#LOVEstaunton

Category: Hiking

Staunton’s Farms, Fall Foliage, and Festivals

Fall is coming and there’s no better way to welcome the (almost) sweater weather than by traveling to Staunton to enjoy farms, fall foliage, and festivals! A trip to the Queen City will give you the opportunity to harvest and taste some of our local food, photograph our views, and celebrate our culture. 

Farms

Farms and Farmers’ Markets

Staunton Farmers’ Market 7-noon Wed. and Sat.

North Augusta Farmers’ Market (Verona) noon-5 Wed.

Take a drive out to Polyface Farms to see a national leader in best-practices farming. You can take tours of the farm and buy pasture-raised, hormone/antibiotic-free chicken, beef, pork, and eggs at the farm store.

Meadowcroft Farms and the Inn at Meadowcroft. Sample some of the 68 different kinds of pickles, relishes, jams, salsas and spreads at the farm store. If you’re looking for a unique and special place to stay, try the inn, which is a situated in a historic (and modernized) log cabin that is over 200 years old.

Pick Your Own

Pick your own wildflowers and herbs at Pebble Hall Wildflowers and Herbs from May to October. Use them fresh for floral displays or culinary pursuits or dry them to use them later. The farm offers beautiful photo opportunities as well as onsite massage and lodging.

Are you looking for a great deal on pick-your-own pumpkins and gourds? Middle River Farms offers pricing by wagon load. The farm also sells locally grown produce, eggs, cheese, and fall decor.

Another great spot to search for the great pumpkin is Mulberry Hills Farm. Visitors can expect a seasonal pumpkin patch (with a wide variety of pumpkins, gourds, squash, and other decorative items). The farm also sets up seasonal backdrops for your family photos and the kids can pet friendly farm animals.

You only need to drive a few miles south of Staunton to get to Sunrise Orchards, a small operation that offers a welcome change from crowded apple orchards. You can pick your own red delicious, yellow delicious and Jonathan apples by the bushel, peck or bag. Plan a picnic to enjoy under the trees with spectacular views of the mountains.

September is grape season, so spend a morning picking Niagara or Concord grapes at Wenger Grape Farm. These grapes can be used for wine, juice or jam, or enjoying by the handful. This beautiful farm offers a wealth of wholesome photo opportunities.

Fall Foliage

You can’t beat the way the Shenandoah Valley dresses up in the autumn. Leaves will be peaking between late September and early November, so plan to take a drive on the Skyline Drive or the Blue Ridge Parkway for some breathtaking displays.

For a more private option, head to the westernmost end of Augusta County and check out the views from the Confederate Breastworks interpretive site at the top of Shenandoah Mountain.

If you want to leaf peep in town, wander the trails in Montgomery Hall Park, pack a picnic and hang out under the trees near the Gypsy Hill Park grandstand, or take a stroll through historic Thornrose Cemetery. One of the best views of Staunton can be had from Wilson Park high on Sears Hill.

To see the leaves at their brightest, check out this fall color predictor site from Shenandoah National Park.

Festivals

Octoberfest

October 6

Octoberfest at the Frontier Culture Museum is a blast. Start the day with Irish Road Bowling and then tour the German farm. Later on, kick up your heels dancing to live music, eating traditional food, and drinking good beer. Tour the museum to see how past residents of the Valley celebrated their harvests.  The festival offers fun and activities for the entire family.

Fall Foliage Art Festival

October 13-14

150 fine artists come to downtown Waynesboro, VA for the 46th annual Fall Foliage Art Show. Artist bring paintings, printmaking, sculpture, jewelry, pottery and wood to this outdoor juried show. You can also enjoy delicious food, craft beer, and music. The Street Arts Festival takes place concurrently with Fall Foliage and offers a chance to admire the vibrant works of talented street artists as they make urban spaces their canvas.

Fall Foliage Bike Festival

October 19-21

Now in its 28th year, the Fall Foliage Bike Festival attracts over 750 cyclists from around the mid-Atlantic states for a weekend of riding in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. Escape the cities for a quiet weekend and choose from over eleven SAG-supported routes over two days.

 

Take a Drive: Stunning Scenic Byways

Staunton is not only a portal to Skyline Drive, the iconic 105-mile thoroughfare bisecting Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, but it also sits at the northern cusp of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Check out these two scenic drives, arguably some of the best thoroughfares on the east coast for leaf-peeping: 

skyline drive

Flanked by the 200,000 acres of the Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive is laden with 69 different scenic overlooks along the 105-mile long public road. For ambitious leaf-peepers, allow 3 to 4 hours to drive the entire Skyline Drive which doesn’t include stops. Hop on the scenic byway via the Rockfish Gap entrance just 20 minutes from Staunton. Popular overlooks closest to the Southern entrance are Big Run Overlook (milepost 81.2) and Crimora Lake Overlook (milepost 92.6). The valley of Big Run is one of the park’s most scenic and opens into the depths of the park’s largest stream. Crimora Lake Overlook sits at 2,985 feet where you can see the strewn rock slopes of Rocks Mountain. 

Try a leg-stretcher and see the fall colors up-close. From Skyline Drive try Blackrock Summit (milepost 4.8), a geological wonder that’s an easy 1-mile loop. Although not the highest peak in the South District, this is probably the easiest to get to with rewarding views. From the summit of boulder-strewn Blackrock enjoy views that extend for miles in multiple directions. Another short and sweet hike is the Frazier Discovery Trail (milepost 79.5). This area used to be the Frazier’s farm and you can still see evidence of their past in the apple trees that still dot the mountain. 

Mid-October is generally when the fall color is at its most intense, but for planning purposes, check out Shenandoah National Park’s weekly fall report for peak leaf conditions.

blue ridge parkway

In Rockfish Gap, 20 miles from Staunton, Skyline Drive also merges into the southbound Blue Ridge Parkway, the iconic byway running 469-miles from the Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. While there are a staggering 280 viewpoints, some of the most spectacular sites along the entire parkway are in the northernmost section—just minutes from Staunton. First, the Humpback Rocks Recreation Area offers access to a range of hiking trails, with options for quick leg-stretchers or extensive loops. The massive 3,080-foot rock formation known as Humpback Rocks is also touted as one of the parkway’s premier vistas—and one of the most popular.

Just after Humpback Rocks is another treasure: The Sherando Lake Recreation Area is one of the byway’s most inviting detours. The 25-acre, spring-fed lake is edged by hiking trails, leafy campsites, and a sandy swimming beach. Slightly further south, the parkway also offers access to the one of the most stunning waterfalls in the east—and the highest in the Virginia Blue Ridge—Crabtree Falls. Two trailheads just a few miles from the parkway offer hikers intimate access to the cascades plunging 1,800-foot course to the Tye River.

Awesome Hikes: Mountain Views and Waterfalls

 

What’s better than spending a lovely fall day hiking to a great view or waterfall? Staunton is a natural home base for your Shenandoah Valley adventures where the options are almost unlimited, for everyone, from casual day-hikers to trail-savvy backcountry gurus. Just outside town, the southward-winding Blue Ridge Parkway is a portal to more than 300 miles of trails, while Skyline Drive provides access to more than 500 miles of hiking trails in the Shenandoah National Park. This doesn’t even include the two massive national forests—the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests—that flank this mountain-fringed town. 

Awesome hikes To The West

ELLIOT KNOB 

If you’re up to chasin’ waterfalls, Elliot Knob is a great place to start. West of downtown Staunton near Buffalo Gap, Elliot Knob is the highest point in Augusta County and the closest hike for stunning views of the Shenandoah Valley. The trail is 8.5 miles to the summit, and still considered to be a hidden gem in the grand scheme of Virginia’s best hikes.

Two significant and other minor falls are along the trail. Be cautious of slippery algae, but feel free to take off your shoes and chill out a while. The second major set of falls (marked by a cairn) is a great place to have a quick picnic. The flat rocks are begging you to perch, sunbathe, and enjoy a bright sunshiny day. If care to march on, a grassy summit with incredible Shenandoah Valley views awaits.

> Elevation Gain: 2,425 feet
> Time: Allow 5.5 hours for hiking; add additional for lunch and chill
> Parking: Virginia Route 42, pull-off to a gated area with a stop sign and an additional brown sign on the post marked “291.” Use “854 Little Calf Pasture Highway, Swoope, VA” as the address for GPS.

Extend the Elliot Knob hike by going around the backside of the mountain and trying Chimney Hollow. It’s a longer hike with more elevation gain, causing it to be rated 5 out of 5 in terms of difficulty. However, the views are worth the challenge (also rated 5/5).

All said, the point-to-point hike is 15.4 miles, but can be shortened by parking at Route 688 instead of Route 42 (the Elliot Knob parking point). 

> Elevation Gain: 3,670 feet
> Time: Allow 8 hours for the entire hike and don’t forget to figure in time for lunch
> Parking: Virginia Route 250, before Route 715. A non-descript pull-off on the right side of the road with coordinates of 38.27490, -79.29710. Have a partner leave another vehicle at the Route 688 lot (38.21332, -79.29599) or the Route 42 lot.

ramsey’s draft trail

Farther out Route 250 is the Ramsey’s Draft Wilderness Area, which delivers a 16.8-mile loop that an overnight to accomplish. The Ramsey’s Draft Trail is highly rated across all HikingUpward categories, which means you’ll work your tail off, but the rewards are equally tremendous.

Expect steep ascents along two ridges in this loop, which will yield great views and really nice camp sites. You’ll dart back and forth across the stream as you go (be prepared for wet feet), and the trail has a tendency to be invisible in a few places due to rocky outcrops. Be aware of stinging nettles on the clockwise ascent.

As with all wilderness areas and Virginia outdoors in general, leave no trace. If those before you left evidence of their presence, please pack out what you can.

> Elevation Gain: 3,170 feet
> Time: Two Days
> Parking: Virginia Route 250, right on Ramsey’s Draft N (38.30828, -79.36090), go 100 yards beyond the Mountain House Picnic Area.

Awesome Hikes to the East

humpback rocks

Humpback Rocks once served as a landmark for wagon trains trying to cross the Blue Ridge in the 1840s. The trailhead for this popular hike is on the Blue Ridge Parkway and not far from I-64. Since the parking lot is usually well-populated, you might have better luck parking at the visitor’s center and strolling to the trailhead through the interpretive farm, which represents the regional architecture of the late 19th century.

The mile to the top is a steep, hard hike. Rocks stud the trail, but you won’t forget you’re close to civilization as there are occasional steps and benches. The beautiful views of the Shenandoah Valley and Shenandoah National Park at the top are worth every step. This spot can score you amazing photographs, but you might have to shoot creatively around other hikers.

The most popular route is only two miles round-trip; however, if you’re looking for something longer, HikingUpward.com suggests adding two additional miles along the Appalachian Trail. The longer hike provides a gradual descent (your quads will thank you) and solitude that the well-traveled up-and-back does not.

> Elevation Gain: 800 feet
> Time: Allow 2.5 hours for hiking the longer route
> Parking: Park at the Humpback Rocks parking area, milepost 6. 37.96846, -78.89656

crabtree falls

1,200-foot Crabtree Falls, one of the highest vertical-drop cascading waterfalls east of the Mississippi, features five major cascades and many smaller ones. This great hike along and up a waterfall pays off almost immediately. In fact, the first section of the paved, nearly flat trail leads to a viewing platform from which you have an excellent view of the lower part of the falls.

Don’t let the ease of this beginning fool you, though, because from here on out, the trail becomes steep. The switchbacks repeatedly reconnect with the falls, offering the interest of several vantage points and viewing platforms. Steps and railings provide safety in some of the steepest, slipperiest sections. Rest and snack awhile at the large, walled area on top, and take in the rhododendron and the magnificent view of the Tye River Valley. Though it will be tempting to children and photographers, don’t leave the trail to climb on the slippery rocks.

While the up and back might be plenty (3.8 miles), those really wanting to break in their boots, might try the longer route connecting Crabtree Falls with another spectacular hike, Spy Rock (13.9 miles).

> Elevation Gain: 1,200 feet
> Time: 2.5 for hiking up and back
> Parking: parking lot with per vehicle fee, VA56. 37.85144, -79.07922

Dobie Mountain

Wanna see something you don’t see every day?  There’s a plane crash site on Dobie Mountain just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. You’ll need to park at the very popular Humpback Rocks area to get there, but trust us, this is a really great redirection from the crowds that flood Humpback on the weekends.

Following the trail notes at Hiking Upward (linked above), you’ll be able to skirt off the trail for an excellent overlook of the Rockfish Valley and Nelson County before looping back around to see the 1964 wreckage of a lost Beechcraft*. Make time to get sidetracked for the sake of a great lunch venue, too: the Old Dominion Appalachian Trail Club shelter and Mill Creek.

* Do not disturb the Beechcraft crash site. Not only is it disrespectful, but you could cut yourself on metal or come upon a venomous timber rattlesnake.

> Elevation Gain: 1,560 feet
> Time: 3.5 hours plus time for lunch
> Parking: Humpback Rocks Lot at milepost 6

One final waterfall for you! The hike from White Rock Gap off the Blue Ridge Parkway to Torry Ridge features a 30-foot waterfall – White Rock Falls – with a caveat. You must hike the trail after a good spring rain for the falls to materialize. And when they do? Magic.

One of the cool things about this hike is that it passes through Sherando Lake campground, which has picnic tables for your lunch, and a lake with a beach area, if you feel like chilling out. The views along this trail are best in early spring (Hey! You’re right on time with spring break!), as the trees will not have fully leaved yet.

> Elevation Gain: 1,700 feet
> Time: 5.5 hours plus lunch and whatnot
> Parking: White Rock Gap lot around milepost 18