Virginia’s mountain ranges are world-famous for a number of reasons, including the challenging hiking trails, scenic winding drives, and the storied musical history of Appalachia. Whether you travel in the spring, summer, fall, or winter, the mountains of Virginia invite you to come for a visit and stay a while. And be sure to block off some down time on your itinerary; often, the most memorable part of a stay in the mountains involves just sitting still and taking in the beauty of Virginia’s rolling landscape. Discover all there is to LOVE about the mountains of Virginia.
—THE MOUNTAIN RANGES—
You’ll often hear Virginians refer to the mountains as the Appalachian Mountains, and while this is correct, the Appalachian chain actually runs down most of the eastern North American coast. To be more specific to a region, the Appalachian Mountains are divided further into smaller mountain chains. The two major chains that run through Virginia are the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Allegheny Mountains.
—STUNNING MOUNTAIN SITES—
There are too many iconic mountain sites to list, but these are a few destinations that visitors rave about in the mountains of Virginia.
This gem in Southwest Virginia is known for the wild ponies, rugged but beautiful landscape, and the highest elevation point in Virginia, Mount Rogers. Hiking, horseback riding, biking, and camping are popular within the park.
Mabry Mill is considered the most iconic structure on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The site still gives tours with milling, blacksmithing, spinning, and other various demonstrations that showcase traditional Appalachian crafts.
Hikers take on a 4.5 mile hike through the mountains to reach McAfee Knob, the most photographed spot on the Appalachian Trail. This site provides panoramic views of the Catawba Valley, Tinker Cliffs, and Roanoke Valley.
One of the most beautiful park’s in America, Shenandoah National Park contains countless scenic vistas to take in the mountains and the sweeping valleys below.
—WINDING DRIVES WITH GORGEOUS VIEWS—
Want to get a front-row seat for the mountain views without hiking the exhaustive terrain to reach an overlook? Plan a road trip to discover Virginia’s mountainsides from behind the wheel.
Route 16, called “The Back of the Dragon” by those that conquer its curves, is a six hour drive through a hundred miles of Southwest Virginia. This is a route favored by motorcyclists, but anyone driving the route can appreciate the scenery.
Running from the Northern Shenandoah Valley to the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway winds through 469 miles of stunning mountain terrain.
Skyline Drive connects to the northern point of the Blue Ridge Parkway, traveling a further 105 miles along the Blue Ridge Mountains. The views of the Shenandoah Valley are awe-inspiring, and there are more than 75 overlooks right off the road that let you stop and take it all in without hiking multiple miles. During the fall, the mountains are alight with the oranges, reds, and yellows of the changing foliage, attracting thousands of visitors to the route.
—HIKING & BIKING TRAILS—
The mountains in Virginia were practically made for hiking and mountain biking. About a quarter of the Appalachian Trail runs through Virginia, and numerous trails off the Blue Ridge Parkway invite hikers to meander through the shady rolling landscape to spectacular payoff views. Intense mountain biking routes like the Spearhead Trails in Southwest Virginia provide a challenge to even the most seasoned rider.
Popular Hiking Spots:
- Cold Mountain
- Old Rag
- Whiteoak Canyon
- Dragon’s Tooth
- Crabtree Falls
- Sharp Top
Popular Mountain Biking Locations:
- Carvins Cove
- Flag Rock
- Southern Traverse
- George Washington and Jefferson National Forests
- Douthat State Park
—THE HISTORY OF MOUNTAIN MUSIC—
Virginia boasts a thriving music scene, with live performances happening nonstop a venues and clubs throughout the Commonwealth. The mountains have a particularly rich music heritage, in part due to the legendary history behind the music. Famous musicians like the Carter Family and Dr. Ralph Stanley called Virginia home, instilling the Appalachian mountain sounds into their songs that would inspire generations to come. Take a trip along the Crooked Road, Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, to learn more about the music of Virginia’s mountain regions.
Dozens of small towns can be found within Virginia’s mountain regions, giving visitors a glimpse into what daily life in the mountains is like.
Roanoke is one of the bigger mountain towns in Virginia, providing a bevy of great restaurants, hotels, and events along with the outdoor recreation. The 26 miles of biking and walking trails that make up the Roanoke Valley Greenways provide a pedestrian pathway to Mill Mountain, where the iconic illuminated star looks down on the beautiful city of Roanoke. The Appalachian Trail passes close by the city, with access points to stunning mountain peaks like Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob, and the Tinker Cliffs.
This small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia packs a lot of personality. With the Appalachian Trail running right down the sidewalk of one of the main streets, you know that this town is passionate about the mountains and outdoor activities. Hikers stop in the town for the annual Trail Days celebration, and mountain biking enthusiasts hit the Virginia Creeper Trail to enjoy a leisurely downhill ride through the mountains of Virginia. The quaint but charming town is also not far from Mount Rogers, making it an ideal vacation spot for those looking to meet the wild ponies.
In the Shenandoah Valley, the town of Luray sits adjacent to Shenandoah National Park, and mountain road trippers can access Skyline Drive from the Thornton Gap Entrance, less than ten miles away from the town. The well-known Luray Caverns provide visitors with the rare chance to see what is underneath the mountains of Virginia.
—WINERIES, BREWERIES, & MORE—
There are tons of wineries, breweries, cideries, and distilleries tucked away in the mountains of Virginia. Sample some impressive beverages when you add one of these scenic drink destinations to your travel itinerary.
The grapes used in wine production at Mountainrose Vineyards are grown in the mountains, lending to delicious, subtle aromas apparent in every glass of wine. But if you think the wines are impressive at Mountainrose, just wait until you step outside and take in the picturesque views of the surrounding mountains.
Sugar Hill Brewing Company—St. Paul
If you’re heading to St. Paul to ride the epic Spearhead Trail ATV systems, a visit to the Sugar Hill Brewing Company is a must. The craft brewery creates a wide array of refreshing beers, including a light and easy-to-drink pilsner, several unique IPAs, and dark offerings like an Irish dry stout.
Big Fish Cider Co.—Monterey
This microcidery uses locally grown apples and traditional cider-making techniques to craft incredible ciders, ranging from dry and crisp to semi-sweet.
Davis Valley Distillery—Rural Retreat
The roots of distilling in America go deep in the Appalachias, so of course you will still find some of the best distilleries in the country in Virginia’s mountains. Davis Valley Distillery produces several corn whiskey moonshines (in wonderfully classic flavors like Apple, Peach, and Cherry Pie) and a traditional grain vodka. Currently, they are working on new whiskey and bourbon products, as well.
—FARMS & ORCHARDS—
The cool air and rich soil of the Virginia mountains results in outstanding fresh produce. These farms and orchards let you interact with farm animals or pick your own selection of apples, peaches, and more.
Pick your own apples from the trees or purchase them already picked by farmhands at Graves’ Mountain Orchard. They also sell fresh-pressed cider and apple butter made from their fruits. In the fall, pumpkins and gourds are available.
Seven Springs Alpaca Farm—Lebanon
You probably won’t have too many chances in your lifetime to pet an alpaca, but Seven Springs Alpaca Farm offers the opportunity to learn about them as you stroke their soft fleece coat.
Chiles Peach Orchard—Crozet
Nothing is better than a perfectly ripe peach picked straight off the tree, and you can do just that at Chiles Peach Orchard. Additionally, they have pick-your-own strawberries, apples, and pumpkins seasonally grown on the farm. If you don’t want to pick it yourself, head into their market to buy it fresh, along with local vegetables, jams, foods, crafts, and more. The ice cream shop and bakery inside the market serves up some delicious treats for those with a sweet tooth.
—EVENTS FOR MOUNTAIN LOVERS—
Virginia Outdoor Lovers Expo—Radford
Date: April 22, 2017
The 3rd annual Virginia Outdoor Lovers Expo raises awareness for the variety of outdoor mountain recreation options of Southwest Virginia. It is a free event held on the banks of the New River, and includes live music, local craft beers, and even outdoor gear giveaways.
Appalachian Trail Days—Damascus
Date: May 19-21, 2017
Appalachian Trail Days is a three day outdoor festival recognizing those that take on the Appalachian Trail, including aspiring, current, and previous AT hikers. The event features live music, outdoor vendors, local food, a hiker’s talent show, and many other events for the entire family.
Mountains of Music Homecoming—Abingdon
Dates: June 9-17, 2017
The Mountains of Music Homecoming takes place in over 20 communities along the Crooked Road. This annual nine day region-wide event highlights traditional music and the cultural impact of the Appalachian Mountains. Music fills the air nonstop, and while you’re welcome to just listen, the festival encourages participation as well, with open jam sessions and instrument-making demonstrations. During the festival, local hiking guides offer knowledgeable tours of the mountains of Southwest Virginia.
Anthem Go Outside Festival—Roanoke
Dates: October 13-15 and 19-21, 2017
This free outdoor sports festival happens over two weekends in Roanoke, encouraging people to stay active with the multitude of outdoor recreation possibilities available in the mountain regions. But unlike many other outdoor festivals, Go Outside actually gives you the chance to try out the gear before you buy anything. You’ll have the opportunity to take bikes, kayaks, paddleboards, and more for a spin, testing out new outdoor hobbies in the mountains without spending a dime.
—PLACES TO STAY IN THE MOUNTAINS—
From simple cabins to sprawling luxury resorts, Virginia’s mountains offer lodging for every visitors.
Each of these resorts are filled with luxury amenities and year-round activities like zip-lining, hiking, and a full array of spa services.
- Wintergreen Resort—Wintergreen
- Massanutten Resort—McGaheysville
- Bryce Resort—Bayse
- The Omni Homestead Resort—Hot Springs
- Primland Resort—Meadows of Dan
In addition to large resorts, the region is filled with private cabin rentals that provide a little peace and quiet during your visit to the mountains.
Discover endless beauty and adventure with a trip through Virginia’s renowned mountain ranges. Where is your favorite destination in the mountains of Virginia?
© pkeppel for Virginia’s Travel Blog, 2017. |