Category: Scenic Drives

Dive into Summer: Staunton’s Best Picnic Spots

Don’t have plans for the weekend? How about a good, old-fashioned picnic? Pack the picnic basket, shake out the blanket, grab a frisbee, and get ready for some wholesome summer fun. We’ve rounded up our best area picnic spots with swimming and views.

A Swim and a Picnic

Gypsy Hill Park

You can spend an entire afternoon exploring Gypsy Hill Park. Start with a swim at Gypsy Hill Park pool, a large, L-shaped pool with lanes for laps, a slide, and a dedicated kiddie pool for the three-and-under crowd. Next, set up for a picnic at one of the park’s many tables, find a place in a pavilion, or spread out on the grass somewhere private. One of our favorite spots is the south side of Lewis Creek to the east of the baseball diamonds. After your meal, walk the 1.3-mile loop, burn some energy at one of the playgrounds, or feed the ducks. If you want your picnic for dinner, check out the weekly live music schedule at the bandstand.

Montgomery Hall Park

There’s a lot to do in Montgomery Hall Park. Start by arranging your picnic lunch at one of the large park’s many picnic tables. Next, let the kiddos play at either the traditional playground or the natural playground. Get your heart rate up with a game of tennis, a round of disc golf, or a hike or bike ride along the wooded trails. Finally, take a dip in the park’s pool, which has both a deep end with a slide and a shallow area for the littles.

Sherando Lake

25-acre Sherando Lake is known as the “Jewel of the Blue Ridge” because it’s beautiful and when you come upon it tucked into the hills, you’ll feel like you discovered a prize. One side of the lake features a large sandy beach and gradual deepening of the deliciously cool spring-fed water. There are even shaded places where you can lounge while your kids splash and play in the water. Built in 1933 by the Civil Conservation Corps, the recreation area also has camping, hiking, boating, fishing, showers, and picnic facilities. Day access fee applies.

Todd Lake 

7.5-acre Todd Lake is a great place for a family swim, picnic, or camping weekend. This recreation area in George Washington and Jefferson National Forest features a sandy beach, bathhouse, picnic facilities, playground, hiking trails, volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, not-motorized boating, and camping. The lake was created in 1963 by the construction of a flood control dam. Today, it’s a great spot to watch waterfowl. Day access fee applies. 

Shenandoah Valley Campground

If you’re hoping to make a weekend out of picnicking and swimming, Shenandoah Valley Campground is the place to go. Not only does this campground boast large, comfortable sites and plenty to do like playgrounds and a fishing pond, but there’s also a big, heated pool as well as four six-person hot tubs. If you’re looking to skip chlorine, you’re in luck: the campground is tucked into a 1.5-mile horseshoe bend of the Middle River. That means there’s wading and tubing access.

Picnic Spots with Views

Cannon Hill at Mary Baldwin University

Popular for viewing 4th of July fireworks, Cannon Hill at Mary Baldwin University is a perfect spot for a picnic any day of the year. This high, flat, open lawn commands a panoramic view of the city. While there aren’t picnic tables, the space is usually empty, and there’s plenty of room to toss a ball or chase fireflies. 

Woodrow Park

Woodrow Park perches high above the railroad tracks on historic Sears Hill and boasts one of the best views of Staunton. You can park at the top or start at the Wharf and climb up and over the Sears Hill footbridge. Picnic on a bench or spread your blanket on the grass. Make sure to check out the informative signs that tell the area’s history and point out notable buildings.

Frontier Culture Museum

While the views here are pretty, you’ll spend most of your day gaining a new perspective on the past and learning about the Valley’s earliest settlers at The Frontier Culture Museum. You’ll develop a big appetite after walking the grounds and learning all the steps people needed to follow just to eke out an existence. There’s a covered pavilion as well as plenty of picnic tables to relax and enjoy the relative ease of modern dining. 

Skyline Drive

Finally, make sure to picnic this summer at one of the 70 scenic overlooks along Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive. Check out the views, look for birds and wildlife, and identify native plants and trees. Many of the overlooks feature trailheads, so you can get your exercise in before or after your meal.

Staunton’s Fall Foliage Report 2021: Weekend of October 29-31

The autumn colors are peaking in Staunton, and boy are they spectacular. This week, leaf peepers should see yellows and reds from maples. Look also for red displays from sumac and, surprisingly, poison ivy vines, which add festive garlands to tree trunks. Midweek wind brought down a lot of leaves, so rake them into piles and photograph the kiddos jumping and undoing all your hard work. Plan also to visit the Staunton Farmers’ Market on one of its final weeks this Saturday. Check for some color in the historic Wharf area and nearby on the grounds of Trinity Church. Other ways to see seasonal shades are to visit nearby pumpkin patches and corn mazes, and of course, look forward to the little ones in their Halloween finery on Sunday.

The Virginia Department of Forestry predicts peak fall foliage this week. The weather should be in the 50s this weekend, so get out there and enjoy the mountains and the Shenandoah Valley in all their glory. Check out the views along the Skyline Drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and from the top of Shenandoah Mountain to the west.

Staunton’s Fall Foliage Report 2021: Weekend of October 22-24

You won’t need to look hard to see Staunton’s autumnal colors as you enjoy being outside in the seasonal weather this weekend. Cooler days and chilly nights (have you turned the heat on yet?) are making it feel like fall. And we’re getting some peak colors both in the mountains and in town. Look for bright red and orange maples to serve as backdrops for your family photos. According to the Virginia Department of Forestry, “individual trees planted in urban and suburban landscapes often color earlier than those in the forest.” So, while elevation impacts temperature, which can affect color, you’re likely to see pops of color in town before widespread changes in the mountains.

Walks through Staunton’s historic neighborhood, long drives through rural Augusta County, and hikes in Shenandoah National Park all make great ways to check out the colors. Hikers wanting color closer to home should explore the trails at Montgomery Hall Park or Betsy Bell Wilderness Area. Gypsy Hill Park also has a walking loop and beautiful views.

Check here every week for our updated fall foliage report.

Staunton’s Fall Foliage Report 2021: Weekend of October 15-17

It’s still pretty warm in Staunton during the day, but with some nights dipping into the 40s, we should really start seeing some of fall’s fiery color this weekend! The following week looks like it will be much cooler, so the height of the season will be here soon. In fact, the Smoky Mountains Fall Foliage Prediction Map predicts that leaves will peak between October 11-25, so get out there and leaf peep. You’ll find some nice backgrounds around the train station for fall-themed photos, and a climb up to Woodrow Park on Sears Hill rewards with stellar views of Staunton from above. You’ll also see lots of trees in Gypsy Hill Park with the added bonus of the swimming pool enclosure that’s populated with friendly and spooky Halloween scarecrows.

If the rain holds off this weekend, it should be good weather for hiking, so make sure you get out with your camera. If you haven’t done it yet this year, Humpback Rocks offers wide open views of the Shenandoah and Rockfish Valleys as well as chances to see migrating hawks. If you’d rather head to the west, drive up Shenandoah Mountain and hike the trails around the Confederate Breastwork Interpretive Site. You’ll notice that the trees at higher elevations are starting to show off those autumnal colors. The Virginia Department of Forestry suggests that the green will continue to change to yellow as limited daylight shuts down chlorophyll production. Though all deciduous trees change color and drop their leaves, the intensity of the show varies each year.

Check here every week for our updated fall foliage report.

Staunton’s Fall Foliage Report: Weekend October 8-10, 2021

Things are moving right along on the leaf front this week. There’s still lots of faded green in town, but the foliage is definitely punctuated with the yellows, oranges, and reds of fall. There are enough leaves on the ground to give your walks a pleasing background crackle. The Virginia Department of Forestry suggests looking to sourwood, sumac, Virginia creeper, black gum, dogwood, and some maples for the most color this week. More changes are coming as the weather turns cooler and the daylight hours shorten. Potential rain this weekend will put a damper on major hikes, but if you find a clear window, take a stroll around the loop at  Gypsy Hill Park or along Bell’s Lane.

Another good way to see the fall foliage and stay dry is to take a drive and watch the fall colors pop against the cloudy, grey background. Map a leisurely loop along Augusta County’s backroads or travel north or south on the Skyline Drive or the Blue Ridge Parkway for some great views. Virginia’s autumn colors begin at higher elevations before moving down the slopes, and the Virginia Department of Forestry reports that significant changes have already occurred high along the Blue Ridge and Allegheny ridges. The Smoky Mountains Fall Foliage Prediction Map predicts that leaves will peak during the week of October 11-25, which means things will continue to happen very quickly!

Check here every week for our updated fall foliage report.

Staunton’s Fall Foliage 2021: Weekend of October 1-3

Fall started last week, but it’s still pretty warm. In fact, it’s pretty much perfect weather. The warm days and cooler nights are ideal for hiking, camping, and hitting the playground with your kids. The trees are still mostly green, but here and there you can see yellowing and flashes of orange. You’ll have to wait for a while until you can roll around in piles of raked leaves or get your fall portraits, but the cooler weather is sending the trees its signal.


Beyond Staunton

Colors come to the trees first in the mountains and in the western part of the state. After that, the colors spread east and down the mountain slopes. The Smoky Mountains Fall Foliage Prediction Map predicts that leaves will peak during the week of October 11-25, which means things will need to happen very quickly! Make sure you don’t miss it: get outside over the next few weeks for hikes both in the mountains and in the Valley.

The Virginia Department of Forestry suggests looking to black gum (red), dogwood (scarlet to purple), sumacs (red orange), and even poison ivy (red) for hints of color this week. A lot of wildflowers are still in bloom now, so make sure you’re looking along the sides of roads and trails while you’re out exploring this weekend.

If you’re looking for a nice drive, explore the Blue Ridge Parkway for wonderful views of leaves and migrating hawks.

Check back here for our updated fall foliage report each week if you’re planning to leaf peep this autumn.

Staunton’s Fall Roundup

The weather’s cooling, the birds are migrating, and the kids are safely away in school. Football is back on TV, and the leaves are starting to adorn the lawn. But there’s more to fall than raking, cheering, and pumpkin spice latte. Here’s how to make the most of autumn in Staunton.

Fall Color

The leaves haven’t really changed yet, but you can’t beat the Shenandoah Valley for the upcoming fall color. To see the leaves at their brightest, plan to leaf peep at the peak of the season, which should be around October 11 through 25 this year. Check back each week for an update on the season’s progression.

Fall Fashion and Where to Find It 

The seasons are changing and it’s time to warm up your wardrobe, especially if you have a family portrait session in the near future. Here’s where to update your look in Staunton this fall. 

  • Shop Design at Nine for distinctive women’s clothing, including a large selection of seasonal shoes and boots as well as the accessories you need to tie your look together. 
  • LTD 7 and Latitudes Fair Trade Store have unique and trendy clothing, bags, scarves, and jewelry. 

  • If you’re looking for something with a story, check out Nanny June Vintage Clothing for ways to add a retro flair to your modern wardrobe. 
  • Don’t forget The Sparrow’s Nest for artistic jewelry and knitwear. 
  • Men will look sharp after shopping at CFO Trading Company for clothing, outerwear, scarves, hats, and seasonal accessories. 
  • And make sure to outfit yourself for that fall hiking or camping trip at Wilderness Adventure.

Pumpkin, Apple, and Grape Picking

If you’re looking for a family-friendly fall adventure to keep you busy when you’re not at soccer or football games, visit one of our area’s pick-your-own farms and orchards.

  • You’ll find views and crops of Concords and Niagaras at Wenger Grapes
  • Pick some Red Delicious at Sunrise Orchards. They also sell apple butter, pumpkins, and honey. 
  • Decorative gourd lovers can rejoice: the pumpkin patch at Middle River Farms (Grottoes) is open. You’ll find over 30 varieties of pumpkins and gourds. Their wagonload deal is one of the best around! 
  • Another stellar spot for pumpkins is Troyer’s Farm in Stuarts Draft. Explore the fields for mixed varieties of large and small pumpkins and gourds. Finish up with a trip through the 10-acre corn maze. 
  • Finally, enjoy a hayride and pick-your-own pumpkins and gourds at Mount Crawford’s Mulberry Hills Farms

Fall Flavors 

We know you’ve been salivating for weeks for a taste of apples, pumpkins, and anything with a hint of spice and cinnamon. Here’s a sampling of some of Staunton’s best fall flavors.

  • Firkin Pie has the best sweet and savory flavors of the season. Try the pork sausage roll, seasoned with caramelized onions, sage, and thyme that’s served with honey mustard or the beet Reuben hand pie. Save room for the Marlborough apple pie for dessert.
  • The Shack offers an ever-changing and seasonal tasting menu highlighting local ingredients.
  • Try Zynodoa’s Autumn Olive Farm grilled pork chop that comes with braised cabbage, Wade’s Mill rye spaetzle, and a sweet and sour glaze. Get a side of Wade’s Mill apple and cheddar grits and follow it all with a harvest thyme pumpkin pot de crème.

  • Order the pan-seared maple leaf duck breast at Aioli. It’s served with butternut squash parmesan risotto, vegetable tempura, and blackberry reduction.
  • Pick your favorite fall-flavored gelato like pumpkin pie or maple walnut at The Split Banana

  • How about an apple streusel or pumpkin pie from Paris Cake Company? They not only taste wonderful, they’re beautiful, too.
  • D&L Donuts bakes seasonal flavors of your favorite morning treat like pumpkin and apple crisp. You’ll want to arrive early to ensure you score one of these tasty seasonal treats.
  • Have you had a flight from Ciders From Mars yet? You can’t beat hard cider for a taste of autumn.
  • Queen City Brewing serves two delicious hard-pressed ales: Apple Ale and Cranberry Ale. Both are perfect for the fall season.
  • Redbeard Brewing Company releases their latest edition of Moriarty, a barrel-aged Imperial Stout on October 9.

Fall Events 

We’ve scoured the calendars so you don’t have to. Here’s what’s coming up near Staunton.

  • Catch the right wind and see your kite soar at Coyner Springs Kite Fly on September 25. See kite demonstrations, paint pumpkins, and sling apples at this fun event. If you don’t already own a kite, browse the selection at Pufferbellies Toys and Books.
  • Get ready for Halloween by learning about Staunton’s spooky history with a Ghosts of Staunton walking ghost tour on September 24 and 25.
  • Find a use for your old clothes at Staunton Parks and Rec’s Scarecrows in the Park event. Use your skills to create a silly or scary scarecrow to stand near the swimming pools and spook all the early morning joggers. September 25.
  • There’s no live Queen City Mischief & Magic festival this year, but keep an eye on Facebook for lots of fun, virtual events.
  • Celebrate German Heritage Day at the Frontier Culture Museum on October 2 and see how early residents of the Valley lived and made merry.
  • The Fall Foliage Art Festival (October 9-10) brings talented artists to downtown Waynesboro each year. You’ll find paintings, prints, sculpture, jewelry, pottery, and more as well as music, food, and craft beer against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge in full color.
  • The Fall Foliage Bike Festival (October 15-17) attracts hundreds of 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 a number of SAG-supported routes over two days.
  • Wade’s Mill will host its 26th annual Apple Butter Festival on October 16. See apple butter being made the traditional way, enjoy tasty food and drink, and shop for local crafts.
  • October 16 is Fall Farm Day at Creambrook Farm. You’ll see baby calves and other farm animals, pretty views, and have lots of family fun.
  • Plan to take the kids to trick or treat at Swannanoa this Halloween. Expect goodies, photo opportunities, face painting, a food truck, and possible real ghosts!

Scenic Drives to Staunton

Situated at the intersection of interstates 81 and 64, Staunton always offers easy access. However, autumn days are perfect for more scenic drives, full of fall colors and vibrant culture. If you’re looking to take in all the Valley has to offer, check out one of these more leisurely alternatives.

If You’re Coming from the North, Try These Alternatives to I-81

Skyline Drive (Fees apply)

Travelers visiting from Northern Virginia and all points north can travel through the Valley looking up at the Blue Ridge Mountains or along the ridge itself. Enjoy a leisurely ride (the maximum speed limit is 35 m.p.h.) along the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park for some of the most stunning views on the East Coast. Feeling hungry? The Skyline Drive offers wayside food stops every 25 miles. Access Skyline Drive from Front Royal, Thornton Gap,  or Swift Run Gap. Exit at Rockfish Gap. to descend into Staunton. Pick up Route 250 to wind your way through Waynesboro and Fishersville before reaching the Queen City.

Points of Interest Along the Way:

Route 11

If you want a route that allows you to admire the mountains from below and explore the unique history and culture of the Shenandoah Valley, try  Route 11, originally part of a colonial trail that parallels 1-81. This road stretches from New York to Louisiana! In the section north of Staunton, you’ll explore Strasburg, Mt. Jackson, New Market, and Harrisonburg.

Points of Interest Include:

If You’re Coming from the West

Rt. 250/Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike

From the wild and wonderful state of West Virginia, head east to Staunton, taking in the beautiful views of the Monongahela National Forest as you ride along the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike. When you enter Virginia, you’re treated to sweet switchbacks and turns. Perhaps a motorcycle is the most thrilling mode of transportation for this fun scenic drive.

Points of Interest Along the Way:

Route 220

Driving through the beautiful mountains of western Virginia via Route 220 satisfies the soul on many levels, but when such a drive includes beautiful points of interest, well, you may want to take it again and again and again.

Points of Interest Along the Way:

  • Falling Springs waterfall is an 80′ cascade that can be seen from the road.
  • Southern gem, The Omni Homestead Resort, is a beautiful photo op you can’t pass up.

If You’re Coming from the East, Try This Alternative to I-64

Route 250/Richmond Road

While I-64 is the straightest route to Staunton from Richmond and points beyond, it travels through mainly forested land that borders the highway and limits the sightlines. Route 250 is a more leisurely route that will take you through the town centers of Charlottesville, Ivy, Crozet, and Waynesboro, but will also give you access to more unique scenery. 

Points of Interest Along the Way:

  • Hike or ride your bike along the Saunders-Monticello Trail, which winds through Kemper Park and connects Monticello with the local community south of Charlottesville. The arboretum of native trees and shrubs is a prime spot for leaf-peeping.
  • Tour family-owned King Family Vineyards in Crozet for some show-stopping wine and views of the mountains.
  • Chiles Peach Orchard has apples and pumpkins to buy or pick in the autumn. You can also visit the tasting room to sample Bold Rock Cider or Prince Michel wines, both made with fruit grown on the orchard.
  • Visitors are welcome at the Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch on Afton Mountain, where, in the fall, several hundred migrating raptors can be seen every day.

If You’re Coming from the South, Try These Alternatives to I-81

Route 11

The stretch of Route 11 that meanders through the Valley south of Staunton is full of natural beauty and opportunities to explore several picturesque small towns. You’ll drive through Roanoke, Natural Bridge, and Lexington. The Blue Ridge will parallel you on the right and the Allegheny Mountains can be viewed on the left.

Points of Interest Along the Way:

  • Hike Bottom Creek Gorge in Shawsville. This 3.7-mile hike features a number of small waterfalls as well as an old cemetery and the remnants of historic buildings.
  • For some leg stretching and a fantastic view of downtown Roanoke, climb to the Mill Mountain Star, which is “the largest free-standing, man-made, illuminated star in the world”!
  • Natural Bridge was formed by a collapsing cavern and owned by Thomas Jefferson. It’s now a state park with trails, caverns and a wax museum nearby.
  • Admire the views and the Virginia brew at Great Valley Farm Brewery.
  • Tour the campuses and museums at Washington and Lee University and Virginia Military Institute, both historic landmarks located in Lexington.

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkways winds through North Carolina and Virginia. Download the Blue Ridge Pkwy Travel Planner app for lots of offline information about overlooks and trailheads. At the Parkway’s northern terminus, pick up Route 250 to head west toward Staunton.

Points of Interest Along the Way:

  • Roanoke County’s Explore Park offers camping, hiking, river frontage, disc golf, and horseback riding. You’ll also find a Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor’s Center
  • Visit the tasting room at family-friendly Peaks of Otter Winery for some wine and gifts. The kids will enjoy exploring the farm and meeting the animals.
  • Crabtree Falls is on Route 56 in Tyro, just below the parkway. You can climb along the falls all the way to the top, or simply follow the paved trail to the lower falls if you don’t have time to hike farther up.
  • Humpback Rocks is a short, steep hike to a rock outcropping that offers amazing views of the Blue Ridge Valley. An interpretive farm at the trailhead offers area history.

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. 

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.

Please note: Many parkway facilities are closed in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. This includes all restrooms and portable toilets, visitor centers, campgrounds, picnic areas, and concession operations. Trails and most sections of the roadway remain open.