Winter Hiking and Skiing Wonders in the Shenandoah Valley
Winter transforms the Shenandoah Valley into a serene wonderland, offering outdoor lovers a unique playground for adventure. With hundreds of miles of hiking trails, plenty of exciting ski runs, and lots of post-adventure fun, there’s plenty to keep you busy all winter long. Gear up and embrace the chilly charm of winter in the Shenandoah Valley.
Whether hugging a ridgeline, strolling through a gently rolling forest, or delving under a mountain, winter hiking in the Shenandoah Valley is a unique and restorative experience. Here are some of our favorite cold-weather trails.
- You don’t even need to leave town to explore Staunton’s beginner and pet-friendly Betsy Bell & Mary Gray Wilderness Park. The trail loops through the woods around a pair of hills the locals affectionately call “mountains,” that rise above Staunton and offer excellent winter views from a pair of overlooks. The trail is a short drive from dining and shopping in Staunton’s historic downtown. If you want some indoor fun, solve a mystery at Crack the Code Escape Room or grab tickets for a movie at The Visulite.
- Another great, pet- and kid-friendly winter hike or bike ride is the Blue Ridge Tunnel Trail, which stretches 2.25 miles along a historic railroad bed to and through an 1850s tunnel that cuts under Afton Mountain. The trail is marked with interpretive signage explaining the history, and if you look closely, you can find cave creatures like salamanders. Even when the temperatures drop, the tunnel remains a constant 50 degrees, but it’s dark, so bring your flashlight or headlamp. Downtown Waynesboro’s boutiques, restaurants, museums, and are just a few miles from the tunnel’s Western Trailhead. Check out the new Virginia Metalcrafters Marketplace, which boasts the tastes of Happ Coffee Roasters, Basic City Beer Company, Common Wealth Crush winery incubator and tasting room, and Patina, an Italian-inspired restaurant.
- If you’re in the Harrisonburg area, try a winter hike along the Hone Quarry Cliff Trail. This steep, but short, trail climbs through several different animal habitats and leads to two rocky overlooks providing western views of Shenandoah Mountain. Need gear before your hike? Find what you need at Walkabout Outfitter or Bluestone Bike and Run. Warm up after a day on the trails in front of Pale Fire Brewing Company’s indoor fireplace, over a pint or two at another Harrisonburg brewery, or a meal at one of Harrisonburg’s farm-to-table restaurants. See the official Harrisonburg and Rockingham County Trail Guide for more area hiking and outdoor fun.
- Shenandoah County hikers have their choice of excellent winter hikes, ranging from an easy stroll up the Woodstock Tower Trail to the climbable fire tower that provides 360-degree views including a section of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River to a 4-mile climb to Buzzard Rock, which rises like a rocky spine over Fort Valley. Serious Hikers can tackle the 8-mile Tuscarora – Little North Mountain Trail, or Big Schoss, another 4-mile option that pays off with amazing views in all directions. Finish your adventure with a trip to Woodstock for the best hot chocolate you’ve ever tasted from Flour & Water. This bakery also serves lattes, fresh pastries, bread, and enormous chocolate chip cookies.
The Shenandoah Valley boasts some terrific skiing. Massanutten Resort and Bryce Resort provide fun year round. They shine in the winter with stunning views and slopes that cater to skiers of various abilities. Both resorts offer equipment rentals, high-quality lessons for beginners, and onsite dining opportunities.
- Massanutten has added new, more efficient snowmaking equipment to improve both the ski experience and lessen the environmental impact. They have updated lifts and added challenging trails that have dramatically improved slope flow. The resort has also developed an online interactive trail map and webcam experience.
- Independently-owned Bryce Resort has 25 acres of skiable terrain and an overall drop of 500 feet. Five lifts service eight runs and the recently added Thunder Jug Terrain Park. Bryce has been praised as one of the most family and beginner-friendly resorts around, thanks to the experienced instructors at the ski school. The resort also offers snow tubing, snowshoeing, ice skating, and hiking around beautiful Lake Laura.
Get out and enjoy some invigorating Shenandoah Valley cold air this winter!
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