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Virginia's four National Scenic Byways provide groups perfect venues for history lessons and accessible inroads into the great outdoors. An additional 2,500 miles of road around the state are designated as Virginia scenic byways.
Devoid of commercial traffic, this graceful road carries motorists along a history-rich mountain chain. Journey to the roots of bluegrass at the Blue Ridge Music Center, re-visit pioneering lifestyles at Virginia's Explore Park, and watch old-time skills practiced at Mabry Mill.
Carved into mountainsides, the parkway travels between summits and gaps that once sheltered homesteaders for 470 miles, from Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina.
Scenic pull-offs are windows onto long vistas of the Shenandoah Valley and give access to more than 100 miles of hiking trails, ranging from half-mile leg-stretchers to the 2,160-mile Appalachian Trail.
Paddling amid rare wetland plants in Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, bird-watching during spring wildflower bloom in Turkey Run Park, hiking beneath century-old stands of oak-hickory forest in Great Falls Park – all unexpected natural pleasures along a highway zipping with Northern Virginia commuters.
Washington once rode this route on horseback, and his Mount Vernon home is a logical beginning for groups large and small. A walking tour through his hometown of Alexandria combines Colonial-era buildings and hip shops and eateries. As it follows the Potomac River shoreline, travelers soak in spacious views of the capital's monuments, memorials and Arlington National Cemetery.
The journey ends at the falls of the Potomac, a great photo stop. The park preserves ruins of the Patowmack Canal, an intriguing footnote to the legacy of its biggest promoter, none other than George Washington.
Long stretches of this roadway travel beneath the cool canopy of old Virginia forest, then break out onto expansive views of the James and York rivers.
Interpretive signs chart a 23-mile journey spanning four centuries and three American originals: Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown – the beginning, middle and end of the Colonial period.
Walk the ground where a New World began at Jamestown. A new visitor center, expanded parking and galleries make it even easier for large groups to visit. And don't miss the galleries at Historic Jamestowne. Step inside recreated buildings at Colonial Williamsburg, bringing the 18th century colonial capital vividly to life. End the journey on hallowed ground at Yorktown Battlefield, site of the British surrender that poignantly ended Colonial rule.
The 105-mile ridge-top parkway through Shenandoah National Park is a road trip of Blue Ridge vistas and craftsman-like stone arches. Motorcycle clubs thrive on the roller-coaster climbs and bends (be sure to obey the 35-mph speed limit). The park has some 500 miles of trails, with many trail heads just steps from scenic pull-offs. Guided outdoor adventure programs take groups into the wilderness by day and to National Park historic lodges by night. And just off Skyline Drive: Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and Luray Caverns.
Approximately 66 miles of U.S. Rte. 15 from the Potomac River in Loudoun County to Orange have been designated an official Virginia Byway. The byway is part of the four-state, 175-mile Journey Through Hallowed Ground corridor from Gettysburg, Pa. to Thomas Jefferson's Albemarle County home, Monticello, near Charlottesville.
Dozens of state scenic byways provide routes to Virginia history in every region of the state, from the Eastern Shore to the Cumberland Gap.
Get free copies of Virginia's Scenic Road Map here or call 1-800-VISITVA.
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