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Best of the Blue Ridge 2016

With 10 states in our coverage, we know there are hole-in-the-wall restaurants, off-the-beaten path views, and treasured local events that slide under our radar. That’s why we asked you, the reader, to help us in finding the best destinations, personalities, events, outdoor businesses, and après-adventure fuel in the Blue Ridge! Here are the 87 bests from Georgia to West Virginia.


Hiking Trail

Greenbrier River Trail, W.Va

RUNNER UP: Appalachian Trail

HONORABLE MENTION: Endless Wall Trail, W.Va.

Stretching for 78 miles along the Greenbrier River, this rail trail is a scenic glimpse into West Virginia’s storied past. Along the way, hikers can get a taste of the wild and wonderful state’s most remote gems like Watoga State Park, Seneca State Forest, and the Monongahela National Forest.

A.T. Section

McAfees Knob, Catawba, Va.

RUNNER UP: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, N.C. and Tenn.

HONORABLE MENTION: The Priest & Three Ridges, Va.

Arguably the most iconic spot along the Virginia portion of the Appalachian Trail, you’ll want to bring a camera with you during your hike to McAfees. From the parking lot off of VA311, it’s a burly 4.5-mile climb of 1,700’ to the cliffs, but the effort is well-worth it, especially if you can motivate before sunrise.

Swimming Hole

Blue Hole, Charlottesville, Va.

RUNNER UP: Sliding Rock, N.C.


One glimpse at the sparkling blue waters of this swimming hole will make this hike-to-dip an instant classic in your adventure repertoire. Often less crowded than nearby swimming holes, Blue Hole is just 1.5 miles down the Moormans River Trail.

Running Trail

Greenbrier River Trail, W.Va

RUNNER UP: Virginia Creeper Trail, Va.

HONORABLE MENTION: Bent Creek Experimental Forest, N.C.

At 78 miles, the Greenbrier River Trail is perfectly poised to be an ultra runner’s FKT. The last time such a feat was accomplished was the summer of 2014. Lewisburg-based runner Jim Moore ran the length of the trail in just under 19 hours. Can you top him? If 78 miles is a little (or a lot) too much, check out the Great Greenbrier River Race, a mini-triathlon held each year on the last weekend of April.

Paddling River

Gauley River, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: New River, N.C., Va., W.Va.


Celebrated every fall, the Gauley River has it all—big water, stunning clifflines, and just enough challenge to keep even the pros stoked. The Upper and Lower sections both are a playboater’s wet dreams come true.

Climbing Crag

New River Gorge, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: Pisgah National Forest, N.C.

HONORABLE MENTION: Wintergreen Resort, Va.

If you don’t already live out of your car, the New River Gorge will make you want to. With over 3,000 established sport and trad routes and hundreds more boulder problems, you can camp (at the American Alpine Club Campground) and climb to your heart’s content for an entire year and still barely scratch the surface of Nuttal sandstone goodness.


Bear Den Campground,

Spruce Pine, N.C.

RUNNER UP: Greenbrier River Campground, W.Va.

HONORABLE MENTION: ACE Adventure Resort, W.Va.

If exploration of the Blue Ridge Parkway is what you’re after, there’s no better place to base yourself than Bear Den Campground. Located just past milepost 324.8, you can rough it out in your tent or spend a luxurious weekend in a cabin. Warning—some cabins may feature an indoor Jacuzzi. If you quit your job and go missing, we’ll know where to look.

Biking Trail

Carvins Cove Trails,

Roanoke, Va.

RUNNER UP: Dupont State Forest Trails, N.C.


Just eight miles from downtown Roanoke, Va., lies Carvins Cove, the second largest municipal park in the country. Aside from killer views of the 800-acre reservoir, mountain bikers can expect over 60 miles of singletrack fit for any skill level.

Urban Park

James River Park System, Richmond, Va.

RUNNER UP: Urban Wilderness, Tenn.

HONORABLE MENTION: Great Falls Park, Md. and Va.

Boat, bike, climb, or just saunter your way through this 550-acre urban gem. The James River itself features class II-III+ rapids and can become especially rowdy at higher water. The intricate singletrack system that runs the length of the river offers runners and riders alike countless opportunities for loops.

Ski Run

Oz Run, Beech Mountain, N.C.

RUNNER UP: Cupp Run, Snowshoe Mountain, W.Va.

HONORABLE MENTION: Lower Shay’s Revenge, Snowshoe Mountain, W.Va.

What makes this intermediate-level run so great? Could it be that it sits on the backside of the resort, with its very own quad chair lift? Could it be the stunning view you get of western North Carolina mountains rolling along the horizon? Could it be that there’s a literal yellow brick road awaiting you on this magical cruise through Oz? The answer is yes. And then some.

Beech Mountain’s terrain park regularly updates features so you can slide and grind every weekend and never get bored.

Terrain Park

Beech Mountain, N.C.

RUNNER UP: Appalachian Ski Mountain, N.C.

HONORABLE MENTION: Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Penn.

Stay mellow  with Beech’s Meadows Freestyle Terrain beginner-friendly boxes and rails or step it up with the more advanced jumps and kickers of Powder Bowl Freestyle Terrain. Powder pending, you can even link the two terrain parks together to make one helluva freestyle ride down the mountain.

SUP Spot

James River, Richmond, Va.

RUNNER UP: Summersville Lake, W.Va.

HONORABLE MENTION: New River, Va., N.C., and W.Va.

With five SUP outfitters in and around Richmond, the James River is quickly becoming a hotbed for standup paddlers. Learn your strokes on the quiet stretches of the Upper, or cruise downstream past Reedy Creek to the class III+ whitewater that awaits. Or, maybe floating’s more your style, in which case, might I recommend one of the city’s plethora of SUP yoga classes?

Fly Fishing River / Creek

Mossy Creek, Va.

RUNNER UP: Davidson River, N.C

HONORABLE MENTION: Watauga River, N.C. and Tenn.

If not for the tough-to-catch, yet worth-the-sweat brown trout fishing, the picturesque farmland alone is worth a visit to Mossy Creek. Even the most experienced angler will meet his/her match on the banks of the Mossy, as no wading is permitted and the fish here are exceptionally observant. Yet for those with the skill, and the patience, tales of 25-inch brownie bites should be enough to stifle the frustration.

Best Flatwater

Summersville Lake, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: Smith Mountain Lake, Va.


Built by the Army Corps of Engineers in the mid-‘60s, Summersville Lake offers visitors over 60 miles of shoreline for exploring. The stunning rock formations that burst from the lake’s surface are popular among deep-water soloists while the habitats those same boulders create are ideal for small mouth and large mouth bass, channel catfish, crappie, bluegill, and walleye.

Spot Along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Grandfather Mountain, N.C.

RUNNER UP: Humpback Rocks, Va.


Situated amid arguably the most iconic miles of North Carolina’s portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the views of Grandfather Mountain here are simply incomparable. Popular with leaf peepers during the autumn season, the curves of the Linn Cove Viaduct hug the mountainside and are truly emblematic of the spirit of the parkway. This is a must-do Sunday drive if you haven’t ventured yet.

Experience breathtaking views of Grandfather Mountain along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Experience breathtaking views of Grandfather Mountain along the Blue Ridge Parkway.


Cascade Falls, Pembroke, Va.

RUNNER UP: Linville Falls, N.C.

HONORABLE MENTION: Crabtree Falls, Va.

Nestled in the Cascades Recreation Area of the Jefferson National Forest, this 69-foot waterfall is a gem year round. Hike the Upper and Lower Trail for a four-mile round trip outing that showcases not only the falls but also the moss-covered boulders, dense rhododendron thickets, and the crystal-clear waters of Little Stony Creek that make this area almost otherworldly.

Wilderness Area

Dolly Sods Wilderness,

Davis, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: Linville Gorge Wilderness, N.C.

HONORABLE MENTION: Cranberry Wilderness, W.Va.

Take one step onto the burly trails of Dolly Sods and you’ll know you’re somewhere special. The Sods consume over 17,000 acres of the Monongahela National Forest and feature ferns, spruce, and bogs typical of ecotypes found in southern Canada. The Sods are often muddy, cold, and wet, but if you can hold out for a break in the clouds, you may just witness the most spectacular sky of your life.

Kid-Friendly Outdoor Destination

ACE Adventure Resort, Minden, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: Beech Mountain, N.C.

HONORABLE MENTION: Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education, N.C.

At ACE Adventure Resort, families don’t have to fret about finding age-appropriate adventures for their young’uns. Be it a float down the Upper New or an onsite Kids Camp session at the ACE Adventure Lake, parents will find more than enough activities to keep the kids busy for an afternoon or week.

Pet-Friendly Outdoor Destination

U.S. National Whitewater Center, Charlotte, N.C.


HONORABLE MENTION: (TIE) black balsam knob and bent creek experimental forest

Play for a day at the USNWC and bring Fido, too. The facility hosts over 20 miles of trail that weave along the Catawba River, and all of it is open to the enjoyment of your furry four-legged friends.

Place for Outdoor Singles to Live

Roanoke, Va.

RUNNER UP:  Asheville, N.C.

HONORABLE MENTION: Charlottesville, Va.

Though just two years ago, the Huffington Post listed Roanoke as one of the six best places to retire in the U.S., the city is undergoing a transformation. With in-town trails and greenway systems, vibrant farm-to-table and craft beer movements, not to mention a low cost of living, what young professional wouldn’t want to relocate to this mid-sized mountain town?

Place to Engage in Illicit and Nefarious Activities

Fayetteville, West Virginia



On the surface, Fayetteville may appear like any summer rafting town, but dig a little deeper, and you may just find yourself walking under the New River Gorge bridge at night with a bellyful of PBRs from Charlie’s Pub. We call that character building.

Place to Raise an Outdoor Family

Roanoke, Va.

RUNNER UP: Fayetteville, W.Va.


Considering Virginia’s school systems  rank among the best in the U.S., it should come as no surprise that many are choosing to raise their families in the heart of the Old Dominion. What’s more, Roanoke’s big city amenities and small town feel make life in the Star City safe, convenient, and far from boring.

Place to Play Hooky

New River Gorge, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: Pisgah National Forest, N.C.

HONORABLE MENTION: Wintergreen Resort, Va.

At least if anyone phones to question your “sickness” or that “appointment” you scheduled months ago, you probably won’t have enough service for the call to come through. When the winter blues have you down and out, keep an eye on Fayetteville’s forecast. The area is known to have bizarrely warm and sunny winter days.

Luxury Destination

The Greenbrier,

White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: Biltmore Estate, N.C.

HONORABLE MENTION: The Omni Grove Park Inn, N.C.

The lavish halls and plush rooms of the historic Greenbrier are fit for royalty. Enjoy carriage rides and massages, golf rounds and poker games, all in the setting of West Virginia’s majestic mountainscape.

State in the Southeast /Mid-Atlantic for Outdoor Adventure


RUNNER UP: West Virginia


Virginia is for lovers…of adventure, that is. No matter the season, whatever the weather, Virginia literally has it all. Surf the beaches to the east, explore the swamps to the south, or boat, bike, and hike your way throughout the rugged mountains to the west.

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Adventurer of the Year

Gordon Wadsworth

RUNNER UP: Heather “Anish” Anderson


Were you to meet 28-year-old Gordon “Quadsworth” tomorrow, with his trunks-for-calves and life-crushing quads, you might find it hard to believe that he didn’t come out of the womb on a singlespeed. In fact, Wadsworth barely rode at all until college, though he did dabble a little in racing during his last years of high school.


“I was kind of a chubby kid, so I didn’t do that great at it,” says the now two-time National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Single Speed Champion.

Wadsworth’s late-blooming cycling career started in 2010. Having just graduated college with a double major in economics and the classics, he made the dive into pursuing competitive cycling at the urging of Blue Ridge Cyclery in Charlottesville, Va.

“They were the catalyst for when I started to buckle down. Having them fuel that fire was huge,” he says of the team at Blue Ridge Cyclery.

Wadsworth went on to race 43 weekends that year up and down the East Coast, racking up enough results to earn his pro mountain bike license. In 2012, he put that economics major to use by picking up a part-time gig with Suntrust Bank, which afforded him the time and energy to put in 20-25 hours of training every week.

Those long hours in the saddle paid off. In addition to earning the 2014 and 2015 NUE Single Speed Championship, Wadsworth’s racing resume is chock full of podium results—in 2015 alone he won the USA Cycling (USAC) Marathon Single Speed National Championship, first place single speed in Costa Rica at the Rincon de la Vieja Challenge 100, first place single speed at the Lumberjack 100 and Hampshire 100, and first place single speed and overall (only the third to do so in ultra endurance single speed history) at the Cohutta 100 in Georgia.

While his racing repertoire continues to gain momentum, Wadsworth says his greatest accomplishment of 2015 wasn’t any one race or time. It was the change in mindset that occurred after friend and fellow single speed competitor AJ Linnel lost his life in a plane crash.

“AJ reminded me that racing’s not worth much unless you’re really cherishing these experiences,” he says. “You can have results, you can have a resume that is better than all, but at the end of the day, what resonates with people and gives you the fuel to do more is that lust for life. It’s that attitude of adventure and excitement and friendship that sometimes produces the best results.”

Wadsworth is now based in north Georgia where he lives with his wife Emily and their Schnauzer trail dog Pippy. When he’s not riding his bike, he’s thinking about riding his bike.

Regional Athlete

Steven Reinhold

Waynesville, N.C.

RUNNER UP: Sophie Spiedel


Steven Reinhold lives and breathes Appalachia. Having grown up at the base of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Reinhold acquired a fine taste for the outdoors and the adventures therein. He’s an ambassador for Big City Mountaineers, an organization that helps under-served urban youth through wilderness mentoring expeditions. As part of the brand’s Summit for Someone program, Reinhold has summited peaks across North America—Whitney, Shasta, Langley, Grand Teton—to raise money for the organization.

Reinhold recently partnered with UCO, launching a #trashtag campaign, making this outdoor enthusiast message about the natural world clear: it’s more than just recreation.

“The outdoors is where I find my center. I feel like the best version of myself while on an adventure. That’s why I keep going back and strive to help provide outdoor opportunities for others.”

Outdoor Legend

David Horton, Lynchburg, Va.

RUNNER UP: Shane Benedict


Revered throughout the ultra trail running community, David Horton is a master of pain. Amid a running career that spanned more than four decades and included well over 100 ultra starts (nearly 40 percent of those he won), Horton set speed records on the Appalachian Trail in 1991 and again on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2005. He also holds the third-fastest time for a transcontinental crossing, which he achieved in 1995.

While Horton’s running days are mostly over, his involvement with the ultra community is not. Nowadays, his pride and joy are the annual races he organizes—the Holiday Lake 50K, Mountain Masochist 50-Miler, Promise Land 50K, and Hellgate 100K are considered some of the toughest in the region.

“I still love directing the ultras,” Horton says. “I can’t imagine not directing [them].”

At the core of this dedicated and steadfast relationship to running? For Horton, it’s quite simple.

“I just love being in the woods and mountains, whether on foot or on a bike.”

Most Inspiring Outdoor Person

Pete Eshelman, Roanoke Outside

RUNNER UP: Nathan Burrell


Though Pete Eshelman is largely known for his role in fostering outdoor opportunities in Roanoke over the last five years, his relationship with the natural world has been a lifelong one. Raised on the slopes of Canaan Valley and White Grass, Eshelman has teleskiied, snowboarded, kayaked, biked, and hiked his way across the country. For over a decade he led kids on outdoor excursions to Alaska, Panama, and Ecuador. Now, Eshelman’s position as Director of Roanoke Outside has allowed his love for getting others passionate about nature to come full-circle.

Photo by Sam Dean/ Pete Eshelman
Photo by Sam Dean/ Pete Eshelman

“My goal is to get more people…connected with the outdoors,” he says. “Nothing makes me more happy than seeing people connect with Mother Nature.”

A.T. Thru-Hiker

Heather “Anish” Anderson

RUNNER UP: Chris Peckham


At 34 years old, Anish (or “The Ghost” as she is known on the trail) has logged more miles by foot than most of us will in a lifetime. A triple-crowner with the fastest-known times (FKTs) for unsupported thru-hikes of both the Pacific Crest Trail in 2013 (60 days, 17 hours, and 12 minutes) and the Appalachian Trail in 2015 (54 days, seven hours, and 48 minutes), her eyes hold a wisdom gained only through quiet battles with self-doubt and the relentless quest for purpose.

A pace averaging more than 40 miles a day inherently lends itself to physical difficulties, like dehydration and hematuria. Yet, despite her intimacy with suffering, Anish also knows beauty, humility, and gratitude, especially for the small stuff.

“One of the main things I love about the A.T. is how much wildlife there is,” she says. “There were so many beautiful moments—listening to owls, having bats brush my shoulders while swooping in to eat insects in my headlamp beam, seeing a black bear perched in an Ash tree, watching sunset from Tinker Cliffs.”

When asked why hike?, specifically, why hike fast?, Anish had only this to say: “Because it’s what I was born to do. It [chasing the FKT] felt like the epitome of what I was meant to do in life.”

Bike Mechanic

Mike Palmeri, Cartecay River Bicycle Shop, Ga.

RUNNER UP: Chris Heslin


Picture a 13-year-old kid from New York City. He’s six feet tall with an afro and a mustache. Though he’s one of five kids in a poor Italian family, their passion runs rich. That passion was bikes and that teenager was Mike Palmeri.

The year was 1979. Palmeri had just raced his first BMX event and placed fifth. Only a few months later, he raced again, this time in the Schwinn Southeastern Championship in Powder Springs, Ga. A five-part competition, the championship brought the biggest names in BMX to the Southeast. To the surprise of many, Palmeri won every event. His performance, and humility, caught the eye of the Schwinn team. By the end of the year, Palmeri had signed a five-year contract to be part of the Schwinn Factory BMX Team.

“My life was turned around from rags to riches,” Palmeri says. “I was travelling all over the world racing BMX, but it wasn’t just racing bikes. We had public appearances and research and development on all different types of products.”

By 18 years old, Palmeri was a seasoned bike mechanic and rider. He took his love for riding to New York City, where he raced road bikes in Central Park to pay for his tuition at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

“You know Project Runway? That’s kinda what I was doing,” says Palmeri, “but I was terrible at it.”

In the 30 years since, Palmeri’s worked as a farmer, trained with (and been humbled by) Belgium’s most elite road racers, and served as a firefighter for 27 years. Amid all of that, he opened up a bike shop in his barn with $163. At the time, that was every penny he had to his name.

“There was no lighting, no heat, nothing,” Palmeri remembers of the shop’s early days. “I just worked and [the bike shop] just started growing.”

Now, six locations later, Cartecay Bike Shop sits at the core of the Mountain Bike Capital of Georgia in downtown Ellijay. These days, Palmeri, 49, spends less time in the shop and more time on the trails.

“If I don’t ride, I get irritated. It brings out the best in people,” he says, adding, “unless you’re struggling up a mountain and you’re out of shape.”


Chris Herndon

RUNNER UP: Sonny Dyer


Former National Champion and World Cup competitor Coach Herndon’s approach to mountain bike training doesn’t just involve reading lines, interpreting terrain, and strengthening the body. As a cyclist for 26 years, 24 of which he spent racing, Herndon says athletes, more than anything, need to train their mental attitude.

“At the high end of most sports, the athlete is [his] worst enemy. I was my own enemy when I raced and could talk myself into being slow quicker than anyone. Being able to identify with what the riders are going through and the thought process that causes these thoughts is incredibly valuable.”

Herndon has served in the USA Team coaching position for USA Cycling since 2011 and continues to work with up and coming youth in the sport.

Fly Fishing Guide

Colby Trow

Mossy Creek Fly Fishing

RUNNER UP: Kevin Howell


In 2003, Colby and his brother Brian opened up Mossy Creek Fly Fishing as a business, sure, but more importantly, as a means to fuel their passion for fly fishing. For nearly two decades, Trow has spent every day of his life fishing. When he’s not on the river, he’s tying flies, a craft he’s maintained since the ripe age of 13. He’s fished throughout the Shenandoah Valley and beyond, to the Bahamas and Belize and back. If you’re looking for experience, this guide’s got plenty to go around.

Climbing Guide

Swis Stockton, Granite Arches

RUNNER UP: Joe Moerschbaecher


As owner and guide for Granite Arches, Swis Stockton has the best of both worlds—not only does he climb for a living, but he also gets to introduce others to a way of life that has defined him since college. Stockton has climbed in Canada, South America, and all across the western United States, so it’s hard for him to pick a favorite crag.

“They’re ultimately all near and dear,” he says, “but without being specific, the granite in North Carolina is the backbone of what I think of when I hear climbing in the Southeast.”

Raft Guide

Linc Stallings

RUNNER UP: Shanna Crompton


Florida born and bred, Linc Stallings has been pushing rubber in the Southeast for two decades. As a guide for Southeastern Expeditions on the Chattooga, Endless River Adventures on the Ocoee, and Adventures on the Gorge on the New and Gauley Rivers, Stallings says that the secret to being a badass raft guide isn’t in the jokes or the moves. It’s in the relationships he builds with not just his guests, but the river as well.

“I’m humbled every day on the water by the river, my guides, and clients,” he says. “The river goddess is finicky. She kinda works hand in hand with karma,” which might explain why, in his second year of guiding, Stallings lost his board shorts to the river during a trip down the Upper Ocoee.

Fortunately, Stallings was able to borrow a pair of Umbro shorts from his boatful of soccer girls, but not without shredding a piece of his dignity.

“Once a client experiences the river with me…[t]hey are no longer a number in the masses,” he says. “They are friends and family, and I’ve got a big family.”

Physical Therapist

Tracy-Lynn Schuster, Schuster Physical Therapy, N.C.

RUNNER UP: Eric Magrum


If there’s anything Tracy-Lynn Schuster loves more than trail running, paddleboarding, and mountain biking, it’s her job as a physical therapist.

“It is a privilege to be invited into peoples’ lives, normally at a vulnerable time, and being able to help them get their function back,” she says. “Whether it is an athlete getting back to their sport or a farmer getting back to the field, I try to help them realize their full potential and assist them to reaching it.”

When she’s not in the office, Schuster likes to frequent the Shut-In Trail and the New River for some one-on-one time with Ma Nature.

Sports Doctor

Robert Wilder, M.D., Chair, University of Virginia Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation



When we think of doctors, we normally see lab coats, stethoscopes, prescription pads. Though Dr. Wilder certainly dons the white coat from time to time, you’d need to toss in a pair of running shoes and a 20-year-old Rockhopper to get a more accurate portrait of this one-of-a-kind doc. An athlete himself, Dr. Wilder created the UVA Runners’ Clinic in 1998, modeled after a similar clinic he had founded in Dallas. For Wilder, the pairing of sports, especially running, and medicine just made sense—athletes need an athlete to understand the big picture of an injury.

“The goal is not just to heal and mend,” Wilder says, “but also to get [athletes] back to their chosen activity and to get them back safely. It’s not just an understanding of a particular injury or illness but also the sport and how that injury will impact their level to participate.”

Dr. Wilder has been practicing sports medicine for 22 years and says the number one cause of injuries he sees in athletes is overuse. He recommends making changes slowly to your routine to avoid injury.

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Outdoor Start-Up

HikeMore Adventures, N.C.

RUNNER UP: Yama Mountain Gear

HONORABLE MENTION: Blue Ridge Bicycle Tours

Founded in 2014 by Curt Teague and Justin Costner, HikeMore Adventures was inspired by the pair’s weekly excursions into the western North Carolina backcountry.

“We wanted to share our passion for the outdoors and to be able to show folks these wild places who normally wouldn’t have the confidence or opportunity to explore the wilderness on their own,” say the team. HikeMore offers everything from waterfall tours to fly-fishing and landscape photography classes.

Adventure Vehicle


RUNNER UP: Subaru Outback


Cheaper than a car, faster than a pair of boots, the bicycle is yours (and our) number one choice for adventuring in the Blue Ridge. With hundreds of miles of gravel Forest Service roads, greenways, rails-to-trails, backcountry roads, and trails galore, we think everyone should ditch four wheels for two!

App for the Outdoors

Waterfalls of Western North Carolina


HONORABLE MENTION: (tie) ViewRanger GPS and AllTrails

For just $2.99, you can have first-hand experiences, stunning photographs, and accurate trail descriptions for western North Carolina’s most scenic waterfalls right at your fingertips, thanks to nature photographer and app developer Todd Ransom.

Farmers’ Market

Charlottesville City Market

RUNNER UP: Asheville City Market

HONORABLE MENTION: Harrisonburg Farmers’ Market

Fruits, veggies, crafts, non-profits, homemade donuts. This farmers’ market is a one-stop shop, with over 100 vendors every Saturday.  You can easily spend an entire afternoon browsing the tents and stocking up for the week ahead.

Outdoor Job

Raft Guide

RUNNER UP: Park Ranger


Imagine if your 9-5 was playing around on whitewater, your desk a rubber raft, and your only required dress code was sandals and a PFD. Rough life, right?

Zip Line

The Gorge, Saluda, N.C.

RUNNER UP: Adventures on the Gorge


As you fly above the Green River Gamelands, you might be able to hear the roaring of the Green River Gorge in the distance…unless that is, you’re screaming your face off. Dropping 1,100 vertical feet from start to finish, this zip line features not only hair-raising speed but also killer views of old growth forest, three monstrous rappels, and a sky bridge.

Yoga Studio

Uttara Yoga, Roanoke, Va.

RUNNER UP: Kula Yoga Studio

HONORABLE MENTION: Wellness Yoga (Bristol)

Find your center at Uttara Yoga, where balance and calming focus are integral components of the studio’s multitude of class offerings. While beginners may be satisfied with bhakti and hatha flow, more advanced yogis may look to the studio’s annual pilgrimages to spiritual hotbeds like Varanasi, India, and Tiber Valley, Italy.

Ski Resort

Snowshoe Mountain, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: Beech Mountain

HONORABLE MENTION: Wintergreen Resort

For fresh pow in the South, look no further than West Virginia’s Snowshoe Mountain. Aside from well-maintained ski runs and facilities, the mountain’s high elevation makes it likely that the resort will get one good dumping (if not more) a year. In February of 2015, for example, Snowshoe got nine inches one Saturday, and 26 the next. Grab your skis and get ready. Old Man Winter is on his way.

Climbing Gym

River Rock Climbing, Roanoke, Va.

RUNNER UP: Brevard Rock Gym


Interested in learning the ropes but don’t know where to start? Thinking about embarking on a training regimen in the off-season? River Rock can help. The gym regularly hosts youth training programs in addition to a variety of skill-based clinics and competitions throughout the year.

Outdoor Hangout

Parkway Brewing, Roanoke, Va.

RUNNER UP: Devils Backbone


Celebrate craft beer, and the outdoor lifestyle, at Parkway Brewing. On a weekly basis, the brewery holds events that honor the personalities, history, and music of the Blue Ridge.

Riverside Pub

Wasena City Taproom, Roanoke, Va.

RUNNER UP: The Bywater


Located just a short walk from the Roanoke River and Greenway, the Wasena City Taproom not only has a gourmet pub-style menu, but also 31 beers on tap.


Secret Sandwich Society (SSS), Fayetteville, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: Stardust Café


Let’s face it. The secret is out. Anyone who has ventured to the small town of Fayetteville for a summer vacation has likely made a stop at the SSS for lunch or dinner. If you haven’t, do it now.

“We don’t really follow fads,” says SSS co-founder Tashia Bailey, “we follow our taste buds. We try to create flavor combinations that are uncommon, but only if they work together,” like, for instance, roasted pork loin with peach jam and Swiss cheese (the Ulysses), or fried eggplant with cherry peppers and roasted garlic mayo (the Fillmore).

Our mouths are watering, especially given the news of a new SSS location in Richmond opening in 2016.

Blue Ridge Brewery

Devils Backbone Brewing Company, Roseland, Va.

RUNNER UP: Blue Mountain Brewery


Nothing says “Blue Ridge” like mountains, trails, and good beer. Fortunately, at the Devils Backbone basecamp, there is all of that, and then some. Run, ride, or walk the trails by day, and then hunker down at the brewery for a night of fine dining and delicious beer.

Fly Fishing Outfitter

Headwaters Outfitters, Rosman, N.C.

RUNNER UP: Mossy Creek

HONORABLE MENTION: Curtis Wright Outfitters

Learn the basics of fly fishing at Headwaters Outfitters, where experienced guides can teach you everything you need to know about casting techniques, fly choice, and reading North Carolina’s mountain streams.

Climbing Guide Company

Pura Vida Adventures,

Pisgah Forest, N.C.

RUNNER UP: (tie) Seneca Rocks Guides and Fox Mountain Guides

Situated just outside of Brevard, N.C., at the base of Pisgah National Forest, Pura Vida is your go-to guiding company for excursions to Looking Glass Rock, Cedar Rock, and Pilot Rock. Learn to climb, or step up your game, with tips from the experienced staff at Pura Vida.

Raft Guide Company

ACE Adventure Resort, Oak Hill, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: Adventures on the Gorge

HONORABLE MENTION: Riverside Outfitters

First time on whitewater? Take a mild ride down the Upper New River. Want a little more action? Go wild on the New River Gorge, wilder on the Lower Gauley, and WILDEST on the Upper Gauley. Whatever your flavor, ACE has an adventure for you.

Environmental Organization

James River Association (JRA), Richmond, Va.

RUNNER UP: Southern Environmental Law Center


Did you know that more than one-third of all Virginians rely on the James River and its tributaries for not just water but also recreation and commerce? The JRA is committed to protecting the James and educating its users on the importance of conserving this special waterway.


Pura Vida Adventures, Brevard, N.C.

RUNNER UP: Davidson River Outfitters


Thru-hike the Art Loeb Trail, rappel down 70-foot waterfalls, or learn to kayak. Whatever adventure you want to bite off, Pura Vida can help you chew it. Owned and operated by Joe Moerschbaecher, Pura Vida is unique in that it was the first outfitter in the Southeast to offer canyoneering under the instruction of American Canyoneering Guide Association certified guides.

Bike Shop

Blue Ridge Cyclery, Charlottesville, Va.

RUNNER UP: Sycamore Cycles

HONORABLE MENTION: Hill & Holler Bike Works

No matter your skill, stoke, or shred level, BRC has a team member who can help you achieve your personal goals. The bike shop is heavily involved in the regional biking scene and has served as one of the leading advocates for trail access in the area. Give them a shout for all of your biking needs!

Running Store

Crozet Running, Crozet, Va.

RUNNER UP: Fleet Feet Sports—Roanoke

HONORABLE MENTION: Ragged Mountain Running

Founded by avid runners John and Michelle Anderson, Crozet Running aims not just to help runners stay geared and fueled, but also to get people outside and back to fitness, no matter the level of intensity.

Outdoor Shop

Walkabout Outfitters, Roanoke, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Va.

RUNNER UP: Rockfish Gap Outfitters

HONORABLE MENTION: Water Stone Outdoors

If you’re looking for somewhere to get a hipster cotton tee with a motivational mountain quote etched across the front, keep on looking. At Walkabout Outfitters, quality is key. The knowledgeable staff at each of Walkabout’s locations can offer you tried and true advice on gear, trails, and all-things-outdoors.

Outdoor Company to Work For

ACE Adventure Resort, Oak Hill, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: Hunter Banks

HONORABLE MENTION: Beech Mountain Resort


You’d be surprised how many people work behind the scenes of an adventure resort—video boaters, ropes course facilitators, kayak instructors, zip line tour guides, climbing guides, bus drivers, mountain bike mechanics, reservationists. Plus, what better way to end your day than by playing in the New River Gorge surrounding your “office,” if you can even call an adventure playground that.

[divider]view best events by clicking page 4 below [/divider]



Costumed Event

(tie) SuperHero 5K, Asheville, N.C.

Bring out the superhero in you and your entire family with this all-inclusive race. Fun for every age, this 5K course weaves throughout some of Asheville’s up-and-coming neighborhoods like the South Slope and River Arts District.

(tie) Totally ‘80s Retro Weekend, Beech Mountain, N.C.

The brighter your neon, the better! Whip out your best vintage ski gear and join fellow shredders on the mountain for a weekend of throwback music, vehicles, and an overall totally tubular snowsports experience.

RUNNER UP: Flight of the Vampire 5K/10K @ Halloween Fest

 The brighter the neon the better at Beech Mountain Resort's Totally '80s Retro Weekend.
The brighter the neon the better at Beech Mountain Resort’s Totally ’80s Retro Weekend.

Toughest Race

Blue Ridge Marathon, Roanoke, Va.

RUNNER UP: Barkley 100 Mile Ultra Run

HONORABLE MENTION: Shenandoah Mountain 100

There’s a reason they call this beast “America’s Toughest Road Marathon.” Start at 7:30 in the morning and huff and puff your way over 7,430 feet in elevation change. But don’t worry — the views make up for the sufferfest.

Rowdiest Fest

Gauley Fest, Summersville, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: Mountain Music Fest


Held the third Saturday of every September, Gauley Fest is the largest annual fundraiser for the non-profit American Whitewater, so party, keg stand, and wet t-shirt-contest all weekend long in the name of river conservation and access!

Blue Ridge Festival

Go Fest, Roanoke, Va.

RUNNER UP: Mountain Music Festival

HONORABLE MENTION: The Festy Experience

For a jam-packed weekend of outdoor activities, demos, and live performances, head to The Star City in mid-October. This event is a must-do for any Blue Ridge lover, and with free bike shuttles and on-greenway access, there’s no excuse for you to not go outside and play.

Mud Run

Mad Anthony Mud Run, Waynesboro, Va.

RUNNER UP: Gritty Chicx Mud Race


Hay bales and tire pits, wall climbs and balance beams, swamp terrain and tunnel crawls. Is this boot camp? Put your big girl panties on, ladies and gentleman. You’ll need to dig deep in this annual mud challenge.

Adventure Race

Wild Gear Chase, Roanoke, Va.

RUNNER UP: Silverback, Green River Games

HONORABLE MENTION: (tie) Equinox Traverse Adventure Race, Rev3 Adventure Shenandoah Epic, and Spartan Race

Part navigation, part time trial, this treasure hunt takes you everywhere within a two-mile radius of the Roanoke Go Outside Festival grounds. Race the clock to win free gear!


Captain Thurmond’s Challenge, New River Gorge, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: On the Trails Triathlon

HONORABLE MENTION: Lake Logan Triathlon

A triathlon unlike any in the region, this longstanding multisport event showcases the classic trails and whitewater of the New River Gorge. Bike for 15 miles to the put-in of the Lower New, paddle seven miles through the gorge, and run six-and-a-half miles up 1,100 feet back to Fayetteville.

Climbing Event

Cosmic Climbing, Adrenaline Climbing, Suwanee, Ga.

RUNNER UP: Craggin’ Classic

HONORABLE MENTION: Dominion Riverrock

Held every Friday night from 8-10 p.m., Adrenaline Climbing shuts off its lights and pumps up the jams. Routes and boulder problems are backlit in funky-fluorescence, making for an out-of-this-world climbing experience you won’t want to miss.

Paddling Event

Green Race, Saluda, N.C.

RUNNER UP: The Animal, Gauley Fest

HONORABLE MENTION: Bridge to Bridge, Green River Games

It’s a gem and a beast of a race all at the same time, held the first Saturday of November each year. Over 200 paddlers flock to the Green River Gorge to test their mettle and spank the monkey (or, as it sometimes goes, get spanked). Join the thousands who hike or boat into the gorge to witness this impressive feat of part-whitewater athleticism, part-carnage fest.

Bike Race

Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race (PMBAR), Pisgah Forest, N.C.

RUNNER UP: Tour de Valley

HONORABLE MENTION: Assault on the Carolinas

Two riders, four checkpoints, and somewhere between 9,000 and 15,000 feet of climbing. Beautiful, yet rugged, this course showcases the best of Pisgah but be forewarned: there are no aid stations along the way. Prepare to suffer…and have fun.

Running Event

Blue Ridge Marathon, Roanoke, Va.

RUNNER UP: Asheville Half Marathon/10K


Beginning and ending in downtown Roanoke, this marathon is a force to be reckoned with. Physical endurance aside, you’ll want a good attitude for the many burly climbs that await, including the ascent to Roanoke Mountain, which takes racers up 780 feet in just two miles.

[divider]Read About Best Food and Drink Establishments by Clicking Page 5 below[/divider]



Backbone Brewing Company, Roseland, Va.

RUNNER UP: Texas Tavern

HONORABLE MENTION: Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company

Taste the best of field, forest, and stream at Devils Backbone’s Basecamp Brewpub & Meadows. Executive Chef Frank Debons knows how to whip up a mean late-night snack.

Brewhouse / Pub

Irish Pub on Washington Street, Lewisburg, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: Appalachian Mountain Brewery

HONORABLE MENTION: Catawba Brewing Company

Weekly Irish tunes, traditional hearty meals, and cold draft beer. What more do you need? How about $1 Bloody Marys every Sunday at 1pm?

Post-Adventure Hangout

Devils Backbone Brewing Company, Roseland, Va.


HONORABLE MENTION: Catawba Brewing Company

Grab a beer and cozy up by the bar, or grab a chair around the newly revamped outdoor space. Just a short drive from some of the area’s most iconic hikes, Devils Backbone is a perfect place to end your adventure-filled day.


Vandal’s Kitchen, Fayetteville, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: Cathedral Café


It’s hard to be unhappy when you’re eating homemade biscuits. For a homestyle, hearty breakfast, Vandal’s got you covered.


Secret Sandwich Society, Fayetteville, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: Devils Backbone Brewing Company


The only danger in eating lunch at the SSS is you may get so full on orzo salad and salted caramel chocolate tart that you decide to play hooky for the rest of the day. And by play hooky, we mean nap off your food-coma.

Order up! The Secret Sandwich Society offers more than just gourmet sandwiches. Pictured here: The General burger.
Order up! The Secret Sandwich Society offers more than just gourmet sandwiches. Pictured here: The General burger.

Coffee Shop

The Wild Bean, Lewisburg, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: Sweet Donkey


At The Bean, good coffee and good company are the pillars of success. Check out the vibe at this West Virginia coffee shop, which serves breakfast and lunch in addition to a top-notch coffee collection.


Laughing Seed Café, Asheville, N.C.

RUNNER UP: Gillie’s


Organic, local, farm-to-table, gourmet vegetarian food with an international twist. The tempura-battered sweet potato tacos are unreal.


Stardust Cafe, Lewisburg, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: The Local


For over a decade, Stardust Cafe has been committed to sourcing locally. The restaurant’s beef, pork, and lamb are within 10 miles of the kitchen, and the vegetable, fruit, and herb farmers are just two counties away.


Chateau Morrisette, Floyd, Va.

RUNNER UP: King Family

HONORABLE MENTION: (tie) Barboursville and Veritas

Located at milepost 171.5 along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a visit to Chateau Morrisette isn’t just spectacular for its wine. The surrounding views of the New River Valley and Buffalo Mountain make this vineyard a unique destination that embodies everything we love about the Blue Ridge.

Blue Ridge Brew

Vienna Lager, Devils Backbone Brewing Company

RUNNER UP: Mothman IPA, Greenbrier Valley

HONORABLE MENTION: Full Nelson Pale Ale, Blue Mountain Brewery

Smooth, malty, amber-chestnut goodness packed into a deliciously drinkable lager. It’s no wonder this beer won gold at the Great American Beer Festival in 2015.

Ice Cream

Kline’s Dairy Bar, Staunton, Waynesboro, Harrisonburg, Va.



Established in 1943 by John Kline, the dairy bar serves up ice cream that is nothing short of divine. With seasonal flavors, and ice cream made in-house daily, you’re guaranteed to have a one-of-a-kind ice cream experience at Kline’s.


Burrito Bar, Lansing, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: Del Sol Cantina


A paddler’s paradise, this burrito joint names its burritos after the best rapids on the Upper Gauley! Affordable prices, large portions, and incredible sunset views of the New River Gorge, make this a popular post-paddle stop in the summertime.


Jim’s Drive-In, Lewisburg, W.Va.

RUNNER UP: Secret Sandwich Society

HONORABLE MENTION: Jack Brown’s Burger Joint

Serving road-bound Americans since the early ‘50s, this drive-in style restaurant still does the old fashion curbside service deal, which, come on, how cool is that. Get your hot dog cravings and onion ring fixings all from the comfort of your car.


Devils Backbone, Nelson County, Va.

RUNNER UP: 12 Bones Smokehouse 

HONORABLE MENTION: (tie) BBQ Exchange and Paulie’s Pig Out

Devils Backbone offers baby back ribs and a pulled pork sandwich smothered in its homemade barbecue sauce. It’s a mouth-watering finish to a day of adventure.

(Editor’s Note: 12 Bones Smokehouse was incorrectly listed as the overall winner in print. We apologize for the error.)


Farm to Flame Food Truck, Appalachian Mountain Brewery, Boone, N.C.

RUNNER UP: Hill & Holler Restaurant


The wood-fired pizza at Farm to Flame doesn’t just taste great—it makes you feel great about your environmental impact. The food truck itself runs on biodiesel and solar panels, and the eating utensils and containers completely decompose within 50 days!

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