WanderLove is about reconnecting with what you love. Experience cool mountain waters, scenic overlooks, and all of the winding roads in between when you road trip the Shenandoah Spirits Trail through the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
As you travel through six counties, several cities, and countless towns, you’ll find some of the finest outdoor recreation and craft drinks Virginia has to offer. Running along the Interstate 81 corridor through the Shenandoah Valley, the spirits trail is a great way to take in the mountain views and delightful downtowns with a drink in your hand.
Featuring 23 wineries, 22 breweries, three cideries, and two distilleries, you’re sure to find a drink that satisfies your post-adventure cravings. Discover the best spots to get on the water and grab a drink in this guide to the Shenandoah Spirits Trail.
Cool Waters and Refreshing Spirits
The Shenandoah River and all of its tributaries provide numerous spots to get on the water for a day of paddling, floating, and fishing in the northern Shenandoah Valley. A number of nearby outfitters offer boat rentals and guided trips for the perfect day.
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. As a smaller, shallow river, the North Fork is an excellent waterway for wade anglers to catch smallmouth bass or to float by canoe. 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.
A number of nearby wineries and breweries make it easy to grab a drink after a day on the water. Head into downtown Harrisonburg where a cluster of five craft breweries, including The Friendly Fermenter and Restless Moons Brewing Co., makes it easy to hop from one stop to the next. As you make your way upstream, Shenandoah Vineyards and Swover Creek Farm Brewery provide a relaxing atmosphere and a much deserved refreshment.
The South Fork Shenandoah River flows 97 miles from Rockingham County to Front Royal on the other side of Massanutten Mountain. Generally a calm river, there are a few class I and II rapids along the way. Twenty public access points along the way 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. Culler’s Overlook provides an excellent view of the river with the mountains rising up in the background.
Just minutes from the riverbank, River Hill Distillery serves aged whiskeys and country wines in Luray. When you get off the river at the northern terminus in Front Royal, head to Backroom Brewery for a flight and beer bread grilled cheese.Take the backroads out to Star in the Valley Estate Winery featuring a modern tasting room experience and elevated views of the valley.
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. Four river access points in Virginia provide anglers the opportunity to catch smallmouth bass, channel catfish, and more.
Settle in for a glass of wine and an idyllic setting at Veramar Vineyard, located in the rolling hills near the river. Or take a short drive to the city of Winchester for a variety of downtown breweries and scenic vineyards, including Escutcheon Brewing Co. and Valerie Hill Vineyard.
With all of these stops and more, you’ll want to keep coming back year after year. Experience WanderLove for yourself when you visit the Shenandoah Spirits Trail.
Please check local guidelines and regulations before making plans to get outside. Remember to practice social distancing guidelines, wear a mask, and respect others’ health when outside.
All photos courtesy Shenandoah Spirits Trail