Five Reasons To Camp in Virginia by Christin Healey

It's prime time to set up camp across the country, and the lovely state of Virginia just happens to be one of the best spots around to wander into the woods and get cozy under the stars for a night or two. 


1) Lots of options, not planning! As opposed to most breathtakingly beautiful locales around the country, you don't need to secure a permit in advance for your backcountry camping trip in Shenandoah and the surrounding areas. Keep in mind that some of the prime spots for car camping do require a reservation in advance, but for a true wilderness experience, head for those rolling mountains!


2) Dog friendly! Again, almost every National park in the country has very strict regulations as far as your four-legged friends go. Shenandoah National Park only has a few trails that the pups are not allowed on, and that is purely for their own safety. So grab that leash, your best friend, and don't forget the t-r-e-a-t-s ! 


3) Seclusion meets world class hikes! Virginia is home to some of the most amazing hikes around, with views that stretch for miles and miles over valley, farmland, and rolling mountains.  You can typically find a spot to pitch your tent and wake up to the most dazzling views of the Blue Ridge you could dream up, not to mention a sky full of stars on a clear night that you just may have all to yourself. So lace up those boots, take a deep breath of that mountain air, and get ready to hit that refresh button. 

4) Romantic Getaway! Few things can strengthen a bond like hiking into a spot with all of your things on your back, setting up your little home, cooking up some mountain fare, and watching the sun set below the horizon. Virginia is for lovers after all, and you don't need an expensive getaway to enjoy the best things in life. So round up your favorite person and set out for an epic adventure in the Blue Ridge.


5) Those views! We already touched on this a little bit, but Virginia has views for days. Everything from the drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway or Skyline Drive is pure heaven on earth, and as you peer out of your tent into those wide open spaces, it only gets better. You can camp near waterfalls, secluded forests, open meadows, or with front and center mountains - it's all right there in front of you.



Have fun out there friends, and always remember to LNT to keep VA beautiful. 



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Make a Splash In VA by Christin Healey

Is there anything better than heading to the water on a hot summer day, especially in the South? The summers in Virginia can be long and hot, but luckily there are plenty of spots to take to the water to cool off, get active, cast that line, or just take in those Blue Ridge views with the sun setting over the water. 


My favorite way to cool off or just get out on the water in general, is scouting out one of the make lakes in Virginia, grabbing my dogs, and setting up the SUP or kayak. If you want a bit more of a challenge, you can always test out your balance athleticism with a little SUP yoga. It's not for everyone, but it will get you in the mindset to relax and embrace the true spirit of the South in no time at all. Regardless of your chosen activity, you can't go wrong spending a day on a calm and quite lake in VA. 


Did someone say beach? Along the the plethora of lakes, streams, and rivers, Virginia has lovely beaches  that cater to the family that wants to lay out at a posh resort , or the adventurer that wants to camp at a remote beach site miles away from civilization.  


So while your first thought when visiting Virginia may be history, mountains, and great wine, don't forget that swimsuit and sunscreen to take in every last moment of summer.  Have fun out there everyone!



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Why You Should Hike McAfee Knob by Christin Healey



Let's be honest, McAfee Knob off the AT near Roanoke, VA, is not a secret. If you find yourself at the summit, especially in the summer months, you won't be alone. Typically I like a lot of solitude to go with my hikes around Virginia, but this incredible spot may be the one exception. Because this iconic spot is right off the AT, there are always lots of thru-hikers along side the days hikers. The last time I was there, I met hikers from France, Austria, Germany, and Ohio. They were a few months into their south-to-north route, and crawled out of their tents early to make the easy one mile trek to watch the sun rise over the Blue Ridge. 



And oh, what a site it is! Every time I have seen the sun rise at this magical spot, it has been a different experience as the weather is always changing in the mountains, and with every season comes new scenery to take in. And the truth is, this is just one of those hikes where sharing that moment with new friends makes it so much more enjoyable. Chat with any thru-hiker out there, and each and every one of them will have a story to tell.  Want to make a friend for life? Bring a few extra candy bars to give out - trust me on this one. 



Now let's get to this gorgeous hike itself. If you are aiming to see the sunrise here (which I highly recommend!) plan on leaving the parking lot about two hours before sunrise to make it up. Always bring a head lamp and hiking poles if you are attempting to start this one in the dark, and bring a few extra layers for the sometimes breezy summit. You can also break it up and set up camp at the shelter or the campsite, just be aware this area can get crowded so arrive early.  Dogs are also allowed as long as they are on a leash, and be sure to bring some snacks and extra water for them as well. 


So, whether you are visiting Virginia, or are a long-time resident, be sure to add this one to your list! The combination of mountain views, peaceful hike, and melting pot of people in this sleepy southern town is the perfect combination for lasting memories and a great way to experience the best of the A.T.  Happy trails!

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Virginia Is For Dog Lovers by Christin Healey


Adventure dogs and exploring just go together, and there is no place like Virginia for hitting the trail with your furry friends.  With the exception of a few trails with tricky rock scrambles, Shenandoah is about as dog friendly as it gets, and there are parks galore with refreshing streams and lakes for your pup to frolic in. Below are some of my doggies favorite spots to get out and play, and why they deserve to come along. 


Three Ridges Wilderness is one of my favorite spots to bring the pups along. It's a challenging hike, with rewarding views, and a camping spot with a perfect little stream running by to rehydrate after a long day on the trail. Remember that your pups are usually doing twice the mileage you are with all that running around, so be sure to either carry in enough water or camp somewhere (preferred) that provides plenty for them to recover from the adventure. The same goes for food: when doing big mileage, be sure that you pack in more calories than normal to keep them going strong. 

So you want a little down time after all that backpacking? You're not the only one who loves great views of the Blue Ridge! This scenic drive stretches 105 miles through the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park, allowing for more than enough chances to hang your head out of the window, take in a sunrise, sunset, or anything in between.  Make it a multi-day event by either booking a campsite, or checking out some of the dog-friendly lodging that dots the road. 

Catch a sunrise! Friends don't want to rally to catch the first rays of light? Luckily your pooch is almost always up for an adventure and will great the day with the same enthusiasm as when you have been away for an entire 5 minutes. In Virginia, there are few places that are more iconic than McAfee Knob, with its rocky outcrop and views for miles of the Catawba Valley and Tinker Cliffs in the distance, it's the perfect spot to spend a morning with your furriest pals.  

Take to the water! Especially in the dog days of summer (sorry, just couldn't help it!), there really is no better way to cool off than taking a dip, and Virginia is a prime spot for finding the perfect swimmin' hole.  Beaver Creek is perfect for any kind of paddling, and you can't beat Walnut Creek for jumping in for a few laps.  No matter where the destination, a day on the water is a day well spent. 

Get out and play! No matter what the elements throw at you, it's important to get out there and take it all in. Virginia has endless opportunities for humans and canines alike, so here's to many adventures with your best friend. 

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Best Views in Central Virginia by Christin Healey

Central Virginia has not shortage of incredible views, and you could spend years wandering about and not see them all.  If you want to see some of the best the area has to offer though, I've rounded up a few of my favorite places to soak in the Blue Ridge Mountains, along with some of the info you need to make it happen.  

Humpback Rocks


This little hike in Central Virginia is a must-do for anyone visiting Charlottesville or the surrounding area.  The trailhead is located at milepost 5.8 and the hike is 2 miles roundtrip.  It's somewhat strenuous as it's all uphill, but the view from the top is worth all the effort. If you can, go for sunset or sunrise during the week as this gorgeous spot can get pretty crowded.  

Old Rag

Old Rag is somewhat of a Virginia right of passage.  At 9.1 mies roundtrip and rock scrambles for days, it's definitely one of the more challenging hikes in the area, but the 360 degree views from the top of peaks and some of the prettiest farmland around will downright take your breath away.  It's located half way between DC and Charlottesville, VA, so come prepared for some crowds.  To avoid lines at the rock scrambles, come a little before sunrise armed with a headlamp, and remember this is a fair-weather hike. Do not attempt in rain or snow. 

Spy Rock


Spy Rock is a local's hike through and though.  Nestled behind a fish hatchery in Nelson Co that I used to visit with my dad when I was younger, this spot is not in the brochures, and when you are on top of this peak, life really doesn't get any better.  Roundtrip this jaunt is 3.1 miles, and there are camping spots at the base of the summit that make for a perfect place to get a head start on the first or last rays of the day.  If you really want to experience a special spot without the crowds, you just can't beat this prime spot.  

Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek just goes to show that you don't always have to climb to the top of a mountain for unbeatable views.  15 minutes from Charlottesville, Virginia, it's probably my favorite spot to watch the golden sun dip behind the Blue Ridge Mountains.  This is a paddler's dream, and you can take your kayak, SUP, or small (unmotorized) boat to the water for the perfect afternoon.  

Ravens Roost

Sometimes you don't need to look any further than one of the many overlooks that dot the Blue Ridge Parkway or Skyline Drive to find all kinds of beauty.  With its distinct tree that looks like it has seen many interesting things during its time perched among the rocky outcrop, Ravens Roost is probably the best in my book for pulling over to stretch your legs and take in the view.  Find it at milepost 10.7 along the Parkway. 

Moormans River Overlook

You may have not realized it, but almost every single overlook in Shenandoah National Park faces west.  Don't get me wrong, I love a good sunset as much as the next person, but sometimes you are up early and ready to get out there. To get some golden sunshine first thing in Shenandoah, Moormans River Overlook is a true gem.  With the Blue Ridge sprawled out in front of you and the river glittering in the sunlight, it's one of the best ways I can dream up to start your day.  So head on over to milepost 92 on Skyline Drive, make a little campfire coffee, and you're on your way to a perfect Virginia day. 

McAfee Knob

It's the most photographed spot on the A.T. for good reason - this place is downright jaw-dropping.  If you aren't doing the entire A.T., the trek to get to this spot is a fairly easy 8.3 miles from the parking lot, located right outside Roanoke, VA.  My favorite way to experience this spot is to throw on a headlamp and watch the sunrise over the mountains and filter in over the valley, but it's lovely any time of day.   If you are going during the warmer months, bring a few extra snacks and be a trail angel for a day.  I promise you those thru-hikers will be eternally grateful for a piece of fresh fruit or candy bar, and you will have earned a workout and your karma points for the day. 

These seven spots are all near and dear to my heart, and I hope everyone has a chance to get out there and take in some of the beauty and soak in a little of the magic of Central Virginia. And remember: It's the South y'all - take a deep breath, have a seat, and let the world move by just a little slower. I promise you won't regret it.   

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