Summer is here, and road trip season is in full swing. Whether you prefer paddling mountain waters, flying high over stunning vistas, or relaxing on a porch, these 15 outdoor road trips feature something for everyone. Discover the best spots to eat, play, and stay in this guide to some of the best adventure destinations in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.
Kingsland is nestled between two of Georgia’s natural treasures. To the west is the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, one of Georgia’s seven wonders, and to the east is the beautiful Cumberland Island National Seashore, famous for its wild horses and the ruins of Dungeness. Kingsland is located off I-95 at Exit 3 at the Georgia-Florida line.
Go Outside and Play: Travel to Kingsland and marvel at the natural wonders, take in history, and taste delicious dishes you’ll want again. Catch the ferry to the untamed island of Cumberland. Bring your camera to catch the horses running wild along the white sand beaches or near Dungeness ruins. ‘Land of the Trembling Earth’ was the name for the Okefenokee Swamp. A boat tour or kayak brings you close to the beauty that surrounds you in these dark waters. View a kaleidoscope of colors with over 300 species of birds. Nature’s beauty can be spotted at every turn along the southeast Georgia Coast.
Alpine Helen, Georgia
A natural beauty perched on the Chattahoochee River in the north Georgia mountains, Helen is Georgia’s official outdoor adventure destination. With a population of only 430 residents, Helen is the state’s third most visited city. There is no other town that packs so much charm and so much to do into only 2.1 square miles. Discover the charm of Bavaria in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains when you travel to a place with old world towers, quaint hotels, artisan tours, festivals, gingerbread trim, cobblestone walkways, and traditional German foodstuffs. It’s the perfect spot for a family vacation or romantic getaway.
Eat: How better to fully experience the flavor of Bavaria than with authentic dining—schnitzel, pretzels, sausages, craft beers, and so much more. Try something different, and find some new favorites. Of course, Alpine Helen offers dining options for everyone—from formal to relaxed, uptown to down home, with your favorite local dishes and flavors from around the world, too.
Play: Hike to one of the most visited waterfalls in the south—Anna Ruby Falls. Located just two miles away from Downtown Helen, take a short, paved path to the thundering falls surrounded by Chattahoochee National Forest. Ride the new Georgia Mountain Coaster as you look out over town and the river as you race down the track, reaching speeds up to 28 miles per hour. Keep up the energy at Nacoochee Adventures where you can soar above the trees on a canopy tour or take an off-road sightseeing excursion on an ATV.
Stay: You’ll never run out of things to do in Helen, but at some point, you need a respite. Helen offers lodging for every taste and budget—practical motel options to save you money for shopping, attractions, and dining. Or spacious condo and vacation rentals that let you bring plenty of friends for plenty of fun, plus charming bed and breakfasts, and rustic cabins. There are even camping options so you can sleep under the starry night sky.
The Heart of Appalachia, Virginia
The Heart of Appalachia—in Virginia’s great Southwest—is a treasure trove of outdoor recreation, amazing scenery, and abundant wildlife that leaves many visitors wondering if their surreal experience was a dream. With an ever-growing list of fans, you’ll surely not want to miss out on the fun, excitement, and love! From the curvy Appalachian backroads to the Spirits of the Clinch, and all points of interest in between, you’ll not be let down! Girlfriend getaways, epic road trips, amazing hikes, wondrous waterfalls, river-ready adventures—pick one and start planning your exhilarating time in Virginia’s great Southwest! When your daily adventures end, pull up a chair or stool at one of the many watering holes, distilleries, or wineries in the region to put the cap on the perfect day in the great outdoors.
Eat: Try something new or enjoy an old favorite in one of the local eateries. The Spirits of the Clinch run deep. The choice is yours for prize-winning craft breweries, cideries, distilleries, and wineries to quench your thirst! The options are many, so pick a place, pull up a chair, and get ready to treat your taste buds in the Heart of Appalachia.
Play: With the views and trails at Breaks Interstate Park, the Grand Canyon of the South, you will find yourself in awe of nature and beauty. Spearhead Trails offers the visitor a chance to go off-road through the Appalachian Mountains on off-road vehicles—bring your own or rent one! The State Parks of SWVA offer a look at history while enjoying the region’s varying geographic wonders. Float one of the many biologically diverse rivers with one of many friendly outfitters in every county! How better to take in the gorgeous waterfalls of the Heart of Appalachia than while floating? Float and hike to get the best ones. Schedule an Elk Tour at the Breaks Park or stop into Wilderness Road State Park to see where the buffalo roam.
Stay: Rest assured you won’t have any trouble finding a comfy bed to get you ready for your adventure-filled days in the Heart of Appalachia. From boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts, to rustic cabins and star-filled skies by the glow of a campfire, one thing is certain—there’s nothing quite like the peace and quiet of a night in a mountain home.
Grayson County, Virginia
Grayson County, Va. is home to the state’s highest peaks as well as the second oldest river in the world. There are endless hiking and biking trails, plus creeks, rivers, and streams around every bend that are full of colossal fish, rock bluffs, and boulders that will challenge even the most experienced rock climbers.
Go Outside and Play: Grayson’s two state parks provide ample opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors. Grayson Highlands has 13 trails for hiking and horseback riding with spectacular views. Access to the Appalachian Trail can be found in the park, and this is the perfect place to spot wild ponies. There are world-class biking trails, including the New River Trail State Park and the Virginia Creeper Trail. The New River is the perfect place for a peaceful float or some Class III rapids. The fishing in Grayson County can’t be beat whether you fish for bass in the New or for trout in the pristine creeks.
Alleghany Highlands, Virginia
The Alleghany Highlands is considered Virginia’s outdoor playground with over 50 percent of the land located within National Forest. The region is home to over 100 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, as well as two lakes and rivers that form the Alleghany Highlands Blueway. Most lead to waterfalls, wildflowers, or amazing mountain views.
Go Outside and Play: With a trailhead located just minutes from downtown Covington, the 14.4-mile Jackson River Scenic Trail has a surface of finely crushed gravel and is well-suited for family bike rides and hikes. Douthat State Park offers plenty of space for adventure on the trails and peace and quiet in the campgrounds and cabins. Head to the park’s 50-acre lake for trout fishing, boating, and swimming or hike and bike the 40 miles of trails. The Alleghany Highlands Blueway is comprised of two mountain lakes and two scenic rivers that offer great paddling, fishing, and boating opportunities. You can kayak or canoe on rivers with fun Class I & II rapids or leisurely explore miles of lakeshore. If you are looking for your next outdoor destination, look no further than Virginia’s Alleghany Highlands! #UniquelyAlleghany
Tazewell County, Virginia
If it is true that the mountains draw you in, then pack your bags for a long stay in Tazewell County. From hiking, biking, fishing and camping, Tazewell County is truly the Mountains of Adventure! Your visit will be rewarded with plentiful fishing from native trout streams and local lakes, kayaking on the Clinch River and Lake Witten, and versatile hiking and biking in breathtaking Burke’s Garden. It’s all waiting for you in Tazewell County. No matter what brings you to Tazewell County, you’ll feel right at home while making lifelong memories in the Mountains of Adventure!
Eat: With dozens of local shops and restaurants to explore, you’re guaranteed to find something that catches your eye and whets your appetite. Tazewell County boasts a wide range of southern home cooking, one-of-a-kind culinary dishes, and local tap houses.
Play: Surrounded by gorgeous scenery, come to play and explore the rich history. Trade the hustle and bustle of daily life for a peaceful gateway. Whether you’re lacing up your hiking boots, buckling your bike helmet, or launching your kayak, there is no shortage of enthralling excursions and adrenaline rushes. You’ll also find excellent shopping opportunities, with a collection of fine artisan works, boutique clothing, and unique gift items.
Stay: When the day is done, kick your feet up and relax in one of many comfortable lodging establishments. Whether you prefer a bed and breakfast after a full day hitting the town or settling into a cabin or camping site after your outdoor pursuits, Tazewell County offers a variety of places to play and stay.
Primland Resort in Patrick County, Virginia
With a jaw-dropping range of outdoor activities, Primland beckons adventurers of all stripes to the Blue Ridge’s premier resort. Nestled on 12,000 acres amid stunning vistas in Patrick County, Va., Primland offers breathtaking experiences, both indoor and out—all in a luxurious atmosphere that’s authentic to its mountain setting. Primland is now part of the Auberge Resort Collection, and is rated #1 in the Southeastern U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler magazine.
Go Outside and Play: Primland’s Highland Course ranks among the best mountain golf courses in the U.S. Or check out the 18-hole disc golf course designed by game pioneer George Sappenfield. Hit the trails on a mountain bike, on foot, or on horseback. Go tree climbing. Explore Talbott Reservoir in a kayak. Fly fish for wild brown, brook, and rainbow trout on the Dan River. Or catch trout, bass, and channel catfish from three stocked ponds. Enjoy shooting sports and archery. Go off-roading in a Recreational Terrain Vehicle (RTV). Try out tomahawk throwing. This isn’t even a complete list of Primland’s activities! Visit for an unforgettable experience.
Spotsylvania County, Virginia
Spotsylvania County offers a harmonious blend of rural landscapes and outdoor adventures in a setting as unique as its name. Spotsylvania is a one-of-a-kind destination, offering water sports and fishing on Lake Anna, award-winning wineries and breweries, a world-famous distillery, and scenic walks along endless miles of trails nestled among historic Civil War battlefields.
Go Outside and Play: For a weekend getaway full of outdoor adventure, Spotsylvania County is your ideal destination! Enjoy an action packed stay at the Wilderness Presidential Resort and cool off with a nationally-recognized treat from The Battlefield Country Store. Or indulge in a waterfront cabin at Lake Anna State Park and climb aboard an open-air train car at the Rappahannock Railroad Museum. Take in an exciting nighttime race at Dominion Raceway or sit back, relax, and take in the sounds of a live band at one of the four outdoor wineries. No matter what your interests may be, it’s time to find your spot in Spotsy!
Roanoke — Virginia’s Blue Ridge
You’ll find over 1,000 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and paddling in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, which serves as the perfect destination for an outdoor adventure. Check out epic hiking on the Appalachian Trail, backcountry mountain biking in the Jefferson National Forest, scenic paddling on the Upper James River Water Trail, and treetop camping at Roanoke County’s Explore Park. It’s time to be a #Trailsetter in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Eat: They have trails for everyone in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, including those who want to check out the local food and drink scene! Virginia’s Blue Ridge Cheers Trail is a collection of nearly 30 breweries, wineries, and craft spirits producers located in the region. Each one features their own unique flavors and atmospheres that serve as great spots for a post-adventure drink. Text “CHEERS” to (540) 253-4311 to download your free VBR Cheers Trail Mobile Passport and receive exclusive special offers and discounts!
Play: Chasing waterfalls is highly encouraged in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. The trails that lead to beautiful waterfalls are some of the best hikes in the region, and the entire family will enjoy visiting spots like Roaring Run Falls, Apple Orchard Falls, and Bottom Creek Gorge. You can even wear your swimsuit and make your way down the natural waterslide along the Roaring Run Trail!
Stay: Whether it’s a historic downtown hotel, charming bed and breakfast, peaceful rustic cabin, or a luxurious lodge, you’ll love the variety of overnight lodging options to choose from in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. And no matter where you’re located, it’s never far from a local trail to explore!
Bath County, Virginia
Located in the mountains of Virginia, west of the Shenandoah Valley, Bath County offers the perfect blend of outdoor adventure and extraordinary hospitality. After a full day of hiking, riding, or paddling, you’ll love relaxing in a cozy cabin, charming bed and breakfast or even a world-famous resort. Reward yourself with a cold craft beer and a great meal prepared by a local chef and you’ll be ready for another full day of adventure. More than half of Bath County is national forest land. In addition, the county is home to Lake Moomaw and Douthat State Park, one of the original six Virginia State Parks and still one of the best. With so much protected land in a peaceful, rural county—not a single stoplight in the entire county—there is lots of room to explore.
Eat: Bath County is developing a reputation as a destination for food lovers, thanks in part to a renaissance in local family farms. Creative chefs are working their magic with local ingredients offering genuine farm-to-table experiences. The foodie scene is enhanced by the presence of a fantastic craft brewery, winery, and cidery.
Play: There are over 160 miles of trails around the county. Some are designated just for hiking, while others are available for mountain biking and horseback riding. Road cycling is popular on the winding back roads with little traffic and lots of mountain views. Anglers come from all over to fly fish the rivers and smaller streams around Bath County. If you have always wanted to learn to fly fish or would like to improve your technique, consider spending time with a professional guide. Paddling is available on the Jackson River.
Stay: Bath County has been welcoming visitors since before the American Revolution. The Omni Homestead became America’s first resort more than 250 years ago and has hosted presidents, celebrities, and royalty on it historic grounds and impeccable golf courses. Today, visitors can choose from a wide variety of accommodations, including local motels, private rental homes, award-winning bed and breakfasts, inns, and even camping. Experience legendary hospitality in Bath County.
Lexington, Buena Vista, & Rockbridge County, Virginia
Whether you’re looking for a weekend escape or a week-long quest, your “SMALL TOWNS, BIG BACKYARD” road trip begins in Lexington, a Virginia Main Street Community. Rockbridge County is the southern gateway to the Shenandoah Valley. Conveniently located at the junction of I-81 and I-64 W, visitors have access to a “big backyard”—65,000 acres of public forests, parks, recreation areas and two rivers where outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels can hike, bike, paddle, fish, and camp. Lexington, Buena Vista, and Rockbridge County is the perfect destination to “disconnect to reconnect” with quaint small towns, awe-inspiring natural wonders, and the winding roads in between.
Eat: From hot dogs to haute cuisine, chefs are inspired by what’s local, home-grown, and fresh. Cap off a fun-filled day of exploration with an artisan dessert or a craft beverage. Raise your glass to mountains, excellent flavors, and good times with great friends.
Play: Lexington is the perfect base camp for an outdoor enthusiast’s itinerary. The historic downtown is completely walkable and boasts over 65 indie-owned shops and eateries, historic sites, and guided tours with Lexington Carriage Company. Visitors will experience the small-town charm, southern hospitality, and friendly faces Lexington is known for. Hit the road with these ten must-do activities! Blue Ridge Parkway, Appalachian Trail, Natural Bridge State Park, Upper James River Water Trail, Shenandoah Beerworks Trail, bike the Valley, Glen Maury Park, Chessie Nature Trail, Boxwerwood Nature Center, and Gems of Rockbridge Geocaching Trail.
Stay: Stay at one of the three hotels within walking distance of the historic district and two universities. The Georges, a thoughtfully restored 200-year-old inn, was named #2 Best City Hotel in America and #53 of the top 100 hotels in the world in the 2020 Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards. For those looking for a more rustic or rural setting, the area offers many cabins, vacation rentals, and eight campgrounds.
Harrisonburg & Rockingham, Virginia
Nestled in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, bounded by two magnificent mountain ranges and the impressive Shenandoah River, Harrisonburg and Rockingham County are must-see destinations that boast diverse outdoor recreation, thriving cultural attractions, vibrant and inviting small towns, numerous historical attractions, and farm-to-table dining opportunities. Situated just two hours from D.C. and minutes from the George Washington National Forest and Shenandoah National Park, its central location makes it an easy destination for a day, weekend, or week-long trip.
Eat: Not only is the area home to bustling farmers markets featuring local produce, but it also houses a community of restaurants that bring farm-fresh to life in their unique dishes. An array of flavors will satisfy everyone’s palate, with eateries like Log Cabin Barbecue and Old 33 Beer & Burger Grill, or for the more daring, something from another country at BoBoKo Indonesian Café or Beyond Restaurant. Whether you prefer to dine rooftop, on the patio, or in a historic building, there’s a restaurant for you in this dining destination.
Play: Situated in the shadows of the Alleghany, Blue Ridge, and Massanutten mountains, this vibrant destination boasts a diverse mix of county trails, bike-friendly streets, and challenging mountain bike courses. Canoeing, kayaking, and tubing with Massanutten River Adventures is popular with locals and visitors. Head underground at the local caverns to discover the wonders of nature. Whether your preferences range from tame to extreme, Harrisonburg and Rockingham have attractions to get your heart pumping, your mind expanding, or to let you simply relax.
Stay: After exploring and discovering, rest your head at one of the countless hotels, refurbished historic homes, or a four-season resort. The beautiful bed and breakfasts and historic inns offer comfort and luxury. Wherever you choose to stay, you’ll find friendly folks to make sure your visit is pleasant.
Shenandoah County, Virginia
Find your way back to mountains, rivers, fresh air, and all of the outdoor activities you love in Shenandoah County, whether on the ground, in the sky, or on the water. Only 90 miles from Washington, D.C. and 150 miles from Richmond, Shenandoah County is the perfect weekend destination.
Go Outside and Play: Hit the road and get ready for adventure! Shenandoah County has a variety of accommodation styles from tent camping to “glamping” or hotels, bed and breakfasts, and rustic cabins. Bring your gear for your favorite activities, such as mountain biking, road biking, and hiking, or get on the water with a kayak, canoe, paddle board, or fishing poles. With over 178 miles of trails, there is plenty of room for horseback riding, special OHV trails, and hikes with rock scrambles and incredible views. Experience Shenandoah County by air with a high-adrenaline rush skydive or with a quiet trip through the valley in a hot air balloon.
Mountaineer Country, West Virginia
Mountaineer Country is an extraordinary land of natural beauty and outdoor adventure! This exciting American destination has a secret: a wealth of outdoor adventure–from whitewater rafting and kayaking to mountain biking–plus hometown breweries, amazing historical sites, an extraordinary nightlife, and casual dining with a local flair.
Go Outside and Play: Fly, climb, shoot and stay—the Mountaineer Country Xtreme Adventure Package for six people includes a hair-raising tandem freefall, world-class indoor climbing with equipment, and hands-on experience at a best-in-class firearms facility. The package includes three rooms for two nights in Mountaineer Country, W.Va., and costs just $2,460 total for six people, a $3,300 value. Package details, required waivers, and booking your Xtreme Adventure Package is at VisitMountaineerCountry.com/Xtreme.
Martinsburg & Berkeley County, West Virginia
Get to the Heart of West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle where you can discover, explore, and experience charming Martinsburg and scenic Berkeley County. Here, you can shop in eclectic stores, browse vibrant farmer’s markets, visit the galleries of amazing artists, and savor delicious delights. Only 90 minutes from Baltimore and Washington D.C., and along Interstate 81, Berkeley County is situated at the northern gateway to the Shenandoah Valley and eastern gateway to West Virginia’s serene mountain landscape. It’s your turn to get away, relax, and unwind in a beautiful piece of “Almost Heaven.”
Eat: They say you eat with your eyes before your stomach, but all your senses will be full to bursting after tasting the culinary delights of Martinsburg. Get the napkins ready for a greasy burger from local favorite Blue White Grill. Make the evening memorable with a reservation at wine bar and restaurant Brix 27 for an evening of food and music. Polish off a slice, or two, of homemade cheesecake from Everything Cheesecake.
Play: With extraordinary outdoor adventures waiting, there’s only one thing to do—get lost! Lose yourself in the biking and hiking trails or go primitive at the rough camping sites in the 23,000-acre Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area. Civil War spies and hidden tunnels and trains, oh my! History is a proud part of the present, and you can be part of the story. Learn how a little girl grew up to become a Southern spy, tour the home of Martinsburg’s founder, and walk the rails to Martinsburg’s iconic Roundhouse train station.
Stay: Luxury is in every detail at the local hotels, with great chains like Hilton, Holiday Inn, Fairfield Inn, and more. Like a rugged setting? Tuck in at the RV campgrounds and let nature lull you to sleep.
Cover photo: Skyline Drive in Shenandoah, Virginia; photo by Dave Herring, courtesy of Unsplash