Sandwiched between the Shenandoah National Park and the northern entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Waynesboro is quite possibly Virginia’s most strategically placed adventure town. The place serves as a portal to a plethora of outdoor adventures—offering everything from peak-loaded hikes to wine country cycling trips and pastoral paddles. The town even hosts an annual celebration of its proclivity for adventure at the Xtreme Fest of the Blue Ridge. Best of all, Waynesboro-based outdoor adventures can be capped off—or dramatically recounted—at one of the town’s three craft breweries: Basic City Beer Company, Seven Arrows Brewing Company, and Stable Craft Brewing. Here are 10 ways to create your own adventure in Waynesboro.
1. Cycle a Shenandoah Valley Century
For road riders in Waynesboro, there are a number of ways to tackle some serious mileage on the byways and backroads of the stunning Shenandoah Valley. You’ll also find access to two of the Old Dominion’s premier bucket-list rides—Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Opt for one of the routes pre-mapped by Bike the Valley, like the 12.4-mile, river-hugging Dooms Day Loop, or the 35.1-mile Grottoes Loops, a mostly flat pastoral tour (save for the 6-mile climb on the way back to Waynesboro). Pedal to one of Augusta County’s wineries like the Barren Ridge Vineyards, just 6 miles from downtown Waynesboro, opt for a longer wine country loop on the Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail, or tackle the entire valley on the annual autumn Tour de Valley, which offers both century and metric century (62 mile) rides.
2. Sleep Under the Stars
Need a night under the stars to unplug from devices and fully recharge? Waynesboro is peppered with relaxation-inducing campgrounds that provide the ideal basecamp for launching explorations of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Shenandoah National Park, and the Appalachian Trail. Head for the family-friendly, amenity-loaded Waynesboro North 340 Campground, grab a tent-site at the trail-laced Sherando Lake Recreation Area Campground in the George Washington National Forest, or opt for the Shenandoah Acre Family Campground, offering not just tent-sites, but also two-bedroom condos and lakefront cottages (sure to entice even the most reluctant campers).
3. Cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway
Stretching 469 miles along the roof of the Blue Ridge from Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, the Blue Ridge Parkway is among the country’s most stunning roadways. The motorway’s northern entrance is just three miles from Waynesboro, and there are plenty of parkway highlights just outside town. Make the knee-grating, mile-long trek to the vista-endowed crest of Humpback Rocks (milepost 5.8) or hike to Crabtree Falls (milepost 27.2), often touted as the loftiest cascade in Virginia’s portion of the Blue Ridge. Or take a gentle lakeshore loop around the so-called “Jewel of the Blue Ridge,” Sherando Lake (exit at milepost 16).
4. Paddle a Rambling River
Paddlers don’t even need to leave Waynesboro to hit the water—the South River meanders right through town and is easily accessible courtesy of four access points scattered along the 4-mile Waynesboro Water Trail. Outside town, paddlers can head for the Middle River, tracing a bucolic path northward through the Shenandoah Valley, or for the south fork of the Shenandoah River—the float-trip-worthy waterway moseys along the western edge of the Shenandoah National Park and is flanked by 50-mile-long Massanutten Mountain. Whitewater connoisseurs won’t be disappointed either. Neighboring Rockbridge County is home to the Maury River (class III-IV), boasting one of the grittiest and most technical stretches of whitewater in the state—the boulder-studded, 6-mile ribbon of river known as Goshen Pass, featuring aptly named rapids like Devil’s Kitchen. For visitors who need a boat, Rockfish Gap Outfitters in Waynesboro rents kayaks.
5. Explore the Shenandoah National Park
One of Virginia’s most beloved natural wonders, the 200,000-acre Shenandoah National Park is loaded with more than 500 miles of trails, weaving through a diversity of landscapes, from rocky ridgelines to deer-grazed meadows to forest-shrouded waterfalls. Just three miles from the park’s southernmost Rockfish Gap Entrance, Waynesboro makes the perfect starting point for an exploration of the park’s wild southern section. Head for the summit of 2,974-foot Calf Mountain on the Appalachian Trail and be sure to soak up the views from the meadow-capped summit of Little Calf Mountain on the way. Begin at Beagle Gap (Skyline Drive 99), barely 10 minutes from Rockfish Gap. Or seek out one of the Shenandoah’s vast tracts of wilderness at Rip Rap Hollow (Skyline Drive mile 92) and discover one of the park’s most sizeable swimming holes along Meadow Run by linking the Wildcat Ridge and Rip Rap Hollow trails.
6. Discover Aqua-blazing
In Waynesboro, hydrophilic thru-hikers have a unique opportunity—the chance to “aqua-blaze” a section of the Appalachian Trail. While for purists the only way to tackle the iconic 2,190-mile footpath is to log every single terrestrial mile, other hikers find the chance to paddle a stunning stretch of river—especially one more or less paralleling the trail—the perfect excuse to leave dry land for a while. From Waynesboro, hikers can grab a paddle (and air out their feet) by floating the south fork of the Shenandoah River all the way to Harpers Ferry, a distance of about 50 miles. The trip typically requires two to three days, and Shenandoah River Adventures can outfit aqua-blazing excursions departing from Port Republic, just north of Waynesboro.
7. Run a Race
For runners who need a little competition, there are a plethora of events in Waynesboro scattered throughout the year, as part of the Run the Valley Race Series. Opt for races like the springtime Park to Park Half-Marathon, the Summer Extravaganza, offering both 5k and 10k events on a course showcasing the town, or the leafy Fall Foliage 5k & 10k. Runners can get the lay of the land on Waynesboro’s waterfront South River Greenway Trail, a 1.1-mile route originating in Constitution Park.
8. Get a Taste of Appalachian Trail
Located just two miles from the interstate footpath, Waynesboro was recognized as a Trail Community by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in 2012, and it has long embraced wearing trekkers. It offers a battery of amenities, including a campsite just for thru-hikers, plenty of places to shower and hop on the internet, and shuttle services. The town also regularly celebrates thru-hikers with a designated Hiker Fest in June. Besides the hiker-friendly vibe, Waynesboro is also the ideal jumping off point for a stint on the trail. Heading north on the Appalachian Trail from Rockfish Gap, you’ll find the entrance to the Shenandoah National Park just a mile down the trail. Once inside the park, the Calf Mountain Shelter is a 7-mile haul, making for an easy overnight. Rather head southbound? From Waynesboro, the Paul Wolfe Shelter is just a 5-mile hike, and along the way the trail showcases relics of the region’s human heritage, passing the remains of an old cabin and a sylvan cemetery.
9. Play Nine Holes Without the Clubs
Like a mashup of golf, hiking, and Ultimate (formerly called Ultimate Frisbee), disc golf is both cerebral and competitive—and an ideal excuse to spend time outdoors. Waynesboro’s two-year-old Fox Disc Golf Course offers players a challenging nine holes, all with a bucolic Blue Ridge backdrop. Although there are no massive bodies of water to tackle, the vast greenways and swathes of forest fringing the course provide plenty of challenges to contend with. The par-31 course is spread over part of 145-acre Coyner Springs Park, which also features running trails, an off-leash dog park, and plenty of space for picnicking.
10. Climb a Crag
The bounty of wild spaces surrounding Waynesboro not only provide rugged trails and runnable waterways, they also offer plenty of scalable surfaces. Pros can head for classic climbs like the Love Gap Crags, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway (milepost 16), or for beloved routes in the Old Rag, Overall Run, and Mary’s Rock areas of the Shenandoah National Park. Shenandoah Mountain Guides, also offers climbing and rappelling trips in the park, beginning at Skyland. For newbies, Blue Ridge Mountain Guides offers climbing trips and courses along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Wintergreen Resort, just outside Waynesboro.
Originally written by RootsRated for Visit Waynesboro.
Featured image provided by Jon Cook