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

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

 

Six Staunton Coffee Spots You Must Visit Now

Local coffee shops are hubs for college students, professionals passing through on their way to the next meeting, freelancers working on their own terms, and retirees shooting the breeze over their favorite cuppa. Who doesn’t want to spend time in a coffee shop?

In fact, we’d go so far as to say the sign of a great town is having an excellent coffee shop or two. You know the places. They smell great, have coveted window seats, and offer top-notch, near-perfect coffee. We’re proud to have six just like that in Staunton. Come sit and sip awhile.

 

crucible coffee Roasters | 300 church street, suite 201

Meet the newest addition in town: Crucible Coffee Roasters. Born out of friendship, a love for coffee and a dedication to the craft, co-founders Brandon and Kean opened the doors to Crucible Coffee in October and it is already making headlines. Sourcing their coffee from Ethopia, Kenya, Costa Rica, Brazil, among other places, the menu includes drip coffee, pour-over coffee, espresso drinks, along with certified organic teas by Hugo. Adjacent to the cafe is a 12-kilogram roaster where customers can watch (and smell) the process unfold. Freshly roasted beans and goodies by Paris Cake Company are available for purchase.

The By & By | 140 E. Beverley Street

Remember the college students we mentioned? The By & By is their primary hang-out in Staunton, and that’s alright with us. Fancy lattes served with fresh Newtown Bakery pastries are just what sleepy eyes need on a fast paced morning in the Queen City.

The By & By is a great locale for people watching, and you never know who might pop through the door. Actors from the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse enjoy coffees, teas, and smoothies, too. Some folks don’t like to pass through as much as they like to stay and “sit a spell.” Knitters, painters, and readers make themselves at home in one of the sweetest places in Staunton. You’re invited to do the same.

Posted by The By & By on Monday, July 21, 2014

 

Réunion Bakery & Espresso | 26 S. New Street

Greeting those entering the city by way of the World’s Largest Watering Can on Route 250 is Réunion. Just up from the corner of Johnson and New Streets, this charming spot is the perfect gathering place for family and friends. With ample seating in this meticulously designed dining room, enjoy an espresso and French-inspired pastry. Fresh baked goodness wafts into the dining room making it hard to resist a chocolate crossiant, gallette or macaroon. 

Blue Mountain Coffees | 12 Byers Street

In a great little pedestrian area of Staunton, the aroma from Blue Mountain fills the air and lures passersby in. Locally roasted coffee is always dripping and the offerings change daily. It’s great place to tuck away and put your nose to the grind if you’re working. Also a great place to duck in after your farmers’ market perusing on Saturday mornings. When the weather is wonderful, however, you may have to arm wrestle to get one of the patio seats. It’s the perfect place for people watching and enjoying a nice breeze.

Cranberry’s Grocery & eatery | 7 S. New Street

Locally roasted organic coffee beans deliver one of the best cups of coffee in Staunton, and you can get such a cup at Cranberry’s. “Lester’s Best” is so well known that the shop ships it. Enjoy it in-house in a big mug with a free refill or take it to go and wish you had more. Choice is yours. Choose wisely.

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🍁 Staunton, VA🍁

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The Queen Bean | 2201 N Augusta Street

At long last, Staunton has a drive-thru coffee spot. And we aren’t talking about Starbucks. The Queen Bean has been making motorists happy since its opening in May. The Queen Bean’s location, on North Augusta Street, is ideal for anyone traveling to or from the city with hours from 6:30 am to 5 pm. In addition to their unique coffee concoctions, they are serving up fresh baked goodies from Paris Cake Company. 

Staunton’s Top Four Places for Barbecue

Oh and😀

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According to author Joe Haynes, barbecue originated in Virginia. And why not? Virginia is the birthplace of America. Haynes released Virginia Barbecue: A History in September 2016. Only time will tell if it becomes the definitive guide to juicy smoked meats in the Commonwealth, but we do owe thanks to Haynes for successfully lobbying to make Virginia Barbecue Season a thing. The season begins in May and ends in October, but we want you to be ready. Bookmark this page or print it for reference when you travel the Shenandoah Valley. 

According to Yelpers, Staunton has four places rated four stars where the barbecue is worth the drive. Do give each a try yourself and review, if you like. 

Peck’s Bar-B-Que | 477 Lee Jackson Highway

Peck’s was a long-time barbecue staple in nearby Waynesboro, but their relocation to Staunton has been a real gain for the locals who love smoked pork Virginia style. As it turns out, passers-through love Peck’s, too!

“This is a down home Virginia BBQ … if you are in Staunton, make it a foodie stop.” – Linda F., Pinson, AL
“Highly recommend the chopped BBQ sandwich special. Worth the drive!” – Matt R., Andover, KS
“It’s a total dive, and I hope they never change a thing! Food was delicious, and portions were huge. Best thing was the 1/2 rack of ribs platter – it was one of those meals where you’re SO full but you can’t stop eating.” – Amy G., Burke, VA

Kline’s Hog Wild BBQ | 906 Greeville Avenue

If you’re familiar with the name Kline’s, it’s likely for Kline’s Dairy Bar, one of our favorite ice cream parlors. However, Kline’s also has Hog Wild BBQ and you’re missing out if you don’t give it a try, too. Actually, you can do both at once!

“Yum, yum, yum!  Love the BBQ, ice cream and coleslaw!” – Teri B., Waynesboro, VA
“Great tasting barbecue.  The Cole Slaw (sic) was really good.” – Steve M., Madison, WI

Mill Street Grille | 1 Mill Street

Mill Street Grille is not a barbecue joint by any stretch, but their slow-cooked ribs and homemade barbecue sauce are one of the top draws.

“I chose the best BBQ in the south, even if the Mill isn’t a bbq restaurant technically. The ribs were literally fall-off-the-bone … Totally tender, absolutely delicious … and the sweet bbq sauce was to-die-for: I was only disappointed to learn that the Mill does not sell its own BBQ sauce …” – Colin M., Newmarket, NH
“I’ve had BBQ Ribs in many places in my life, but none as good as these!” – John M., White Stone, VA
“If you are in the area, and a bbq rib fan, give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.” – John C., Cranford, NJ

The Depot Grille | 42 Middlebrook Avenue

The housemade barbecue sauce and rub are key to a great rack of ribs at The Depot Grille. Like Mill Street, The Depot offers a diverse menu and the ribs are pretty popular.

“The best ribs I’ve ever tried.” – Sergiy M., Manassas, VA
“The dry rubbed ribs were great, ordered with sauce on the side as well.” – Christie P., Avon, IN
“Baby back ribs – among meatiest and tenderest we’ve tried anywhere. A delicious prelude to our evening at Blackfriars!” – Elizabeth M., Mountain View, CA

Eat well and often with us in Staunton, Virginia. 

Presidents Day in a President’s City

President Woodrow Wilson’s visit to Staunton

Presidents Day is February 20. Staunton is a presidential city as the birthplace of the 28th President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson.

His Presidential Library and Museum is celebrating the day with free admission for children and students when accompanied by a parent. Visitors on the 20th will be able to tour the Presbyterian Manse (Wilson’s birthplace) with a guide. Interpreters representing 1856 will bring the time period to life and share their knowledge of the Wilson family.

Self-guided tours of the museum include galleries, his 1919 Pierce-Arrow limousine, and an interactive re-creation of a World War I trench.

An additional treat for Presidents Day is a free lecture at 2 p.m. by Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library CEO Robin von Seldeneck. The event is part of an ongoing series commemorating the 100th anniversary of World War I.

Around Staunton

After you’ve toured the Presidential Library and Museum, head to Lewis Creek Market on Church Street for some “Presidential Favorites.” It’s a happy hour, of sorts, that includes wine, beer, and cider to please any president’s palate. The educational tasting is free, and occurs from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

WWWWD?

What Would Woodrow Wilson Drink on Presidents Day? Or would he drink at all?

Wilson was president when the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified in 1919. If you’re rusty on the Constitution, this is the entry involving alcohol. Specifically, the prohibition of it. The Prohibition Era lasted until the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed in 1933. That’s 14 years of homemade white lightnin’ and hooch for the citizens of the good ol’ US of A, but what did President Wilson do? Did the dude abide?

According to Mark Will-Weber’s 2014 NYPost.com article, Wilson’s drink of choice was Scotch. Simon Ford, in his article for Liquor.com, suggests Wilson “stashed away supplies so that he could mix his favorite libations in secret.” Fact or fiction? Visit the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum to pose the question to the pros. Presidents Day seems like a perfect time to do so. 

>> Learn More About Woodrow Wilson

Celebrate Love in Staunton, Virginia

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and we invite you to come celebrate love in Staunton. Our downtown is quite magical in every season with interesting architecture, renowned dining, nationally-acclaimed performing arts, and a variety of restful, romantic accommodations. Make a memory or two with Staunton as your backdrop.

Get a Room YOU LOVE

This could be worse i guess!

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The Stonewall Jackson Hotel is downtown next door to the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse. In fact, the hotel offers a package that includes tickets to the Playhouse. If the arts aren’t your thing, perhaps opting for the Bed & Breakfast package is the way to go. It’s the package that doesn’t fill your time, but says, “here’s your room and we’ll see you for breakfast in the morning.” You can find ways to fill the time, right?

At Frederick House: A Small Hotel, just about anything you want to add to your Staunton experience is fair game. Roses and chocolates? Done. Strolls through history? Done. A picnic lunch to enjoy from a Blue Ridge Parkway overlook? Done. For your stay, we recommend the romantic Patrick-27, a romantic suite with a four-poster canopy king bed and an abundance of natural light.

For those couples who have no plans of leaving their abode away from home, check out the hibernation option at Inn at Old Virginia. Book two nights in a Barn Bedroom Suite complete with king bed, hot tub, gas fireplace, and wet bar. This package also includes a $100 gift card for downtown merchants and restaurants, as well as a delectable Michael G. Harman Gift Basket loaded with goodies. The best part about this romantic getaway is that it’s half-off the second night. 

More Accommodations

Special Valentine’s Events & Dinners

Zynodoa is one of Staunton’s top destination restaurants, so of course they’re rolling out a delectable prix fixe menu just for Valentine’s Day weekend. The special four-course dinner is an additional option to their incredible daily menu, and will be available February 10 through 14.

Byers Street Bistro invites you to enjoy a special romance-inducing menu created specifically for Valentine’s Day by Chef Stephen Thacker. Pair your dinner with a tasty his-and-hers drink special!

Get creative with an interactive cupcake decorating class with Paris Cake Company and hosted by Lewis Creek Market. Enjoy wine and snacks while you learn decorating tips from Pastry Chef Erinn Paris as you create a Valentine’s Day cupcake bouquet. Take home your newly decorated cupcakes and a Paris Cake Company apron! For tickets contact Paris Cake Company.

Make a keepsake together at Sunspots Studios! For a limited time, two people are welcome to blow their own glass Valentine’s ornament together. Make an appointment to create something special between now and February 19.

The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library is hosting “A Very Valentine Tea” on Saturday, February 4 from 2 to 4 p.m. It’s a children’s event, so share some love with your smallest sweethearts (ages 6 to 11) for crafts, games, and a scavenger hunt, too.

Want the perfect wine? Lewis Creek Market is hosting “Romantic Wines to Fall in Love With” on Monday, February 13 from 4 to 6 p.m. The educational wine tasting experience is free of charge for those 21 and older with a valid ID.

Make a plan for your great romantic escape and #LOVEStaunton.

– Dining
– Wine & Beer Tastings
– Arts & Culture

New Year’s Eve in Staunton

Time flies when you’re having fun, and 2016 sure was a blur. Come ring in 2017 with fantastic New Year’s Eve fun in Staunton! We have a place for you to stay, plenty of food … make yourself at home.

PARTIES & Music

Pompei Lounge is hosting their annual Masquerade with The Judy Chops. This is a party you’ll want to arrive early for as it tends to sell out. The fun starts at 10 p.m. and only costs a $10 cover, which includes a midnight champagne toast. Hang out until 2 a.m., if you want. 

Baja Bean Co. always has one of the best New Year’s Eve parties around – The Findells Rockin’ New Year’s Eve Party with champagne toast at midnight! Enjoy the great food and drinks before the music and countdown begin.

Byers Street Bistro is hosting a New Year’s Eve Party that includes dinner specials, live music from Gypsy Town from 9-12:30, and a champagne toast at midnight.

Redbeard Brewing Company is hosting Magnolia Mountain Grill to offer food, and Drägön Wägön with a special guest for entertainment.

Downtown 27 @ The Clocktower invites you to their NYE Bash with Maybe Tomorrow and DJ Neili Neil. The fun starts at 8 p.m. and winds down at 1 a.m. $15 cover.

Dinner

Zynodoa has a special four-course prix-fixe menu at $65 per person on New Year’s Eve.

Come see us! #loveva #farmtotable #itsbeginningtolookalotlikechristmas

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The Arts

The American Shakespeare Center has a very special showing at 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. It’s the last performance ever of “The Twelve Dates of Christmas,” a play written for their stage by one of their actors. Enjoy $2 glasses of champagne to celebrate the evening.

Enjoy your New Year’s Eve, but don’t forget to designate a driver. Better yet, call a cab. Happy New Year!

 

Staunton: One of the Best Small Towns in Virginia

Crabtree Falls is the highest in the Virginia Blue Ridge, and a very popular hiking destination. Karen Blaha
Crabtree Falls is the highest in the Virginia Blue Ridge, and a very popular hiking destination. Karen Blaha

Cradled by the Blue Ridge and surrounded by massive national forests and vast wilderness areas, the Shenandoah Valley town of Staunton has endless appeal. One of the oldest settlements in the Blue Ridge, the Victorian-era town is a living museum. Staunton was largely spared the destruction unleashed on other locations in the Shenandoah Valley by Union troops during the Civil War—most of the buildings in Staunton’s downtown area are more than a century old, and the town’s residential neighborhoods are still dotted with elegant 18th and 19th century homes. A bustling commercial hub even during the colonial-era, Staunton still lures visitors with its architecturally stunning downtown—now lined with eclectic boutiques, inviting eateries, and cozy tasting rooms pouring locally produced wine and craft beer.

Beyond the proudly preserved architectural wonders, Staunton’s rich past is still evident all over town. Staunton was a stop along the Great Wilderness Road, a southward route used by newly arrived European immigrants as portal to the frontier until the middle of the 19th century—a thoroughfare that later became the Valley Pike, now Route 11. Staunton’s Frontier Culture Museum is a living-history, open-air museum that brings the past to life, demonstrating the daily lifestyles of the Valley’s early settlers through original farmsteads and costumed interpreters.

Marquis Building by Warren Faught
Marquis Building by Warren Faught

One of America’s most influential presidents also called Staunton home: Woodrow Wilson was born in the town in 1865, and the 28th president’s home still adorns a hill in Staunton’s Gospel Historic District, now maintained as the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum.

For outdoor lovers, options in Staunton are almost endless. The strategically placed, mountain-fringed town is the ideal launch pad for a bounty of outdoor adventures. Staunton is flanked by two massive national forests—the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests—long, slender slices of wilderness stretching from one end of Virginia to the other, laden with recreational opportunities. You also have quick access to the spectacular Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, the most scenic drive in the state.

Staunton is surrounded by incredible hiking trails, like this one near Crabtree Falls, that are particularly scenic in the fall. Karen Blaha
Staunton is surrounded by incredible hiking trails, like this one near Crabtree Falls, that are particularly scenic in the fall. Karen Blaha

The town is also ringed by a collection of vast roadless wilderness areas traversed by extensive trail systems. Just about 20-miles west of Staunton, the 19,290-acre Ramsey’s Draft Wilderness is crisscrossed by 37 miles of trails and loaded with craggy peaks and laced with trout-blessed streams. Just south of town, the 10,090-acre Saint Mary’s Wilderness is flush with 27-miles of trails—capped off by high peaks including Cellar, Bald, and Big Spy mountains—and spider-webbed by gushing mountain streams culminating in cascading waterfalls.

Staunton provides easy access to two of the most scenic byways in the state—and arguably, on the East Coast. Just north of town is the entrance to Skyline Drive, the vista-rich, 105-mile thoroughfare bisecting Virginia’s 200,000-acre Shenandoah National Park, offering access to the area’s 500 miles of trails. Almost immediately after entering the park’s less-frequented southern section, Skyline Drive also intersects the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail, which rambles through the park for 101 miles.

Staunton, Virginia, is located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, serving as the perfect base camp to explore the region. Malee Oot
Staunton, Virginia, is located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, serving as the perfect base camp to explore the region. Malee Oot

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. 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.

Black Dog Bikes in Staunton is a great resource for cycling in the region. Malee Oot
Black Dog Bikes in Staunton is a great resource for cycling in the region. Malee Oot

The vast tracts of wilderness and extensive byways accessible from Staunton also make the locale a hub for cyclists. Options for bike rides abound—from two-wheeled historical tours of Staunton to longer circuits through the bucolic landscape of the Shenandoah Valley. Find a number of local circuits mapped out by Bike the Valley. In Staunton, local cyclists congregate at Black Dog Bikes in the evenings from spring to early fall for weekly rides, with more leisurely loops on Tuesdays and fast-paced, longer circuits on Thursdays as well as Women on Wheels riding every Wednesday. The town’s cycle culture is also celebrated every October with the Shenandoah Fall Foliage Bike Festival, a weekend of rides showcasing the region’s vibrant seasonal color. You’ll find routes suitable for riders of all levels—from lazy, 12-mile loops to century circuits full of brag-worthy climbs.

The Shenandoah Valley isn’t just a playground for cyclists. The verdant valley is also sprinkled with farms, wineries and craft breweries—linked by routes like the Fields of Gold Farm Trail, the Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail, and the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail. In Staunton, the bounty of the valley is showcased at the Augusta Farmers Market (Wednesdays and Saturdays, from 7 a.m.-noon, April to November) and celebrated by the town’s vibrant farm-to-table restaurant movement.

But, it’s not just local eateries highlighting the abundance of locally sourced, seasonally rotating ingredients—Staunton has also become a hub of craft beer. The town is now home to three different craft breweries—Queen City Brewing, Redbeard Brewing, and the Shenandoah Valley Brewing Company.

Eclectic microbrews, a seasonally evolving and locally inspired food scene, and a charming, historic downtown—all minutes away from vast wilderness areas, national parks, and forests. The next time you find yourself in Staunton, sipping a freshly poured craft brew while recounting backcountry Blue Ridge adventures, you too may wonder, is this the best kept secret in Virginia?

Originally written by RootsRated for Staunton VA.

 

WINE Your Way Through Autumn Splendor in the Shenandoah Valley

ShenValleyScenic_28It’s no secret that October is the best month for leaf peeping in Shenandoah Valley. But did you know that it’s also Virginia Wine Month? Here’s a guide on how to uncork the fun:

Staunton and Harrisonburg are located just off Interstate 81, which runs north south through the Shenandoah Valley. These two vibrant cities – just 25 minutes apart – form the perfect bookends to your next wine getaway.

Downtown Staunton
Downtown Staunton

If you like curvy county roads, skip the highway and try Route 11 or Route 42.  Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park provides a loftier option (and with the higher elevation, an earlier color show.)

Fall’s cooler temperatures bring clear skies with spectacular views of the mountain ranges to the east and west.

Nearby Vineyards

The view from Barrenridge Vineyards
The view from BarrenRidge Vineyards

BarrenRidge Vineyards is located on the grounds of a family-owned apple orchard, and features an 1890′s apple barn that has been converted into a state-of-the-art winery.

In addition to a beautiful landscape, Bluestone Vineyards offers tastings and tours so guests can get a deeper look into the winemaking process. At CrossKeys Vineyards, you can sip al fresco on the patio, and grab a bite from the pairing menu.

Downtown Sips   

It’s always wine-time in downtown Staunton, so if you’re serious about sipping make time to visit Barking Dog Wine Bar, AVA Wine Bar, and the sleek downtown tasting room of Ox-Eye Vineyard.  Need something to carry home or share a favorite wine purchase? Check out the handcrafted, witty (and reusable!) wine bags at Made, conveniently located next to Barking Dog Wine Bar!

In Harrisonburg, Downtown Wine & Gourmet offers free wine tastings every Friday from 5-7pm. If you need to stock up for the ride home, check out Vintage Wines which offers the largest selection of wines in the Shenandoah Valley.

Sera_Petras_Photography_Zynodoa-51
Dinner at Zynodoa

Dine Out in Style

In Staunton, you’ll want to book a table at Zynodoa or Emilio’s. In Harrisonburg, you can’t miss with either Local Chop & Grill House or Joshua Wilton House. All of these fine restaurants proudly offer Virginia wine by the glass, and offer customized wine pairing suggestions for your meal.

Wondering how long to stay?

Plan to spend at least two nights, more if you want to take in museums, theaters, art galleries and other attractions. You can begin your wine-getaway in either Harrisonburg or Staunton – why not spend a night in each city to get the best of both worlds?

Travel tip: visit mid-week and skip the crowds!

Lodging packages

Want to stay in the city? Make plans to stay at The Stonewall Jackson Hotel in Staunton.  Originally built in 1924 and a member of Historic Hotels of America, this 124-room is a Shenandoah Valley landmark. Ask for the “Downtown Wine” package (includes complimentary Virginia wine upon arrival, wine tasting for two at Ox-Eye Tasting room, 50% off bottles of wine in Sorrels Lounge, and more.)

If you prefer a more intimate location, luxurious amenities await you at By the Side of the Road Bed & Breakfast in Harrisonburg. When you book your reservation, ask for the “Shenandoah Wine Trail” package (includes complimentary Virginia wine upon arrival, a light gourmet picnic to carry to one of your vineyard stops, discounts at local vineyards, voucher for a romantic dinner for two, and a hot gourmet breakfast basket delivered to your cottage door.)

In the Shenandoah Valley, local goodness is everywhere. Stop by a local farmer’s market, brewery, or pumpkin patch to bring some of this season’s bounty home with you.