Summer in Lexington
Ah, summer in Rockbridge County. When Mother Nature shakes off her cares, laces up her boots and kicks open the door with an adventurous grin.
One top destination is the James River, where paddlers and inner tubers enjoy refreshing half-day floats. Route 39 through Goshen Pass is a gorgeous cycling route, shaded by lush canopies of green. Adventurous hikers scramble over sun-warmed boulders at Devil's Marbleyard, where beauty and geology collide with impressive abandon.
For a full list of adventures, along with recommendations, tips, and a list of outfitters, visit www.RockbridgeOutdoors.com.
Kayaking, Canoeing and Tubing
Where should a kayaker or canoeist start? The James River. It’s the hands-down champ for river running in summer. Flanked by leafy hills and mountains, this wide and inviting river is typically runnable year round. Paddlers looking for a taste of whitewater can tackle the low-key rapids at Balcony Falls.
Experienced kayakers might be able to enjoy an end-of-season run at Goshen Pass in June, if water levels are still running high. Here, the Maury River smashes through a narrow gorge and Class IV rapids. This exhilarating trip is one of the top whitewater runs in the state. Downstream, Class II's and III's keep things wild for skilled paddlers who want to extend their ride.
Feeling lazy? Plop into an inner tube on the Maury or the James. Fed by creeks and streams tumbling down the slopes of nearby mountains, these rivers flow past boulder-lined gorges, forested slopes, and 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 visit the Canoeing/Kayaking activities section or check with local outfitters.
Cyclists tout the beauty of the region's backroads, which unfurl alongside bright summer blooms and lush 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 greenery.
If you think a buttery ride is for wimps, test yourself on the 4-mile climb up Route 56 from Vesuvius to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Considered the toughest leg of the TransAmerica Tail, 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.
The county's most adventurous trail is the aptly named Devils Marbleyard, a life-list destination for hikers across Virginia. An easy 1.5-mile stroll 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. Little House Mountain is Lexington’s patron peak and a familiar site from downtown.
>> Discover more at RockbridgeOutdoors.com.
In summer you can share a bit of "trail magic" on the white-blazed Appalachian Trail, which runs alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway. Thru-hikers trudging north from Georgia usually pass through the region in June. Gifts of water, treats, and information are appreciated. AT thru-hikers walk more than 500 miles in Virginia. For day hikers, deer sightings along the AT are almost guaranteed.
But 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.