If you're looking for a true outdoorsy experience this summer then look no further than Virginia. Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, to be exact. This lesser-known area of the southern state is home to one heck of a hidden gem, as well as one of the east coast's most picturesque state parks. It's home to a 200+ mile section of the Appalachian Trail, countless rivers that are perfect for tubing on a lazy day, cabins, campgrounds, quaint historic inns, and even a cave... so, why isn't this on your road trip radar? You tell us!
The first thing visitors will notice upon driving to Shenandoah are the Blue Ridge Mountains that seem to loom up out of nowhere to greet you. Past this, small towns dot the base of the mountains, and life is a little bit slower there. There's no fast-paced city urgency or the need to rush through the day. It's truly a stop-and-smell-the-flowers type of place, and this should be embraced in all of its simplicity in order to enjoy all these things the area has to offer.
Find A Cozy B&B, Cabin, Cottage, Or Treehouse
If there's anywhere to find accommodations that will have you forgetting the idiosyncrasies of daily life, it's Shenandoah. The valley is dotted with historic stays if you're looking for a piece of history, as well as Airbnb options that definitely won't break the budget.
In fact, the entire town is pretty budget-friendly since it's somewhat off the beaten path. And if that's not out of the ordinary enough for you, consider staying in a treehouse or glamping - both are great ways to take in the nature that will inevitably surround you.
Explore Shenandoah National Park Or The AT
Shenandoah National Park truly is an underrated part of the east coast although that also makes it one of the quietest and least-trodden-through. There's a seemingly endless number of trails to choose from if you choose to hike through this section of wilderness, and one of them might just crossover with the Appalachian Trail.
The section of the AT that goes through Virginia is particularly scenic (even if many people believe it isn't) and includes views that can span up to 60 miles on a clear day, as well as gentle waterfalls and streams throughout.
Or View Things From Above In A Hot Air Balloon
Shenandoah Valley happens to be on the western half of Virginia which also means it's near hot air balloon tours. While the lush woodlands and surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains are incredible to take in from a hike, there's nothing like seeing them from above.
In the fall, especially, these views are second to none and offer a dynamic display of colors and sights. You don't realize how truly breathtaking the Shenandoah Valley is until you've seen it from (very) high above.
... Or From Below In A Cavern
If heights aren't your thing then consider trekking downward to explore Luray Caverns. The Natural Bridge is one local landmark that has been bringing people to the area for decades but Luray Caverns is another. Upon entering, visitors will be greeted with a fun gift shop that has anything from handmade Native American gifts to all manner of gems and crystals.
When the tour starts, guests will gradually be led lower and lower into the caverns as they tour various natural rock formations and pools, stalactites, stalagmites, and even a grand 'hall' from which organ music plays in accordance with the natural acoustics of the cave.
Have A Lazy Day On The Shenandoah River
As far as rivers along the East Coast go, the Shenandoah River is considered to be one of the best in terms of recreation. Canoeing, kayaking, and even tubing are permitted in various sections of it, with some classified as class II white water for the adrenaline lovers.
During the summer months, there's nothing like taking a trip down this river and appreciating all the surrounding nature and its beauty. In the fall, the riverbanks are alight with hues of gold, orange, and red, as the leaves change and reflect on the calmer parts of the water below.
Take In The Thrilling Views From Skyline Drive And Relax At A Vineyard Or Brewery
Finally, you don't even need to leave your car to appreciate the Shenandoah Valley in all its glory. Skyline Drive is a somewhat harrowing switchback road that takes visitors along a mountain pass, with the road tightly hugging the curves of the mountain.
With various stop-offs from which to take in the views, it's a great way to see the heights from up above while driving down one of America's most scenic roadways. When you're done with those hairpin turns, check out one of the valley's many breweries or vineyards for a nice wind-down to what's already bound to be a promising and fulfilling day.