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.
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 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 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 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.
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.
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.