Slip away to the cool mountain waters of the northern Shenandoah Valley where you’ll find world-class fisheries surrounded by dazzling landscapes. When you’re done on the water, explore all the Shenandoah Spirits Trail has to offer as you travel through six sprawling counties, several hopping cities, and countless charming towns along the Interstate 81 corridor. Between the 22 wineries, 21 breweries, four cideries, and two distilleries, you’re sure to find a favorite among some of the finest craft drinks made in Virginia.
Get your day started on the North Fork Shenandoah River as it runs 116 miles from Rockingham County to the town of Front Royal. As a smaller, shallow river, it’s an excellent waterway for wade anglers to catch smallmouth bass or to float by canoe. Don’t overlook the sunfish species and the stocked muskellunge populations. Check out Mossy Creek Fly Fishing for guided trips in the area, plus all the gear and apparel you’ll need for a day on the water.
When you get off the river, head into downtown Harrisonburg for a cold one. Pale Fire Brewing Co. features a full line up of craft brews on tap and an open patio where you can spread out. A few blocks away, try one of the flagship, seasonal, or experimental beers from Brothers Craft Brewing with outdoor seating and curbside pickup options.
Seven Bends State Park is an idyllic spot to visit on the North Fork where the bedrock ledges create the perfect atmosphere for a unique fish habitat and productive angling. Muse Vineyards and Woodstock Brew House are both located within minutes of the park, offering a place to relax with a one-of-a-kind beverage in your hand.
With 20 access points along 97 miles of water, the South Fork Shenandoah River is a great option for anglers looking to customize the length of their float trip. With the greatest density of smallmouth bass over any other river in Virginia, you’ll find catch rates can average up to four fish per hour depending on the season and conditions. Largemouth bass are commonly found in slower, deeper pools on the river while you’ll have some luck with channel catfish downriver. To get the most out of your trip, the guides at Front Royal Outdoors know all of the best spots for beginners through experts.
Just off the South Fork, stop into the tasting room at Castle Vineyards, a small establishment with a wide porch for enjoying the views, cornhole boards, and pallet Tic Tac Toe.
The north and south forks converge in Front Royal where the main stem of the Shenandoah River flows for 57 miles before emptying into the Potomac River. Four river access points in Virginia provide anglers the opportunity to catch smallmouth and largemouth bass, sunfish species, channel catfish, and more. Whether you’re looking for a wade, float, or backcountry fishing experience, Shenandoah Valley Fly Fishing has you covered with half day and full day trips.
From the river, head out to James Charles Winery and Vineyard for an evening of delightful flavors from one of Virginia’s newest wineries. . Or kick back at Veramar Vineyard, a hidden gem nestled amongst the rolling hills.
While the Shenandoah River gets most of the attention, you’ll find dozens of smaller streams, creeks, and lakes in the area provide exciting opportunities for more solitude. On the second and fourth Fridays of the month from April to October, Lake Arrowhead in the town of Luray hosts midnight catfishing for the adventurous angler while three local trout farms offer a great place to take the kids and beginner anglers.
Finish up your day with a glass or can of wine at Bluestone Vineyard, located just off Mossy Creek and North River, or among the rolling hills at The Winery at Kindred Pointe, providing a laid back atmosphere in which to sip wine or Life is Hard Cider.
Everywhere you turn, the combination of scenic angling spots and craft beverages makes the Shenandoah Spirits Trail a must visit.
All photos courtesy of Shenandoah Spirits Trail