10 reasons to visit the Shenandoah Valley this fall

By Renee Sklarew
August 28, 2018, 2:15:46 PM EDT

There’s no better time to venture into the Shenandoah Valley than autumn. The mountain forests are alive with orange, yellow and crimson foliage. The farms are harvesting their pears, apples, and pumpkins in fields of gold, and the vineyards are gathering grapes from the vines to produce next year’s vintage. The Shenandoah Valley remains temperate until mid-November, so there’s still time for a fishing, rafting or camping trip. Here are 10 reasons to visit the Shenandoah Valley right now.

1. Drive the Long and Winding Scenic Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park

fall trees 1

(Photo/Shutterstock/Zack Frank)

You’ll be mesmerized by the panoramic views of Virginia’s Piedmont and Allegheny Mountain range from Skyline Drive, a road that runs along the summit of the Shenandoah Mountains in Shenandoah National Park. There are multiple entrances into this popular national park. The northernmost entry is in Front Royal, Virginia, along with central locations at Thornton Gap in Virginia’s Piedmont region, and further south at Swift Run near Massanutten Ski Resort. Skyline Drive ends at Rockfish Gap (which is also the northern entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway, a national park road that continues south into North Carolina). It takes about three hours to drive the entire length of Skyline Drive on a clear day. No matter what section of this curvy road you drive, don’t miss the legendary sunset to see those blue ridges that inspired the name.

INSIDER TIP: Try to arrive early or later on the weekends; the roads can get pretty busy in the fall. Weekdays are best.

2. Stay in Shenandoah Valley’s Sophisticated Inns or Cozy Lodges


(Photo/Gordon Gregory)

There are dozens of charming inns tucked into the mountainsides of the Shenandoah Valley. Many are members of Select Registry, so they’re quite luxurious, like the 2017 winner of Best New Historic Hotel in the USA, The Georges in Lexington, Virginia. Others offer unique accommodations like the treehouse-style cabins at The Iris Inn in Waynesboro. Shenandoah Valley innkeepers always send you off for the day with a satisfying breakfast, and in many cases, welcome you in the evening with a glass of Virginia wine. Another option is lodging inside Shenandoah National Park. Check out the newly renovated Skyland where you can find rangers leading tours, go stargazing, and sample their Mile-High Blackberry Ice Cream Pie.

3. Learn Some New Skills in the Shenandoah Valley


(Photo/Swartz Photography Ryan Swartz)

One way to optimize your visit to the Shenandoah Valley is to use the Fields of Gold website to tailor your trip to your specific interests: farms, artisans, breweries, vineyards, cideries and other attractions. Nearly every participant offers a tour or program where you can learn something new. Some of the more intriguing: learning to grow lavender at White Oak Lavender Farm, hand spinning yarn at a Posey Thisisit Llama Farm, and soap and cheese making at A Better Way Goat Farm. All the farms have markets or barn sales where you can pick up local delicacies such as homemade bread, eggs, fresh-cut flowers and fall produce like squash, pumpkin and cauliflower.

4. Explore the Four Caves in the Shenandoah Valley


(Photo/Delsasso/Visus Ltd)

There are four unique caverns in the Shenandoah Valley—Luray, Shenandoah, Skyline, and Endless Caverns—all offering tours of the glittering rock formations. Inside, whether it’s scorching hot or freezing cold, the temperature remains 56 degrees year-round. Hear the Great Stalacpipe organ in Luray’s Cathedral-like spaces; experience “total darkness” in Endless Caverns; walk beside Rainbow Lake in the Shenandoah Caverns; or see rare anthodite crystals at Skyline Caverns. These caves and caverns are especially family friendly, and everyone enjoys learning about the history of these natural wonders.

INSIDER TIP: The huge complex at Shenandoah Caverns includes the American Celebration Parade, a museum filled with giant floats used in inaugurations and other parades, along with Route 11 Potato Chip factory, a wholesale market, and tastings. Their Yellow Barn is filled with an eclectic mix of vintage displays from department stores.

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