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  1. Default Washington DC to the Appalachians

    My plans for a road trip in the U.S. next year have now changed considerably, mainly due to cost and time availability.

    The plan now is to arrive in Washington DC late May and spend about 3-4 days taking a drive into the Apalachian Mountains to visit places such as George Washington Nat Forest, Shanadoah area and maybe as far as the springs area near lake Moomaw. We would then return to DC to see the main sites in the city (about 3 days) and then settling into Reston by June 6th for a conference (till 12th, then home).

    Are you familiar with the Mountains area in Virginia and if so, do you think I’m on the right track with timing and places to go? My wife is not much into roughing it, so we would be looking to stay at comfortable lodgings while on the road.

    I appreciate any advice you can share.

  2. #2

    Default The mountains of northern and western Virginia

    Good morning,

    A 3-4 day trip to enjoy the Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah National Park, and even the hot springs in the George Washington National Forest would be a fine May excursion. The following are some ideas for your consideration:

    About an hour west of Dulles (more like 1.5 to 2.0 from Reagan National Airport) I-66 crosses the Blue Ridge Mountains just east of Front Royal, VA. Just south of Front Royal is the northern end of Skyline Drive (SD) and Shenandoah National Park (SNP). The SNP occupies the entire width of the Blue Ridge Mountains for about 105 miles, all the way down to Rockfish Gap at I-64 west of Charlottesville. The SD runs along the ridge top for the entire distance and offers great views into the Shenandoah Valley to the west and into the Piedmont to the east. It's a wholly non-commercial highway with low posted speed limits (not over 45 mph), so travel is at a relaxed pace. There are motel-hotel type accomodations along the SD within the SNP.

    Along the west side of the SNP and SD are the broad Shenandoah Valley and the Alleghany Mountains on the west side of "The Valley", as it's locally referred to. The Valley is as pleasant of a pastoral setting as you'll find anywhere and the towns of Staunton and Lexington offer quaint accomodations. The Alleghanies are a series of long parallel ridges with pastoral valleys in between. The ridges are generally within the George Washington National Forest (GWNF). The GWNF is rather more suitable to hiking, backpacking, camping, fishing, and hunting than to less "roughing it" pursuits, but it's a great area for a drive.

    Within the Alleghanies are the various hot and warm springs of Virginia. The area is generally accessed via US 220 from the north or south or VA 39 and VA 42 from the east/northeast. In the small village of Hot Springs is "The Homestead", a large luxury resort hotel complex operated by Omni Resorts. There are on-site hot spring pools (piped into man-made pools) and other water features. Just 5 miles north up US 220 is the tiny village of Warm Springs, site of the "Jefferson Pools". The Jefferson Pools are partially enclosed in open-roof structures built in the 1700s and early 1800s. They are so named since Thomas Jefferson spent time "taking the waters" in his day. Be aware that one man's "rustic" is another man's "dilapidated"--the buildings are 200 years old and they look somewhat sketchy from both the outside and the inside. They must provide an enjoyable soak, even to those more accustomed to luxurious settings, since The Homestead operates the facilities and busses their guests up to the Jefferson Pools daily.

    About 5 miles west of Warm Springs is the Hidden Valley Recreation Area within the GWNF. At Hidden Valley is a bed & breakfast housed in a restored antebellum mansion. We've only seen the mansion from the outside, but it looks like a marvelous place to spend an afternoon, evening, and morning, with a soak in the Jefferson Pools preceding the stay, succeeding it, or both.

    Just inside West Virginia, west of US 220, is Seneca Rocks Recreation Area. Seneca Rocks will be festooned with rock climbers on fair weather days, there is a nice museum/visitor center, and some easy to difficult hiking trails. Access is from Franklin, WV on the south and Petersburg, WV on the north. From either direction, access back to the Shenandoah Valley is good and takes between 1 and 2 hours.

    Have fun planning your late Spring trip to the mountains of Virginia!


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Allegahnie must-sees

    Foy, thanks for the great run-down of some of the must-see places in in the Allegahnies!


  4. #4


    Not too far from Dulles International Airport are a few towns worth exploring if you'd like an adjustment day -- Harper's Ferry and Shepherdstown. The Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown is a nice place to stay.

  5. Default

    Hi Foy,
    Thanks for your detailed advice - really appreciated.
    Will work from this as a starting point as I develop the plans.

  6. Default

    Hi Foy,
    here's what I've planned. Would appreciate your thoughts as to whether this would be nice a leisurely, as I'll be driving slowly (used to driving on other side of the road) and don't want more than a few hours a day in the car:
    From Dulles, well head toward Front Royal and then South on Skyline Drive. We'll stay overnight on May 29th at Skyland. Day 2 we'll continue South on the SD till the 64, the go west through Staunton onto the 254 to Buffalo Gap. Then South on the 42 to Goshen, where we'll go West on the 39 to Warm Spring and stay overnight (May 30) at the Warn Springs Inn. On day 3 after 'taking the waters' at the springs, we'll continue West on the 39 to the 600 (Bolars Draft Road) and take that around the West side of Lake Moomaw. We'll then retrace back up the 600 and 39 toward Warm Springs, and pick up the 220 going North. We'll follow 220 across into W.VA, then take the 33 East near Franklin and stop over (May 31) in Harrisburg (stay at Courtyard, as I'm a Marriott rewards member). On Day 4 (June 1) we'll go North n the 81, then pick up the 66 near Strasburg and return the hire car to Dulles mid afternoon June 1st.
    cheers, Leigh

  7. #7

    Default A very nice and leisurely drive

    Hello Leigh,

    I think you've sketched out a perfectly delightful drive and one which can be done at a very relaxed pace. I have not driven VA 42 from Buffalo Gap to VA 39, so I am envious of your plan to take that drive through the Alleghanies.

    I believe the Warm Springs Inn is housed in a converted gristmill and has a small restaurant/cafe'/bar attached. Warm Springs is a very small village, but Hot Springs, with the Omni Homestead Resort, is just 5 miles south down US 220.

    I LIKE the idea of driving down VA 600 to Lake Moomaw. That's another piece of the Alleghanies I have not seen. If I'm not mistaken, it's a gravel road, or at least the far end of it is. But no worries, graded gravel roads are traversed by standard automobiles all the time. And you should have no difficulty in reaching Harrisonburg along I-81 towards the end of that day, though you'll probably want to plan on a somewhat early start from Warm Springs, where I'd guess the Lake Moomaw out-and-back would run at least 2 hours, perhaps a little more.

    The only other thing I'd suggest is to allow for some DC area traffic congestion on your final leg from Harrisonburg to Dulles. That can be challenging even in the middle of the day.

    Best regards,


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