Winter Sports in the Shenandoah Valley
Winter has descended on the Shenandoah Valley and despite the rapidly fluctuating temperatures, it’s a perfect time to get outside. Here’s our roundup of winter sports by locality. You’ll find fun on the slopes at our skiing and snowboarding resorts, quiet hiking trails, ice skating, disc golf, and more. Don’t hide under the covers – get out and enjoy this glorious weather.
When the weather is cold, Rockbridge County remains a lovely destination for hiking and cycling. Bike one of the area’s favorite backroads routes like the scenic Lexington-Goshen Loop that climbs North Moutain. Walkers or bikers should check out the flat Chessie Trail as it follows the Maury River and connects Lexington to Buena Vista. With trails lacing wooded and open trails, Boxerwood Garden is another nice place for a cold-weather stroll. Kids will enjoy the natural play area. Natural Bridge State Park offers several miles of hiking trails, a Children’s Discovery Area, and fabulous views of the incredible 215-foot limestone arch stretching over Cedar Creek. The winter views from the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway stretch for miles. Though the Parkway closes to cars in winter weather, walkers and cross-country skiers can still use it.
If you enjoy searching for hidden treasure, explore the Gems of Rockbridge Geocaching Trail. The caches hidden along the trail were “strategically placed to highlight the natural beauty and cultural heritage of the gateway communities along the Blue Ridge Parkway.”
Finally, glean thrills from watching others compete in the USA BMX event on January 27-29 at the Virginia Horse Center.
Gather your gear for some fishing in the South River, which flows for over two miles through Waynesboro’s downtown and is known for some of the best trout fishing in the state. Fish rise all year in this urban fishery, and it’s a popular destination for fly fishermen, even in the winter.
Get your current fishing license, and consult a map of the area so you can find easy access points and learn the regulations and catch limits for each section. A popular stretch of the river is along the South River Greenway near Constitution Park, where it’s easy to wade. Another excellent spot to fish is the fishing pier in Ridgeview Park. If you need gear, guide services, or a special permit, stop in at the South River Fly Shop.
The Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel makes an excellent hiking destination in colder weather because it’s mostly flat, and sheltered. The 2.25-mile trail stretches from the western trailhead in Waynesboro all the way through the mountain to the eastern trailhead in Nelson County. The inside of the mile-long tunnel stays close to 50 degrees, no matter what it’s like outside, but you’ll need to bring a flashlight or a headlamp because it isn’t lit. The railroad tunnel was dug by Irish immigrant laborers and completed in 1858. At that time, it was the longest of its kind in North America. The tunnel was used until 1944 when it was replaced with one nearby that can handle larger, modern trains.
There’s no need to leave Staunton for winter fun this year. Shine up your favorite sled and head to your favorite sledding hill. Try the slopes at Mary Baldwin University, Montgomery Hall Park, and Gypsy Hill Park. The parks even have winter bathrooms! Shop for outdoor gear suited for wintry weather at Stan’s Ski and Snowboard. You’ll also find a wide selection of seasonal gear at Wilderness Adventure.
When the ground isn’t covered with snow, you can still have a good time developing your arm with a round of disc golf at Montgomery Hall Park. This 18-hole course offers three sets of tee boxes and traverses a well-balanced selection of holes suitable for all levels of players.
Hikers and bikers can take advantage of hundreds of miles of trails that wind through the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. Visitors will find shorter hikes for families as well as steep, challenging hikes for seasoned outdoorsmen. For a casual family stroll, try Augusta Springs Park, which is flat and only about ¾-mile long with interpretive signage providing information about history and wildlife. Other destinations with short, easy hikes include Natural Chimneys Park and the Trails at Mill Place.
Another great winter option is to take a tour of Grand Caverns, a natural cavern created as millions of years of rain and underground water wore away the limestone bedrock. Discovered in 1804, this cave has operated commercially longer than any other in the country. For a challenging workout, opt to take one of the rugged (dark and dirty) tours available.
If you’re itching to hop on your mountain bike this winter, take a spin on Rocktown Trails at Hillandale Park. The city park’s system of stacked-loop, singletrack trails offers three levels of difficulty for riders. The easiest route is beginner-friendly, but the loops get more challenging if you’re looking for tougher stuff. The trails feature manmade and natural obstacles and stay in groomed condition as they are cared for by the Shenandoah Valley Bike Club.
You can stay happy all four seasons at Massanutten Resort, but its winter sports are the highlight. The entire family will keep busy on the mountain, and there are hills and thrills for all ability levels. Winter sports include skiing and snowboarding on a variety of slopes served by snowmakers and fast lifts. There are 16 tube lanes that stretch for more than 900 feet. You can also hang out at the bottom of the mountain and ice skate on the enormous rink. Massanutten offers lessons, equipment rentals, and a ski lodge with several dining and drink options.
If you have a second day at Massanutten, spend it paddling and splashing at the indoor water park, which is heated to 84 degrees. You can enjoy slides, lazy rivers, and a FlowRider® Endless Wave to perfect your surfing skills. Even your youngest kids will find delight in the shallow, brightly colored Frog Pond, with kid-sized attractions like slides, swings, and sprinklers.
There’s even more Rockingham County fun to be found at the ice rink at Bridgewater’s Generations Park. Leap and spin or just skate around enjoying the fresh winter air. You can schedule your 90-minute session ahead of time by signing up online. If you don’t have your own skates, the park offers rentals, and they have “walkers” and lessons for those who are just starting out.
Page County: Luray, Shenandoah, Stanley
There’s a lot to do in Page County in the winter, so make sure you reserve a home base at one of the hundreds of cabins this area, the Cabin Capital of Virginia, is known for. Plan a hike in Shenandoah National Park or just drive the Skyline Drive for easy access to incredible views.
Walkers will enjoy the convenience of the Luray Hawksbill Greenway, a paved, two-mile nature trail that’s just steps away from Luray’s vibrant downtown. 68-acre Big Gem Park has a network of trails, a playground, and opportunities to hunt for geocaches. Other outdoor spaces with easily accessible trails include Arrowhead Lake and Ed Good Park. Ralph H. Dean Recreation Park has a large playground and incredible views of the mountains.
Winter is a beautiful time to enjoy excellent hiking around Front Royal. Not only are the views long, but many of the trails are less populated than at other times of the year. Good places to hike include 24 miles of trails running through Shenandoah River State Park. Shenandoah National Park and George Washington National Forest are also close by and boast miles of hiking trails.
You’ll find the perfect adventure-filled winter getaway at Bryce Resort, which was recently named one of North America’s top family-friendly ski resorts by Travel & Leisure. Bryce has 400 acres of activities for all seasons of the year, but it really shines in winter. Zip to the top of the slopes on a high-speed lift and take your pick from eight slopes, which offer routes for various levels of technical skill. Don’t worry if you’re not quite ready for the big slopes yet: this resort boasts a top-rated ski and snowboard school for kids as young as 4 ½. If you decide you need a change of pace from skiing, Bryce Resort also offers snow tubing and an ice skating rink. Bring your own gear or rent it at the resort. When you’re ready to take a break, you can pick from three on-site restaurants for when you need to warm up with a bite to eat.
Still looking for thrills? Sign up for a Sunset Snowshoeing trek with Rev3Endurance. Different excursions are designed for beginner and intermediate snowshoers and are open to participants eight and older. Gear (and post-adventure beverages) will be provided, so all you need to do is strap on your snowshoes and bring your endurance to the slopes.
Keep your heart rate up at 330-acre Sherando Park. Not only is there a fun bike park that has a big trail system for mountain bikers, but there’s also a bike skills area with rollers, teeter-totters, and zig-zag corners. Visitors can also take advantage of an 18-hole disc golf course.
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