The 5 Most Stunningly Scenic Drives in Virginia
There are more than 2,500 miles of scenic roads in Virginia. Between its mountainous peaks and lush valleys, scenic drives in Virginia are plentiful. Whether you find the road less traveled, or in some instances, major routes, these 5 stunningly scenic drives in Virginia are bound to provide breathtaking views.
1. Skyline Drive
Skyline Drive is the only public road through the Shenandoah National Park. The roadway runs 105 miles north and south along the part of the Blue Ridge Mountains located in the Shenandoah National Park. If you’re up for the drive, it takes about three hours to travel the length of the park on a clear day. Skyline Drive only closes due to inclement weather, so for the most part, it is open 7 days a week.
There are four primary entrances to Skyline Drive: Front Royal Entrance State (Rt 66. And 340), Thornton Gap Entrance Station (Rt. 211), Swift Gap Entrance Station (Rt. 33), and Rockfish Gap Entrance Station (Rt. 64 and Rt. 250). The latter is also the northern entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The National Park Service advises against following GPS directions and encourages visitors to read these directions instead. The speed limit is 35 MPH.
Why You Should Visit Skyline Drive
In 1942, the Southern Appalachian National Park Committee visited the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to decide on a location for a new national park site. The committee chose the area that is now Shenandoah National Park as it would be convenient to those living in Washington D.C. Likewise, the committee was adamant that the park should offer a “sky-line” view of the mountains.
Skyline Drive is gorgeous during the fall months with the bright fall foliage. However, spring is also a great time to take a scenic drive as the wildflowers are in full bloom.
2. Blue Ridge Parkway (from Rockfish Gap to NC Border)
The Blue Ridge Parkway is America’s longest parkway, and it extends for 469 miles. The parkway starts at Rockfish Gap, Virginia, and ends at Cherokee, North Carolina. The Blue Ridge Parkway serves as a connector between Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which occupies both North Carolina and Tennessee.
As mentioned above, the Rockfish Gap Entrance Station is the northern entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Although there are entrances and exits at all federal and state highways, there are prominent entrances at points in both Virginia and North Carolina. In Virginia, that entrance happens to be at the Rockfish Gap Entrance.
Why You Should Visit the Blue Ridge Parkway (from Rockfish Gap to NC Border)
At the point of entrance from Rockfish Gap, you will enter into a wind gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This gap is located between Charlottesville and Waynesboro, Virginia, slicing through Afton Mountain. This particular point separates East and West Virginia, and it offers beautiful scenic views between these two plots of mountain and land.
3. George Washington Memorial Parkway
Commonly known as G.W. Parkway, the George Washington Memorial Parkway is a 25-mile-long parkway. It runs from the south bank of the Potomac River near Mount Vernon, Virginia towards McLean, Virginia. The G.W. Parkway is located almost entirely within Virginia, but there is a portion that passes over Columbia Island in Washington D.C.
The George Washington Memorial Parkway is designated as an All-American Road. To meet this qualification, a scenic byway must meet two of the following six qualities: archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic. As an All-American Road, the G.W. Parkway meets the requirements and more, meaning it has features that do not exist anywhere else in the United States. The historical, natural, and recreational areas are all connected by the G.W. Parkway.
The parkway was developed as a memorial to President George Washington, and the first section of it was completed in 1932 to celebrate the bicentennial of Washington’s birth.
Why You Should Visit the George Washington Memorial Parkway
The G.W. Parkway has over 25 sites, some of which include historic homes and wildlife preserves. Along the way, you can visit the Arlington House, Claude Moore Colonial Farm, Great Falls Park, and Theodore Roosevelt Island, to name a few. This particular parkway was designed specifically for recreational driving because it intentionally links historical sites and natural habitats for wildlife. In particular, the George Washington Memorial Parkway connects Mount Vernon down to Great Falls.
With historical sites and natural habitats, the George Washington Memorial Parkway combines past and present, history and beauty. This parkway is sure to offer stunning scenic views and engaging historical education.
4. Snickersville Turnpike
Snickersville Turnpike, also known as State Route 734, links Aldie and Bluemont, Virginia. The turnpike also includes the 180 -year-old Hibbs Bridge, which sits over Beaverdam Creek. Snickersville Turnpike replaced the first toll road in the United States, which was initially two roads then ran from Alexandria northwest into the Shenandoah Mountains.
This particular scenic route dates back to the Iroquois. At the time of the Iroquois, the tribe hunted below the Blue Ridge Mountains on a trail that later on became what is now Snickersville Turnpike, or Route 734. In the late 18th century, there were two roads that connected Alexandria and Winchester, and the Virginia General Assembly passed a law so that turnpikes would be constructed. This turnpike was the first recorded toll road in United States history. The toll booth operated until sometime around 1915. The turnpike continued to operate, eventually becoming part of the state highway system.
According to some local citizens, Snickersville Pike might actually be the best-preserved byway in the United States. The Snickersville Turnpike Association, for example, aims to preserve maintenance and safety without the byway losing its historical significance. Snickersville Turnpike is one of Loudoun County’s seven Virginia Byways.
Why You Should Visit the Snickersville Turnpike
Snickersville Turnpike is a 60-mile loop drive that takes approximately 1.5 hours to travel on. Along your scenic drive, you might encounter farms, small towns, wineries, breweries, and antique stores. At the southern end of the turnpike, there’s historic Aldie Mill, and there’s also the Massachusetts 1st Cavalry Memorial from a Civil War battle.
If you visit Snickersville Turnpike in October, stop by Great Country Farms and enjoy the pumpkin patch. End the day with a snack at the Philomont General Store or a craft beer at Dirt Farm Brewing. Snickersville Turnpike is a bucolic scenic drive, but it’s made even more exciting by all of the potential stops along the way.
5. Colonial National Parkway
Colonial National Parkway is a 23-mile long roadway that connects the “Historic Triangle” together. The “Historic Triangle” is made up of Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg, all of which have rich histories dating back to America’s beginnings. The Colonial National Parkway stretches from the York River at Yorktown up to the James River at Jamestown. Approximately seven million travelers annually use this parkway to partake in the natural and cultural beauty of the state of Virginia.
According to the National Park Service, the Colonial National Parkway was carefully constructed in hopes of preserving some of the essence of American colonialism. With help from the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA), the historical sites near the parkway were preserved or restored. By the 1930s, construction on the Colonial National Parkway was underway. The parkway was completed in 1957.
Why You Should Visit the Colonial National Parkway
The Colonial National Parkway is known for connecting the “Historical Triangle” of Virginia. For history buffs, this might be one of the major selling points of driving along the parkway. The picturesque tunnels along the southern portion of the parkway near Williamsburg are worthy of a photo.
Stunning Scenic Drives in Virginia
The mountainscapes of the state of Virginia make scenic drives a wonder. With high peaks and colorful valleys, Virginia’s roadways are full of stunning sites to behold. Whether you hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway for a brief jaunt, or you set out for a day’s worth of adventures on the Snickersville Turnpike, you’re bound to experience stunning scenic drives.
No matter the season, with thousands of miles of scenic drives in Virginia, you can find the best spots to experience all four seasons.
|1||Skyline Drive||Shenandoah National Park||105 miles|
|2||Blue Ridge Parkway||Rockfish Gap, VA to Cherokee, NC||469 miles|
|3||George Washington Parkway||Mount Vernon to McLean, VA||25 miles|
|4||Snickersville Turnpike||Loudoun County, VA||60 miles|
|5||Colonial National Parkway||“The Historic Triangle” (Jamestown, Yorktown, Williamsburg)||23 miles|