Top Natural Novelties to See in a Weekend

Seven Bends State Park

Seven Bends State Park, virginia

Luray Caverns

luray caverns

Natural Bridge

natural bridge, virginia

If you live in VA or the Mid-Atlantic region and you love the outdoors, you’ve undoubtedly visited the Shenandoah Valley. Our majestic mountains, endless hikes, Skyline Drive overlooks, Blue Ridge Parkway (noted “America’s Favorite Drive”), and wildlife make our region an ideal destination for family getaways and romantic adventures.

If you’re visiting for the first time or the fiftieth time, there are a few top natural wonders which no visitor should miss. (And, if you prefer activities involving food and beverages, we’ve got plenty of those too along the way. Check out our Wine Trail, Beerwerks Trail, and Spirits Trail.)

Day 1:

Explore the Seven Bends of the Shenandoah River

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If you opted for an early morning drive (a mere hour and 40 minutes minutes from the Washington metro area), or enjoyed a local inn or b&b the night before, you won’t want to miss Strasburg’s Pancake Underground  cooking up sweet and savory pancakes with fresh local ingredients. Twenty-five minutes north of Seven Bends State Park on 81, this establishment offers waffles, breakfast bowls, sweet treats, and yes pancakes to fuel up for a day on the water. (If you’re arriving from DC you’ll pass right by it on the way to Seven Bends.)

 

While the river is beautiful from its banks, we highly recommend exploring by boat. Bring your own kayak, canoe or tube to enjoy a leisurely 90-minute float through Seven Bends State Park. Boat ramps are available at either end of the park.  Refuel with lunch at the nearby Woodstock Cafe before ascending Massanutten Mountain for a view of the unique, bird’s eye view of the unique geologic formation of the “Seven Bends” from above at the Woodstock Tower.  Just a short .15 mile walk from the parking area, the observation tower offers stunning 360 degree views of the snake-like bends and on a clear day, visitors can peer east to see Shenandoah National Park in the distance.  If you’re lucky, you’ll catch hang gliders taking off from the popular launch site just below the tower on the adjacent Massanutten Trail.  

 

Post hike, dine and unwind at Edinburg Mill Restaurant, merely a 15 minute drive from Seven Bends State Park. The restaurant features rustic American style cuisine and they’re known for dishing up the freshest local ingredients or grab a pint at the nearby Woodstock Brewhouse.

 

QUICK TIP

Looking for a place to stay, check out these unique local options — Stickley Hall, River Bluff Bed & Breakfast, The Cottage on Seven Bends (for glampers), or Hopewell House Bike & Bed.

Day 2:

Explore the Underground at Luray & Skyline Caverns

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Photo Courtesy: Luray Caverns

Wake up refreshed and get an early start at Luray Caverns opens at 9am! If you’re staying near Seven Bends, you’ll travel approximately 40 minutes south. This breathtaking place is the largest set of caverns in the eastern United States. Once you’re underground, you’ll be guided by paved walkways looking out into incredible stone formations at every turn. The impressive cavern ceiling is even 10-stories high in places. 

 

Every Luray Caverns ticket also includes entrance to the The Car & Carriage Caravan Museum, Shenandoah Heritage Village, and Toy Town Junction in the town of Luray.

 

If you like caverns, also be sure to check out Front Royal’s Skyline Caverns located 30 minutes away in Warren County. The Skyline Caverns are the closest ‘natural wonder to D.C.’, perfect if you’re looking for a convenient and unique experience in Northern Virginia!

 

Bonus:

If You Have an Extra Day, Natural Bridge is Next

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This 215-foot naturally occurring bridge near Lexington, VA has inspired awe throughout the centuries. Natural Bridge was once owned by Thomas Jefferson and believed to have been worshipped by the Monacan Indians. The limestone gorge, carved out by Cedar Creek, boasts a network of trails and a 30-foot cascade at Lace Falls. 

 

In addition to the trail, take time to explore the Monacan Indian Living History Village and the Natural Bridge Caverns during your visit.

 

If you want to pack in even more adventure while you’re planning your trip, we invite you to virtually explore Shenandoah County, Luray & Page County, and Lexington before you arrive!

 

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