Scenic mountaindrives in Virginia
Running from northwest Virginia to the Smoky Mountains, Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway offer a relaxing escape from the congestion of East Coast cities.
The trip starts in Front Royal, Virginia, just 75 miles from Washington. The pretty town is at the entrance to the Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive, so it is always busy with hikers, backpackers, mountain bikers and motor tourists.
The town boasts that it is the Canoe Capital of Virginia. Located where two rivers connect to form the main stem of the Shenandoah River, it’s a destination for paddlers and tubers. The conditions range from gentle float trips to intermediate white water. Several outfitters offer equipment rental, guided tours and lodging packages. For more information, visit www.discoverfrontroyal.com.
Skyline Drive ambles through the wilderness of Shenandoah National Park (www.nps.gov/shen). The speed limit on the 105-mile, two-lane road is 35mph, perfect for relaxing and enjoying the view. There are 75 scenic overlooks, plus waterfalls and easy walks just off the road. For hikers and backpackers, the park has over 500 miles of trails. Ranger stations have maps and other vital information for drivers and hikers. They also offer guided hikes and animal encounter programs.
Local inhabitants, including whitetail deer, black bear, wild turkey and red fox, roam freely, so keep your camera ready. Rather than drive the route in one day, stay overnight at one of the lodges or cabins in the park. Visit www.goshenandoah.com for information on lodgings.
The Blue Ridge Parkway (www.nps.gov/blri) connects seamlessly with Skyline Drive near Waynesboro. I-64 connects here if you need to loop back east. You’ll find historic and cultural spots sharing the scenic views along this road. Plan to stop at Peaks of Otter, which was “the” mountain resort in the mid-1800s, and Mabry Mill, which demonstrates how resourceful, creative and just plain tough mountain settlers were.
Go to www.blueridgeparkway.org for comprehensive information on planning a trip along the Parkway.
Calling itself the Republic of Floyd, the town’s 425 residents have a very Key West, vibe, but in a pure Americana setting. Don’t miss the bluegrass jam sessions at the general store Sunday afternoon. www.floydvirginia.com
Blue Ridge Music Center
Discover traditional mountain music in an interactive center and enjoy live impromptu performances by local artists daily in the outdoor courtyard. www.blueridgemusiccenter.org
Chateau Morrisette Winery
Come here for excellent wines and restaurants with fantastic views along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Getaway packages are a good value. www.thedogs.com
Virginia Wine and Craft Festival
Over 20 of Virginia’s labels pour their best wines at this May 19 fest in Front Royal. The town square and downtown become a seven-block outdoor exhibition center with high-end crafts from over 100 artisans from throughout the East Coast. Pre-purchase tickets to get a discount. www.wineandcraftfestival.com
Find more travel advice at www.insightguides.com.