During the summer, there’s no better way to experience the majestic beauty of the northern Shenandoah Valley than on one of its many rivers and lakes. From wildlife sightings to the rise and fall of the mountains, take it all in on a peaceful float trip. After a day in the sun, explore the 22 wineries, 21 breweries, four cideries, and two distilleries along the Shenandoah Spirits Trail as you take the back roads through the valley.
Running 116 miles from Rockingham County to the town of Front Royal, the North Fork Shenandoah River is known for its clear waters and abundant wildlife. With six public access points and a canoe rest stop, you can paddle for a few hours or all day. Seven Bends State Park, located on a unique geological section of the river, features two boat launches and eight miles of hiking trails that connect into George Washington-Jefferson National Forest.
Find a spot to relax and unwind after you get off the water. The porch at Third Hill at DeMello Vineyards is the perfect place to watch the sunset with a glass of wine in your hand while Muse Vineyards features a self-guided nature trail right by the state park. If you prefer the taste of spirits, Filibuster Distillery offers a wide selection of bourbon, whiskey, and hand crafted gin.
On the other side of Massanutten Mountain, the South Fork Shenandoah River flows 97 miles from Rockingham County to Front Royal. Generally a calm river, there are a few class I and II rapids along the way. Twenty public access points make this a popular river for boaters to customize their trip on the water. With 5.2 miles of shoreline, Shenandoah River State Park is a great spot to enjoy the water from the banks with 12 riverfront tent sites and 24 miles of trails.
Several outfitters on the South Fork offer a wide range of trips at various lengths so you can get the most out of your time in the area. Whether you’re looking to tube, kayak, paddleboard, raft, or just need a shuttle to your car, these guides can help you out. Check out Downriver Canoe Company, Massanutten Adventures, Shenandoah River Outfitters, Front Royal Outdoors, and Shenandoah River Adventures for more on the best sections to fit your skill level and to book a trip. Then grab a seat on the extensive patio at Marceline Vineyards for a refreshing post-adventure drink. Pack a picnic and head out to Brix and Columns Vineyards for weekly yoga & wine sessions and live music.
As the two forks converge in Front Royal, the Shenandoah River continues to flow northeast until it empties into the Potomac River. The section flowing through Clarke County is designated a state scenic river. When you’re done with your paddle, pop into Winchester Brew Works for a well-deserved beer on the patio or find one of the restaurants in town that serves sparkling glasses of mead from Misty Mountain Meadworks.
If you’re looking for a shorter outing, check out one of the other waterways in the area. Lake Shenandoah is the perfect outing for the whole family with a boat ramp, fishing pier, and restrooms. Walk the 1.5-mile trail around the lake to learn more about the native flora, pollinating insects, and wildlife you will see. Lake Laura at Bryce Resort is another great spot with paddleboards, paddleboats, kayaks, canoes, and tubes for rent on site. Prefer to spend your morning fishing? Both Mossy Creek and Dry River are excellent trout fisheries, while Dry River also offers more experienced paddlers an exciting ride on some class II and III rapids.
This is just a small sample of all there is to explore in the northern Shenandoah Valley. Discover the beautiful views and good times to be had along the Shenandoah Spirits Trail for yourself this summer.