Skyline Drive/Shenandoah National Park is an incredible leaf-peeping destination. It’s not surprising that the park is something of a national treasure. The only problem is that it does attract significant crowds during the peak of fall foliage.
If you’re looking to enjoy fall foliage in the Front Royal area without dealing with crowds, this post is for you! We’ve rounded up some spots for leaf-peeping that will take you a little off the beaten path, while still ensuring that you can enjoy the unparalleled beauty of the Shenandoah Valley in fall.
1. Shenandoah River State Park
This amazing park is like Skyline Drive’s overshadowed little brother. Located just nine miles down the road from Skyline Drive’s Front Royal Entrance Station, Shenandoah River State Park doesn’t get the attention it deserves. However, there’s plenty to write home about here. The park extends right up the Shenandoah River, and you’ll find plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy.
Visit Shenandoah River State Park to discover 5.2 miles of Shenandoah River shoreline, over 24 miles of hiking trails, scenic overlooks, and opportunities for camping, horseback riding, and fishing.
2. George Washington National Forest
George Washington National Forest is another great option for fall outdoor adventure in the Front Royal area. Though less frequented than Skyline Drive, the National Forest is full of hiking and biking trails, and also boasts great locations for camping and fishing. Passage Creek is a stocked trout stream that flows through the forest. It’s a favorite of local fly-fishermen. And, of course, the forest features plenty of trees, so there’s lots of fall foliage to enjoy.
If you’re looking for scenic views in the George Washington National Forest, Buzzard Rock is a great hike to check out. It’s something of a local favorite. You’ll follow a wooded trail before eventually emerging on the exposed rocks at the top of the mountain. From this vantage point, enjoy stunning views of the surrounding countryside. There’s a good chance you’ll even see some buzzards soaring through the skies.
3. Enjoy Fall Views from the Shenandoah River
If you want to enjoy a relaxing outdoor adventure away from the crowds, don’t forget that Front Royal sits right on the famous Shenandoah River. You might associate river trips more with summer, but the river can be a great fall destination too. As fall colors appear on the tree-lined banks of the river, a boating trip is a great way to enjoy them. To plan your trip, get in touch with one of Front Royal’s River Outfitters. Or, if you have your own boat, you can organize a day on the river independently. This map shows public river access points in the Front Royal area.
4. Take a Scenic Fall Drive
Skyline Drive isn’t the only scenic road in the Shenandoah Valley. There are plenty of other options for those seeking less heavily travelled fall foliage drive. If a fall drive through the Front Royal area sounds appealing, consider this Fall Foliage Driving Tour, developed by the experts at the Virginia Department of Forestry. They’ve carefully planned out the route to ensure lots of opportunities for enjoying the fall leaves. To make the day complete, stop in Front Royal to pick up some fall-themed road trip snacks or a pumpkin spice latte to sip on as you drive.
Don’t let fear of crowds prevent you from enjoying all that the Shenandoah Valley has to offer in the fall. Even if you’d prefer not to join the crowds at Skyline Drive, there’s plenty of beautiful fall foliage in the Front Royal area.
All of fall is beautiful, but the season’s “peak” is that much-anticipated time when the greatest abundance of fall colors fill the landscape. It’s a short window, arriving when the vast majority of leaves have assumed their fall hues, and ending as they turn brown and fall from the trees. In the Shenandoah Valley, peak usually arrives in October (predictions for 2020 point to late October). The season typically lasts around two weeks.
If you’re coming to the Front Royal area to enjoy peak foliage, we’ve put together some helpful information. Read on some fun facts about the beautiful trees you can expect to see. We’re also featuring Front Royal’s top fall attraction: Skyline Drive.
Who’s Who in the Peak Foliage
Yellows, oranges, and reds are the signature colors of fall, and together they make up a peak fall landscape. However, it takes a variety of trees to make all of these vibrant shades appear. Different species contribute different hues to the display. If you’re seeing yellows and oranges, you may well be enjoying a view of beeches, sycamores, or sugar maples. Red maples take their name for the bright scarlet that they contribute to the riotous colors of fall. Meanwhile, oaks are a well-known species that contribute a spectrum of reds, russets, and browns (in addition to covering the ground with acorns – another signature sight of fall).
Of course these tips can only get you so far in determining which tree you’re looking at. If you’re wanting to go a little deeper in your enjoyment of the peak foliage, a little tree identification may fit the bill. Equip yourself with a tree identification field guide before heading out on your hike or fall picnic. You’ll find that identifying trees is a fun activity for all the family. And it’ll definitely help you increase your appreciation of nature’s handiwork.
Skyline Drive from the Front Royal End
Speaking of fall hikes and picnics, the premier spot for such pursuits is Virginia’s Skyline Drive. The central road of Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive is one of the nation’s favorite places to enjoy peak fall foliage. Cresting the peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountain range, Skyline Drive provides access to many unparalleled vantage points from which to enjoy the vistas of fall in the Shenandoah Valley. The northern entrance of the park is conveniently located right in the town of Front Royal.
Simply enjoying a drive through the park is a great way to enjoy the foliage display. In fact, Skyline Drive was actually designed with driving in mind. However, October is Skyline Drive’s most visited month, and the traffic can get frustrating. If you’re looking to enjoy Skyline Drive from the Front Royal end, we’ve rounded up some ideas for leaf-peeping in the park without having to drive too far. That way you can spend more time enjoying nature, and less time waiting in leaf-peeper traffic.
Compton Peak is a fantastic hike near the Front Royal end of the park. It’s a family friendly trail that includes a mildly strenuous climb, but is manageable for most. Park at the Compton Gap parking area (mile-marker 10.4). Cross the road, and head south/west on the Appalachian Trail into the woods. After a mile or so, the Compton Peak trail intersects the Appalachian Trail. Look out for a concrete marker to tell you’ve arrived at this point. A right turn takes you up hill to a stunning viewpoint, where you can enjoy the fall foliage and a sense of accomplishment. Heading left will bring you to a more obstructed viewpoint, but fascinating rock formations. Can’t decide? The two overlooks are close enough that you can check out both.
If you’re not up for a hike, there are some great picnicking spots also within easy distance of the Front Royal entrance to the park. Range View Overlook (mile-marker 17.0) consistently makes it on lists of the park’s top overlooks. From this viewpoint, take in the beauty of the piedmont on the Eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. For views of the Shenandoah Valley to the West, good options are Gooney Run Overlook (mile 6.8), and the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center. Dickey Ridge is also a great place to get advice from a park ranger on other good spots to check out in the park.
Don’t miss out on one of America’s favorite leaf-peeping spots. Plan your peak foliage visit to Skyline Drive today!
The pumpkin spice latte has become a favorite treat of the fall season. And it’s not hard to tell why. You’ve got cozy fall spices, sweet milky goodness, and (of course) coffee. It’s definitely a combination that’s hard to resist. But if you’re looking for something delicious to sip on this fall, Front Royal has options that might tempt you to branch out beyond this crowd-pleasing favorite . . . in favor of something a little stronger.
Read on for a list of Front Royal’s best fall beverages. If you’re in search of an alcoholic drink, you’ll find beer and cider options, as well as mead. But for those who prefer to stick with an old favorite, we’ve identified some great spots for a pumpkin spice latte. Also included: other non-alcoholic drinks that whisper “fall” with every sip!
Front Royal’s Fall Craft Beers
If you’re looking for a cozy fall drink, craft beer is a great place to start. Americans have fallen in love with the German Oktoberfest tradition, and if you’ve ever attended an Oktoberfest celebration, you know that hearty German-style beers play a big role in this fall festival!
A visit to the Front Royal Brewing Company during the month of October will give you the opportunity to sample the best of locally crafted Oktoberfest beers. This fall (2020), Front Royal Brewing Company is featuring five Oktoberfest beers, all for a just limited time.
Definitely make your way to the Virginia Beer Museum, where you'll 'experience Virginia and experience beer'. They celebrate Oktoberfest in a grand fashion! Take a museum tour where you'll learn about the heritage of Virginia beer, stretching from 1607 to the current craft beer renaissance. The beer is flowing, the beer is cold, and admission to the museum is free!
For another option in fall beer, check out Pavemint Taphouse. Here, you’ll also find a selection of Oktoberfest style beers.
Pavemint Taphouse features a range of hard ciders in addition to its beer offerings. Apple juice meets beer: what better drink for apple-picking season?
The Backroom Brewery in Middletown is definitely worth a visit since it has more than 25 beer recipes approved by the State of Virginia. You'll enjoy the beers, the surroundings, and a much more.
For a more rural experience in the Front Royal area, visit Hinson Ford Cider and Mead. You’ll find a range of ciders here, as well as meads. (Note: Hinson Ford’s taproom is closed for the 2020 season, but check their website for options to buy by the bottle.)
As for dedicated meaderies, you can find two right in the town of Front Royal, both offering seasonal fall drinks. This fall, Honey and Hops will release two “cysers” (ciders with honey). They also promise two “surprise” fall flavors. And if you’re looking for traditional tastes of fall, search no further than Saga Meadery. Here you’ll find Pumpkin Spice Mead. You can get your fall flavor fix while enjoying an ancient favorite beverage.
In Search of the Pumpkin Spice Latte (and other non-alcoholic options…)
If you’re determined to stick with the pumpkin spice latte, or can’t think of anything more satisfying than a warm fall beverage, don’t worry. Front Royal has you covered here, too. Visit one of our three local coffee shops for something deliciously cozy to sip on. Daily Grind is an old local favorite. Another option is Happy Creek Coffee and Tea. A great coffee shop with a unique atmosphere, Happy Creek has a variety of fall drink options. Check out their hot and cold apple cider, or savor a hot chocolate. Finally, DL Campus on Main is the latest addition to Front Royal’s roster of coffee shops.
Whether you’re a beer lover, a mead enthusiast, or a pumpkin spice latte connoisseur, you’ll be able to find something delicious to sip on in Front Royal. Don’t forget to make a fall drink part of your leaf-peeping visit to the Shenandoah Valley.
As the season of fall gets underway, apples give way to pumpkins as the seasonal produce of the moment. October is pumpkin month! Pumpkin patches, pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice, and jack-o-lanterns are all fall staples that aren’t going anywhere. If you haven’t had a close encounter with a pumpkin yet this fall, now’s the time! Read on for a run-down of pumpkin patches in the Front Royal area, as well as some carving and eating tips.
Pumpkin Patches for Fall Fun around Front Royal
A visit to a pumpkin patch in the Shenandoah Valley will be a memory you’ll cherish for years to come. The Front Royal area’s pumpkin farms combine scenic beauty, fun activities, and pumpkins that taste as good as they look. You can pick them right where they grew! Plan your visit during the month of October, as most pumpkin patches close after Halloween.
Hartland Orchard pumpkin patch is the closest to the town of Front Royal. It’s conveniently located just one exit down on I-66. Here, you’ll also find delicious pumpkin pies in the store.
If you’re up for a longer drive to a truly rustic pumpkin patch, head down US-340 to Valley Star Farm in Luray. About a thirty minute trip from Front Royal, Valley Star Farm is located in the valley between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Massanutten mountain range. You’ll enjoy great views of both. In addition to its pumpkins, the farm usually has a range of fun attractions, including a corn maze and a duck race. (Due to COVID, Valley Star’s 2020 season is pumpkins only. Extra attractions are closed.)
Heading in the opposite direction, you’ll find several options for pumpkins and fun. Wayside Farm Fun, Hill High Farm, and Great Country Farms are all in the Winchester/Berryville area. These family-friendly options include various side attractions, such as corn mazes, hayrides, and pumpkin guns. Be sure to check ahead when planning your trip, though. Due to COVID, advance tickets are required on certain days at both Wayside Farm and Great Country Farms.
Pumpkin Carving and Eating Tips
When you get your pumpkin home, you have three options: set it out as a decoration, carve it, or eat it (we won’t include letting it rot on the counter because you’re indecisive…). Pumpkins are a simple and tasteful fall decoration. Simply setting one out on your porch can give your home seasonal appeal.
For more involved decorations, carved pumpkins are an obvious choice. Carving pumpkins is a favorite fall activity for both kids and adult. Designs range from simple smiley faces to highly complicated works of art. Don’t throw the seeds away when you scoop them out! Save them and roast them for a snack that’s both delicious and nutritious.
Finally, pumpkin-flavored baked goods are a delicious way to enjoy fall. In addition to its delicious taste, pumpkin also adds a nutritional boost to your home baking projects. Don’t forget, it’s a vegetable! Pumpkin pie is a fall classic. For breakfast or brunch, try some chocolate chip pumpkin pancakes. Or for a naturally sweetened, gluten free, healthy snack, check out these pumpkin chocolate bars.
The Shenandoah Valley is a great fall destination. Don’t forget to include some pumpkin-picking as you’re planning your fall in the Front Royal area.
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