Time for summer fun close to home! And who knows better where and how to find it than the outdoor-lovin’ people at RoanokeOutside.com!
Don’t wait all summer for a vacation getaway, plan a trip to explore right in your backyard. The Roanoke Region is packed with hidden gems and adventures that make the perfect day or weekend … and you won’t have to pack a suitcase.
From sandy beaches to waterfall hikes to biking (or big-wheelin’) on the Roanoke River Greenway, we’ve got something that’ll get you and your family outside.
Plan a Philpott Lake Camping Trip
Philpott Lake is small in surface area, but big on experiences. The popular fishing spot includes plenty of bass and walleye and there is plenty of access thanks to public boat ramps at Fairy Stone State Park and throughout the surrounding area. The area around the lake is almost untouched by housing development, but there are plenty of spots to stop for the day, such as a beach, picnic areas, hiking trails and campgrounds. So bring your fishing rod, pitch a tent, and stay the night.
Hit Happy Hollow and Valhalla Vineyards
This delightful park in southwest Roanoke County includes several miles of easy to moderate hiking trails. This hidden gem is best known for the beautiful azalea bushes that grow along a boardwalk near the park entrance. After your hike, stop by Valhalla Vineyards for a wine tasting and amazing view of the valley.
Visit Roaring Run Falls and Play Disc Golf
Located in the George Washington National Forest, Roaring Run Falls is a 30-foot cascading drop of white water sliding over large rocks in Botetourt County. Don’t miss an opportunity to slide down the 50-foot natural water slide. (Look for it halfway to the falls.) Two trails lead to the falls, creating a 1.5-mile loop trail. Most visitors use the Streamside Trail on their way up to the falls and return on the Woodland Trail. The Woodland Trail passes an iron furnace that operated from 1847 until the late 1850s. After the hike, head over to the Greenfield Disc Golf Course and test your tossing skills. GDGC features hill-top tee boxes to foot bridges across the creek to the target. Each hole features three marked boxes based on experience level and difficulty to begin. If you’re interested in playing and don’t have discs, no worries. GDGC stores extra discs at the course welcome sign near tee 1 with discs you can use and return at no charge.
Rent a Bike or Big Wheel and Hit the Greenway
Ride or rent a bike and hit the greenway. (Or be really adventurous and go all the way up to the Mill Mountain Star.) And you don’t have an excuse not to try: Stop in at Roanoke Mountain Adventures (inside The River House) and they will help you find the perfect set of wheels for the day. Before you skip because you are a regular on the greenway or aren’t sure about your ability to balance a bike, consider this: UnderDog Bikes, also located right on the greenway, rents big wheels for adults (as well as bikes). How’s that for something new and fun?
Stay the Night at Douthat State Park
Find out why Douthat State Park is a Top 10 Outside Family Destination. Book an overnight stay in the Civilian Conservation Corps cabins at Douthat State Park or one of a couple nearby campgrounds. Douthat State Park straddles Alleghany and Bath counties and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s one of the original Virginia state parks and has been open since 1936. There are more than 30 cabins and a couple of lodges to choose from. The park includes plenty of fun with a 50-acre lake for swimming, boating, and fishing. And be sure to hike Tuscarora Trail while you are there.
Go Paddling on the James River
Enjoy the warm air (even if it is hard to imagine right now) on the water with a paddling trip along the Upper James River Water Trail. The popular spot is perfect for beginners (you can hire a guide for a tour) and experienced paddlers alike with some flat water and a few rapids. The river is easily accessible at many points and the winding river views are breathtaking. Getting on the water will give you a whole new perspective on the region. (Make sure to bring your camera.) Twin River Outfitters has everything you need to paddle, including plenty of on-river camping options if you want to make a weekend of it.
Visit Dragon’s Tooth and Finish with a Local Brew
The hike is somewhat tough, but the gnarly quartzite spire outcrop is worth every ounce of sweat. The tallest “tooth” projects roughly 35 feet above the surrounding rock. The trail to Dragon’s Tooth ascends steep, rugged outcrops of quartzite which form the spine of Cove Mountain and North Mountain. The spine is known as Dragon’s Back. And as a reward, come back down the mountain and pop into Parkway Brewing for a cold, refreshing craft beer. (You can never go wrong ordering a Get Bent IPA.)
Pack a Picnic and Play at Explore Park
Pack lunch, load the kids in the car and head to Explore Park. Go over to the lower Journeys End parking lot, take the short walk past the gristmill, the settlers’ cabin, and the frontier fort before heading down to the river for a little bit of exploration and swimming. The water is shallow enough for splashing around and you’ll get a perspective of the park and Roanoke River that you might not know about. Bring the bikes or plan to hike while you are there as well; the park includes more than 14 miles of trails through the forest.
Relax at Smith Mountain Lake Community Park
It’s always lake season at Smith Mountain Lake Community Park, which is open year-round for swimming, fishing, and family recreation. The park includes three miles of pleasant lake and wooded view hiking, with entry and exit points scattered throughout the park. The park includes plenty of room to explore and a nice beach area with lifeguards on duty during the summer season. You can lounge in the sand or sit on the pier and try to reel in the perfect catch.