There isn’t a gatekeeper for iconic destinations like Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway, but if there was, Front Royal would be a logical candidate. From this geological gateway you can launch into an outdoors getaway. And what better season for such exploration and adventure than fall?
One with Nature
Birding and wildlife watching are old hat to residents of Front Royal. Check out the Front Royal Loop of the Virginia Birding & Wildlife Trail. Points of interest include Sky Meadows State Park, Snickers Gap Hawk Watch, and Blandy Experimental Farm and State Arboretum of Virginia.
Of special note about Snickers Gap: birds of prey – like hawks – follow a migratory path that includes this area. Their migration window is mid-September. Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources suggests September 14-21 is the optimal window of time to observe tens of thousands of birds of prey. Documented species include osprey, Cooper’s hawk, American kestrel, bald eagle, and golden eagle.
You’re not a bird, but that doesn’t mean you can soar with them. Blue Ridge Hot Air Balloons launch year ‘round and conclude with a “post-flight toast” of champagne or sparkling apple cider. Imagine the foliage from the clouds …
Boost Your Adrenaline
If you’re mountain biker looking for awesome singletracks, look no further than those of Massanutten Mountain within George Washington National Forest. The double black diamond Massanutten Trail is 69.6 miles is not for amateurs. Consult MTB Project to choose your perfect trail.
Have you ever thrown an axe? If not, you need to. The pros at Shenandoah Axe Throwing Company will set you up to succeed. Much like bowling, your party of friends is assigned a “lane” for an hour. As one reviewer put it, however, “Who wants to go bowling or shoot pool when they can throw axes!” Burn off (and laugh off) the stress.
Head Down Below
Skyline Caverns offers one-hour tours of their subterranean paradise. Anthrodite formations are very rare, but Skyline happens to have multiple occurrences of them, including the worlds largest coming in at 18” long: the Chandalier. It is also believed to the oldest at 126,000 years. Wow!
Also home at Skyline are three unground streams and the 37-foot Rainbow Waterfall.
Camp the Banks of the Shenandoah
Twin Rivers Campground offers waterfront full hook-up sites along the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. For a stay along the North Fork of the Shenandoah, check out North Fork Resort Association and their public camping options. Those who love the low-key vibe of tent camping will be right at home when pitching their set-up at Low Water Bridge Campground, also on the banks of the Shenandoah.
Perhaps start with the local murals that are part of the Appalachian Mural Trail. They’re a great way to get acquainted with downtown and an inspiration to set off on an adventure. Front Royal also offers a self-guided walking tour as well as various quests. Don’t forget to make time for shopping!
Cap It All Off with Excellent Food and Beverage
Try a mainstay like Main Street Mill, which occupies an historic feed mill. Outdoor seating is available. Outside of downtown folks enjoy a stop at The Apple House in Linden. Their apple butter cinnamon donuts are renown, especially during the fall. Don’t miss out!
If you love adult beverages, there are plenty of places to enjoy fresh sips. From ViNoVA Tapas & Wine Bar’s selections to the individual breweries and vineyards themselves, there’s no shortage of options and flavors. Downtown, check out the Virginia Beer Museum and then hit up Saga Meadery to sample their meads.
Header photo courtesy Discover Front Royal.