Fresh-air adventures abound in Luray and Page County, from mountaintop hikes and river excursions to ATV expeditions, ziplining and horseback riding — and so much more.
And with more than 400 vacation cabin rentals, Luray and Page County — Virginia’s “Cabin Capital” — continues an outdoors lover’s dream with mountain, river and valley lodging with sweeping front-porch views.
With so much to explore in Shenandoah National Park, we recommend dedicating a full day, particularly for outdoors lovers.
TAKE A HIKE
As a gateway community, visitors to Luray and Page County can head to Shenandoah National Park for day and overnight hikes along more than 500 miles of trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Below are several suggested hikes. A full list is available on the park’s website.
A walk in the woods along the Fox Hollow Track trail offers evidence of the people who lived there before Shenandoah National Park was established in 1935. Along the 1.2-mile loop trail, look for the purple flowers of the vinca vine (periwinkle) in spring and for piles of stones that generations of the Fox Family made when they cleared the land for farming. Rated “easiest,” the trail is perfect for families and includes a Track Trail for Kids.
Hikers in search of hidden gems in the park can access the Rose River Loop trail at mile 49.4 of Skyline Drive at the Fishers Gap Overlook. The serene, 4-mile loop runs through a federally designated wilderness area with streams, cascades and waterfalls, providing plenty of photo ops and offering a terrain ideal for a leisurely day hike in any season, with a climb of 910 feet.
More experienced hikers can trek down the Overall Run Trail to a scenic view of the largest waterfall in Shenandoah National Park, as well as views of the Shenandoah Valley and Massanutten Mountain to the west. From the Mathews Arm Campground registration parking area at mile 22.2 of Skyline Drive, the 5-mile trail leads to views of the 93-foot falls from upper and lower observation areas. The hike to the falls and back is 5.1 miles roundtrip, with a climb of 1,291 feet.
Those wanting to conquer the park’s highest peak can hike to Hawksbill Summit along several different routes that range from moderate to strenuous, including the 2.9-mile Hawksbill Loop Hike connected to the Appalachian Trail. For a shorter but steeper, rockier route from the Hawksbill Gap parking area at mile 45.5, the Hawksbill Summit Hike also leads to the 4,051- foot peak.
GRAB A BITE
Dining in the park offers local ingredients, regional cuisine and panoramic views — indoors, outdoors or to go.
Located at mile 41.7 and 42.5 at Skyline Drive’s highest elevation — 3,680 feet — Skyland’s Pollack Dining Room serves farm-to-fork flavors for breakfast, lunch and dinner and house specialties like mile-high Blackberry Ice Cream Pie (a nod to the resort’s elevation). Head over to a Mountain Taproom for a lighter fare menu and beer, local wines and nightly familyfriendly entertainment. A Grab ’n Go offers sandwiches, salads, pastries, snacks and drinks.
At Big Meadows Lodge (mile 51.2), a Spottswood Dining Room features a rustic setting for three meals each day. A New Market Taproom offers specialty drinks and spirits and nightly entertainment. Opt for open-air dining at a pet-friendly terrace. Guests can also request a Lunch to Go at the lodge’s front desk.
Several wayside food stops also scatter Skyline Drive, with locations every 25 miles, including Elkwallow Wayside (mile 24.1), Big Meadows Wayside (mile 51) and Loft Mountain Wayside (mile 79.5).
RIDE THE SKY
End the day at sunset along Skyline Drive, a 105-mile National Scenic Byway that traverses through Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Nearly 70 scenic overlooks offer stopping points for views and photos, with scenes of the Shenandoah Valley to the west and the rolling Piedmont to the east. Roadside wildflowers put on a show year-round, beginning with trillium in late winter and through the spring. June begins a display of azaleas, cardinal flowers and black-eyed susans, before miles of yellow goldenrod in autumn.
Keep an eye out for deer, black bears, wild turkeys and a host of other woodland animals that call Shenandoah home.
Spend the day on the storied Shenandoah River, then soak in the sun along the shore.
BOAT OR FLOAT THE RIVER
Take in Valley views from the water by renting a canoe, kayak or raft from Shenandoah River Outfitters. The 50-year-old outfitters offers an array of ways to explore and enjoy the outdoors with flat-water and beginner white-water adventures. Tube rentals, camping and fishing are also available.
PICNIC ON THE SHORE
Pack a lunch or pick one up from a local eatery to take with you and enjoy on or along the water. Luray’s West Main Deli offers a variety of unique sandwiches, salads and soups, as well as party platters. Or pick up daily baked goods and treats at Main Street Bakery and Catering or Baby Moons in Downtown Luray.
Enjoy river views at any season at the Town of Shenandoah’s River Park and Landing. The park features several riverside picnic spots, including picnic tables and grills for cookouts. A gazebo on site is available to rent. The park additionally features swings, a paved trail and wildlife. And it’s not unusual in the fall or spring to catch James Madison University’s Rowing Club in action on the South Fork of the Shenandoah — the Harrisonburg team has a boathouse and dock at the river park for practices and regattas.
Centrally located between the Blue Ridge and Massanutten Mountain ranges, Luray and Page County offer plenty of forest adventures to take in the greenery and scenery.
TRAILS AND TAILS: RIDE HORSEBACK IN THE VALLEY
Hiking, biking and camping opportunities abound in the George Washington National Forest on dozens of trails. Fort Valley Ranch stables offers guided and private horseback rides in the Massanutten Mountains and through the national forest through hourly, half-day and full-day ranch adventures. Experienced riders can take on high adventure with a full day’s ride to Kennedy’s Peak and a picnic lunch on the trail, while newer riders can explore the area with half-day rides to the ridges along foothills and through creeks. Groups and families, particularly those with young children, can take in the scenes through horse and mule covered-wagon rides.
Guided trail rides are available for guests and visitors at River’s Bend Ranch. The one-hour adventures take riders through scenic pastures and along the Shenandoah River. Hand-lead horseback rides are available for younger riders. The ranch additionally offers several lodging options, including a three-story bunkhouse with 10 rooms, a nostalgic, fivebedroom ranch house and several cabins.
Jordan Hollow Stables offers 1.5-hour guided trail rides in the Valley. With trails that cater to any experience level and riders ages 7 and older, the local stables pairs each rider with a horse that meets their specific needs. Special Occasion Trail Rides are also available.
TAKE ON AN ATV EXPEDITION ON MOUNTAIN TRAILS
With privately-owned trails designed for scenic rides and with lots of stops for photo ops, Appalachian Adventures offers guided one- and two-hour AVT expeditions. More experienced riders can take on up and downhill obstacles through ditches and mud holes and around sharp curves, while new riders can opt for a leisurely ride through nature after instruction time with an experienced guide. The single-rider ATV expeditions are for adventurers 16 and older, with “side-by-side” rides available for those 15 and younger.
SHIMY, CLIMB AND GLIDE AMID THE TREES
Located less than 3 miles from Appalachian Adventures’ headquarters, outdoors lovers can continue their adventures at Bear Mountain Ziplines. With more than 50 acres of scenic, forested land, Bear Mountain offers ziplining and climbing fun for all levels of experience. A Mama Bear course features seven ziplines totaling 2,700 feet of line racing through a forest canopy at up to 35 miles an hour. The final 1,000-foot stretch travels over a meadow to land on a tower above a three-story Bear Scramble climbing wall. Little adventurers can take on a Baby Bear High Ropes course, designed for ages 5 and older.