Do you want to experience a destination from a different vantage point? Maybe on the water, the mountaintop, or an all terrain vehicle? These vacation ideas are for you.


Mount Rogers. Photo by

Mount Rogers. Photo by

Center your vacation around Mount Rogers, Virginia's highest peak at 5,729 feet. Stay within the National Recreation Area, as campgrounds and cabins are available. There are 191,000 acres to explore, including two lakes and 50 miles of streams. While You're There: ALSO SEE: Virginia's Five Highest Peaks 


Spearhead Trail

Spearhead Trail

There are currently three trails of this Southwest Virginia system open, with a fourth on its way this fall. The towns of Saint Paul, Pocahontas and Grundy are more than welcoming of ATV riders; they roll out the red carpet. While You're There: ALSO SEE: Virginia's Scenic Rivers


The view from Sky Meadows State Park

The view from Sky Meadows State Park

The G. Richard Thompson Wildlife Management Area in Markham is nearly 4,000 acres against the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains with elevations ranging from 700 to 2200 feet. Its position adjacent to Sky Meadows State Park offers even more expanse to explore, plus camping is available at Sky Meadows. Of note are the seven miles of the Appalachian Trail that runs through this WMA. If you follow it south, you'll arrive at Compton Gap on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. While You're There:
  • If you have a Virginia fishing license and trout stamp, you'll find the 10-acre Thompson Lake stocked and waiting. See information about an Access Permit.
  • If your visit occurs in late summer, pick along The Peach Way, a trail of five peach orchards in five miles.
  • Take a spin along the iconic Skyline Drive. Picking up Route 55 in Linden will allow you to avoid Interstate 66. Tip: Stop at The Apple House on the way!


Lake Moomaw. Casey Higgins photo.

Lake Moomaw

Lake Moomaw in Bath County is one of Virginia's larger lakes at more than 2,500 acres of surface. It's a man made lake by virtue of Gathright Dam. Fishermen love it for trout, bass and perch; hikers love its 43 miles of undeveloped shoreline. Camping is the way to go, with options at Bolar Mountain and McClintic Point on the north end, Greenwood Point (primitive; by foot or boat) midlake, and Morris Hill on the south end. While You're There:
  • Find a waterfall! Falling Spring is Virginia's easiest to find and one of the most breathtaking to view.
  • Discover another geological treasure -- Blowing Springs.
  • Take a dip in the natural hot springs at Jefferson Pools.


Philpott Lake.

Philpott Lake

Another man made lake, Philpott Lake is pretty well surrounded by recreation areas, and is large enough (about 3,000 acres) to span the border of Henry and Franklin Counties. There are campgrounds (Philpott Park, Deer Island Park [primitive; by boat] Jamison Mill Park, Horseshoe Point, Salthouse Branch, and Goose Point Park), beaches and boat launches at your disposal. Take a virtual tour. While You're There:
  • Hike one of the trails, depending on where you settle in for your stay.
  • Soak your line for a potential bass catch.
  • Need a watercraft? Smith River Outfitters will deliver a canoe or kayak to you with advance registration.
  • Hunt for fairy stones at adjacent Fairy Stone State Park.
ALSO SEE: Three Southern Virginia State Parks for Water & History


Bethel Beach Natural Area Preserve

Bethel Beach Natural Area Preserve

Bethel Beach Natural Area Preserve is home to the endangered Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle, as well as various fowl and rare plants. As long as you tread lightly, take nothing, and leave only footprints in the sand, you're welcome to explore these 83 acres. Special Notes: Digging in the sand disrupts the tiger beetle habitat. Please refrain from doing so. Biking, swimming and unleashed dogs are prohibited.  While You're There:


Assateague Island Pony Watching from the Assateague Channel

Pony Watching from the Assateague Channel

If you've ever heard of Misty of Chinocoteague, this was her place and these are her ponies. Center your vacation around Chinocoteague Island and the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. At the end of July the ponies swim the Assateague Channel for the pony penning and auction. If you're visiting at another time, boat tours will peruse the waterways to show you the ponies. While You're There:


Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

From Suffolk to the shore, this vacation idea will have you paddling Lake Drummond in the Great Dismal Swamp and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Both sites are go-to's for wildlife watching and simple solitude. Reserve your kayak trip down the Great Dismal Swamp Canal from Chesapeake with Adventure Kayak Tours. The trip includes a lunch break at the spillway before continuing into Lake Drummond. For a Bay Bay kayak trip, call on Wild River OutfittersKayak Nature Tours, Ltd., or Sandbridge Eco Sports, all located in Virginia Beach. While You're There: ALSO SEE: Six Coastal & Bay State Parks You Need to Make a Beeline For


Richmond Kayaking

Kayaking on The James River in Richmond

Before you balk that Richmond is included on this list, you must know that Outdoors magazine found it to be a valid contender for (and the ultimate winner of) the Best River Town in America in 2012, and the River City has only gotten better since then. See the map courtesy of the James River Park System. It will show you great places to start exploring. While You're There:
  • Run Class I-V rapids with an outfitter like Riverside Outfitters ... through downtown
  • Bring your bike and ride the Buttermilk Trail, a gnarly stretch that's frequently included in races.
  • Walk The Wetlands, a swampy forest with footbridges; the perfect place for bird watching.
  • Stretch your visit in Chesterfield County to hit the trails at Pocahontas State Park or paddle the waters at Dutch Gap.
ALSO SEE: Five Urban Virginia Outdoor Hot Spots

Which of these ideas will you make a reality? We'd love to hear your #VAOutdoors stories; leave a note below.