Rockbridge County is the southern gateway to the Shenandoah Valley. Conveniently located at the intersection of I-81 and I-64 W, visitors have quick and easy access to our “great back yard” – 100,000 acres of public woodland, parks, recreational areas and two rivers that are ideal for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels life can go hiking, cycling, paddling, fishing and camping.
Lexington is the perfect hub for this outdoor enthusiast’s itinerary. The historic downtown is completely walkable and offers over 65 indie shops and restaurants as well as numerous museums, historical sites and tours. Stay in one of the three hotels within walking distance of the historic district and the universities: Hampton Inn Col Alto, The Georges Inn, ranked the second largest hotel in the US by Travel + Leisure, or The Gin Hotel, a hotel in Ascend.
For those looking for a more rustic or rural setting, the area has plenty of cabin and cottage rentals, including properties that specialize in outdoor recreation such as: Sugar Tree Inn, Fox Hill B&B, Steeles Manor Tavern B&B / Cabins, and Hummingbird Inn.
cross Natural Bridge State Park from your bucket list. The geological marvel is an impressive 215 foot high limestone arch carved from Cedar Creek and estimated to be 450 million years old. Today Virginia State Park offers educational programs, more than 6 miles of hiking trails, the Kids in Parks Track Trail, and a NatureExplore play area in the new Children’s Discovery Area.
Photo Credit: Shannon Terry
Get a New Perspective on the Blue Ridge Mountains! Spend the afternoon paddling, fishing, and wildlife viewing on the 65 miles of the Upper James River waterway. This waterway has class I-III rapids that offer paddlers a segment that suits their skill level. Bring your own equipment or use an outfitter to handle the equipment and shuttle transport.
After a trip on the river or trail “Drink in the Shenandoah Valley” with a cold craft brew along the Shenandoah Beer Works Trail. Relax and enjoy the company of good friends amid beautiful farms and mountains, breathe in the scent of ancient forests on a hike, explore a fascinating new community, taste the fresh flavors of a farm-to-table meal, or listen to music among the stars when you discover a new favorite band. Don’t forget to have your Beerwerks Pass stamped at 8 of the 15 breweries in order to receive a Beerwerks Commemorative T-Shirt and bragging rights.
Stable Craft Brewing, Photo Credit: Nikki Nargi
Get an early start on two wheels as you pass pastoral landscapes, quaint towns, and historic, natural and cultural resources with a Rockbridge County bike route.
Experts can start in charming Buena Vista, an Appalachian Trail Community, and head to the legendary Blue Ridge Parkway, America’s Favorite Drive.
The Lexington / Goshen Pass Loop meanders along the Maury River on RT. 39, Appalachian Waters Scenic Byway with lots of prints to enjoy river access and views of Goshen Pass, a three mile long canyon in the Wildlife Management Area of Goshen and Little North Mountain.
Or take a Tour de Farm route through the villages of Fairfield, Raphone and Brownsburg, visiting farms, a vineyard, flour mill, community museum and more rural beauty than you can imagine. Many of the stops are members of the Fields of Gold Farm Trail.
And for those looking for an epic Cross County experience, bike a section of the TransAmerica Bike Trail along Scenic Byway Rt. 56. And for those who want to explore the natural beauty behind a windshield, each of these routes is the perfect scenic Journey.
Put on your walking shoes and explore Glen Maury Park in Buena Vista. This 315 acre park includes camping, hiking / mountain biking, fishing on the Maury River, an Olympic pool, playing fields, picnic areas, and the Rick Jacobson-designed 18-hole links course. Experience a bluegrass, gospel or beach music concert. Stroll the Buena Vista Riverwalk, a two-mile-long flood wall that connects the park to the nearby Chessie Nature Trail.
The Chessie Nature Trail runs parallel to the Maury River and connects Lexington and Buena Vista. The Chessie’s Path is a seven-mile (seven-mile) railroad track and part of the old Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad bed, as well as canal towpaths and boat lakes. It’s the perfect place for hiking and running as it is easily accessible while offering rich natural beauty, wildlife, and homesteads.
There are hidden gems just waiting to be discovered in Rockbridge County!
Take a quiet moment and discover the flora and fauna just 1.6 miles from historic downtown at the Boxerwood Nature Center and Woodland Garden, a 15 acre arboretum with over 12,000 trees, fields, forests , Ponds as well as native and unusual plant samples. There’s a Kids Play Trail and Fairy Forest, as well as a summer music series for the young at heart. Go on a high-tech treasure hunt using GPS coordinates to find hidden geocaches.
The Gems of Rockbridge Geocaching Trail consists of ten geocaches strategically placed to highlight the natural beauty and cultural heritage of the Gateway communities along the Blue Ridge Parkway: Vesuvius, Buena Vista, Lexington, Glasgow and Natural Bridge.
Looking for a decadent slice of homemade cake? Local jams, jellies, and pickles? A souvenir to take away? Visit a nostalgic country store! Laynes Country Store opened in 1954 and is famous for its Virginia Country Ham and Hoop Cheese sandwich, which was named one of the top 10 “Top 50 Places in Virginia for a Country Ham Sandwich” by USAToday.
The Natural Bridge General Store and Natty B’s Cafe serve the best of homemade cakes and are a great place to refuel with a Blue Plate Special for a day on the river.
Gertie’s Country Store & Deli in Vesuvius was a finalist on the Blue Ridge Parkway Foodie Tour with their infused Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich. The store’s walls are covered in signatures from visitors from around the world and a convenient stop for travelers on the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail who can camp back for free.
To complete the circle, check out the Brownsburg Museum’s new exhibit, “Cradle to Coffin: Remembering the Country Store,” which features an actual screen door through which visitors step back in time and enter a replica of a one-room country store . The replica is furnished with chairs so you can sit and “hang around” – that was the “art term” used by the men of the village while hanging out at Whitesell’s Grocery or Swope’s Store or Bud Wade’s Barber Shop and Pool Hall.
With a photo in front of the Natural Bridge State Park LoveWork you want to remember your road trip “Small Cities, Big Gardens”. Designed by Mark Cline – famous for its life-size fiberglass dinosaurs and Foamhenge, a full-scale replica of Stonehenge. This installation includes elements that represent Rockbridge County including the Natural Bridge, Lace Falls, wildlife like deer and eagles, paddling on the James River, and stunning rock formations … which Rockbridge County is named for! The installation of this LoveWork is planned for October 2020.
WanderLove: A Road Trip Through Lexington & Rockbridge Counties first appeared on Virginia’s travel blog.