There are more than 2,500 miles designated as scenic byways in Virginia. The regions highlighted here offer a very small sample of the wonderful variety you’ll find on these scenic and historic roads across the Commonwealth.
So where is your favorite place to ride?
SKYLINE DRIVE IN SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK
Skyline Drive is a National Scenic Byway that runs 105 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, starting in the northern neck of the Shenandoah Valley at Front Royal to Waynesboro, where it meets the Blue Ridge Parkway. Fall is the most popular time to travel along Skyline Drive, with its colorful foliage from late September to mid-November. But spring offers the most colorful wildflowers along the drive, as well as blooming azaleas and Mt. Laurel. The drive time is approximately three hours.
The 23-mile Colonial Parkway connects important historical sites within Virginia’s Historic Triangle. Free of commercial development, the Parkway is designed to provide an experience – that of motoring through more than 400 years of American colonial history. There is more than six historic sites and attractions to visit along the way.
BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY
Known as “America’s Favorite Drive,” the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway meanders from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. The parkway follows the Appalachian Mountain chain and provides some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, ranging from 650 to 6,000 feet in elevation. Scenic overlooks, historic structures, walking trails and waterfalls are just some of the highlights along the parkway. Stops include Peaks of Otter and historic towns like Charlottesville, Lexington and Roanoke.
GEORGE WASHINGTON MEMORIAL PARKWAY
Just across the Potomac River from downtown Washington, D.C., is a Northern Virginia oasis in the heart of the nation’s capital – the George Washington Memorial Parkway. It offers walking and biking trails set amid lush vegetation and a rolling landscape. Take the pedestrian bridge to Theodore Roosevelt Island, an 88-acre memorial to our 26th president.
Kentucky & Virginia share a rugged mountainous border of jagged peaks rising more than 4,135 feet into the horizon. Pine and Black Mountains create this phenomenal land mass through the Heart of Appalachia region, enticing you to experience the curvy backroads that form these unique travel routes. Traverse through valleys and peaks, forest land, and rolling farms through distinct towns and lots of curves. Many of the Appalachian Backroads’ trails intertwine with rivers and streams that our early pioneer settlers followed hundreds of years ago. The touring and travel is well suited (and chosen for) to motorcyclists. Check out Benge’s Revenge—it’s not for sissies!
BACK OF THE DRAGON
Experience the unmatched beauty and motorcycle riding enjoyment provided by Virginia Route 16, the two-lane ribbon over the three mountains between Tazewell and Marion. Back of the Dragon features and sponsors several events throughout the year, including the Women’s Motorcycle Rally, which will take place July 24-27 at Hungry Mother State Park.
Scenic Route 39 carries you up steep mountains and along deep gorges. You’ll come upon the Virginia Horse Center and Goshen Pass, then you can enter the George Washington National Forest and pretty soon, you’ve entered the town of Warm Springs. As you continue on Route 39 toward the West Virginia border, you’ll pass the Hidden Valley and Blowing Springs recreation areas, with opportunities for camping, hiking and fishing.
VIRGINIA CIVIL WAR TRAILS
Virginia has more important Civil War battlefields and sites than any other state. The Virginia Civil War Trails consist of 260 stops in five interconnected campaign driving tours marked with trailblazing signs. Many stops are located on or near Virginia’s scenic roads.
NELSON SCENIC LOOP
Attention history buffs, naturalists, architectural hounds, hikers, and wine aficionados! The Nelson Scenic Loop—comprised of four scenic byways—is a 50-mile auto and bike tour that features Nelson County’s bounty of natural, cultural, and historic attractions. Encompassing the Blue Ridge Parkway, Patrick Henry Highway, Beech Grove Road and Crabtree Falls Highway, the Nelson Scenic Loop traverses both the verdant foothills of the Piedmont as well as the summits of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Along the loop, you can encounter the landscape that was shaped by the clash of two planter cultures, the Scotch-Irish and Anglicans, who left a legacy of diverse farming practices, architecture, and local craft. There are a number of registered national historic landmarks along the way.
Take a rides through Capital Country, connecting the state and Confederate Capital of Richmond with the colonial Capital of Williamsburg. This byways tour starts with a visit to the Capitol Building in Richmond, or with St. John’s Church. You can stop by Civil War sites within the Richmond National Battlefield Park, then drive by the historic plantations along Route 5. The Byway ends in Colonial Williamsburg where you can park your bike and travel centuries back in time to the first days of our new democracy.
A typical byway drive in Southwest Virginia would be Route 52 north out of Wytheville. As you weave through Big Walker Mountain Byway, stop at the Big Walker Mountain Lookout for a breathtaking view. Then follow Route 42 southwest to Route 16. Going south will take you to Mount Rogers. North on Route 16 takes you toward Tazewell and Burke’s Garden.
© Stefanie for Virginia’s Travel Blog, 2014