An Alternative Spring Break: Five Road Cycling Excursions


Take a break from the hyped up tech world we live in with an alternative spring break. Fresh air renews the mind and spirit, and if we’re honest, we’re all probably overdue for an adventure. 

There’s no need to worry about what you’re leaving behind. Staunton will keep you busy when you’re not out exploring, as it’s a key cultural center west of the Blue Ridge Parkway and east of the Allegheny Mountains. Staunton is a natural home base for your Shenandoah Valley adventures when a spring break hub-and-spoke in Virginia outdoors is just what the doctor ordered.

EXCELLENT RIDES NEAR DOWNTOWN

The Perfect Loop is 15 miles beginning and ending in the city at Black Dog Bikes, your source for bicycle rentals and repairs. This loop is perfect for those who have a bit of biking experience and offers enough beauty and moderate climbs to keep the advanced rider content. Expect 835 feet of elevation change.

Heading south from the city, Arbor Hill-Stingy Hollow Loop is a little longer than Perfect Loop at 15.5 miles. The difficulty is about the same but does throw a gravel stretch and a gradual climb in for fun. The best part is the downhill coast back into the city. You’ll start and end at Black Dog Bikes for this ride. 

AWESOME COUNTRY BYWAYS

Stretch your ride a bit with a popular local route known as the Polyface Ride. You’ll start (and end) at Black Dog Bikes and head southwest toward the Alleghany Mountains. The prime attraction for this ride is Polyface Farm, a premier agricultural source for local restaurants and others across the Commonwealth. The ride is about 24 miles long and includes a gravel stretch that delivers you to Polyface. You can avoid that road and cut the trek down to about 20 miles, which in turn gives the route a beginner level rating.

Farther and bigger views await when you head out on the 31-mile Springhill Ridge Road Loop. Start near the duck pond at Gypsy Hill Park and head north. The course is a counter clockwise figure eight with rolling hills and a mostly downhill coast back into the city. For the distance, it’s considered to be an intermediate ride.

For the advanced cyclist, big mountain views and a distance of 45 miles await on the Badger Road Loop. This one also begins at the duck pond at Gypsy Hill Park but ventures northwest toward the Alleghany Mountains. Nice climbs equal nice descents, so the effort of this counter clockwise figure eight is absolutely worth the payoff. 

Prep, Eat, Sleep

Black Dog Bikes is your go-to for cycling equipment and repairs, not to mention tips for these routes and others!

Carb up for the day with a nutritious breakfast. We suggested Cranberry’s Grocery & Eatery, which also has a nice selection of easy-to-carry snacks for the road. Farmhouse Kitchen & Wares, Newtown Bakery and Nu-Beginning Farm Store are also worth a glance for breakfast.

After your grand excursion, toast the effort, the views, and the new memories at one of our downtown breweries. There are four to choose from. We have faith that you can experience them all.

Rest well before and after your grand adventures. Find your perfect place to stay.


> Find more great rides in the area by checking out Bike the Valley.

> See part one of this series: An Alternative Spring Break: Five Awesome Hikes

Think You Could Bike the Entire Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail?

OxEye Vineyard Tasting Room in Downtown Staunton
Ox-Eye Vineyards Tasting Room in Downtown Staunton

Imagine riding your bike on quiet country roads with views of forested hills on one side and rolling, pastoral fields on the other. Add refined vineyards and quaint B&Bs. Sound like an expensive trip to Bordeaux, Tuscany, or even the Napa Valley? Nope, it’s right here in the eastern United States. That’s right, two-wheeled adventure at its best can be found locally along the Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail. Riding the SVWT—like any great bike tour—doesn’t require a particular agenda or pace. Instead, savor the small things and soak up the experiences along the way.

The trail travels approximately 200 miles (though that varies, depending on how many detours you take), through 19 different vineyards. The Veramar Vineyard in Berryville, Va., forms the northern end while Blue Ridge Vineyard in Eagle Rock, Va., anchors the southern end. Although this tour could easily be done in a long weekend, it is best to give yourself some time to truly take in all of what the Shenandoah Valley has to offer. The SVWT lends itself to a casual 5-7 day ride at a leisurely pace.

To really do the trail right, embrace the many worthwhile stops and cultural experiences found within the Shenandoah Valley. On the northern end, riders will probably want to follow roads paralleling the North Fork Shenandoah River. There you’ll find the North Mountain Vineyard and Winery in Maurertown, Muse Vineyards in Woodstock, and the second oldest winery in the state, Shenandoah Vineyards, in Edinburg. Moving further south along the SVWT, you might want to spend some time checking out the spectacular large chamber rooms and unworldly stalactite and stalagmite collection found at Luray Caverns before sampling some of the offerings from Wisteria Farm and Vineyards in Stanley, Va.

Barren Ridge Vineyard
Barren Ridge Vineyard

The northern border of the Shenandoah National Park is found just outside of Luray and following Skyline Drive through the park is a good option as you make your way south toward the college town of Harrisonburg, home of James Madison University. On this leg of the trip you can take in all the splendor of a national park from the saddle of your bike. Harrisonburg would be a good option for a lunch stop. If you need to replenish any supplies or tune up your ride, the Shenandoah Bicycle Company and Rocktown Bikes are located right downtown. Restaurants such as Local Chop and Grill House, Clementine, The Joshua Wilton House, and the Little Grill Collective serve a wide variety of quality food throughout the price spectrum. Just outside of Harrisonburg, you’ll find the beautiful CrossKeys Vineyards and Bluestone Vineyard.

About 25 miles south of Harrisonburg is the town of Staunton, which is one of the most bike-friendly towns in the Shenandoah and one of “America’s Favorite Mountain Towns,” according to Travel + Leisure. Staunton is another great stop on the trail, and perhaps the best place to stay overnight. The town hosts festivals like the Shenandoah Fall Foliage Bike Festival, which is one of America’s best fall bike rides.

Staunton is close to many outdoor attractions, including the 1,200-foot Crabtree Falls, the highest vertical cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi. Another must-do side trip is Humpback Rock, a massive rocky summit with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. With both St. Mary’s Wilderness and the Blue Ridge Parkway nearby, Staunton is ideal for an active rest day filled with excursions.

shen-valley-bike-1

It’s also home to an attractive lineup of downtown restaurants and three breweries, should you want to switch things up. If you want to stick to wine, choose from two vineyards, one of which is located right in downtown, Ox-Eye Vineyards. Restaurants such as Aioli Mediterranean Tapas, Byers Street Bistro, The Shack, and Zynodoa have become destinations for foodies. Queen City Brewing, Redbeard Brewing, and Shenandoah Valley Brewing serve up a wide variety of local craft beer.

Walking throughout downtown, browsing the artisan shops, and taking in the historic architecture provides a nice break from time in the saddle. When you’re finally ready to settle in for the night, there is no shortage of accommodations with many hotels, motels, campgrounds, and over a dozen B&B’s such as the Frederick House to choose from.

As you continue to work your way south down the SVWT you’ll be surrounded on both sides by vast stretches of wilderness in the George Washington Forest. Depending on your level of comfort, you might want to explore some of the nearly endless miles of forest service roads found here. A pure road bike with racing skinnies would be outmatched on most of these roads, but with a fatter tire more suited for touring you’ll be fine.

The last big town that you’ll pass near is Lexington, and in that vicinity you have Jump Mountain Vineyard and Lexington Valley Vineyard. Like Harrisonburg and Staunton, Lexington would make a fine stopping spot with all kinds of amenities available and loads of nearby attractions. Restaurants like the Red Hen and Haywood’s serve farm-to-table style meals with most ingredients sourced locally in the Shenandoah Valley. Prime outdoor attractions like Natural Bridge, Chimney Rock Overlook, and the Blue Ridge Parkway are close by.

Originally written by RootsRated for Staunton VA.