Get Outside in Waynesboro
Waynesboro, Virginia, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The tagline from the Waynesboro visitor website is “Where Good Nature Comes Naturally.” No matter what season, there is something fun and adventurous to experience in the Shenandoah National Park or along the Blue Ridge Parkway or Appalachian Trail. There are even outdoorsy things to do right in the middle of downtown Waynesboro. The Iris Inn’s central location makes it an ideal starting point for all of your outdoor activities.
The Shenandoah Valley is quickly becoming a popular place for bike tourism. The area features routes that wind amidst the countryside, through quaint towns, and along historic spots. Bike the Valley has information about routes very every level of cyclist. If you want a long, flat ride, try the Waynesboro to Grottoes route. The 35-mile road route follows along the South River. If gravel pathways sound like a fun challenge, bike the 41-mile Grottoes Gravel Grinder. Lastly, if you want a leisurely ride through town, the South River Greenway is a 1.3-mile paved trail from Constitution Park to the Loth Spring trailhead. Bring your own bike or visit Rockfish Gap Outfitters to rent one.
You do not have to go far to find great fly fishing in Waynesboro. The South River flows through downtown and there is a catch and release area from the Wayne Avenue bridge to the Second Street bridge. There is also a handicap-accessible pier in Ridgeview Park. This may be an urban fishery but people have caught trophy-sized rainbow and brown trout.
The South River Fly Shop has everything you need for a successful fishing day and is conveniently located one block from South River. The locally-owned store is open seven days a week and has won “Best Fly Shop” two years in a row. They are fully stocked with rods, reels, gear, and tools. If this is your first time fly fishing, or you simply like for someone else to do the planning, book one of their half or full day guided packages.
You can apply for a fishing license online or in-person at the Waynesboro DMV.
Swannanoa Golf and Country Club is a scenic course with a long history; President Calvin Coolidge played this course. Golfers today seek it out for the views of the Shenandoah Valley to one side and the Piedmont to the other. Play 9 holes, 18 holes, or reserve a lesson with P.G.A. Professional Pete Lang.
Sometimes you feel like playing a full round of 9 or 18 holes of golf. Sometimes you just feel like working on your swing. The Bunker Valley Golf Range has 16 stations with different types of matts that were updated in 2022. Targets range from 50 yards to 250 yards. Short game targets are being added in 2023.
The Appalachian Trail spans 2,198.4 miles. The longest hiking-only footpath in the world runs from Maine to Georgia and traverses through 14 states in total. Waynesboro is a designated Appalachian Trail Community. The downtown area is only three miles from the trail. Visitors to Waynesboro can take a day hike along the trail. We are lucky because Virginia boasts the most miles of any state along the trail with 500 miles. Each year, approximately 3,000 people attempt to hike the entire length of the trail in one year. If you are one of those super adventurous hikers, consider stopping in Waynesboro for a short respite from nature.
The Blue Ridge Tunnel Trail is a unique way to combine a hike with a history lesson. The trail itself is 2.3 miles of crushed stone that traverses from Waynesboro to Afton. The middle portion of the trail is a nearly mile long tunnel that was originally built to allow the Blue Ridge Railroad to pass through the mountains. When the tunnel was completed in 1858 it was the longest trail in the country. The trail was abandoned during World War II because a new tunnel was required for larger trains. Lucky for hikers, it was donated to Nelson County and opened as a public trail in 2020. Make sure to bring a headlamp or flashlight because the middle of the tunnel is completely dark. The light will also help you spot drill holes in the stone. The tunnel is a great summer or winter activity because the cave-like atmosphere holds a year-round temperature of 50 degrees.
It is always a good idea to be prepared when you venture out on a hike. But being prepared can be a bit more difficult when you have traveled far from home. The Iris Inn has you covered with their Hit the Trails package. The package includes snacks, fruit-infused water, hiking guide books, sunscreen, bug spray, and an artisan walking stick. Everything is conveniently packaged in an Iris Inn backpack. All you need to bring is comfortable clothes, walking shoes, and a hat.
Hiking with Waterfalls
The White Rock Falls Trail is a 4.4-mile hike from the Blue Ridge Parkway. The moderately difficult trail leads to a 30-foot-tall waterfall. On a nice day, it can be refreshing to take off your shoes at the end waterfall and cool off your feet in the basin. The waterfall is only part of the draw of this hike. There are two gorgeous panoramic overlooks along the way. Go ahead and rest while you take in the dramatic mountain views. Note that there are two trails that leave from the same parking lot. Be sure to choose the trail with the word “Falls” in the name to get to the waterfall.
Visit a Park
There are often wildlife sightings at Coyner Springs Park Visitors have seen red-tailed hawks, woodpeckers, squirrels, fox, and the occasional deer. The 145-acre park features nature trails and an off-leash dog park. If you want to try something a bit different, play a round of disc golf; the park has a 9-hole course.
Constitution Park is a favorite spot for concerts, festivals, and car shows. It is also the home of the Waynesboro Farmers Market. We recommend visiting the park to explore the Waynesboro Arboretum which features tree collections, shrub displays, bulb plantings, and areas for annuals and perennials.
Ridgeview Park has many spots for relaxation and reflection. Bring a picnic to enjoy on a bench along the bank of the South River. Lounge with a book by the public pool. Perhaps the most important reason to visit this park is to commemorate life, bravery, and good health. Ridgeview Park houses a Serenity Garden that celebrates those who have overcome cancer and remembers those who lost their lives to cancer. Those who have ended treatments are invited to ring the Peoples Bell three times. Wander along the grass path or sit quietly at one of the benches.
The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation designated a 6.5 mile stretch of the South River as a Virginia Scenic River in 2021. It is part of the park system and it offers views of the mountains and downtown Waynesboro. It certainly offers a unique way to view the city. There are multiple boat ramps and river access points along the way for those who want to use a kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard. It is considered an easy paddle for beginners with class I and II rapids. Keep your eyes open for fish and birds along the way.
Rockfish Gap Outfitters has kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards available to rent. Rental fees include a personal floatation device. Reserve a single-person kayak for each member of your group or pair up in two-person kayaks. They do not provide transportation for the kayak or stand-up paddleboard but they do have straps and ropes available for purchase so you can transport them using your vehicle. If you are already renting a kayak, consider a full kayaking weekend by visiting other local waterways.
Rivanna River Company in nearby Charlottesville has kayaks, tubes, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards available for rent. They also offer full-service rental packages with equipment transportation and easy drop off and pick up locations. Lastly, their guided trips allow guests to receive instruction on paddling as well as local information along the way.
Wintergreen Resort offers 26 slopes for skiing and snowboarding as well as a terrain park with 40+ features where you can work on freestyle skills. The Plunge! is a tubing hill that spans more than the length of three football fields. After a day in the cold, rejuvenate your body at the spa. Wintergreen is more than just a ski resort, it boasts year-round activities including golf, tennis, hiking, and swimming.
Explore the Outdoors from Your Car
The Blue Ridge Parkway is 469 miles with scenic views around every turn. It connects the Shenandoah National Park with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Affectionately called “America’s Favorite Drive,” the Parkway features the highest mountain peak in the Eastern United States and the oldest river in North America. The northernmost entrance to the Parkway a short three miles from Waynesboro. Some people opt to hike one of the many trails along the Parkway. Some choose to pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at one of the many scenic overlooks. Whether you are looking for an active day or a leisurely drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway has something for everyone. If you are lucky, you will spot a black bear along the drive. (Here are a few tips from the park service if you do encounter a bear.)