Wanderlust is defined as a strong need to travel, but here in Virginia we call that feelingWanderLove. And while travel in 2020 will be a little different due to COVID-19, explore the endless beauty of Virginia with an epic road trip! To help you plan your next open road vacation, we’re sharing some of the most scenic and adventurous routes through the Commonwealth, including this onebest outdoor adventure, major attractions, restaurants, and accommodation options to add to your itinerary.
Follow this family-friendly road trip through the Virginia Mountains for a relaxing vacation the whole family will love!
** Although we have split COVID-19 opening times and closings whenever possible, please contact individual companies before visiting, as this information can change at any time.
DAY 1: Explore Park & Virginia’s Blue Ridge
Photo credit: Cameron Davidson
Begin your adventure in Virginia’s breathtaking Blue Ridge near the beautiful city of Roanoke. For your first adventure, head to Explore Park just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Explore Park offers more than a full day of activities. Children from 4 years and adults will love the Treetop Quest high ropes course. All equipment is sanitized between uses, and the spacious outdoor space is perfect for a socially distant adventure. We loved that there was a smaller course for younger children and more challenging ones for older children and adults.
Photo Credit: Shannon Terry
When you’ve climbed around safely buckled up, head to Blue Mountain Adventures for a hose down the river. The gentle rapids allow adults and children from 7 years of age to ride alone – perfect for maintaining social distance. There really is an activity for every interest in the Virginia Mountains!
If outdoor adventure isn’t your alley, find the iconic Roanoke Star and then head to the Mill Mountain Zoo trail (open 10am to 5pm daily). Or is art and culture more your thing? Make sure to check out Center In The Square. Don’t miss the Roanoke Pinball Museum and Roanoke Starcade.
Photo credit: Creative Dog Media, IG account: @creativedogmedia
After your day of adventure, treat yourself to dinner – some great options include Wildflour Cafe, Tuco’s Taqueria, Taaza, and Cedar’s Lebanese. All of this should be open to take away so you can eat wherever you want outside or bring your meal back to Natural Bridge KOA, a fantastic family campsite. Whether you are in your own RV or renting one of the private cabins, it’s a perfect way to have your own space and relax. The campsite is spacious and clean and has full RV hookups for a comfortable stay.
DAY 2: Natural Bridge & Rockbridge County
Start your morning with a scenic drive through the beautiful Goshen Pass. There are several runs that you can stop at to admire the Maury River and the beauty that surrounds it. Depending on your timeline, you might want to fish, swim, walk the trail on the north side of the river, or hose tubing. There are a variety of activities available in the Virginia Mountains, giving you plenty of opportunities for outdoor fun.
If it’s Thursday through Sunday, be sure to stop at Wade’s Mill, Virginia’s oldest continuously operating commercial flour mill. You can even buy grains fresh to order!
After a break for lunch (see Pink Cadillac Diner), make your way to Natural Bridge State Park. The 21-foot-tall natural limestone bridge was carved from Cedar Creek and is surrounded by wooded areas and hiking trails. The area was a national historic landmark and was once owned by Thomas Jefferson. Admission is $ 6 for children ages 6-12 and $ 8 for children 13 and older.
The Cedar Creek Trail takes you to a 30 foot waterfall with beautiful views along the way. Stop to admire the amazing wonder of the natural bridge itself, and don’t forget to cross the small footbridge to peer into a cave. There are several easy access points to the creek so little ones will love to get their feet wet in the shallow and cool water. And at just 1.6 miles round-trip with minimal elevation gain, it’s perfect for families (although not accessible to strollers). While the Monacan Indian Village is currently closed to visitors, hikers can see the grounds as they walk by.
After your hike, head back to your campsite at Natural Bridge KOA and relax over dinner.
DAY 3: Virginia Safari Park and downtown Lexington
On your third morning, consider doing something else – a Virginian safari! At Virginia Safari Park, visitors can view animals from the comfort of their own vehicle, and kids will love that the animals often come straight to the car to eat. In addition, the park is right next to your campsite and offers easy and quick access during your stay.
After your morning fun, head to downtown Lexington for lunch and explore this enchanting city, home to both Washington & Lee University and the Virginia Military Institute.
Make sure to stroll the charming downtown streets and consider all the safe indoor activities that may be open, like the Boxerwood Nature Center, or just drive around and enjoy the beautiful homes and charm of Virginia!
Finally, you return for one final night at Natural Bridge KOA. It’s the perfect place to start your next day adventure.
DAY 4: Covington and the Alleghany Highlands
After exploring the Lexington and Roanoke areas, head towards the Alleghany Highlands in the Virginia Mountains for some wonderful and relaxing time in the great outdoors. On your way to some more detached outdoor pursuits, make a beeline for the charming town of Covington.
For your first stop, find the Downtown Covington LOVEwork right on Main Street. It’s a perfect photo op to start your day and remember this incredible adventure. Continue to the Eastern National Children’s Forest, a beautiful forest monument in an area that once suffered from forest fires. The grounds have been planted by over 1,000 children – a fact that every little traveler will love.
Stop for lunch at Cucci’s Pizzeria, a Covington staple. The pizzas are huge and the crust is fantastic. So take some leftovers home with you if you are traveling alone or with a single companion.
Next, go to the LOVEwork on the Humpback Bridge. This was by far our family’s favorite and you are sure to love it too. The bridge itself is a national historic site and the oldest remaining covered bridge in Virginia. The love letters here are all made from materials that are unique to the history of the region.
Once you’ve taken some photos with LOVEwork, take some time to walk under the bridge to the meadow on the other side. The water here is usually pretty shallow, so it’s a fun place for the little ones to get their feet wet, or if it’s moving faster there are plenty of stones to throw – an activity the kids can do for hours could deal if you are something like mine!
After playing at the bridge, head to the Falling Spring Waterfall. The 80 foot waterfall and its surroundings are incredibly scenic, and there is a beautiful viewing area to snap a few photos. It’s a great stop even if little legs are tired as the lookout is right by the parking lot – no hiking required.
Finally, head to Morris Hill Campground on Lake Moomaw. It’s an amazingly beautiful area with private locations surrounded by trees. It’s a perfect place to fry marshmallows and sit by the campfire. Just pack away all your groceries and trash as black bears are common in the area. They’re generally harmless, but it’s always best to keep everything safe.
DAY 5: Alleghany Highlands in the Virginia Mountains
It’s your last day exploring this beautiful area of the Virginia Mountains! Start with a quiet morning bike ride along the Jackson River Scenic Trail and Blueway. Alleghany Outdoors is right near the starting point of Intervale and offers bike rental for riders aged 10 and over. You can either drive as far as you want and turn around, or do a simple rental and take the shuttle back. If you have younger riders, you’re welcome to bring your own bikes – the trail is perfect for the little ones as it has finely packed gravel and only a 1% incline. The protected path is perfect for all ages, including children in bicycle trailers.
After your biking adventure, switch to another outdoor adventure – kayaking! Alleghany Outdoors also rents kayaks for paddling down the Jackson River (ages 8+; 6+ for tubing). It’s a perfect way to see the beautiful cliffs along the river and experience the stunning Alleghany highlands from the water. The entire trip takes about two hours downstream (a shuttle will take you to the start), while a shorter trip of about an hour is also possible. If you have smaller children, consider going across the swing bridge instead.
End your time in beautiful Alleghany Highlands by heading to Coles Point Beach on Lake Moomaw. The swimming area is clean and perfect for families, with warm, clear water and a sandy beach. Bring a picnic lunch and watch the sun set over the water before returning to Morris Hill Campground for the night.
This guest blog post was kindly provided by preethi, the author of the local Pass Family blog. Preethi is passionate about providing diverse education to families through travel. She works to make travel and nature more inclusive, and helps families develop curiosity and connectivity by connecting with the world at home and abroad. She loves exploring with her 5 children and writes about actual and virtual travel, global education and parenting.
Follow Preethi and her family on their journey:
WanderLove: A Family Road Trip through the Virginia Mountains first appeared on Virginia’s travel blog.