Perfectly located between Shenandoah National Park and George Washington National Forest, there’s a hiking trail for every adventurer in Harrisonburg, Va. You can warm up in one of Harrisonburg’s parks such as: Riven Rock Park, where you’ll find a scenic spot beside the Dry River with picnic sites, natural surface trails, and plenty of room to explore. Walk or bike the Bluestone Trail through Purcell Park, take in the sites along the pollinator trail around Lake Shenandoah, or wander through herb and pollinator gardens, mighty sycamore trees, and wetland habitats at the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum.
Stop in Walkabout Outfitter, conveniently located downtown, for anything you forgot to pack for the trail, from apparel and shoes to campsite and hydration essentials. This is also your best resource for the lowdown on the best waterfalls, most epic sunset spots, and kid-friendly hikes in the area.
Hike Like a Local
As store manager of Walkabout Outfitters’ Harrisonburg location, Vince Mier is speaking from experience when recommending the top places around to get on the trail. In addition to teaching hiking and backpacking courses, Mier thru hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2011.
The most important piece of gear out on these trails? A sturdy pair of shoes or boots. “The terrain you’ll encounter on most backpacking trips will be quite different than the places you walk typically,” Mier said. “Rocks, roots, elevation changes, and carrying a load on your back will change your sense of balance as well. I want you to be confident in your footsteps so you can look around and enjoy your surroundings to the max!”
The many trails and overlooks in Shenandoah National Park offer a wide range of difficulty and time commitment. If you’re hiking with kids, Mier suggests Black Rock Summit, an easy one-mile loop out to a rock outcrop with stunning views of the mountains and valley in the national park. The Riprap Hollow circuit will take you to Chimney Rock along the ridge of Rocks Mountain with views to the north and west while the steep descent to Dark Hollow Falls is well worth the effort.
On the other side of Harrisonburg, traverse through George Washington National Forest to the top of High Knob Fire Tower. At an elevation of 4,107 feet, you’ll have incredible 360-degree views. This piece of history was built by World War I veterans and the Civilian Conservation Corps for spotting fires in the area.
“It is worth putting yourself out there and giving it a try,” Meir said. “Avoid biting off too much right away and getting frustrated, and end your trip excited to pick your next one and get back out there again!”
Hit the Town
With all that hiking, you’re sure to work up an appetite. Whether you’re hungry enough for two slices or a whole pie, the aromas from Harrisonburg’s pizza scene will have your mouth watering within seconds of stepping into a shop.
If you’re really hungry, Benny Sorrentino’s is known for massive, 28-inch pies that’ll feed the whole family for days. Combine food and fun at Ruby’s Arcade, featuring specialty pies, arcade games, darts, and a bowling alley. For a true farm-to-table experience, watch your pizza being made before your eyes at Bella Luna Wood-Fired Pizza while sipping on a pint of craft beer, hard cider, wine, or artisan cocktail. Plan your visit to The Golden Pony at happy hour Wednesday through Friday for appetizer and drink specials or try their weekend brunch and late-night entertainment.
When your belly is full, take some time to walk around downtown Harrisonburg and visit Harrisonburg’s five craft breweries and one cidery or try, the Downtown Art Walk which will take you to more than two dozen murals, mosaics, and sculptures in just a few blocks or download the free Traipse self-guided tours app offering free scavenger hunts and guided pub crawl. On the way around town enjoy beautifully-restored historic buildings, gift shops, and
more before turning in for the night at By the Side of the Road Getaway Lodging. Between the cozy cottages and farmhouse apartment, this is a charming place to rest at the end of the day. Enjoy luxurious amenities like a heated whirlpool tub, dual-sided gas log fireplace, mini kitchen, a large fishing pond, and deck, all just minutes from shops and restaurants.
Experience the peaceful mountains with all the benefits of a thriving downtown when you visit Harrisonburg, Va.