Ah, Spring time in the Shenandoah Valley, where spring showers set into motion the awakening of dormant leaves all tender and green. Fruit trees are blooming and the air is crisp and cool, beckoning you to open your windows and just…. breathe. Living here, I’ve grown accustomed to the protective arms of the Blue Ridge to the East and the Alleghenies to the West cradling the community and breaking up some of the more volatile weather that comes with the changing seasons.
Spring time over the years has easily become a favorite time of year to be in Shenandoah County which is often hailed as the” place to be” when the leaves change in the fall. While I don’t disagree, I find that the colors of spring easily rival the electric warm tones of October. Here are five great reasons to visit Shenandoah County in the spring:
1. Scenic Drives: Take a drive down Route 11 or one of many winding back roads through Shenandoah County in April (windows down, of course!) and discover the first hints of spring as the redbuds glow a fiery fuchsia against a brown background of still-dormant deciduous trees. They are a welcome reminder that the long cold winter is on its way out. Almost as suddenly, the fruit trees, dogwoods and carpets of phlox follow suit and create a patchwork of pastels across the Valley. In May, young leaves create shade and a gorgeous expanse of crimson clover are covering farmers’ fields. Peonies, Roses, Iris and Azaleas fill the gardens and line the pathways to homes built generations ago.
2. Outdoor Recreation: With temperatures averaging about 7.3º cooler* than in the DC area during the same time of year, Shenandoah County is a great place to retreat for the weekend and hike some of the 178 miles of trails in the George Washington National Forest. A little more than an hour’s drive from the city will find you in the quiet comfort of a rural landscape with nature trails to suit many skill levels. Spring is also the best time to enjoy the North Fork of the Shenandoah River which winds slow, low and lazy around many bends even after snow has melted off of the mountains and spring rain has saturated the earth. https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/waterbody/shenandoah-river-north-fork/
3. Clear Blue Skies/Dark Starry Nights: Before the heat of summer sets a humid haze in the air, the views from a mountain ridge can take you for miles of vistas under the bluest sky, perfect for spotting a hawk in a tree or an egret near the water. If you’ve never experienced a night sky unpolluted by the lights of a parking lot or sports stadium, a night of camping will reveal stars unimagined and more stars beyond the ones we previously thought impossible. Add to the senses the sound of peeper frogs chirping a high-pitched hum, bard owls chanting and laughing, and fireflies sparkling in the trees like hundreds of magical faeries twinkling for your entertainment.
4. Farmers markets with fresh fruits and vegetables: Fresh vegetables are not just the taste of summer. By the time the clocks “spring forward” farmers are itching to get their produce to the weekend markets. Consumers, in turn, are happy to greet them for their tomatoes that taste like love, and lettuce with flavor… real flavor! Farm stands that stay closed for the winter are now open and vibrant, boasting the most beautiful hanging baskets, herb gardens, vegetables and sweet berries that you’ll buy to eat like candy on the way to your next destination. Soon, there will be peaches and corn with incredible abundance, and you’ll never want it to end.
5. Wineries, Cideries, Breweries: Hard to speak of spring without addressing the pastime of simply sitting outside with friends and family for great conversation and relaxation. There are many places to sit on a patio or deck with a glass of wine (8 wineries in Shenandoah County to be exact) and a view of rolling fields of grapes. The vintners are often on-site to give tours, talk about the wine, share local stories or the history of their property. One winery also offers a variety of hard apple cider with flavors that change seasonally. If wine isn’t your thing there are two craft breweries: one in town set in a renovated denim factory with an industrial feel and terrific BBQ on the weekends. The other is a “Farm brewery” out on a gravel country road with hops grown on site and foods sourced within a “stone’s throw” including homemade sausages and wood-fueled-oven-fired pizza. Both places offer a relaxing atmosphere to wind down after a full day of springtime activities. For a great map of all of the great wineries, breweries, distilleries and cideries in the region, visit ShenandoahSpiritsTrail.com
This time of year inspires a re-energizing. So why not take a trip to visit Shenandoah County and see why this is the best place to enjoy the outdoors, the cool breezes, and the mountain views. See what the locals love about the Valley, then slow down, and take it all in.
(*Source for average temperatures April-June 2011-2016 NationalWeatherService.com and USClimateData.com)
List of Recommendations:
Just a few of the many establishments to round out your visit to Shenandoah County are listed below, go to VisitShenandoahCounty.com for a full list of places to eat, stay and enjoy.