The Harrisonburg Road Trip: Stars, Bikes, and Beer
Your guide to the Harrisonburg Road Trip.
BRING: Camping gear, mountain bike, designated driver
HIGHLIGHT: Peeping the Supermoon
SOUVENIR: Bottle of Royal Pippin cider, the champagne of apple ciders ($16; albemarleciderworks.com).
Start your road trip on a high note, 25 miles west of Harrisonburg on the West Virginia/Virginia border with a 2.9-mile hike to High Knob Lookout Tower, arguably the best view in the George Washington National Forest. From the Brandywine Lake Recreation Area off US 33, climb more than 2,000 feet on the High Knob Trail to the top of Shenandoah Mountain where the stone and timber tower offers 360-degree views to Harrisonburg to the east and deep into West Virginia to the west. Spend the night at the Brandywine Lake Recreation Area, which comes complete with a cold lake and hot showers (editor’s note: pack enough food/beverages for the night—this is the middle of nowhere).
Book it into Harrisonburg where a breakfast quesadilla ($6, stuffed with eggs, tomatoes, and tater tots!) awaits at the Artful Dodger, a coffeehouse/cocktail lounge on the court square in downtown. The Dodger gets many of their ingredients from the Harrisonburg Farmer’s Market and rotates local artists on the walls. After breakfast settles, head to Massanutten Resort’s Western Slope, where 15 miles of singletrack was built on the side of Massanutten Four Seasons Resort by the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition. If you’re not already a member of the SVBC, access to the Western Slope is an excellent reason to join ($50, plan ahead so SVBC can mail your trail pass to you before your trip).
Ride the five-mile Pink Loop for the best on the mountain, including 2K Trail, one of the newest trails on the mountain that packs big rock outcroppings, sweeping berms, technical gnar, sweeping berms, pump-track style rollers, and did we mention the sweeping berms?
Head to Skyline Drive and cruise north through Shenandoah National Park, bagging roadside views at every turn. Your goal is Big Meadows Campground ($20 a night), a massively popular campground in the middle of the park, where hot grub at Big Meadows Lodge is a short walk away. Bring your telescope—the high elevation of the grassy meadow coupled with the park’s lack of artificial light, make Big Meadow one of the best stargazing spots in Virginia.
Look for the biggest full moon of the year, dubbed the “supermoon,” on June 23 and the annual Perseid Meteor Shower, when you can see up to 90 meteors per hour, on August 12.
Pack up camp and go south on Skyline Drive to the Bearfence Mountain Trail between mile 56 and 57. Knock out the 1.2-mile loop to the top of Bearfence Mountain, which features the best rock scramble inside the park that isn’t Old Rag. The reward for your half-mile of hand-over-hand “hiking” is a 360-degree view from the summit. Head back to your car via the A.T. and kiss Shenandoah goodbye as you head toward Crozet, a small farming community that has become ground zero for Virginia’s local booze movement.
“Rock Paper Scissors” to figure out who’s going to drive the car for your custom booze tour, a 30-mile loop that includes two breweries, a cider house, and a winery. Start in Crozet at Starr Hill Brewery, one of Virginia’s oldest beer-makers, for a six-beer tasting ($5) of the tasting room’s rotating taps (we like the Festie amber lager). Head to King Family Vineyards where you’ll get schooled on the nuances of Virginia wines during a tasting ($7). If you’re lucky, you can catch a polo match (Sundays) at the Roseland Polo Field directly behind the winery. Albemarle Ciderworks makes hard cider using heritage apples. The tasting room is also a great place to catch local bluegrass on weekends. Finish with dinner at Blue Mountain Brewery and Restaurant. Get the Nitro Chili Dog ($9), with a bun baked from local Goodwin Creek Farm and chili made with Blue Mountain’s Nitro Ale. Wash it down with a couple of Blue Mountain’s flagship Full Nelson, a pale ale that uses the brewery’s home-grown hops.