Waynesboro and Augusta County, Virginia, were once America’s western frontier.
The Shenandoah Valley’s renowned rugged beauty and secluded natural treasures continue to attract adventurous spirits. Today’s explorers will discover a wild and wondrous landscape rich in geological, natural, and cultural significance. Like a kaleidoscope, each turn of the seasons reveals fresh sights to enjoy.
Autumn: Skyline Drive
The southern entrance to Skyline Drive is located just three miles from Waynesboro. This iconic drive through Shenandoah National Park is designated a National Scenic Byway and a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Over 300 species of wildlife and more than 1,400 species of plants are found in the Park. An extensive network of trails and 75 strategically-placed overlooks provide ample opportunity to experience this protected wilderness. Ranger-guided tours of President Hoover’s summer retreat, Rapidan Camp, visitor center exhibits, and park programs give visitors an up-close look at the natural and cultural history of the Park.
Fall foliage season is an especially gorgeous time to meander along Skyline Drive with its mountain top views of the Shenandoah Valley to the west and the Piedmont to the east. To time your visit with peak autumn color, check fall foliage updates frequently.
Winter: Grand Caverns
When the weather is too frigid or slick for a hike, head to Grand Caverns where it’s a constant 54 degrees Fahrenheit regardless of the season. There are only ten National Natural Landmarks in Virginia, and Grand Caverns located right here in Augusta County is one of them. The caverns contain exceedingly rare and ornate shield formations as well as beautiful draperies, flowstone, stalactites and stalagmites.
Discovered in 1804 and opened for tours in 1806, Grand Caverns is the oldest continually operating show cave in the United States. The cave was popular with both Confederate and Union soldiers and is now listed as a Civil War Trails site. Over 200 of their signatures have been found in the caverns!
Now when you visit Grand Caverns, you can explore two cave sites in one day! Don helmets, headlights, knee pads & gloves for a guided Adventure Tour through Fountain Cave. Discovered in 1835, Fountain Cave was once a commercial cave but hasn’t been open to the public for almost 100 years. This tour is for those looking for a more hands-on, lights-off caving adventure. There’s a rugged 1800’s pathway, but be prepared for climbing and crawling.
When you venture back up to the surface, enjoy a picnic right there at Grand Caverns Park. After lunch you can take a stroll along the public park’s scenic hiking and cycling trails, part of the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail, or get some fishing in along the South River.
Spring: Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway was designed to link Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Far from being a thoroughfare from Point A to Point B, “the idea is to fit the Parkway into the mountains as if nature has put it there.” Construction began in 1935, but it wasn’t until 1987 that the Blue Ridge Parkway was officially dedicated – all 469 miles of it. The result is a National Park that has utilized engineering and landscape architecture to create a leisurely and awe-inspiring experience for visitors.
The northern end of the Parkway is just outside Waynesboro at Humpback Rocks. Begin your exploration at the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center and outdoor Mountain Farm Museum. Costumed interpreters, exhibits, and hiking trails provide a unique look into the natural history and cultural heritage of the Appalachian Mountains.
The wide range in elevation along the Blue Ridge Parkway creates a rich biodiversity. To see what wildflowers may greet you along your drive, take a look at the Parkway’s Bloom Schedule and Wildflower Report.
Summer: Natural Chimneys
Standing in the shadow of Natural Chimneys, you can’t help but feel the weight of history – 500 million years of history! These seven towers range in height from 65 to 120 feet and are made up of numerous layers of compacted sediment, fossilized sea creatures, and lava. These incredible formations are found at Natural Chimneys Park and Campground in Augusta County.
The park has over 2.5 miles of hiking and biking trails, including a route to the top of the Natural Chimneys. After your summit, head back down to cool off in the park’s swimming pool.
Ready to explore? Throw your boots or bike in the car, top off the fuel tank, and head to Waynesboro. Four seasons of fun await you in the Shenandoah Valley!