Outside the Beltway, into Virginia

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of August 29-September 4, 1996
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Outside the Beltway, into Virginia
Question: We will be traveling to Virginia the first and second weeks of September. We plan to spend some time in Washington, D.C., but would like to get more information on some of the best places to go in Virginia.

Julie WhiteFeather
Chicago, IL
[email protected]

The Blue Ridge mountains
Adventure Adviser: Aside from the Dominion State's usual tourist destinations--Mount Vernon, Monticello, Williamsburg--you'll want to spend some time poking around a couple of Virginia's less-traveled, but no less noteworthy corners; assuming, that is, that you don't mind investing a little car time to get there.

From D.C., drive west a piece (that's Southern for about 50 miles) on I-66 and U.S. 211 to scenic Little Washington, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains. Poke around the neat craft studios in town before stretching your legs on a steep, rocky, 7.75-mile hike up Old Raggedy Mountain, on the border of Shenandoah National Park. Probably the best-known hike in the area (so steer clear of crowded summer weekends), Old Rag was named for its craggy, jagged summit ridge, a fact that becomes very clear as you scramble over giant boulders and slink through narrow granite fissures along the top part of the trail. You'll be dang glad you did, because the views of the park are spectacular from the summit.

To find the Ridge Trail, take 211 west to Sperryville, pick up Virginia 231 south and drive about eight miles to State Route 602 at Hughes River Bridge. Turn right and follow the river upstream for 3.5 miles to a big parking area on the left; the trailhead's another half-mile uphill. On the descent, follow the Saddle Trail for a mile to the Weakley Hollow Fire Road, which will bring you two and a half miles back to the parking area.

For more additional camping and hiking information, call the Shenandoah National Park visitor center at 540-999-2243.

If you're hankering for a little salt air, drive southeast to the Virginia Beach coast and north to Assateague Island National Seashore, a 37-mile-long spit of land surrounded on one side by Chincoteague Bay and on the other, the Atlantic Ocean. Shared by Maryland and Virginia, Assateague has busy lifeguarded beaches and nature trails near both the northern and southern entrances, but the middle 22 miles are relatively untouched.

Bring your fishing rod and camping gear and cast for flounder, trout, and sharks before settling in for the night at a secluded campsite. Rent a canoe on your way south in Berlin, Maryland, for about $25 per day (Rainy Day Canoes, 410-641-5029) and spend an afternoon exploring Chincoteague Bay's quiet salt marshes. Pick up a permit at either the Virginia or Maryland visitor centers (804-336-6122 and 301-641-1441), and you can reserve a paddle-in campsite on the Maryland side. Entrance fees will run you $3 per person and camping permits cost $10 to $18 per night. Camping in Virginia is limited to a small private campground on tiny Chincoteague Island; call the Chamber of Commerce at 804-336-6161 for more details.

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