With stunning fall foliage lining Virginia’s scenic roads, this time of year is perfect for a memorable motorcycle ride. Whether you are planning a trip to a specific historic destination or simply looking for a peaceful drive through the countryside, we have a beautiful bike route that will give you the full fall experience. Hit the road and discover some of Virginia’s most unforgettable motorcycle rides.
The Nickel & Dime Drive
Total Drive Time: About 3.5 hours round trip
Also called the Capital Country Byway, the Nickel & Dime creates a loop between the current capital of Virginia and the colonial capital. Take Richmond to Williamsburg down Route 5, called the “Nickel Road”, for a peaceful country drive past three former U.S. President homes and more than two dozen civil war sites. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled as you go; the route has a heavy bald eagle population. Upon reaching Williamsburg, head south on Route 31 through Jamestown and across the James River. This road connects you to the “Dime Road”, or Route 10, which you can travel west on to get back to Richmond.
U.S Route 250: From Staunton to Monterey
Total Drive Time: A little over an hour
For a challenging mountain motorcycle ride, take Route 250 from Staunton to Monterey. Make sure you start your day early, as a tour through Staunton could easily fill up an entire day if you hit all the museums and interesting destinations. After leaving Staunton, you’ll drive through the Shenandoah Valley and enter the George Washington National Park. The mountains provide several panoramic vista views of the valleys below, and although this trip can be done in a little over an hour, it will probably take closer to two once you stop to admire the scenery. During the fall, the mountain ranges are bright with the colorful variety of foliage, and the curvaceous portion that crosses Shenandoah Mountain will excite even the most experienced rider. Shortly after crossing the mountains, you’ll enter Monterey, which has been called the “most rider friendly town” because of the large population of motorcycle enthusiasts, who are almost always willing to give advice or help to other riders.
Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park
Total Drive Time: About three hours
One of the most famous routes in the world, Skyline Drive’s 105 miles of winding roadway through the Blue Ridge Mountains is a must-drive for motorcyclists. This scenic route begins in the northern neck of the Shenandoah Valley at Front Royal and meanders south to Waynesboro, where the road joins the equally spectacular Blue Ridge Parkway. During fall, warm tones blanket the rolling crests and envelope the pavement in a canopy of autumnal hues. The route takes motorists to 75 breathtaking overlooks, as well as over 500 miles of wooded hiking trails through the mountains. If waterfalls are your thing, this roadway leads to several incredible natural attractions, such as Stanardsville’s South River Falls and Dark Hollow Falls in Luray.
Don’t Miss: Old Rag Mountain
Total Drive Time: About 45 minutes
Connecting Virginia’s Historic Triangle, made up of Colonial Williamsburg, Historic Jamestowne, and Yorktown, the 23 miles of the Colonial Parkway is a perfect route for those wishing to combine scenery with history. The area has more than six historic sites and attractions to visit right off the route, as well as several dozen fine dining destinations and even a theme park for the riders that can’t get enough thrills on the open road. The route is especially stunning during the fall months, with the amber colors, brick bridges, and lush natural surroundings adding a certain nostalgic charm to your trip.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Total Drive Time: 5-6 hours
Often referred to as “America’s Favorite Drive,” the Blue Ridge Parkway spans a total of 216 miles in Virginia before heading south into the Great Smoky Mountain of North Carolina. Drive this route along the Appalachian Mountain chain for panoramic views from mountains that tower anywhere from 650 to 6,000 feet in elevation. Like Skyline Drive, there are countless hiking trails, waterfalls, and scenic overlooks to experience off of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Don’t Miss: Peaks of Otter, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and historic towns like Charlottesville, Lexington, and Roanoke
George Washington Memorial Parkway
Total Drive Time: About 45 minutes without traffic
Right outside of Washington, D.C., the George Washington Memorial Parkway offers a relaxing route amid a bustling and hectic cityscape. The route stretches along the Potomac River, offering beautiful scenery you wouldn’t expect to find only miles from the nation’s capital. A walking and biking trail borders the parkway, and you’ll almost always spot dozens of people strolling with their pets along the shady wooded path. With over 25 historic sites and wildlife preserves along the roughly 25 miles of parkway, you should ideally set aside at least half a day for exploring this scenic route.
Route 16: The Back of the Dragon
Total Drive Time: About an hour
Known as the “Back of the Dragon” for the sharp zig-zagging path the road cuts through the mountain landscape, Route 16 provides 32 miles of exciting, unparalleled thrills. Spanning three mountains between Tazewell and Marion, this two-lane road is bordered by magnificent scenery that reaches its peak during the fall foliage season. Take your motorcycle for a ride down Route 16 to become a “Dragon Master”.
Route 39: The Allegheny Mountains
Total Drive Time: About 1.5 hours
Start your ride in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley city of Lexington to pick up Route 39, a gorgeous autumn road through steep mountains and plunging gorges. This curving course stretches almost 60 miles westward all the way to West Virginia border. As you enter George Washington National Forest, you’ll reach the region’s best kept secret: Goshen Pass. This area is known for its spectacular scenery viewable directly from the roadway, including pristine waterways and countless acres of woods that act as a natural canopy for the route. Continue through the national forest to the picturesque town of Warm Springs, and for a luxurious overnight experience, travel just a few miles south to the historic Omni Homestead Resort.
Nelson Scenic Loop
Total Drive Time: About 1.5 hours
Comprised of Route 151, Route 664, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Route 56, Nelson Scenic Loop runs through 50 miles of some of the most scenic land in Virginia. The route spans the lower foothills of the Piedmont, then climbs steadily to the summits of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Get the most out of your journey and plan a section hike the Appalachian Trail or stop at one of the many scenic overlooks to take in the colorful fall tree foliage that covers the ridges. Discover Virginia’s incredible wine and craft beer scene along the loop at a few of the wineries, breweries, and cideries along the Nelson 151 Trail and the Monticello Wine Trail. Apple and peach farms just off the road let you pick your own from the seemingly endless groves of fruit trees, and there are even pumpkin patches open during the fall (although carrying a pumpkin on your motorcycle presents a challenge). There are also a number of national historic landmarks for those looking for an educational pit stop.
The Southern Highlands
Total Drive Time: 5 hours+
The longest route on our list, Route 58 actually begins in Portsmouth near the shore and stretches to the western border of Virginia, but the most scenic portion in the fall months begins around Meadows of Dan. Take the road west and you’ll find dozens of quaint small towns like Galax and Damascus that welcome visitors with an air of friendliness that is both rare and refreshing. The Appalachian Trail runs right through the town of Damascus, and you’ll often spot a handful of scruffy hikers sharing their stories with the residents, who are more than happy to provide supplies and support for the weary travelers. As you continue your trek along the western road, you’ll eventually reach Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, which traces the borders of Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky. For an unforgettable scenic view, hike to the top of Pinnacle Overlook.
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
Total Drive Time: 30 minutes
Spanning the entire width of the Bay, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel has been listed as one of the seven man-made wonders of the world. With the wind flying by and the waves crashing against the stone pillars only a few dozen feet below your wheels, you’ll feel as if you’re riding right on top of the water, creating an exhilarating experience. Pause about 3.5 miles into the ride at the bridge’s restaurant and gift shop for lunch and a few souvenirs. Make sure you check the bridge travel information ahead of time, as motorcycle travel is dependent on weather conditions, and the bridge toll is $13 each way, or $18 total if traveling back within 24 hours.
If you’re looking for a fun and adventurous way to see Virginia, check out a few of these scenic motorcycle rides this fall, and let us know if we missed any rides with gorgeous autumn views!
© pkeppel for Virginia’s Travel Blog, 2016. |