When it comes to gorgeous views, we’re not sure which one closes the deal. Sunlight flickering across Natural Bridge. Outdoor markets bustling with farmers and produce. Or maybe it’s the dancing variations of blue hues on the Blue Ridge Mountains. With country roads crisscrossing the whole tableau, Rockbridge County is also easy to explore.
For those who want a “Wow!” when they explore the outdoors, their first stop should be Natural Bridge State Park. Rising 215 feet and spanning a stream-carved valley, this limestone wonder was one of America’s first all-star attractions. Its grandeur has never faded. Even the eloquent Thomas Jefferson, who purchased the bridge in 1774, couldn’t express its beauty in mere words. As he wrote in his book Notes on the State of Virginia:
“It is impossible for the emotions arising from the sublime, to be felt beyond what they are here; so beautiful an arch, so elevated, so light and swinging as it were up to heaven, the rapture of the spectator is really indescribable!”
Visit the Natural Bridge State Park website for the latest events. For quiet contemplation, stroll the leafy Cedar Creek Trail, which rolls beneath the arch and leads to a 30ft-high waterfall. Trailside, Virginia bluebells, trillium, and wild columbine add splashes of color and contrast. Great blue herons loiter in the adjacent creek, red-bellied woodpeckers forage on hardwoods, and hidden yellow-billed cuckoos trill their distinctive calls. Ten nest boxes have been installed along the Skyline Trail, a mile-long path through a meadow. Keep watch for bluebirds.
Blue Ridge Parkway
What sights await on your drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway? Foraging wildlife and sunsets that replenish the spirit. What you won’t find? Stoplights. There’s not a single light on this 469-mile byway, which travels the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains between Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.
Along the Parkway, high-altitude overlooks share gobsmacking views of the Shenandoah Valley. Parkway officials like to share photos of the view from Chimney Rock Overlook, north of Route 60 at Buena Vista. Check out that expansive southern panorama!
Farmers Markets & Gardens
Beauty arrives by the bushel as local farms share their harvests. On market mornings, tables groan with golden honeys and colorful jams. Baskets overflow with squash, zucchini, collards, kale, radishes, and beautiful flowers and herbs. Other highlights? Farmers and artisans sharing warm hellos and loads of agricultural know-how. Town gossip is always free.
More than 2,500 specimen trees are the draw at Boxerwood Nature Center & Woodland Garden, a short drive from downtown Lexington. Its 15 acres of wetlands, gardens, and meadowland are crisscrossed by easy trails. Bring your children to the Fairy Forest here, where fairy folk have set up a colony.
Find the Fun
Calendar favorites for outdoor entertainment in the summer include music festivals at Lime Kiln Theater in Lexington and Glen Maury Park in Buena Vista. Check the calendar for dates and more suggestions.
For outdoor inspiration before one of these gatherings, slip down to the Woods Creek Trail, which runs the length of W&L and VMI, or the Chessie Nature Trail along the Maury River. Golfers should head to the stunning Vista Links in Buena Vista, where the Blue Ridge Mountains are your backdrop.
Final suggestions for scenic fun? Canoeing and kayaking the Upper James River Water Trail, a Virginia Scenic River.