Fall Foliage Trip
Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Parkway
During our Spring 2014 Smoky Mountain
hiking adventure we also visited the wonderful Appalachians and the Blue Ridge Mountains. We took a day and did a 100 mile sample drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway and marveled at the beauty and grandeur. This fall, as the leaves and fall colors were at their peak, we drove up the East Coast hugging the coastal plain to Virginia. After a bit if sightseeing and hiking we headed South down Skyline Drive , through the Shenandoah National Park and picked up the Blue Ridge Parkway to Asheville (where we will once again stay for a few days). After a quick rest stop in St. Augustine, we headed back home to Orlando.
While this was just about 2500 miles, we took a couple of weeks as we stopped along the way. There was SO much to see and enjoy along this route, we a wonderful adventure. While we took some heavier jackets, we had them packed so we still picked up a couple of nice sweatshirts along the way! Last year we got caught off guard with an early snow storm in Butte Montana
; didn't want that again, although the snowfall was truly enchanting.
This time, no snow and absolutely beautiful weather; well all except the first day's drive down the Skyline Drive. It really didn't bother us too much as that day was taken up with some caving in Skyline Caverns and Luray Caverns. Underground the rain doesn't bother you; well unless there is an inundation and then you do not want to be underground!
Charleston S.C. - We hugged the coastal roads up into Charleston South Carolina for our first night. It was a longer drive to get us started to really sea the Eastern Coastal plains. From here we will take our time along the Eastern most roads to take in the views of the Atlantic and beaches.
Hampton VA. -
Driving North we hugged the coastal plains along HWY 17 and stay across the Chesapeake Bay from Virginia Beach for a couple of nights. We spent a bit of time walking around Virginia Beach and the marinas there. We found a wonderful Vegan resturant in Virginia Beach called Frutive.
What a divine place with some of the best vegan food we have found anywhere. Based on HappyCow
, it was the only veg resturant within 50 miles or more! If you are ever in the area, be sure to give them a visit!
- From Hampton and Virginia Beach we crossed under Chesapeake Bay through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel over to Fairfax. We bypassed Washington D.C. and all the horrendous traffic and headed to our hotel near Fairfax VA., where we stayed for a few nights. We replenished our supplies at a great organic grocery store, Mom's Organic Market
, who has several stores in the area and is expanding! Terrific store and on your first visit, you get a free bio-degradable shopping bag.
George Washington's Mount Vernon
is located about 15 miles south of Washington D.C. along the banks of the Potomac River. The historic estate includes not only the Mount Vernon Mansion - George and Martha Washington's home - but also a host of colonial era buildings, beautiful gardens, a working distillery and gristmill, and our museum and education center. While there we had a wondrous experience with a visit with Martha Washington
. You just have to go there and visit!
Great Falls National Park
- Great Falls Park, an 800 acre park located along the Potomac River, is one of the most spectacular natural landmarks in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. We went on a day hike in Great Falls National Park
. We took the 'River Trail, along the george with fantastic views of the falls and the Potomac river. We followed the Potomac River for approximately 1.5 miles, along the tops of the cliffs. In some areas, this trail runs right next to the edge of the cliff, offering spectacular views of the Potomac and Mather Gorge. Cliff heights range from 25-75 feet and there is some rock scrambling involved but not that bad!
- Heading South down Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park, we saw some lovely fall colors. We were in no hurry and stopped to see great sights along the way. We had a bit of rain as we got started and most of the day. We still saw some vivid lovely colors in the trees even some were masked by fog and mist. We had planned to visit Luray Caverns but after talking to some friends we met along the way, discovered another set of less known caverns just after you enter Skyline Drive, Skyline Caverns so we did those too!
- Located in Front Royal, Virginia,
Skyline Caverns is the closest natural wonder to the Nation's Capital. As one of the only places on Earth where rare Anthodites are displayed, the guided tour is as impressive as it is educational.
- Luray Caverns the most popular caverns in Eastern America. Guided tours along well-lighted, paved walkways lead visitors through cathedral-sized rooms with ceilings 10-stories high, towering stone formations, and natural wonders at every turn.
- We stayed overnight near this little town before beginning our drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway
that starts just south of Interstate 64 near Waynesboro.
Natural Bridge, Virginia
- We diverted just a bit off the Blue Ridge Parkway to visit Natural Bridge Park and stay overnight at the Natural Bridge Hotel
there. The hotel is an old style Virginia hotel (soon to be fully re-modeled) nestled in the Appalachian Mountains. It is really a large facility and has a large well appointed dining room We were pleasantly suprised to find that they offered a few vegan selections so opted to dine there instead of attempting a meal in the room (no microwave or fridge!). We brought our own vegan butter to use on the delicious rolls.
No elevator in the attached buildings so be sure to request a bottom floor if you have mobility issues or have a lot of stuff like we did!
We hiked Cedar Creek Trail
to Lace Falls. Originally constructed in 1926, the trail begins at Cascade Falls near the Cedar Creek Cafe, passes under the Bridge, and follows the creek to Lace Falls—a luscious 50-foot cascade. We will stay overnight at the Natural Bridge Historic Hotel
which has great views of the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains.
Hillsville Virginia - We stayed overnight near Hillsville Virginia just off Interstate 77. Finding accommodations with kitchenettes is not that easy but we can usually find one off most interstate highways. Hillsville is just a short jog off the Blue Ridge Parkway for a nice overnight accommodation. Unfortunately the Holiday Inn & Suites had only ONE suite! We couldn't believe in a large hotel advertising 'suites' they have just a SINGLE ONE?!? Anyway, the room was large, had a microwave and decent fridge so we did soup and salad in our room!
We had planned to stay near Linville N.C. and hike to Linville Falls. We booked a room (looked ok on the web site) at Parkview Lodge. AVOID this place at all costs! the room was tiny and reeked of mildew/mold. There were few options in the area so we decided to forget about Linville and just go into Asheville a day early. Boy was that a problem as during this time of year Asheville is TOTALLY BOOKED. Unless you want to pay over $375/night there wasn't even a room available (checked Airbnb and others). Finally, using TripAdvisor
, we found a room at a Quality Inn for $200/night. Not great, especially for that exorbitant rate, but we did need a place to stay until our home rental cleared.
Asheville N. C.:
We had such a lovely time there in the Spring we wanted to revisit the same little bungalow we did on our previous visit. Asheville was pretty crowded but not unmanageable at all. Since we were on a weekend, there was a lot of activity downtown. We spend a pleasant day walking around, visiting shops and enjoying the wonderful weather. We had lunch at The Noodle Shop
and enjoyed a delicious vegan repast! We had delicious vegan spring rolls and a great vegan meal!
We resupplied again at Earth Fare
, just around the corner from our rental. They have good organic selections as a great variety of vegan friendly food and supplies. They have an eat in area but we have yet to sample the cuisine. We bought a couple of vegan cup cakes but they turned out to be dry and not very good.
The next day, we did some more walking around. Again a lovely day. We returned to the Laughing Seed Cafe for lunch but were very disappointed in the service. The spicy fries were good as was the black bean soup but they messed up Nancy's order AGAIN.
Finish: St. Augustine Florida
- We were up and packed and on the road out of Asheville early the next morning. We hadn't paid a visit to St. Augustine for a while, so we decided to try a place just off the inter-coastal for a night. Found a nice place with kitchenette, called Cozy Inn
. They have small rooms with kitchenette and larger two story accommodations but still with only single bedroom. The place is either new or very recently re-modeled and was clean and up to date! We will definitely return for a longer stay.
The next morning we packed up but dallied around St. Augustine so Nancy could do some antiquing. We got home in the early afternoon after an uneventful drive into Orlando!