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Hike to the Tasting Room

Photo by John Hagarty.

Creating Great Memories by Linking Two of Virginia’s Pastimes

By JOHN HAGARTY

With hundreds of miles of hiking trails and almost 200 wineries, Virginia offers a cornucopia of options for spending a day on the trail and then rewarding yourself with a glass of wine.

This year Shenandoah National Park, SNP, celebrates its 75th anniversary. On July 3, 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the park, creating one of our more scenic national treasures. In the early years, the park was very popular, drawing large number of visitors, but attendance has dropped.

While each year over a million visitors still enjoy the park’s beauty, there’s been an over 25% decline in tourist traffic in the last decade. Some posit the Internet might be partially to blame. It’s conjectured the park could be having a hard time competing with videos games and social media that seem to generate more excitement among our younger citizens than the out-of-doors.

That’s a pity, if true. Not only are great memories being forfeited. but that much needed commodity – exercise – isn’t being provided to a generation of Americans sorely in need of it.

Sharp Rock Rappahannock VA

Sharp Rock Winery is sited just on the edge of Shendandoah National Park. Photo by proprietor Jimm East

The good news? Over 500 miles of lightly travelled park trails await wine lovers out to enjoy another healthy habit in addition to drinking wine. While hikes such as Old Rag Mountain and White Oak Canyon are still on everybody’s favorite list, dozens of other hikes are pathways to a peaceful walk in the woods.

The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, PATC, and the SNP are rich sources of information on what to do and where to go in the park. PATC’s web page identifies numerous hikes and sells a comprehensive set of maps and guidebooks to get you safely in and out of the mountains.

 

Mixing hiking & wine tasting

But the club’s portfolio is not limited to park hiking. It also lists numerous hikes available throughout the state, many in flatlander country for those more eager to get to the tasting room than climbing a mountain.

If you choose to head to the high country, finding your way around SNP is simple. Its trail obelisks and blazed trees easily guide a hiker from trailhead to trail’s end. There are basically three color-coded trail blazes: white identifies the historic Appalachian Trail, which runs 101 miles through the park; blue pinpoints side trails for hikers only; and yellow welcomes both hikers and horses. The park boundary is identified by red markers.

Gadino Cellars, Virginia winery

Gadino Cellars is 5 minutes from the Sperryville (Rt. 211) entrance to the park.

Since SNP encompasses a section of the Blue Ridge Mountains and runs north to south, starting at Front Royal and ending near Waynesboro, it acts as a backdrop to most of the wineries in Virginia. If hikers hit the trail by 10 a.m. and are back in their vino vans by mid-afternoon, visiting a couple of wineries on the way home is a snap, especially with most of the state’s wine cellars opened till 6 p.m. on Saturdays and 5 p.m. on Sundays.

The web site Virginia Wine provides information on every winery in the Old Dominion and enables ramblers to plan their visits. The site also features an events link listing numerous activities such as wine & food pairings, live music performances, barrel tastings and more.

So is it legal to pack so much fun into a single day? No convictions have been recorded. It’s always cooler in the mountains during the summer months so time’s a wasting. Head to the hills and recap the day’s events in your favorite tasting room.

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