There are many things to enjoy during the winter in Southwest Virginia. You can share a toast at a winery, hike to a frozen waterfall, fish the icy rivers for brook trout, or count the raptors flying overhead. Whether it is a weekend getaway, or an extended weekend of R&R, your time away will be well spent.
There are many choices for outdoor adventures
Each season brings its own mystique to the waterfalls in our area. Most visitors have heard about nearby Cascade Falls, recently named Top 10 Most Spectacular Waterfalls in the U.S. by CNN Travel. Giles County also is home to Mill Creek Falls, the Falls of Dismal and over 37 miles of the New River.
The trails to Cascade Falls are beautiful anytime of the year and are always spectacular. Yet, there is something quite special about visiting them in the winter when leaves are gone and the vistas open up showcasing the frozen mist from the cascading water and columns of ice surrounding the falls. The mountain laurel and rhododendrons add color to the background with promises of blooms in the spring. Moderately easy, hikers follow a 4-mile trail loop which ranges between 2,200 and 2,900 feet above sea level. The most popular trail is a woodland path along Little Stony Creek to the falls and the return walk follows an old logging trail. Make sure to bring your camera.
For those wanting a short outing, there is nothing dismal about the Falls of Dismal. Located 25 minutes south of the Inn at Riverbend, the scenic drive is a pleasure and the waterfalls are easily accessible in any weather. The pools surrounding the rock formations are teaming year-round with both native and stocked brook trout – so whether you’re spinning, bait casting or fly fishing your chances of getting a bite here are good. So grab your favorite rod and reel or your hiking shoes, and head out to Falls of Dismal. Located on the border of Giles County in the Jefferson National Forest it is not uncommon to see people hiking and camping here due to its close proximity to the Appalachian Trail.
Another hike of note takes you to the Hanging Rock Migratory Raptor Observatory. The observatory rests on top of Peters Mountain at 3,800 feet. Access by a one mile hike along the Alleghany Trail. While September brings the highest count of Broad Wings, November and December bring the Red Tail Hawk and the Bald and Golden Eagles. These raptors are always a wonder to see. Add a stop in Paint Bank for lunch at The Swinging Bridge Restaurant where you can eat bison burgers locally raised at Hollow Hill Farm. Wonderful drive, hike and lunch!
Another year-round favorite outing is Glen Alton Farm. In the 1930's a Pearisburg banker built a private 304 acre lodge in the woods. Now part of the U.S. Forest Service, the farm has been restored offering beautiful views and a peaceful walk through majestic trees, open meadows, ponds, picturesque barns and the historic lodge. There is a “reflecting pool” in front of the main lodge and the trail to the wetlands is designated as a “Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail.,”
For those seeking an afternoon of fun in the snow, Mountain Lake Conservancy offers cross-country skiing and snowshoeing along much of their 22 miles of trails. If you plan to rent equipment call ahead so you can reserve the proper gear.
Toasty ideas for the chilly days
The food around the New River Valley always commands attention. The Palisades Restaurant and Harvest Restaurant are great choices offering farm-to-table fare and ever changing menus.
The Giles County Historical Society curates the Andrew Johnston House built in 1829 with exceptional Civil War displays and local history.
The town of Floyd offers visitors both visual and musical arts in abundance and dining options are just down home comforting. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a short drive from there so look for Mabry Mill or visit one of several wineries such as Villa Appalaccia, Attimo Winery, or Chateau Morrisette. Each offer wine tastings for a nominal fee.
So make plans to visit the New River Valley in Virginia during the winter. We can always help you plan your stay at the Inn at Riverbend.