Fall in Lexington
Bright foliage is the backdrop for autumn adventures. Top destinations include the summit of House Mountain, trails beside the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the jumbled boulders at Devil's Marbleyard, where beauty and geology collide. Route 39 through Goshen Pass is a gorgeous scenic drive and cycling route, shaded by leafy canopies. Paddlers can enjoy a few last floats on the James River, a Virginia Scenic River.
For a full list of adventures, along with recommendations, tips, and a list of outfitters, visit www.RockbridgeOutdoors.com.
The aptly named Devil's Marbleyard is a life-list destination for hikers across Virginia. An easy 1.5-mile stroll on the Belfast Trail drops you at the marbleyard, a field of granite boulders sprawled across a mountain slope not far from Natural Bridge. Bring your grippiest hiking boots to explore these quartzite wonders – some are as big as a car.
The final stretch of trail to the 3,645ft summit of Big House Mountain is steep and unforgiving. But glimpses of the countryside below should ease the burn as you ascend through the trees. A new trail twists up the western slope of Little House Mountain then rolls to an overlook with a fine view of Lexington. If you can’t make it to the summits, end with a picnic in the Saddle, a meadow between the peaks.
The white-blazed Appalachian Trail (AT) runs beside the Blue Ridge Parkway above Rockbridge County. Deer sightings from the AT are almost guaranteed. For a half-day hike with a lofty view of House Mountain, park just south of milepost 51 on the Parkway then hike to the summit of 3,372ft Bluff Mountain, where a fire tower once stood. From Bluff Mountain, the AT continues south to the James River. The trail stretches 544 miles across the state.
Beauty and adventure are in cahoots along the Rich Hole Wilderness Trail in the Rich Hole Wilderness. Expect creek crossings, rock outcroppings, and small waterfalls along the way. Wildlife spotting is also a highlight, with bears, bobcats and turkeys checking out the scene. The hiking isn’t as adventurous on the short Laurel Run Trail in Goshen Pass, but it’s a pleasant place to stretch your legs after the drive from Lexington.
Cyclists tout the beauty of the region’s backroads, which unfurl beside mountains, rivers, and fall foliage. The 50-mile loop between Goshen Pass and Lexington is a regional favorite, and the route’s buttery spin through the Goshen Pass gorge on Route 39 immerses cyclists in a kaleidoscopic display of color.
Considered the toughest leg of the TransAmerica Trail, the 4-mile climb on Route 56 from Vesuvius to the Blue Ridge Parkway - which reaches a grade of 24% - is not for the timid. And did somebody say Blue Ridge Parkway? We hate to brag, but the prettiest section of this beloved 469-mile byway runs along the border of Rockbridge County.
Kayaking, Canoeing, and Inner Tubing
For kayaking and canoeing in autumn, your best choice is the James River. Flanked by leafy hills and mountains, this wide river is typically runnable year round. Paddlers looking for a taste of whitewater can tackle the low-key rapids at Balcony Falls.
Feeling lazy? Plopping into an inner tube is a perfectly acceptable alternative while the warm weather holds. Fed by creeks and streams tumbling down nearby mountains, these rivers flow past miles of mountain-and-valley scenery, from boulder-lined gorges to forested slopes to picturesque farms.
Where to drop in? The cities of Lexington and Buena Vista border the Maury River and provide convenient access points. The town of Glasgow, a paddling hub with a new boat ramp, sits at the confluence of the Maury and James. For specific access points see our canoeing page, check with local outfitters, and view maps of the Upper James River Water Trail and of the Maury River.
Adventurers do more than huff and puff over trails and rapids. Just ask the fly fishing enthusiasts, who practice the art of patience as they stalk native brook trout in the region’s cold mountain creeks. Consult with a guide to learn of the best spots to cast and learn how to cast, if you need instruction.