Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. If you’ve only heard them mentioned once or twice, you’re not alone. And yet these underappreciated snow sports deserve a lot more popularity. Their famous cousins, skiing and snowboarding, tend to steal the spotlight. But both essentially require travel to expensive resorts, and demand a reasonably high level of physical fitness. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are much more widely accessible. If you like to hike (or even walk!), and live in an area where there’s snow, chances are you’ll be able to enjoy one or the other with only minimal upfront investment.
A snowy day in the Front Royal area is a great setting for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Whether you’re new to these snow sports, or an old hand, we’ll hope you’ll adventure out this winter and enjoy them. Read on for more information about these sports, as well as some suggestions of where to go in the Front Royal area.
Snowshoeing – the Basics
Snowshoeing can be as simple as hiking in the snow . . . but using specially designed snowshoes to make your life easier. Snowshoes work by providing a wider base for your feet than normal shoes. With your weight distributed over the wider area of the snowshoe, you can walk on top of the snow, without your feet sinking fully into it.
It’s possible to take a deep dive into various specialized techniques for snowshoeing. However, it really can be as simple as slipping snowshoes over your boots and taking a walk (in snow, of course!). “If you can walk, you can snowshoe” is a common mantra among snowshoeing enthusiasts. Snowshoeing is a great way to continue to enjoy your favorite hiking trails through the winter months. To get started, simply buy or rent a pair of snowshoes and head out. Poles are also worth considering if you plan to tackle steep slopes or tricky terrain.
Cross-country skiing is both more expensive and more challenging than snowshoeing. Nevertheless, it’s still more accessible than downhill skiing. It’s a great sport to try if you’re looking for a bit more excitement than snowshoeing.
Cross-country skiing involves a pair of skies similar to those used for downhill skiing. Poles are also essential. Cross-country skis allow the skier to traverse flat and even uphill terrain in addition to downhill runs. Because of the speed involved, downhill slopes are the most challenging to navigate in cross-country skiing, and should be approached with caution.
To get started cross-country skiing, it’s helpful to do some research into techniques. Check out videos such as this one, which give beginners a good introduction to the sport. You can also possible to look into instruction and guided trips, but since you can take cross-country skiing at your own pace, it’s also possible to try it out on your own.
Locations for Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing in the Front Royal Area
With snowshoeing’s similarities to hiking, it is possible to snowshoe on many of the great hiking trails around Front Royal. In fact, there are so many beautiful places to hike around Front Royal, that it’s a great place to give snowshoeing a try. When Skyline Drive is closed to traffic because of snowy conditions, remember you can access the park on foot from any boundary access point.
To find a great cross-country skiing trail, you’ll need to be a little more selective. You’ll want to find smooth trails, with gentle slopes. However, there’s still plenty to enjoy in the Front Royal area. Check out some of the trails in Sky Meadows State Park where the terrain is less mountainous. In Shenandoah National Park, the Limberlost Trail is a top pick for beginner cross-country skiers. The Big Meadows area is another part of the park that is particularly popular, with its gentle slopes and open fields. Finally, the iconic Skyline Drive itself might be an option. Before the road is plowed after a snowfall, while it’s still closed to traffic, it can provide an ideal surface for cross-country skiing, complete with stunning views and overlooks. Of course, you’ll need to keep a close eye out for the snowplow if you take this option. It’s also suggested that skiers access Skyline Drive at the Thornton Gap entrance station, rather than in Front Royal. A long, steep climb is the first thing you face after the Front Royal entrance station.
Though they are accessible to a wide variety of people, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing do involve some risk. As with any sport, especially those involving snowy and icy conditions, it is possible to suffer serious injury while snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Don’t be discouraged from giving these sports a try, but remember that it is important to exercise caution and stay within your limits. Ideally, you should bring a buddy if you are heading out onto the trails. At least be sure to let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. If you feel uncertain about your proficiency, it is much better to obtain professional training than to risk injury.
Don’t let the fantastic hiking trails in the Front Royal area lie silent and unused this winter.
A snowfall in the Front Royal area is a great opportunity to get out and give one of these snow sports a try. It’s not too hard to get started, and you may discover a new favorite way to exercise in the winter.
Whether you prefer an organized event or an excursion that you can take at your own pace, Front Royal, Virginia has you covered all year long. If you’re looking to get out and enjoy nature, Warren County offers hiking and biking trails, and about a hundred different ways to experience the stunning beauty of the Shenandoah Valley. And a calendar filled with quintessential small town festivals means you won’t get bored. Spring, summer, autumn, and winter, there’s always something happening in Front Royal. Here’s our guide to a year of fun and festivity.
**Due to Covid-19 and the restrictions put in place, many of our scheduled events have been cancelled. However, not forever and have been rescheduled for 2021.**
Spring in Front Royal: The Shenandoah Valley Awakens
Eight miles south of Front Royal, the village of Browntown kicks off the season’s festivals with its annual Redbud Festival. Every April, the redbuds bloom, and the Browntown community comes out to celebrate. You can enjoy delicious home cooked food, live music, and craft sales. A highlight of the day is the Gooney Creek Duck Race, a fun event for all the family.
Front Royal’s own historic Main Street hosts the first of many annual events in April as well. At Taste of the Town, Front Royal’s independent restaurants come out on Main Street with the best of their tempting cuisine. Buy a tasting ticket and stroll Warren County’s quaintest street as you sample delicious food in a festive atmosphere. Or sit down to enjoy and meet some new friends.
Main Street becomes the scene of two more festivals every May. Family Fun Day happens towards the beginning of May. Come out for a parade, an antique car show, games and face-painting for kids, and the trademark Louisiana Crawfish.
Later in May, Main Street transforms into for the annual Wine and Craft Festival. You won’t want to miss this day of fun for the whole family. Adults can taste wine from a selection of Virginia wineries. Meanwhile, festival has plenty to offer for the rest of the family. Delicious food, live music, and games for kids keep everyone happy. In between games and wine tastings, peruse the offerings from an array of talented artists. Craft sales include fine jewelry, clothing, pottery, and original paintings.
For a more relaxed way to enjoy the Shenandoah Valley in the spring, try a drive on one of the scenic roads around Warren County. The famous Skyline Drive starts right in Front Royal. It’s an obvious choice. The long drive down the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains features many overlooks where you can pull off and enjoy the view. But you don’t need to be on top of the mountain to enjoy it. For nature-lovers, other less well-known byways also offer stunning vistas in the spring. If you leave Front Royal going south on 340, you’ll be treated to a drive down the valley with the Blue Ridge Mountains on your left, and the Massanutten Mountain on the right. Alternatively, you can head north on 624 for views of farm fields and tree-lined roads. If you get as far as Boyce, finish your drive at the State Arboretum of Virginia, a fantastic spot for a spring picnic or a relaxing walk.
Summer in Front Royal: The Perfect Place to Enjoy Nature
America’s ultimate summer party happens on the Fourth of July. With events taking place up and down the Shenandoah Valley, Front Royal won’t be left out. The Northern Virginia 4-H Center hosts Front Royal’s Fourth of July celebration, with live music, games, food trucks and, of course, fireworks.
For a low-key summer evening in the Shenandoah Valley, try out Gazebo Gatherings, a free weekly concert series at Front Royal’s downtown Gazebo. Bring your own lawn chair and enjoy music and the community of Warren County.
Nature is easy to enjoy on an idyllic summer day in the Shenandoah Valley. Ideally situated on the iconic Shenandoah River, Front Royal offers many opportunities for outdoor recreation. Eastham Park is conveniently located only a mile from Front Royal’s historic downtown. The park features a generous stretch of riverfront, with a scenic walking trail, and access for swimming, boating, and fishing. Other popular public access points to the river include the Riverton Boat Ramp, and the Morgan Ford Boat Landing. Spend a day swimming and fishing at one of these points, or bring your own kayak or tube and float from one to the next.
Getting out on the river is a great recipe for summer fun, but it does carry some risks. Make sure to follow appropriate safety precautions, including wearing a life-preserver. If you need more guidance, or if you need to rent boating equipment, check out one of Front Royal’s own outfitters. If you’re fishing, be sure to purchase the appropriate license.
Autumn in Front Royal: Spectacular Hiking and Fall Fun
If you thought spring and summer in Front Royal good, just wait for autumn! Warren County becomes a sought-after tourist destination in the fall. As the tree-lined Shenandoah Valley lights up in vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow, Skyline Drive become a destination for many seeking nature’s beauty. The park sees more visitors in October than in any other month of the year.
Front Royal’s festivals continue through the autumn too. On Labor Day Weekend, the Skyline Ranch Resort becomes the home of the three day Appaloosa Music Festival. Sponsored by Washington D.C. band Scythian, this family friendly festival features folk music, camping, a free kids area, and food and drink from local providers.
Also in September is the River Valley Festival at VFW Post 1860 in Front Royal. This festival features a menu of pit roasted meats, along with juggling, live music, and craft beer and wine.
In October, Front Royal celebrates nature’s work of art with the Festival of Leaves on Main Street. Along with the usual crafts and live music, this festival has a historic flair, with historical re-enactors and tours of Warren County’s historic buildings: the Belle Boyd Cottage and the Balthis House. The festival also coincides with the annual Leaf Peepers races. Choose your distance: half-marathon, 10k, or 5k, and run in the all the fall glory of the Shenandoah Valley.
Driving or hiking at Skyline Drive will give you stunning views of the fall. Check here for updates on fall foliage in the park. If you want to avoid the crowds, there are other places to enjoy that are less crowded but still offer glorious nature in the fall. Try a picnic at an overlook in the Shenandoah River State Park. Buzzard Rock is another local favorite for hiking.
If you’re looking for a fun and seasonal family outing, there are plenty of opportunities for apple picking. Later in the fall, visit a local pumpkin patch.
Winter in Front Royal: Cozy Pancakes, Christmas Lights, and Winter Sports
Winter isn’t the busiest season of the year in Front Royal, but there’s still seasonal fun to be had. In early December, the Kiwanis Club of Front Royal holds an annual pancake day. Proceeds from this fun (and delicious) fundraiser go to support the work of the club.
The annual Christmas Festival and Parade is a special event that you won’t want to miss. This last festival of the year takes place at the beginning of December. The festival includes a parade down Main Street and ends with a lighting ceremony of Main Street’s Christmas lights. Even if you can’t make it to the parade, make sure you check out the lights at some point during the Christmas season.
Warren County is conveniently located for outdoor winter fun. For day ski trips, or snow tubing, check out Bryce Resort in the Allegheny Mountains, and Massanutten Resort. Both resorts are only about an hour’s drive from Front Royal. It’s a comfortable (and memorable!) day trip.
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