Fall Foliage Trek to Shenandoah Valley

Shenandoah National Park entranceFall in Virginia’s Shenandoah Mountains is a bounty for the senses. Here are 10 activities to make the most of this colorful season:

  1. Skyline Drive – Although it sometimes slows to a crawl, you’ll be happy to have time to take in the views from the winding road on top of the Shenandoah Mountain range. On the drive you’ll see a riot of colors—hickory trees turning gold, maples becoming garnet-red, and sumac bushes transformed to a shocking orange—all against the backdrop of silver granite with lavender wildflowers mixed in. Stunning!Sunset in Shenandoah National Park Fall Foliage00002
  2. Stay in a Bed and Breakfast — Villages along the Shenandoah boast dozens of charming inns tucked into mountainsides and valleys. Some have Select Registry status, so they’re luxurious and sophisticated. Others are cozy and affordable. But all their innkeepers send you off for the day with a satisfying breakfast.Glen Gordon Manor 2013 (24 of 114)
  3. Climb Woodstock Tower – Hike or drive up this northern section of Shenandoah National Park for a breathtaking panoramic view of the valley. Enjoy the textured sunsets from this unique vantage point.
  4. Explore a cave – there are four popular caverns in the Shenandoah Valley—Luray, Shenandoah, Skyline and Endless Caverns—all with glittering rock formations. Inside, whether it’s scorching hot or freezing cold, the temperature remains 56 degrees year round. Experience “total darkness” in the cave when your guide turns off the lantern. Spooky cool!Luray Caverns (1)
  5. Tour a Presidential Mansion– Four Presidents lived in this region, and their homes are open to the public—Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, James Madison’s Montpelier, Woodrow Wilson’s home in Staunton and James Monroe’s Ash-Lawn Highland. Besides impressive architecture, you’ll find original furnishings, books and art treasured by these famous Americans.
  6. Go apple picking—The orchards along the Shenandoah Mountains are bursting with apples. Many towns celebrate the harvest with a festival, and most orchards welcome visitors to pick their own. Stop in a farmers market to buy crafts and freshly pressed apple cider.
  7. Visit a craft brewery – there are crafter brewers all over the Shenandoah Valley, and all open their doors for tours, tastings and events each fall.Shenandoah Valley Fields of Gold Trail2
  8. Drink some wine – the region has become the East Coast’s version of Northern California with dozens of vineyards. Guests are invited to sample their stock; many serve meals on outside patios with non-stop views of colorful autumn leaves.
  9. Hike the Appalachian Trail –Almost 500 of this 2,200-mile path passes through Virginia’s Shenandoah Mountains, paralleling Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Animals and humans have used the same trails for centuries. Escape into the wilderness with its rich assemblage of biodiversity–you might see bear, deer, elk, snakes and other small mammals.Shenandoah Valley Virginia Old Hill Cider Farm apples00006
  10. Enjoy Culinary Perfection – Stop in one of the many farm-to-table restaurants scattered throughout the region. Farms offer cooking demonstrations, before feeding their guests from their own harvest. Some local delicacies include: handmade cheeses, lamb, tomatoes, corn, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce and broccoli. Fine dining restaurants worth the splurge: Inn at Little Washington (Washington), Glen Gordon Manor (Huntly), Ashby Inn (Paris) and Zynodoa (Staunton)

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Freelance writer and photographer specializing in vivid, deeply reported stories about food, travel and family.

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