Walkabout Outfitter (Lexington, Roanoke, Harrisonburg, Richmond, Va.)
A former Eagle Scout and longtime outdoorsman, Walkabout Outfitter founder Kirk Miller always dreamed about hiking the entire Appalachian Trail. In 1999, he decided to quit his day job and do just that. Fast-forward six years to 2005 when Kirk and his wife Tina decided to open up the first Walkabout Outfitter in downtown Lexington. Their mission was to provide quality advice and gear for all-things-hiking, and they’ve stayed true to that in the decade they’ve been in operation. Walkabout has since expanded to five locations throughout the Commonwealth and is a well-recognized outfitter among thru-hikers in particular.
Runners-up: Diamond Brand Outfitters (new locations in downtown Asheville and South Asheville, N.C.), Rockfish Gap Outfitters (Waynesboro, Va.), Half Moon Outfitters (various locations)
Ragged Mountain Running Shop (VA.)
When long-time accomplished runners Mark and Cynthia Lorenzoni first opened up shop in 1982, they would have never guessed that their business would grow to the extent that it has in over 30 years. Now, Ragged Mountain Running isn’t just the oldest running store in central Virginia, it’s the oldest one in the state. The shop hosts over 15 races a year, offers specialized training programs, and has raised over 4 million dollars for various causes through its events.
“We just wanted to get people involved with running, not to sell shoes necessarily,” Mark says.
“That’s why we get up in the morning.”
Runners-up: Jus’ Running (N.C.), Crozet Running (Va.), Fleet Feet (Va.)
Blue Ridge Cyclery (VA.)
For four years, Blue Ridge Cyclery in Charlottesville, Va., has offered central Virginia cyclists top-notch advice on all-things bikes. Founded in 2010 by elite ultra-endurance mountain biker Shawn Tevendale, the bike shop serves as a one-stop-shop for all cyclists, from road bikers to beach cruisers.
“Built upon the idea that we are ‘bicyclists running a bike shop,’ that is truly where we have come from and where we continue to go,” Shawn says. “We would rather teach you what your options are rather than just hand you an item and say it will work for you.”
Runners-up: Liberty Bikes (N.C.), Rocktown Bicycles (Harrisonburg, Va.), The Hub (N.C.)
Southern Environmental Law Center
For nearly three decades, the SELC has been the leading advocate for protecting the South’s air, water, and natural playgrounds. This nonprofit is supported entirely through donations from private individuals, families, and foundations, and features a staff of over 60 attorneys in 9 offices across the region. SELC works on on everything from setting carbon pollution standards to fighting natural gas pipeline proposals and has recently won a number of environmental battles—in 2014, the organization prevented gas drilling and fracking in the George Washington National Forest, set up protective measures for the endangered species of wild red wolves that live in eastern North Carolina, and provided a voice for local citizens outraged by the Duke Energy coal ash spills. Through the “power of the law,” the SELC is breaking down barriers and pushing toward positive progress for our environment—thank you.
Runners-up: Appalachian Voices, WNC Alliance, Wild South, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Originally founded as the Appalachian Trail Committee in 1922, the present-day Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) may operate under a different name but still promotes the same mission and values as the organization did over 90 years ago—preserve the A.T. and maintain a sustainable future for hikers. Headquartered at the trail’s unofficial halfway point in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., the ATC not only helps organize maintenance of the trail but also educates youth about the trail and environmental ethics, works with local communities to help trail town economies, and actively seeks permanent land protection along the A.T. corridor.
Runners-up: Asheville on Bikes, Sierra Club, Carolina Canoe Club, Virginia Happy Trails Running Club
Adventures on the Gorge (W.VA.)
Mountain biking, climbing, rappelling, horseback riding, caving, whitewater rafting, ziplining, disc golf, hiking. Whatever adventure you’re after, Adventures on the Gorge can supply it. Located just outside of Fayetteville, W.Va., this conveniently located outfitter is the perfect getaway for single vacationers and families alike. With firewood delivery and an onsite swimming hole and bar, you might never want to leave this mountain oasis.
Runners-up: NOC (Wesser, N.C.), River and Trail Outfitters (Md.)
Raft Guide Company
Nantahala Outdoor Center (n.c.)
The Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) has been committed to providing a quality adventure experience for all since its opening in 1972. The original outfitter is located in the heart of western North Carolina on the banks of the Nantahala River, but the NOC currently has a multitude of other locations and outposts, from Mountain Rest, S.C., to Erwin, Tenn. With guided rafting trips down seven of the Southeast’s most notable rivers (like the Nolichucky River in Tenn., and the Chattooga River in Ga.), kayak instruction sessions, bike rentals and repair, and course offerings in wilderness medicine and swiftwater rescue, the NOC truly goes above and beyond your ordinary raft guide company.
Runners-up: Wildwater (N.C./Tenn./Ga.), ACE (W.Va.)
Climbing Guide Company
Fox Mountain Guides (n.c.)
Founded in 2003 by British expat Adam Fox, North Carolina-based Fox Mountain Guides (FMG) has maintained the utmost professionalism when it comes to providing a solid, well-rounded climbing experience. From sport climbing in Sandrock, Ala., to ice climbing in the North Carolina Piedmont, these American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA) guides do it all. “We take great pride and satisfaction in showing the Southeast’s treasures to all of our guests and students,” says head FMG guide Ron Funderburke. “North Carolina, especially, is one of the great gems in American rock climbing, and we love to show everyone in the country what they’ve been missing.”
Runners-up: Pura Vida Adventures (N.C.), Climbmax (N.C.), Adventures on the Gorge (W.Va.)
River Rock (Roanoke, Va.)
You may have been climbing at an indoor rock wall before, but chances are, you’ve never seen anything like this. With over 4,500 square feet of bouldering routes, an additional 4,000 square feet of roped climbing with more than 30 routes set up for both top-rope and lead, and the knowledgeable staff to help you train, River Rock is a one-stop-shop for beginner and veteran climbers alike looking to learn skills and train hard.
Runners-up: Peak Experiences (Richmond, Va.), Rocky Top (Charlottesville, Va.), Climbmax (Asheville, N.C.)
Snowshoe Mountain (W. Va.)
One trip to Snowshoe and you’ll see where this resort gets its reputation for quality snow and one helluva good time. Home to 251 acres of powder goodness with three separate ski areas, 57 trails, and two runs in particular—Cupp Run and Shay’s Revenge—with 1,500 feet of vertical rowdiness, Snowshoe’s isolated mountaintop resort is a haven for powder hounds.
Runners-up: Wintergreen (Va.), Beech Mountain (N.C.), Wisp (Md.)
Uttara Yoga (Roanoke, Va.)
Hatha, restorative, power, vinyasa, and prenatal and triathlete-specific yoga classes. Wherever your skillset, whatever your need, Roanoake’s Uttara Yoga studio has a class, a teacher, a workshop, built for you. You can even join the experienced staff from Uttara on a yoga retreat to India, where you’ll be immersed in Sadhana for two weeks. Namaste y’all.
Runners-up: Hot Yoga Charlottesville (Va.), Asheville Yoga Center (N.C.)
Just 20 minutes north of Asheville, Navitat Canopy Adventures offers tree-based zipline adventures that give visitors a unique perspective on the mountains of North Carolina. Glide side-by-side with your friend or family member and take in the 360-degree views of the Blue Ridge Mountains together or race each other to the finish to see who’s the fastest zipper. With the longest, highest, and fastest ziplines in the South, you will not be disappointed with your Navitat tour.
Runners-up: NOC Mountaintop Zip Line (N.C.), Treetops Canopy Tour (New River Gorge, W.Va.), The Gorge Zip Line (N.C.)