Outdoor Adventure & Natural Attractions
The Shenandoah Valley has become a mecca for outdoor adventures, offering everything from scenic hikes, coveted fly fishing streams, lakes for family fun, and rivers for kayaking and canoeing. We can’t possibly list them all, but here are a few of our favorites:
Augusta County is home to some of the best hikes around. The City of Waynesboro is a designated Appalachian Trail Town, only 3 miles to the trail’s entrance. Shenandoah National Park has over 500 miles of trails including 101 miles of the A.T. Lots of resources are available online to find a hike that fits your skill level and time frame. Or you can drive the stunning Skyline Drive and enjoy the views from more than 75 scenic overlook stops.
Crabtree Falls is a favorite of locals and visitors alike. The beautiful 3-hour waterfall hike features a series of five cascades falling 1,200 feet. The trail provides views of the falls from overlooks – the first one just 700 feet from the lower parking lot. After reaching the top, more adventurous hikers can continue on to Crabtree Meadows where the trail ends or to the Appalachian Trail, just a half mile further.
Humpback Rocks on the Blue Ridge Parkway features the Mountain Farm Trail and a rock outcropping at the end with an amazing view of the Valley. Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park is an 8.8-mile climb and rock scramble if you’re looking for a more challenging hike.
If you’re spending time near Massanutten Resort, hiking the rocky Ridge Trail to look out over the slops or Kaylor’s Knob are both good options with amazing views. The George Washington National Forest offers dozens more.
In Rockbridge County, heading up the 3,645 ft. summit of Big House Mountain results in panoramas like no other. Goshen Pass, another favorite, has a swinging bridge to traverse before starting up the rugged Jump Mountain Trail. Both Buena Vista and Glasgow are Appalachian Trail communities.
Whether it’s the lure of native trout brook trout or a stocked urban fishery, the Shenandoah Valley has incredible fly fishing. The South River, flowing right through the heart of downtown Waynesboro gets tremendous hatches year-round-sulphurs in the spring and trico in the summer. A popular section to fish is near Constitution Park which is complemented by a new greenway. South River Fly Shop can help you with your gear and you may want to time your visit with one of the fly-fishing tournaments or South River Fly Fishing Expo.
The Shenandoah Valley has nearly 3,000 miles of public trout water and another favorite spot of local anglers is Mossy Creek between Mt. Solon and Bridgewater. The majestic Shenandoah River is often regarded as one of the best smallmouth rivers in the world and can be fished year-round.
The Maury River in Rockbridge County is stocked with brown and rainbow trout and also native brookies. The headwaters are a challenging spot for fly fishing and downstream, in the warmer waters, carp and small-mouth bass are plentiful.
The gorge that creates Goshen Pass is a lovely spot for swimming in the Maury River. More out of the way swimming holes include the 7-acre Cave Mountain Lake near Natural Bridge and Panther Falls, a spot fed by waterfalls and edged with boulders.
Augusta County boasts Sherando Lake – the upper lake for fishing and the lower, larger 25-acre lake for swimming and toes-in-the-sand. Camping and picnic areas make this a fun family escape. For something a little more invigorating, try the quick 1.7-mile hike to Cold Spring Hollow, a chilly mountain trout stream north of Waynesboro.
A 20-minute drive outside of Harrisonburg will get you to Todd Lake for swimming, boating, camping and picnicking. The stream-fed lake has a sandy beach and restroom facilities. Or head west to Rawley Springs where you’ll find the popular Blue Hole on the Dry River infamous for rock jumpers.
One could refer to the Valley itself as a natural wonder, but tucked away in its folds and around the next curve are some awe-inspiring natural formations. The most well known is Natural Bridge, once considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, a 215-foot arch created when a cavern collapsed around it. Nearby, Natural Bridge Caverns extend 34 stories underground – the deepest caverns on the East coast.
Natural Chimneys, in Augusta County, were likely formed more than 500 million years ago when the entire region was underwater. The 120-ft. limestone chimney-shaped rocks are the centerpiece of a family campground and recreation area and home of the annual Red Wing Roots Music Festival.