One of the very best parts of living in Virginia is the opportunity to be an explorer. Whether you make the trek to the opposite corner of the state or look in your own backyard, chances are you’ll discover something truly stunning. Virginia is the state for sight-seeing, but it’s also a state for sight-exploring. When you make a trip to any of the following places, you’ll want to give yourself time to truly be there. So map out your adventure and go explore! There is so much to be seen.
1. Goshen Pass (Lexington)
Formed by the Maury River, Goshen Pass is a three mile drive that meanders through the mountain gorge. This spot is especially popular among canoers and kayakers, as the rapids reach an impressive class IV at Devil's Kitchen and Corner Rapid.
2. James River Park (Richmond)
The James River Park system accounts for 550 acres of land in Richmond, Virginia. Thanks to the Friends of the James River Park, this area is well-loved and well tended to. This area of the state can be equally enjoyed from a kayak, a sunny rock in the middle of the river, or simply a stroll along the Buttermilk Trail.
3. Meadowlarks Garden (Vienna)
Meadowlarks Garden is a beautiful botanical garden in Northern Virginia. Visitors can explore over 95 acres of decorative gardens and landscapes, learning about flora and fauna of all kinds. The Korean Bell Garden, photographed above, is a particularly striking attraction. Meadowlarks also has an indoor tropical garden located in the Atrium.
4. Huntley Meadows (Alexandria)
Huntley Meadows is located in the lowlands of the Potomac River. This incredible historic island is home to 1,500 acres of wetlands, forest, and meadows filled with wildflowers. There's a 1/2-mile boardwalk trail leading to an observation point where visitors can enjoy some of the best wildlife viewing in the region. In fact, over 200 species of birds have been identified in this park. There's also a historic mansion on site.
5. Endless Caverns (New Market)
When it comes to caverns in Virginia, Luray seems to take the cake. However, there are many other cavern systems to explore that are equally as mesmerizing. Endless Caverns is at least 5 miles long and was discovered by two boys and their dog in the late nineteenth century. There's even a fossilized wooly mammoth's tooth here. Tours are available so visitors can relive the discovery.
6. Blue Ridge Parkway
No scenic list in Virginia is complete without the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you have time to take the scenic Parkway or Skyline Drive, you'll be glad you did. Gorgeous in any season, this spot is one worth visiting at least once a year.
7. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
This pristine refuge consists of over 14,000 acres of beaches, dunes, and forest. Most of the Chincoteague Refuge is located on the Assateague Island, home of the famous wild ponies.
8. Crabtree Falls (Montebello)
Not only is Crabtree Falls one of the tallest cascading falls in Virginia and the east coast, but it is also one of the best to explore. The trail follows the waterfall all the way to its origin, allowing for plenty of time to stop and marvel and the beautiful rushing waters. It's crucial to stay on the marked trail, as many have fallen when trying to step out onto the slippery rocks.
9. Cumberland Gap National Historic Park
The Cumberland Gap mountain pass can be viewed as the pathway to the west. You'll feel like one of the area's early explorers, Daniel Boone, who was commissioned to blaze a trail that became known as Wilderness Road. This 20,000 acre park includes over 70 miles of hiking trails and spectacular view points. The park stretches out among portions of Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
10. McAfee's Knob (Catawba)
The Shenandoah Valley is one of the most photographed areas of the state. With green rolling hills, luscious farmlands, and crisp clean air, spending time in the valley is a rejuvenating experience. Fewer places offer a more stunning overlook than McAfee Knob on the Appalachian Trail. It's no mystery why this is the most photographed portion of the entire Appalachian Trail.
11. Grayson Highlands State Park (Mouth of Wilson)
Grayson Highlands is located nearby to the state's largest mountain peaks, Whitetop Mountain and Mount Rogers. The area is filled with hiking trails, campgrounds, and other scenic areas to explore.
12. The Channels Natural Area Preserve (Abingdon)
The Channels of Virginia provide a unique and primitive exploring experience. Visitors will follow through a maze created by 400-million-year-old sandstone boulders. The Channels State Forest is located on the southern slope of Clinch Mountain.
13. Whiteoak Canyon
Whiteoak Canyon is one of the most highly-visited spots in Shenandoah National Park. The area has six waterfalls, ranging in heights from 35 to 85 feet. Explorers can splash around in the swimming holes at the bottom of each fall, but should take note that these are highly visited areas, especially during the summer.
While this list may include mountains, rivers, valleys, and more, it only scrapes the surface of the amount of exploring can be done in this incredible state. Now it’s your turn to weigh in: where are some of your favorite spots for stunning views of Virginia? We’d love to hear from you!