Winter in Lexington
On sunny winter days, top adventure destinations include the summits of House Mountain, the trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the boulders at Devils Marbleyard. Route 39 through Goshen Pass is a gorgeous cycling route, where rocky views of the river unfurl beside you. Several regional ski resorts open for skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating.
With crisp skies and unimpeded views from mountain trails, winter is a great time to hike in Rockbridge County. The aptly named Devils 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 surrounding countryside should ease the burn as you ascend through the tress. A new trail twists up the western slope of then rolls to an overlook with a fine view of Lexington. If you can’t make it up to the summits, end with a picnic in the Saddle, a meadow between the two peaks. Little House Mountain is Lexington’s patron peak and a familiar site from downtown.
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 3,372 ft. 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. closes when ice and snow are on the road. Check the parkway website for closures before setting out (www.nps.gov/maps/blri/road-closures).
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 forests. 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 Highway 39 immerses cyclists in a kaleidoscopic display of trees, rocks, and cascades.
If you think a buttery ride is for wimps, might we suggest the 4-mile climb on Route 56 from Vesuvius to the Blue Ridge Parkway? Considered the toughest leg of the TransAmerica Trail, this monster - 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.
Skiing, Snowboarding Snow Tubing and Ice Skating
You won’t find any ski resorts in Rockbridge County, but Lexington and Buena Vista are convenient basecamps for day trips to nearby slopes.
Family friendly Wintergreen Resort celebrates its 40th birthday this season. Fifty miles from Lexington, Wintergreen offers skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and ice skating.
When temperatures drops, you can glide across the ice at the outdoor ice skating rink at the Omni Homestead Resort, a scenic 55 miles from Lexington. Skiing and snowboarding start a few weeks later.
With 57 trails, more than 250 ski-able acres, and a packed social calendar, regional powerhouse Snowshoe Mountain is a big-thrills boss. Just over the state line in West Virginia, this mountaintop resort typically kicks off its ski season in late November.
Fly Fishing & Llama Trekking
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. John Roberts Fly Fishing, based out of Lexington, offers guided fishing trips year round.
What winter adventure have we forgotten? Oh yes, llama trekking. Things get delightfully weird at Applewood Inn, where Stryker the Llama might sniff your hair before a woodsy trek along Buffalo Creek.