If there is one world-famous landmark in the Shenandoah Valley, it’s very likely Luray Caverns.
The guided, 1.25-mile tour is more than sufficient to overload the senses. Visitors will see pools of water so clear they reflect the rocks above, hear musical notes played on the Great Stalacpipe Organ, and view monolithic chambers filled with towering rock spires. Combinations of color—red, orange, brown, yellow and white—decorate the cave in a milieu of earth tones.
While the cave tour itself is the reason half a million people from all over the world visit, there is actually much more to see on the Caverns’ grounds. The Luray Valley Museum houses Shenandoah Valley artifacts from the 1750s to the 1920s. The Car and Carriage Caravan Museum, one of the oldest of its kind in the country, houses some of the rarest automobiles and carriages in the world. Take the kids through the half-mile Garden Maze and try to navigate a path through the eight- foot arborvitae. Or test your coordination, and your nerve, on one of three skill levels at the Rope Adventure Park. (Trained staff help every participant, and safety gear is provided.) And Toy Town Junction displays thousands of toy trains, cars, trucks, tractors, etc. that show kids what entertainment was like before video games.
But there is much to the town than its iconic cave, and there is no question that in recent years, Luray has become a major hub of outdoor recreation. In the past three months, Luray in Page County has hosted a major triathlon, the first Shenandoah Half Marathon, and the fourth annual Blue Ridge Mountain Mudurance, conducted by the Luray-Page County Chamber of Commerce.
While another organized race is on the books for this month (the Turkey Trot 5K/1K, November 18; see Events page) most of the outdoor activity this time of year is more independent. In Shenandoah National Park, the fall color may be a little past its peak, but so are the crowds, so it is a fine time for a family hike—with about 500 miles of trails to choose from. Even better, November 11 and 12 are “Fee-Free” in honor of Veterans Day. Average daily high temperatures in town range from 62 degrees early in the month to 52 by November 30. It’s a bit colder up in the Park.
For a change of pace from hiking consider horseback riding. Wranglers near Luray are experienced, friendly and welcome new riders. Let Jordan Hollow Stables guide you into the foothills of Shenandoah National Park, or go with Fort Valley Ranch into the heart of George Washington National Forest.
Luray is also home to the Hawksbill Greenway, a paved, four-mile, multi-use trail that loosely follows Hawksbill Creek. A prettier walk would be hard to find.
Red or White?
Wisteria Farm and Vineyard, just outside Luray near Stanley, offers splendid Virginia wine in a classic Valley setting.
Where to Stay?
The historic Mimslyn Inn has expanded and now offers The Manor House and Cottage Collection.
The Hotel Laurance is a wonderful restoration project on historic South Court Street. Both the Mimslyn and the Laurance were written up in Northern Virginia Magazine earlier this year.
Page County is also the Cabin Capital of Virginia with hundreds of rentals to choose from. Both the Luray – Page Chamber and All Star Lodging can help you find your perfect hideaway.
Photo courtesy Fort Valley Ranch