Best of the Blue Ridge 2020

The sun rises over Grandfather Mountain. Photo by best of the blue ridge photographer winner Leslie Restivo.

Events 

Bike Race

Shenandoah Mountain 100 (Stokesville, Va.)

This epic regional classic features a backcountry course that covers 100 miles over six mountains through the George Washington National Forest. 

Runners-Up

—Fire Mountain Inferno (Cherokee, N.C.)
—Alpine Loop Gran Fondo (Harrisonburg, Va.)

Fly Fishing Festival

South River Fly Fishing Expo (Waynesboro, Va.)

Held on the banks of the South River, this fly fishing expo brings in anglers from around Virginia and beyond. Stop by the different stations on land and on the water for casting tips, fly tying tricks, and more. 

Runners-Up

—We’re So Fly Festival (Bath County, Va.)
—Rumble in the Rhododendron (Cherokee, N.C.)

Paddling Event 

Captain Thurmond’s Challenge (Fayetteville, W.Va.)

Although Captain Thurmond’s is a triathlon, the paddling section is usually the stretch that gives racers trouble. This seven-mile paddle down the Lower New River features Class III-V rapids that can be tricky to navigate no matter the water level. 

“The river is usually the factor that really demands that you have experience,” said Hilary Nicolau, one of the race directors.

Runners-Up

—New River SUP Race (Fayetteville, W.Va.)
—Tied: The Green Race (Saluda, N.C.) and Pigg River Ramble (Franklin County, Va.)

Climbing Event

New River Craggin’ Classic (Lansing, W.Va.)

Hosted at one of the best climbing crags on the East Coast, the New River Gorge Craggin’ Classic features climbing clinics taught by the pros, gear demos, film screenings, and time to hang out with other climbers. 

Runners-Up

—Dominion Riverrock Boulder Bash (Richmond, Va.)
—Triple Crown Boulder Series

Retreat 

Wanderlust at Snowshoe Resort (Snowshoe, W.Va.)

Wanderlust’s wellness retreat at Snowshoe Resort featured a range of restorative activities: From a sunrise standup paddleboard yoga session and acroyoga sessions to intimate talks on self-care and a silent disco to finish off the day.

Runners-Up

—Floyd Yoga Jam (Floyd, Va.)
—Rewild Retreats (Nellysford, Va.)

Running Event (Over 13.1 Miles)

Photo by Paul Encarnación

Freedom’s Run (Harpers Ferry, W.Va.)

The Freedom’s Run Marathon takes runners on a journey through history as the course passes through the C&O Canal, Harpers Ferry National Park, and Antietam Battlefield, along the water, and across state borders. If marathons aren’t your distance, they also offer a half-marathon, 10K, 5K, and one-mile kid’s run. 

Runners-Up

—Blue Ridge Marathon (Roanoke, Va.)
—Richmond Marathon (Richmond, Va.)

Running Event (Under 13.1 Miles)

Sticks & Stones 15K Trail Race (Babcock, W.Va.)

Challenge yourself as you run the ridges and gorges of Babcock State Park, taking in the sights of the New River Gorge, past the historic gristmill, and over the river. 

Runners-Up

—Charlottesville 10-Miler (Charlottesville, Va.)
—Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k (Richmond, Va.)

Costumed Race 

Zombie Bash & 5K Run (Wytheville, Va.)

Get into the Halloween spirit with Mayhem on Main Street in downtown Wytheville, featuring the Zombie Bash and 5K. Look out for the zombies as you complete challenges and avoid obstacles. 

Runners-Up

—Asheville Superhero 5k/Super Villain 10K (Asheville, N.C.)
—Surf-n-Santa 5-Miler (Virginia Beach, Va.)

Triathlon

Captain Thurmond’s Challenge (Fayetteville, W.Va.)

Beginners be aware. Captain Thurmond’s is an extreme triathlon meant for athletes with experience. You’ll be tested from the 15.8-mile mountain bike ride and seven-mile whitewater paddle to the final 6.5-mile run needed to cross the finish line. Since experience is needed to navigate the rapids, relay teams can enter with a raft guide to get them through the paddle portion. 

Runners-Up

—King of the James (Richmond, Va.)
—Luray Triathlon (Luray, Va.)

Mud Run/Adventure Race

Photo by Haynes Mansfield, ACE Adventure Resort

Gritty Chix Mud Run (Oak Hill, W.Va.)

Whether you go for the 5K Tenacious Trail or 1 Moxie Mile run, pick your outfit carefully. It’s guaranteed to get messy out there as you crawl through mud pits and shimmy over walls. 

Runners-Up

—Mad Anthony Mud Run (Waynesboro, Va.)
—Muddy ACCE Race (Giles County, Va.)

Weirdest Event 

W. Va. RoadKill Cook-Off (Marlinton, W.Va.)

This twist on the traditional festival cook-off features dishes made with meat found dead on the side of the road. The menu this year featured delicacies like Bad News Bears Bumper Tacos and Wild Boar & Juniper Meatballs.

Runners-Up

—Berkley Springs International Water Tasting (Berkley Springs, W.Va.)
—Bigfoot Festival (Marion, N.C.)

Kid-Friendly Festival

FloydFest (Floyd, Va.)

Your kids will enjoy the Children’s Universe constructed with them in mind at FloydFest. They’ll play the day away with workshops, games, and an open mic where they can show off their own talents. 

Runners-Up

—Red Wing Roots Music Festival (Mt. Solon, Va.)
—Front Porch Fest (Stuart, Va.)

Rowdiest Festival

Gauley Fest (Summersville, W.Va.)

Whether you’re watching from the riverbanks or battling the Class V rapids, Gauley Fest has a reputation for getting rowdy. First started to celebrate the end of plans for a dam that would have flooded the gorge, thousands of paddlers gather to celebrate all things whitewater over the three-day event. Gauley Fest is also a fundraiser for American Whitewater’s efforts towards river access and conservation. 

Runners-Up

—Mountain Music Fest (Minden, W. Va.)
—Trail Days (Damascus, Va.)

Festival Overall

FloydFest (Floyd, Va.)

Over five days, FloydFest hosts nine stages and a full lineup of artists. Look for the 2020 event in July, featuring the String Cheese Incident and Grace Potter. 

Runners-Up

—Red Wing Roots Music Festival (Mt. Solon, Va.)
—LOCKN’ (Arrington, Va.)  

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