#LOVEstaunton

Category: Scenic Drives

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 sight lines. 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 they 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.

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.

Rolling Down the Byways: Staunton-Area Motorcycle Rides

Shenandoah National Park

Photo by @rosieladyblue

Spring is a beautiful time to experience the landscapes and vistas of the Shenandoah Valley. What better way to avoid garage rot than to take your bike on one of our Staunton-area motorcycle rides? With both major highways and scenic back roads, Staunton is convenient for motorcyclists who want to get somewhere in a hurry and those who want to take their time.

Plan to visit Shenandoah Harley Davidson to shop for some new gear or to attend an upcoming event.

Begin or end your tour in Staunton to take advantage of our many fine restaurants, lodgings, and things to do. Staunton is the perfect starting point for these area rides. See the Harley Davidson area rides page for detailed ride notes on these and more.


Crabtree Falls Loop

The ride to Crabtree Falls will stun. You’ll cruise down scenic Rt. 11, which was once one of our country’s important early roads, heavily traveled since Colonial times, but now a quiet alternative to the interstate. VA-56, the road to Crabtree Falls, switchbacks steeply up and over the top of the Blue Ridge, crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway and descending into Nelson County. Crabtree Falls is a great place for a picnic and to stretch your legs. It is one of the tallest cascading waterfalls east of the Mississippi. The falls are easy viewed and photographed from the trail. After the waterfall, continue on scenic VA-151 and VA-6. Consider stopping at one of the wineries in Nelson County to enjoy a glass and take in the view. You’ll travel back over Afton Mountain and pass Waynesboro, where you could shop or eat. If you’re looking for a beer, Basic City Beer Co. or Stable Craft Brewing won’t disappoint and should tide you over until you get back to Staunton. 

Monterey Loop

The ride west to Monterey is best for experienced riders as there are many steep switchbacks as you work your way into the Allegheny Mountains. Your ride begins in the gentle farmland surrounding Staunton and then winds through the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. Plan a quick stop on top of Shenandoah Mountain to explore the .5-mile Confederate Breastworks Interpretive Site. After your history lesson, you’ll wind down into Highland County, Virginia’s own maple syrup country. This quiet area bustles for two weeks every March during the Highland Maple Festival. Otherwise, Monterey is a sleepy town and is considered welcoming to bikers. Catch a bite to eat and get gas, as there aren’t many options until much later in the loop. Beyond Monterey, you’ll go by the Green Bank Observatory, national radio observatory and science center that offers free tours and a cafe. Heading back to Staunton, you’ll ride through Goshen Pass where you might want to take a break to explore the rocks or cool your feet in the water. Consider stopping for a snack or to shop in historic Lexington, and tour the nearby Cyrus McCormick Wayside

Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park

Just minutes away, Staunton’s location makes it the ideal starting point for a rides along the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Skyline Drive. Follow I-64 to the top of Afton Mountain and decide whether you want to go north or south.

If you go north to experience the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, be prepared to pay an entrance fee. The Skyline Drive stretches for 105 miles and is the only public road through the park. The 35-m.p.h. speed limit provides a chance to enjoy the views and the almost 70 scenic overlooks.  Lots of trail heads and some of the best hikes in the area beckon if you’re looking for some exercise after a day of riding. The park contains over 500 miles of trails for hikers of varying abilities  You might also tour Rapidan Camp, the historic presidential retreat established by Herbert Hoover. And if you’re out after dark, park at an overlook and turn off your lights for incredible views of the night sky untainted by light pollution. Plan accordingly: there are only four entrances to the Skyline Drive, but each one has easy access to gas and food. Watch for wildlife like bear, deer, raccoons, fox, and birds!

Blue Ridge Parkway

If you head south along a portion of the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway, plan to stop at the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center. The nearby interpretive farm offers a view into the lives of early settlers who lived and farmed the area. You can also grab a map or download a map that works even in areas without cell service.

The sweeping curves and beautiful vistas make this road popular with motorcyclists. Take advantage of the many scenic overlooks, photographic opportunities, and picnic stops along the Parkway. You’ll score views in all directions. There is no gas or food along the Parkway, but many roads access it, and most exits will be within a few miles of both. Stop at 215-foot Natural Bridge, one of Virginia’s newest state parks for some Americana like a Native American village, a wax museum, and a gift shop.  The speed limit along the Parkway is 45 m.p.h. and motorcyclists must wear helmets. Keep your eyes out for pedestrians and wildlife.