I’ve been writing a lot about Charlottesville and Virginia lately, but that’s because I’m still spending some serious time exploring this fascinating region (to where I moved about five months). Now, in this post, I have a pretty awesome Charlottesville day road trip for you guys.
The drive, obviously, starts in Charlottesville, a town you are strongly recommended to use as a base when exploring central Virginia and its wineries and mountain scenery. When starting your Charlottesville day road trip and heading to the Blue Ridge Mountains (home to Shenandoah National Park) from Charlottesville, always use Route 250 instead of Interstate 64—it’s so much more scenic.
Charlottesville Day Road Trip
After about a half-hour drive, you’ll reach the intersection with two of America’s most amazing mountain roads. That is where Route 250 intersects with both Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, which leads south all the way to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Follow the signs for the Blue Ridge Parkway and continue heading south on this amazing road.
There are a few interesting attractions along the Blue Ridge Parkway that can be reached easily on a Charlottesville day road trip. The first one lies only 5 miles down the road — Humpback Rocks. This massive jumble of protruding rocks is accessed via a mile-long hiking trail and offers absolutely spectacular views over the Shenandoah Valley and the surrounding mountains.
Next up is a truly breathtaking overlook— Raven’s Roost —which has to be one of the greatest vantage points in the entire Shenandoah region. With its 180-degree panoramic views, this overlook is a hugely popular spot to catch the sunset.
From the overlook, I suggest that you simply continue your drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, possibly stopping at other overlooks as well. It’s all up to you! Keep your eyes peeled for deer and black bears.
After a while, you will come across the intersection with Route 56, where you will turn left (east). Route 56 is a small, meandering road that is a great deal of fun to drive. It also has a couple of wonderful attractions, the first one of which is a hiking trail to the Spy Rock summit. The trailhead is found behind the Montebello Fish Hatchery.
If you have to choose, however, I recommend picking the second one. This one starts at Crabtree Falls, the tallest cascade east of the Mississippi River, and follows the waterfalls uphill for two miles (it’s the same way back down to the parking lot). Crabtree Falls is a major highlight in this part of the Blue Ridge Mountains and highly recommended. You don’t need to hike too far to see them, though—there’s a 500-foot wheelchair-accessible trail to the lower falls.
Relax with a Beer or a Cider
Continue following Route 56 until the crossroads with Route 151. Turn left and head back north. Even though it’s a rural up-and-down kind of road, Route 151 has more than its fair share of attractions, nearly all of which have something to do with alcohol. There are a few breweries and a couple of wineries, as well as a distillery and a cidery. After a long Charlottesville day road trip and a hike or two in Shenandoah National Park, these are the perfect places to kick back with a drink and a meal. I recommend Bold Rock Hard Cider if you like cider and the Blue Mountain and Devil’s Backbone breweries if you need a beer.
Following Route 151 in a northerly direction, you’ll end up at Route 250 again. Turning right (east), you’ll arrive in downtown Charlottesville in no time.