The mountains are full of great climbing, hiking, biking, fishing and more. And also full of great dining-with-view. Combine the two for great fun.
Whether it’s from rooftop, terrace, patio or deck, after an afternoon of sun-drenched and fun-filled outdoor exertion, there’s nothing like sitting down to enjoy a fine gourmet meal from the vantage of an exquisite view. Toward the end of celebrating and facilitating this glorious pairing, here’s a list of five exquisite Virginia mountain activities topped off with restaurant experiences featuring scenery and mouthwatering cuisine you’ll be glad you enjoyed.
The Activity: Big Walker Lookout
Winding a westward ascent through the mountains via U.S. 52N, about 12 miles outside of Wytheville, you’ll arrive at a rather interesting spectacle. Just behind the Big Walker General Store—a place chocked full of country goodies and artisanal wares—perched at an elevation of around 3,400 feet, there lies the state’s “oldest, privately-owned fire tower.” For a few bucks ($3 for kids, $6 for adults), you can climb the verging on a 70-year-old, 100-foot tower and catch a slightly swaying, wholly unimpeded view of five marvelous Blue Ridge Mountain peaks and the valleys they overlook.
The Meal: Graze on Main
Located within the historic Bolling Wilson Hotel in the heart of Wytheville—the name of which derives from Edith Bolling-Wilson, Wytheville native and first lady to former President Woodrow Wilson—Graze’s “new-southern cuisine” has, at various points, landed it top-honors on Virginia Living’s “Best of Virginia” list in an astonishing array of categories including: Overall Restaurant, Steakhouse, Seafood, Outdoor Dining, Cocktails, and Dessert. With a warm, stylish, modern-meets-vintage-boutique vibe—there’s the atrium dining room, hardwood floors, chic fixtures, truly “fabulous bar”—and rooftop seating featuring views of downtown Wytheville and the surrounding mountains, the atmosphere is both cosmopolitan and rustically inspirational.
For reservations, menus, or more information, bollingwilsonhotel.com/dining/graze-on-main, or call 276-223-2333.
The Activity: Mill Mountain Park
Likely as not, if you’ve passed through Roanoke you’ve been intrigued by a certain mountainside ornament: the Mill Mountain Star. However, it’s less likely you took a detour and sought to obtain a closer look. As such, we recommend spending an afternoon exploring Mill Mountain Park’s 568 acres, making use of 10-plus miles of hiking and biking trails, wildflower garden, discovery center and most certainly availing yourself of its two overlooks before making the quick, six-mile jaunt to sit down to one of the best and most unique culinary experiences the region has to offer.
The Meal: Carlos Brazilian International Cuisine
A bit over five miles outside of downtown Roanoke (via U.S. 220), located on Electric Road, Carlos Brazilian International Cuisine is one elegant gem of an establishment. Named for its executive chef and co-owner, Carlos Amaral, who, prior to founding CBIC honed his culinary chops in fine-dining hubs like New York City, Montreal and Toronto, the restaurant is described as “a fine dining experience… where you can choose from French, Spanish, Italian and Brazilian dishes complemented by fine wines and incredible homemade desserts.” With an amply windowed dining room and a large deck from which to admire Roanoke’s panoramic mountain landscape and, in the night, the city’s distantly glimmering lights, eye-candy is ample.
For reservations, information, menu, or directions, visit: carlosbrazilian.com, or call 540-776-1117.
Location: Afton/Nelson County
The Activity: Black Rock Park Overlook
At the top of Wintergreen Mountain, just before you reach the ski lodge, on your right-hand side there will be a gas station/sandwich shop—Black Rock Market. Passing the market, hang an immediate right onto Blackrock Drive. Follow this road for about a quarter mile and look for a small, gravel parking lot with a sign. The tiny lot butts against a tree-line of oaks and pitch-pines, and, at its far end, funnels downward into a wide and stair-lined path. The short, .2-mile path is well-tended, cutting downhill across the mountain’s slope. After cascading along and over a number of big, smooth boulders, the trail culminates in a massive, stone promontory overlooking the Rockfish Valley. If you’re into rock climbing, be sure to bring your gear and scale some of the nearby pitches.
The Meal: Blue Mountain Brewery
About 13 miles northward up Va. 151 lies Blue Mountain Brewery. Winner of numerous gold and silver medals at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival, featured in the Washington Post, and habitually crowned as harbinger of both the “Best Beer” and “Best Outdoor Dining” experience by Charlottesville’s C-VILLE Weekly for beer lovers, Blue Mountain Brewery is something of a mecca. Complemented by locally sourced cuisine including delectable wood-fired pizzas, gourmet sandwiches and burgers, as well as an expansive outdoor terrace opening onto a not-more-than-a-couple-miles-distant Blue Ridge horizon, the place is sure to inspire sunset and star-gazed lingering.
For reservations, information, menu, or directions, visit: bluemountainbrewery.com, or call 540-456-8020.
The Activity: Hike or Bike the Riverway Trail
Beside Radford University’s Donald N. Dedmon Center, you’ll find a parking lot for the Riverway Trail. Bring your bike or simply hoof it, taking advantage of three-plus miles of quietly winding, amply tree-covered scenery along the softly rushing New River. The route will carry you through both Bissett and Wildwood Parks, and offers much opportunity to open a book and take advantage of a bench, tree trunk, gazebo, or grassy knoll.
The Meal: River Company Restaurant and Brewery
Located across the river (via U.S. 11) in Fairlawn, a hair under 5 miles away, off of Viscoe Road, you’ll find the much acclaimed River Company Restaurant and Brewery. Perched atop the tree-lined banks of the New River, with deck seating, the sound of rushing water, a view of the city, a menu of award-winning pub cuisine, and an ever-cycling array of 10-plus beers on tap—including standard and seasonal brews like the Southwest “V” India Pale Ale (“…aggressively hopped to provide a perfect balance of bitterness… sure to please even the most discernible hop-oriented palates”), or the Peachicot Blonde Ale (featuring a blend of “peach and apricot flavors for [a] sweet and subtle fruitiness”)—a visit to RCRB makes for one heck of a great afternoon.
For reservations, information, menu, or directions, visit: therivercompany.com, or call 540-633-3940.
Location: Paint Bank
The Activity: Trout Fishing with Potts Creek Outfitters
Whether you’re a pro, seasoned amateur, or first-timer, why not spend a morning or late afternoon flyfishing for rainbow trout along 2 miles of Potts Creek’s stocked, “spring-fed stream of exceptional clarity?” Resting along the West Virginia border (about 35 miles north of Pembroke), directly off of Va. 311, in the sleepy mountain hamlet of Paint Bank, Potts Creek Outfitters is eager to make it happen.
“Our expert guides are available for both beginners and veterans,” says Potts Creek Wildlife Manager Josh Duncan. “Whether you’re a novice learning a brand new skill, or looking to hone your abilities, we have a team of certified casting instructors eager to coach you in the ancient and thrilling art of fly casting.”
And if fishing isn’t your bag? You can rent a canoe, take advantage of the shuttle service, or spend the afternoon exploring PCO’s 1,000-plus acres of meadows, hillsides, and hardwoods.
For bookings and additional info, visit, pottscreekoutfitters.com, or call 540-897-5555.
The Meal: The Swinging Bridge Restaurant
Resting directly across the street from the Potts Mountain Outfitters crew, The Swinging Bridge Restaurant gets its name from the fact that there is, well, a wooden bridge connecting the two sides of its second floor dining area. With rustic exposed beams, wide-plank hardwood floors, a mammoth stone fireplace, cathedral ceilings, the aforementioned bridge, and “…old-time, southern, stick-to-your-ribs good cookin’ with a hillbilly gourmet flare,” the SBR offers a dining experience unlike any other. On warm, sunny days, enjoy dining on the wrap-around-porch, taking in the views of various mountain peaks cropping up out of an expanse of countryside foliage and forests.
For reservations, information, menu, or directions, visit: theswingingbridge.com, or call 540-897-5099.