15 Virginia Adventures to Experience in 2013
RICHMOND, Va. - From the
shores of the Chesapeake Bay to the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia has
outdoor voyages big and small. Hang-gliding over pristine scenery, whitewater
rafting in class V+ rapids, hiking the famed Appalachian Trail and mountain
biking in George Washington National Forest, are some highlights of Virginia's
potential for adventure. Below is a selection of 15 Virginia outdoor adventures
to experience in 2013, with many more at www.Virginia.org/outdoors.
Guides with Shenandoah Mountain Touring have made Virginia's first permanent long distance backcountry trail a reality. The continuous off-road Virginia Mountain Biking Trail spans the length of Virginia's Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains from Strasburg to Damascus. It links eight major trail systems in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, consists of primarily singletrack trails, covers 480 miles and climbs 65,000 feet. Hard-core mountain bikers can be first to tackle this new epic trail that Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine recently said is "poised to be the South's sweetest stretch of singletrack."
Experience Epic Class V+ Whitewater at Great Falls
Only the most skilled and adventurous whitewater enthusiasts should attempt the intense class V+ waters of Great Falls in Northern Virginia, where the Potomac River builds up speed and force as it falls over a series of steep, jagged rocks and flows through the narrow Mather Gorge. Great Falls National Park, a beautiful 800-acre park only 15 miles from the nation's capital, is a good spot to watch as adventure kayakers run the falls. For a more moderate run check out the class II - III rapids of the New River. It is the second oldest river in the world and meanders 160 miles through untamed mountain scenery complete with craggy rock cliffs and magnificent gorges.
Kayak to an Isolated Waterman's Cabin on Virginia's Eastern Shore
Paddle back in time by kayaking to a century-old working waterman's cabin perched on the marsh in the Virginia Coast Reserve. The area has been recognized by UNESCO for its biological significance and has been designated a hemispherically important destination for migrating birds. Venture out on this guided barrier island adventure kayak tour with SouthEast Expeditions. The tour guide prepares meals for the group before leaving visitors out in the middle of the secluded marsh in a rustic cabin, which sleeps up to six people. Kayaks, gear, guide, lodging and food are included.
Hike the AT in Virginia
Virginia is home to 544 miles of the Appalachian Trail, more miles than any other state. So, for people looking to section-hike the East Coast's famed footpath, completing the Virginia portion of the trail is a great goal to start with.
Adventure on the Rocks
Southwest Virginia's Grayson Highlands State Park offers some of the best bouldering in the state and even rents the gear. Be sure to watch out for the park's resident wild ponies, which roam free throughout Mount Rogers Recreation Area. Located in the Shenandoah Valley, Old Rag is easily one of most well-known hikes in Virginia, but it also contains some of the best rock climbing routes in the state, featuring the only granite routes between the Adirondacks and Stone Mountain in North Carolina, according to SummitPost.org. Shenandoah National Park also has rock climbing and rappelling classes on Little Stony Man Cliffs that are geared toward beginners.
Hike or Bike in "God's Thumbprint"
A view from the air gives Burkes Garden the nickname "God's Thumbprint" as this mountain-ringed bowl is 10 miles in diameter and filled with some of the most fertile farmland in Virginia. The highest mountain valley in Virginia, the area was designated a national and Virginia Rural Historical District and it can be viewed from the Appalachian Trail or by car from state route 623. Visitors can bike on area roads and hike in nearby Jefferson National Forest.
Find the Ultimate Hide-and-Seek Spot
The 721-acre Great Channels National Area Preserve was dedicated in April of 2008 but remains a relatively undiscovered jewel in Virginia's wilderness. The Channels is an area of significant high elevation forest that leads to a series of impressive sandstone boulders and eroded crevices. The hike up is challenging, but it's worth the trip to the top. Once the abandoned fire tower is in sight, look for the boulders and crevices for the ultimate game of hide-and-seek.
Explore "The Grand Canyon of the South"
Located on the Virginia/Kentucky border, Breaks Interstate Park is one of only two interstate parks in the nation. The park encompasses 4,500 acres of greenwood lands and mountain scenery, including the "Grand Canyon of the South" where the Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River has carved the largest canyon east of the Mississippi. Its craggy untouched beauty reaches more than five miles long and 1,600 feet deep. Visitors have no shortage of things to do as the park features an Olympic pool, a lake with paddleboats and fishing, hiking trails, various lodging and dining options and numerous events throughout the year. Extreme whitewater enthusiasts should visit during weekends in October, when water is released from the John Flannagan Dam and Reservoir and experience the Russell Fork. This intense class V+ roller coaster of big drops, including the infamous El Horrendo, one wild 75-foot stretch that is considered one of the most difficult in the east.
Visit a Virginia Adventure Town
Virginia has "adventure town" destinations big and small. Damascus, Richmond and Roanoke are great examples, but there are so many others. In October 2012, Richmond was named the Best River Town Ever by Outside Magazine for its beloved James River and large variety of outdoor recreation options within the city. Richmond is the only place in the country with Class IV rapids running through an urban center. Roanoke is a mecca for outdoor lovers with its proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was named a winner in Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine's Best Mountain Towns reader poll in November 2012. The small town of Damascus, also called "Trail Town USA," is big on outdoor fun as it is traversed by the Appalachian Trail, the Virginia Creeper Trail, the Trans-America National Bicycle Trail and many others.
Camp on Virginia's Unspoiled Coast
Just southeast of Virginia Beach, five miles south of Sandbridge, lies False Cape State Park, one of few remaining undeveloped areas along the Atlantic Coast. False Cape offers a chance to experience unspoiled nature - remote and pristine beach, sand dunes, a huge migratory bird population and a variety of wildlife, plants and trees. The park is accessible only by foot, bicycle, beach transporter, tram or boat. Tram transportation through Back Bay Wildlife Refuge is available April through October. Inside tip: watch the sunrise and sunset over two different bodies of water in the same day as the sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean and sets into the Bay at Back Bay Wildlife Refuge.
Paddle Great Dismal Swamp's Lake Drummond
With more than 111,200 acres of seasonally flooded wetland forest and the 3,100 acre Lake Drummond at its center, the Great Dismal Swamp Wildlife Refuge contains some of the most important wildlife habitat in the mid-Atlantic region. Nature lovers can feed their passion for the outdoors here with miles of leisurely trails to explore on hiking or biking excursions. Recommended are the Washington Ditch Trail to Lake Drummond and the elevated wooden Dismal Town Boardwalk Trail that meanders for a mile through a representative portion of swamp habitats. Lake Drummond offers a unique choice for paddling enthusiasts as its shallow waters have allowed extraordinary cypress trees to emerge from its dark waters which are stained amber with tannic acid.
Learn to Hang-glide From the Mountains to the Sea
Fly like a bird and see some of the most beautiful scenery on the East Coast while taking a Discovery Hang Gliding Flight at the Eastern Shore Hang Gliding Center. No experience is necessary and all ages four and older are able to learn the basics of controlling a hang-glider. In Amherst at High Peak Hang Gliding, take a Discovery Flight to 2,500 feet or a mile high with an instructor. For licensed hang-gliders with their own equipment, the Woodstock Hang Gliding Center has a launch site perched high on the western slope of the Massanutten Mountain, near Shenandoah National Park and Massanutten Resort. Launch from this challenging site and soar like an eagle while enjoying a bird's eye view of the Shenandoah Valley.
Bugg Out on a Weekend Fishing Trip to Remember
In Clarksville, visit Buggs Island Lake, Virginia's largest lake, with more than 50,000 acres of fresh water to explore. Find a sweet spot to hang for the day and cast a line. Buggs Island Lake is listed as the number one Crappie fishing lake in the U.S. by "In-Fisherman" magazine. It also has one of the best largemouth bass fisheries in the country. Kerr Lake is host to state and national fishing tournaments that serious fishermen, or gals, can participate in.
Surf - SUP Style - in Virginia Beach
Coastal SUP Tours in Virginia Beach offers personalized Stand-up Paddle Board experiences. Beginners can take a relaxing tour of First Landing State Park, or tour the Bay/Ocean and watch the dolphins as they migrate on their daily feeding routines around Cape Henry Point. More experienced riders can participate in one-on-one SUP surf lessons.
Ski and Snowboard in the Summer at Snowflex
Adventurers who love winter sports have a place to get their fix year-round in Lynchburg, home to the only Snowflex Centre in the United States. Snowflex is a multi-layer, material that simulates the effects of snow, allowing maximum speed and edge control for turns. Misting devices give it the slip and grip of real snow. Extra padding and support enhances the most extreme maneuvers and stunts, culminating in the ultimate adventure.
Love is at the heart of every Virginia vacation. Go to www.Virginia.org\outdoors or call 1-800-VISITVA to request a free copy of the 2013 Virginia is for Lovers travel guide. Stay connected with Virginia on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/VirginiaisforLovers or on Twitter at @VisitVirginia.
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