rocks along the Appalachian Trail, giving you the chance to conquer part of this legendary trail during your Blue Ridge Parkway journey. More hiking trails on this section of the Blue Ridge Parkway includeUpper Shamokin Falls&Lower Shamokin Falls(a total of 2.1 miles with scenic waterfall views along the trail), the Three Ridges Hike (14.4 mile backpacking circuit with vista after vista along the Appalachian Trail), the White Rock Falls Loop(a 4.7-mile moderate trail with waterfalls), and Crabtree Falls Trail (located about six miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 2.5-mile loop that features the highest vertical-drop cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River). The Blue Ridge Parkway crosses the Appalachian Trailin several spots, so if tackling a few section hikes is on your bucket list, this is the trip to do it!
Photo Credit: Creative Dog Media, IG account: @creativedogmedia
A short detour off the Parkway, Wintergreen Resort offers four-season fun for visitors driving the Blue Ridge Parkway. The resort contains two 18-hole golf courses that are open spring through fall; swimming, boating, and paddleboarding at Lake Monacan are available during the warmer months; skiing, snowboarding, and tubing slopes are open in the winter. The 11,000-acre mountain-top resort has miles of hiking trails, tennis courts with lessons available through expert trainers, a full-service spa, several restaurants on-site, and indoor and outdoor pools (outdoor pools only open during the summer months).
Photo Credit: Sam Dean, IG account: @sdeanphotos
Looking for even more ways to enjoy the Great Outdoors along the Blue Ridge Parkway? Plan a picnic along the sandy beach shores of Sherando Lake Recreation Area, mountain bike the Big Levels 4×4 Trail (a 17-mile trail that is also open to off-highway vehicles and off-road driving), or take your ATVs out on the South Pedlar ATV Trail System’s network of 19 miles of trails open to riders April-November (permits must be purchased ahead of time).
While driving the Blue Ridge Parkway between Afton and Roanoke, plan a detour to Natural Bridge Historic Landmark. A site on the National Register of Historic Places once owned by Thomas Jefferson, this 215-foot tall limestone bridge was formed over thousands of years as Cedar Creek slowly eroded the land underneath the bridge. This natural wonder is surrounded by pristine forests, rolling meadows, and impressive vistas that showcase the beauty of the surrounding mountain terrain. Follow the park’s six miles of hiking trails to take in the variety of landscapes found within Natural Bridge State Park.
Photo Credit: Creative Dog Media, IG account: @creativedogmedia
Head back to the Blue Ridge Parkway, where you’ll cross the James River and continue to Milepost 85.6 to the famed Peaks of Otter. Made up of Sharp Top Mountain, Flat Top Mountain, and Harkening Hill, this trio of mountains is a must-see landmark off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Take some time to hike any or all of the three mountains: Flat Top, a 5.6-mile trail, affords spectacular views at the top, particularly in the fall when the leaves blanket the surrounding region in fiery colors; Sharp Top, a difficult 2.6-mile trail with 360-degree views at the top; and Harkening Hill, a 3.5-mile loop and the easiest of the three trails. In addition to hiking, there are picnic areas, campgrounds, wildlife exhibits, and interpretive programs that you can learn about at the Visitor’s Center.
Your final optional detour before reaching the outskirts of Roanoke is the unique Buchanan Swinging Bridge. A 366-foot long and 57.5-foot tall pedestrian bridge swinging above the James River, parts of this historic bridge date to 1851 and have survived countless natural disasters such as floods, as well as the destructive Civil War battles that were fought throughout Virginia. If you’re looking to spend more time out in nature before continuing towards Roanoke on the Blue Ridge Parkway, rent kayaks, canoes, or tubes through Twin River Outfitters and set out on the James River from downtown Buchanan.
SCENIC OVERLOOKS & VIEWPOINTS—SEE ALL
Afton Overlook—Milepost .2
Rockfish Valley Parking Overlook—Milepost 1.5
View Shenandoah Valley—Milepost 2.9
Greenstone Overlook—Milepost 8.8
Rock Point Overlook—Milepost 10.4
Ravens Roost Overlook—Milepost 10.7
Three Ridges Overlook—Milepost 13.1
The Priest—Milepost 17.6
20-minute cliff overlook—Milepost 19
The Slacks Overlook—Milepost 19.9
Bald Mountain Overlook—Milepost 22.1
Fork Mountain Overlook—Milepost 23
Big Spy Mountain Overlook—Milepost 26.4
Boston Knob Overlook—Milepost 38.8
Irish Creek Valley Overlook—Milepost 42.2
White’s Gap Overlook—Milepost 44.4
Chimney Rock Overlook—Milepost 44.9
View Buena Vista—Milepost 45.7
House Mountain View—Milepost 49.3
Punchbowl Mountain Overlook—Milepost 51.7
Bluff Mountain Overlook—Milepost 52.8 White Oak Flats Overlook—Milepost 55.1
Dancing Creek Overlook—Milepost 55.9
Upper Otter Creek Overlook—Milepost 57.6
Otter Creek Flats Overlook—Milepost 58.2
Otter Creek Overlook—Milepost 59.7
The Riffles Overlook—Milepost 60.4
View Terrapin Hill—Milepost 61.4
Lower Otter Creek Overlook—Milepost 62.5
Otter Lake Overlook—Milepost 63.1
View Terrapin Mountain—Milepost 72.6
Arnold Valley Overlook—Milepost 75.3
Apple Orchard Mountain Overlook—Milepost 76.5
Sunset Field Overlook—Milepost 78.4
Onion Mountain Overlook—Milepost 79.7
View Black Rock Hill—Milepost 79.9
View Headforemost Mountain—Milepost 81.9
Upper Goose Creek Valley Overlook—Milepost 89.4
Porter Mountain Overlook—Milepost 90
Mills Gap Overlook—Milepost 91.8
Purgatory Mountain Overlook—Milepost 92.1
Boblett’s Gap Overlook—Milepost 93.1
Pine Tree Overlook—Milepost 95.2
Harvey’s Knob Overlook—Milepost 95.3
Montvale Overlook—Milepost 95.9
Iron Mine Hollow Overlook—Milepost 96.2
Taylor Mountain Overlook—Milepost 97
The Great Valley Overlook—Milepost 99.6
The Quarry Overlook—Milepost 100.9
N & W Railroad Overlook—Milepost 106.9
View Coyner Mountain—Milepost 107
Read Mountain Overlook—Milepost 109
Stewart Knob Overlook—Milepost 110.6
View Roanoke Basin—Milepost 112.9
Photo Credit: Mike Herrick, IG account: @wahoophoto
Restaurants, Breweries, Wineries, & More
12 Ridges Vineyard—Vineyard that currently provides tastings of wines from around the world, specifically focusing on cool climate and sparkling wines. Located on milepost 25 of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the winery offers stunning mountain views.
Nelson 151 Trail—Beverage trail that follows Route 151 through Nelson County; includes six wineries, four breweries, three cideries, and a distillery.
Wintergreen Resort—11,000 acre resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains that offers four-season activities, including skiing and tubing in the winter and hiking and golf during the spring, summer, and fall. Several restaurants on the grounds and an on-site spa with indoor and outdoor pools.
Fenton Inn—Inn off the Blue Ridge Parkway renovated to look like a Bavarian village, combining Old World craftsmanship and charm with modern luxuries.
Royal Oaks Cabins—Cabin and chalet rentals, country store, deli, and gift shop off the Blue Ridge Parkway; exit at Milepost 16 onto Route 814. Cabins and chalets have fireplaces, hot tubs, and gorgeous mountain views.
Sugar Tree Inn—Rustic pet-friendly inn nestled above the Shenandoah Valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Located about a mile off the Blue Ridge Parkway from Milepost 27.
Peaks of Otter Lodge—On the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 86 and nestled between the Peaks of Otter mountains, this pet-friendly lodge is open May-November and has 63 guest rooms, an on-site restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, and a gift shop.
Peaks of Otter Campground—Campground right off the Blue Ridge Parkway and near the Peaks of Otter Lodge with 132 camp and RV sites; no electric, water, or sewer hookups at individual sites. A 24-acre lake beside the campground is stocked with small mouth bass and bluegill.
BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY: FROM ROANOKE TO VIRGINIA/NORTH CAROLINA BORDER
103 miles, approximately 2 hours 27 minutes
Note: A section of the Blue Ridge Parkway spanning from Milepost 112.4 to 135.9 (from Roanoke to Adney Gap) is currently closed due to damage caused by heavy flooding. Check the website for updates and take the detour provided in our map.
While in the Downtown Roanoke area, walk or bike the Roanoke River Greenway, a system of trails in and around the area that highlights the best the region has to offer, including riverfront views, craft breweries, and some of the most beloved local restaurants.
A must-see attraction in Roanoke is Mill Mountain Park, a 568-acre park that contains miles of multi-use trails open for mountain biking, hiking, and even horseback riding, as well as the iconic Roanoke Star (where you’ll get an incredible view of downtown Roanoke), the Mill Mountain Wildflower Garden, and the Mill Mountain Zoo.
Photo Credit: Creative Dog Media, IG account: @creativedogmedia
Fill this section of your road trip with even more outdoor fun at Explore Park. Bordering the Roanoke River, the park is a blend of mountain terrain, pristine forests, and waterfront landscapes and contains an aerial adventure course with challenging obstacles and ziplines, a campground area with campsites, cabins, and yurt rentals, and multiple hiking trails. Book kayaks and tubes to set out on the water through Blue Mountain Adventures, an outfitter and guide company within Explore Park that also offers unique lodging options like treetop platform camping sites and glamping in their canvas tent rentals. Relax after your outdoor excursions with a craft beer, cider, or glass of wine at Twin Creeks Brewpub, conveniently located inside the park.
Photo Credit: Shannon Terry
Get a taste of Appalachian music, food, and culture at the Floyd Country Store. This authentic general store is a true hidden gem of Southwest Virginia, where you can pore through an extensive collection of bluegrass and old-time music, pick out a selection of sweets housed in old wooden barrels, and savor some seriously delicious home-cooked meals. While the country store’s regularly-scheduled Friday Night Jamborees are not currently held inside the store due to COVID-19, you can catch a performance outdoors behind the store during the summer and fall months, as well as live streaming these performances on their Facebook page every week to experience the musical heritage of the Virginia mountains.
Resume your journey south on the Blue Ridge Parkway and head to Rocky Knob Recreation Area, which is near the intersection of the parkway Milepost 169 and Route 8. Covering over 4,000 acres, Rocky Knob has numerous trails open for hiking and horseback riding, such as Rock Castle Gorge Trail, a moderate 10.8-mile trail known for its beautiful rock crystalline quartz formations that includes a fun rock scramble and outstanding views of the surrounding mountains at the top. There are also campgrounds in the recreation area open seasonally, allowing you to spend the night under the clear starry skies and enjoy both a stunning sunset and sunrise in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Two spots to take in these views are Grassy Knoll and Saddle Overlook, which provide uninterrupted views of the mountains for miles around.
Photo Credit: Cameron Davidson
About 30 miles further south on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Mabry Mill is another can’t-miss site along your road trip route. Known as one of the most iconic structures on the Parkway, this historic mill also has a restaurant and gift shop on the grounds, where you can dine on country-style fare before perusing the gift shop for handmade crafts from local artisans and old-fashioned Virginia foods such as stone-ground grits, cornmeal, and buckwheat flour made at the mill.
Photo Credit: Shannon Terry
If you’re looking for a sugary stop along the way, head to Nancy’s Candy Companyin Meadows of Dan, right off the Blue Ridge Parkway. This candy factory makes over 45 flavors of fudge, 49 unique truffles, 85 different chocolates, and many other varieties of sweets. The retail shop is currently closed due to COVID-19, but you can still place an order online or over the phone and pick up at this delectable candy store.
Your final pit stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia should be The Blue Ridge Music Center, which is hosting a socially-distanced concert series at their state-of-the-art amphitheater on select dates through the fall. If you’re not lucky enough to be passing through during one of these shows, the music center is still worth a visit due to their on-site hiking trails.
Mabry Mill Restaurant & Gift Shop—Historic mill, restaurant, and gift shop on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 176; open Wednesday-Sunday during COVID-19. The circa-1910 mill is known as one of the most photographed spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Photo Credit: Beverly Smith
The Gap Deli at the Parkway—Deli in Fancy Gap near the Virginia/North Carolina border off the Blue Ridge Parkway serving signature salads, sandwiches, desserts, coffee, and daily specials. Currently only offering curbside pickup due to COVID-19.
Hotels, Resorts, & Other Lodging
The Overlook Cabins—Fully-furnished rustic pet-friendly cabin rentals on a 63-acre horse farm in the mountains. Only three miles from Grayson Highlands State Park.
Bent Mountain Lodge Bed & Breakfast—15,000 square foot bed & breakfast with ten pet-friendly suites that offer beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and have Jacuzzi tubs.
Woodberry Inn—Peaceful mountain inn off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 174.1.
Primland Resort—Luxury pet-friendly resort with spectacular mountain views about 12.5 miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Meadows of Dan. On-site fine dining restaurant, spa, and indoor pool; grounds offer an 18-hole golf course and a disc golf course, flyfishing, sport shooting, archery, biking, horseback riding, RTV trail riding, and stargazing at the resort’s observatory.
When you think of fall, you probably think of colorful leaves, expansive pumpkin patches, and cool autumn weather. But what may not come to mind is the abundance of fresh food that is gathered at local farms and vineyards. Autumn marks the arrival of harvest season in Virginia, bringing an array of flavorful, recently-picked produce straight to your plate. Dine at one of Virginia’s most notable farm-to-table restaurants, or if you want to get the full harvest experience, attend some of the following harvest celebrations, held at wineries, distilleries, cideries, and even in the scenic farm fields themselves.
—HARVEST PARTIES ACROSS THE COMMONWEALTH—
Coyote Hole CiderworksFall Festival Harvest Party—Mineral
When: October 11-14, 2019
Join Coyote Hole Ciderworks for their Fall Festival Harvest Party, with family-friendly autumn activities happening all weekend long. Savor cider donuts, non-alcoholic fresh-pressed sparkling ciders, seasonal hard ciders made from Virginia-grown fruit, and all your favorite fall foods and beverages. The festival also features an escape room, psychic readings, live music performances, a car show, trivia contest, and a pie-eating contest for those not full from all the previously mentioned fall goodies.
Annual Harvest Fest at The Virginia Distillery Company—Lovingston
When: October 12, 2019
Take in the beauty of Virginia’s harvest season at The Virginia Distillery Company’s Annual Harvest Fest, a Saturday event filled with seasonal fare from local food trucks, live music from the Jason Burke Band, and tastings of the distillery’s award-winning whiskeys. Don’t miss sampling the featured October cocktail, the Great Ginger Pumpkin, a drink that tastes just like fall in a glass!
Spring House Farm Root to Table Dinner—Hamilton
When: October 27, 2019
Dine on top of a mountain overlooking Loudoun County’s stunning Wine Country during the Spring House Farm Harvest Dinner. Part of the 2019 Taste of the Blue Ridge Root to Table Series, this harvest event is led by farmer Andrew Crush, Chef Erik Foxx-Nettnin of Magnolia’s at the Mill, Chef Justin Garrison of Justin Thyme Catering, and guest Chef Britt Shyrene (who formerly worked in a Florida Michelin-starred restaurant). Filled with elegant dishes and a warm, autumnal atmosphere, the dinner begins with fresh Virginia oysters and drinks as you compete in classic yard games, followed by dinner at the main house. The menu is a culinary dream, boasting Braised Goat Cassoulet, a Char-roasted Porchetta and Beet Salad, Springhouse Pork and Aberdeen Angus Roulades, and for dessert, a local Peach & Pork Foster–salty bacon-wrapped peaches topped with bourbon-burnt sugar ice cream, homemade granola, and smoked Springhouse fall honey. These events sell out fast, so get your tickets ASAP for this once-in-a-lifetime harvest dinner!
Red Pump Kitchen Harvest Dinner—Charlottesville
When: October 17-18, 2019
Photo Credit: Eric Kelley
Two-time winner of Food Network‘s “Chopped” and “Chopped Champions,” Chef Vinson Petrillo takes over Red Pump Kitchenon October 17th and 18th to create a from-scratch, Tuscan-inspired menu. Petrillo will put his own sophisticated spin on traditional southern fare during the harvest dinner, working with Red Pump Kitchen’s Chef Brandon Ripberger (who previously trained under Petrillo). This culinary reunion will bring hyper-local ingredients to the table, from seafood to game, in a six-course tasting menu that features carefully-selected Virginia wine pairings.
Muse Vineyards Harvest Day Event—Woodstock
When: October 19, 2019
Head to Muse Vineyards on October 19th for their Harvest Day event. From 2:30-4:00pm, the winery will be open to the public, with the owner taking visitors on a guided tour of the vineyard as he discusses the 2019 harvest. Afterwards, join the winery owners for a private event at the tasting room, which will include a special release of their newest vintage wine, live music by Zachary Funkhouser, and an array of hor d’oeuvres to enjoy with the wines. Tickets for this evening event are available at the tasting room or can be purchased the day of for $12 per person.
Meet at the Table—Painter
When: October 19, 2019
Virginia’s Eastern Shore hosts Meet at the Tableon October 19th, a unique dining experience where you can sample the best farm-to-table food from the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay as well as small farms located along the shore. Local farmers, watermen, chefs, brewers, distillers, vineyards and artists come together during this harvest celebration, which benefits the Delmarva Farmers Union, the Eastern Shore Artisans Guild, and The Eastern Shore Spay Organization. In addition to lots of delicious food and drink, the event will have music from both live bands and a DJ, a silent auction, and a live auction to add to the excitement.
Harvest Party at Paradise Springs Winery—Clifton
When: October 19, 2019
Attend the Paradise Springs Winery’s Harvest Party on October 19th, an autumnal event that brings visitors together to celebrate the harvest season and to appreciate the bounty of Northern Virginia’s famed wine region. The festival has a full day of autumn activities, including grape stomping, lawn games, harvest tours, a Brew Garden sponsored by Solace Brewing Co., locally-made apple cider donuts as well as a variety of other fall-themed treats from food trucks, and of course, lots of Virginia wines!
Harvest Party at Varia—Norfolk
When: October 24, 2019
Varia, located inside The Main Hilton Norfolk Hotel, will host a special Harvest Party celebration on October 24th, featuring a Virginia wine tasting and small bites prepared by the restaurant’s chef for only $15. During the event, in-house Sommelier Matthew Emborski will take you on an educational tasting journey while you enjoy a selection of wines paired with traditional charcuterie offerings.
Effingham Manor Heritage Festival—Nokesville
When: November 1-3, 2019
Part of the American Evolution 2019 Commemoration, the Effingham Manor Heritage Festival pays tribute to the best of Virginia’s customs and cuisine, with local orchards, farmers, watermen, musicians, and craftspeople offering samples and selling their new products. The highlight of the festival is Virginia-made wines, and a selection of wineries from the area join Effingham Manor to serve their vintages at the event. This harvest celebration provides a traditional glimpse into Virginia’s heritage and culinary history, from the historic Old-Time musical stylings of the Commonwealth to locally-sourced foods, including oysters from the Chesapeake Bay, farm-raised meats, and artisanal cheese from nearby farms and markets.
Can’t make it to any of these special harvest events? Consider throwing your own harvest party with friends and family to celebrate the bounty of Virginia’s rich landscape!
There are a lot of ways to wake up on the water here in the River Realm. Luxury resorts and yachts aren’t bad options. We are also home to several campgrounds, which help you get a little more personal with our wild realm of wonder. Each campground is a little different and opens up new possibilities to appreciate and honor the scenery, the wildlife and the sunsets here.
Here are a few ways to fall in love from a campsite…
State Park Vibes
Belle Isle State Park (1632 Belle Isle Road, Lancaster) is nearly 900 acres and has seven miles of shoreline on the northern shore of the Rappahannock River. There are a number of ways to rest your head here. The campground has an RV park, full service and primitive camping, and two houses for rent. The Bel Air Houses were built in 1942. These historical landmarks are fully furnished and perfect if your family doesn’t want to rough it, but still wants to get away.
Kilmarnock is the nearest town. Stock up on fresh produce and local treats at the Kilmarnock Farmer’s Market on the fourth Saturday of each month (September 28 and October 26 this fall). Stay for dinner at one of the local restaurants and some music at the Half Shell stage. See more Kilmarnock Town Centre Park events here.
All the Amenities
Grey’s Point Camp (3601 Greys Point Road, Topping) and Bethpage Camp- Resort (79 Brown’s Lane, Urbanna) have cottages, RV hookups, and other “glamping” amenities. Both campgrounds have lively water parks, beaches, kayak and paddle board rentals, camp stores and more. For some off-site fun at Bethpage, head to Cowtopia, which awaits just outside the campground. This fun little adventure park features mini golf and an ice cream shop. For something savory like fried oysters and crab balls, visit Urbanna Seafood and Raw Bar, which is adjacent to Bethpage. Save the date for the Urbanna Oyster Festival in November!
At Grey’s Point, you’re just a short car ride away from one of our signature dining experiences at Merroir. Here, you can hang out at the first tasting room of the Rappahannock Oyster Company. It’s also ground zero for its oyster farming business, which makes Merroir the perfect place to watch the sunset and see our local aquaculture industry in action. You’re also not too far from Irvington, another one of our favorite small towns. In the fall, you head to the Tides Inn for sunset cruises and events like Taste By the Bay.
A Little More Natural
Bush Park Camp (724 Bushy Park Road, Wake) and Cross Rip Camp (503 Cross Rip Road) offer a setting for more traditional tent camping as well as minimalistic cottages and RV spots right on the water. Bush Park is 97 acres of waterside wilderness. You and your family can spend the mornings on the water fishing and crabbing, afternoons by the family pool, and evenings back at the campsite cooking up your catch of the day. If you want someone else to cook up dinner for you, just seven miles down the road from Cross Rip Camp is The Table at Wilton. Here, chef Elizabeth Ward serves up southern classics inspired by a water-to-table mentality.
Cross Rip Camp is flanked by shoreline–the campgrounds have 833 feet of shoreline on a freshwater pond and 1,186 feet of riprap and sandy beach on the Chesapeake Bay. Bring along your boat, which you can keep in a slip during your stay or year round. When you want to take a break from roughing it, you’re just a few miles away from restaurants like the waterfront, Deltaville Tap and Raw Bar or freshly renovated Galley. Also nearby, you catch the farmer’s market and a bit of history at the Deltaville Maritime Museum & Holly Point Nature Park.
Save the Date for More Fun
No matter which campground you decide to snuggle up at, make sure you check our Events Calendar. There’s always something new going on including festivals, music, farmer’s markets, stock car racing and more.
Featured images provided by Virginia’s River Realm.
Virginia is known as the Old Dominion state because of its former royalty to the English crown. That unquestioning loyalty may be long gone but the state still features some of the most royal scenic views in the country. The top courses in Virginia feature scenic rides through unrivaled country landscapes and foliage only seen in the national parks. Virginia in the fall offers incredible foliage views and refreshing mountain air for the perfect weekend escape for individual golfers and groups. Discover these scenic golf courses and don’t forget to bring your best golf shoes for this trip.
Cascades Golf Course at The Omni Homestead—Hot Springs
The Omni Homestead’s Cascades Golf Course provides the seclusion of the Appalachian Mountains without sacrificing amenities or course quality. It’s a location in the low Appalachians with stunning elevation changes and incredible forestry incomparable to other resorts in the area. Most tee shots are met with pristine views of towering robust pines lining each side of the fairway. The front nine delights golfers with challenging holes and incredible views only to be outdone by the sensationally designed back nine.
During the cool fall months, morning rounds feature crisp fresh air that provides golfers with views of wonderful color palettes from the changing tree lines. Golfers will experience incredible course conditions as the greens crew at the Omni Homestead makes it a point to assure optimal playing conditions throughout the fall months.
The Omni Homestead has world-class accommodations, including fine dining, expansive staterooms, and amenities ranging from boutique shops to luxurious massages. The cozy decor makes you feel comfortable regardless of the temperature. Dining accommodations and excellent services available to all guests create an easy transition from golf to relaxation. There is a range of packages available to suit each golfer and their spouse to make sure they are comfortable on the course or in the hotel.
The Olde Farm—Bristol
The Olde Farmrests on the southern border of Virginia only a few miles above the North Carolina border in the rolling hills of the Appalachian mountain chain. Unlike other courses in the mountains, the design does have several holes lined with a thick brush instead of large pine or oak trees. Designer Bobby Weed continues his minimalist design on courses to avoid distracting golfers while also challenging even the best players. Multiple tee locations give this course playability for each golfer regardless of skill level.
On-site are several different accommodations to meet the needs of each golfer and group. Between the cabins, cottages, and long barn, your golf trip can be made whole with accommodations to suit individual golfers or groups. The Olde Farm has dedicated itself to growing sourcing local produce to the point of growing vegetables on site.
During the fall, the on-site restaurants feature the freshest seasonal vegetables and fruits harvested in the region to give golfers the best local cuisine. If golfers are looking for elite accommodations, there are a variety of lodging and housing types that offer exquisite views overlooking the course on several different holes. Multiple dining selections and lounge areas allow patrons to enjoy fine dining and superb high-class lounge services.
The Highland at Primland—Meadows of Dan
The Highland’s name is backed up by its location and views. Sitting atop a plateau in the Virginia mountain ranges, the views are exclusive and selective to this region and course. During the fall months, the foliage leads to incredible three hundred and sixty-degree panoramic views only available at the highland at Primland. An immaculate course designed by Donald Steel that features a scenic tour of elevation changes, hazards, and heavily sloped greens is complemented by the views of rolling hills and October tree color schemes blanketing the background of each tee and fairway shot.
The location of Primland is near some of the best vineyards in the area since the altitude contributes to fruitful and delicious grapes. A secluded mountain escape is complemented by five-star dining, drinking, accommodations, and style. Outside of the golf course, there are luxurious spa treatments available as well as sport shooting and a wide array of outdoor activities built for the perfect weekend retreat. During their stay, golfers are welcomed with pristine course conditions with unparalleled mountain views of foliage and accommodations that suit even the most discerning guests.
Kinloch Golf Club—Manakin-Sabot
Only just outside of Richmond, Kinloch Golf Club is home to breathtaking views and an escape from the hustle of city life. Tall ancient pines line the fairways, with several fairway shots offering awe-inspiring tree lines uncharacteristic for the Richmond area. Early rounds are met with rising dew clouds, making your first tee shot picturesque.
Unlike other golf clubs in Virginia, there are several tee distances at Kinloch, making the course accessible to all ages and skill levels. Kinloch takes great pride in making sure that the greens and fairways consistently remain in championship condition. The world-class caddie staff takes excellent care of your clubs, and their knowledge of the course and game of golf helps golfers lower scores and enjoy the game. The Tudor-style clubhouse has incredible amenities to suit each member and guest’s needs, from watching their favorite sports game to getting a delicious meal from the excellent in-house restaurant.
For golfers looking to receive the full Kinloch experience, there are exquisite cottages near the clubhouse that combine premiere service with VIP landscape and luxurious comforts. The cottages lend themselves for the perfect golfers’ retreat of eight. The Kinloch is the perfect escape from the busy city lifestyle without having to drive or fly to a remote part of the country. The world-class accommodations, surreal landscaping, and unrivaled service creating an incredibly relaxing secluded atmosphere minutes from the capital city.