The view from the top may be enough motivation for you to hike some of Virginia’s most beautiful trails, but if you need a little extra something to keep you going, plan to follow up these epic hikes with a stop at a nearby brewery, where you can relax with a refreshing (and well-deserved!) craft beer.
The Hike: Stony Man Overlook or Mary’s Rock
Photo Credit: Joel Mulbah & Alyssa Gilbert
If you’re looking for a quick hike with incredible views, start with Stony Man Trail in Shenandoah National Park. The 1.6 mile trail has a steady uphill grade ending in a rocky outcrop that provides scenic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley below.
Another popular nearby trail is Mary’s Rock, which has two possible routes. A 3.7-mile route runs from the Panorama pull-off of Skyline Drive, while the 2.8-mile section starts at the Meadow Spring parking lot. Both trails are moderately difficult and have outstanding views of Shenandoah National Park.
The Brewery: Hawksbill Brewing Company in Luray is about 17 miles away from Stony Man Trail and only 11 miles from Mary’s Rock.
The Hike: Old Rag Circuit Hike
Photo Credit: Nate Dennison
A challenging trail in Shenandoah National Park, Old Rag is best suited for experienced hikers. The 8.8-mile route ends with a rock scramble and a breathtaking summit. While many trails in Virginia allow pets to join you, Old Rag is not one of them; please leave dogs at home!
The Brewery: Pen Druid Brewing in Sperryville is about 12 miles away from Old Rag.
The Hike: Devil’s Marbleyard
The Devil’s Marbleyard trail is an 8.3-mile hike named for the difficult hillside scramble through monumental boulders, some as large as trucks. To make the hike even longer, you can continue along the Appalachian Trail for an extra three miles, which ends with one of the most breathtaking panoramic views in Virginia.
The Brewery: Great Valley Farm Brewery is about 13 miles from Devil’s Marbleyard.
The Hike: Cascade Falls
Photo Credit: Divergent Travelers
Cascade Falls is a scenic four-mile trail within the Jefferson National Forest that follows a shaded mountain creek to a 66-foot waterfall. The hike is suitable for beginners with only a few spots that are moderately challenging.
The Brewery: Rising Silo Brewery in Blacksburg is about 22 miles away from Cascade Falls.
The Hike: Tinker Cliffs
Part of the famed Triple Crown in Virginia (along with Dragon’s Tooth and McAfee Knob), Tinker Cliffs is 3.8 miles from the base to the summit, with a fairly difficult trek ending with pristine views of the Roanoke Valley. This hike is not for beginners!
The Brewery: From Tinker Cliffs, Olde Salem Brewing is about 17.7 miles away.
The Hike: Dragon’s Tooth or McAfee Knob
Photo Credit: Joseph Mesite
If you’re already in the area checking out Tinker Cliffs, consider conquering McAfee Knob or Dragon’s Tooth. McAfee Knob is an 8.3-mile hike that wraps up at one of the most photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail, with 270-degree panoramic views of Catawba Valley and North Mountain. McAfee is a fairly strenuous hike that involves lots of stone steps, but there are several rewarding vantage points along the trail. The 4.1-mile Dragon’s Tooth hike takes you to the top of Cove Mountain, but while McAfee Knob has some challenging spots, Dragon’s Tooth is a much more advanced hike, with a section that is very rocky and steep; be ready for a difficult climb when you hike Dragon’s Tooth.
Photo Credit: Shannon Terry
The Brewery: Parkway Brewing Company in Salem is 7 miles from the McAfee Knob trailhead and 11 miles from the Dragon’s Tooth Trailhead.
The Hike: Crabtree Falls
An extremely popular hike in Virginia, Crabtree Falls has the highest vertical-drop cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River with the five major cascades sections totaling 1,200 feet in drop. The first overlook is just a few hundred feet from the parking lot, providing a quick payoff for even the least experienced hiker. While the trail’s total length is about 3.3 miles, you can continue through Crabtree Meadows, hiking another 3.8 miles to Spy Rock.
The Brewery: Devils Backbone Basecamp Brewpub is about 15 miles away from Crabtree Falls.
The Hike: Raven Rocks
About an hour outside of Washington, D.C., the Raven Rocks trail is a moderately challenging 5.5-mile out-and-back hike, with the rocky trail finishing at an outcropping along the Virginia/West Virginia border that offers views of the Shenandoah Valley.
The Brewery: Dirt Farm Brewing in Bluemont is about 5 miles from the Raven Rocks trailhead.
The Hike: Eagle Rock
Photo credit: Robert Harris, @robertharris
Part of the Tuscarora Trail and the Appalachian Trail, Eagle Rock runs along the Virginia/West Virginia border. The hike can either be done as a 7.2 mile out-and-back trail or a more family-friendly 2.1-mile hike. Expect less foot traffic along the Eagle Rock Trail than along Big Schloss, located just to the south of Eagle Rock.
The Breweries: Winchester Brew Works and Alesatian Brewing are about 23 miles from Eagle Rock, while Escutcheon Brewing is about 24 miles from Eagle Rock.
The Hike: Humpback Rocks
The trailhead for Humpback Rocks is located along the Blue Ridge Parkway only a short distance off I-64, leading to a one-mile steep hike that is short but difficult. Several benches sit alongside the trail, offering spots for a quick rest as you climb the sharp angle towards the summit. Hikers can either take the same route back to the parking lot or opt for another two miles along the Appalachian Trail, which has a more gradual descent and less foot traffic than the one-mile trail.
The Brewery: Humpback Rocks is about 15 minutes from Basic City Beer Co.
The Hike: Buttermilk Trail in Richmond
If you’re looking for an urban hike, head out on the Buttermilk Trail along the James River in Richmond. The 4.5-mile out-and-back trail provides a moderate hiking route without leaving the city limits, and also has the added benefit of being pet-friendly to leashed dogs. Add the James River North Bank Trail for a further two miles of trail.
The Brewery: Legend Brewing Company is about a half a mile from the Buttermilk Trail trailhead.
The Hike: Peaks of Otter
Photo Credit: Nicholas Moore, @nicholasmoorephoto
There are actually three peaks that make up the Peaks of Otter; Sharp Top, Flat Top, and Harkening Hill. Each trail has its own amazing view at the top, but Sharp Top is known for the best views, with a 360-degree summit that completes the strenuous 2.6-mile trail. Flat Top Trail totals about 4.8 miles and is also a difficult hike best suited for advanced hikers. The only looped trail out of the Peaks of Otter group, Harkening Hill totals about 3.3 miles and while the elevation gain is the lowest in the trio, it is still a moderately strenuous climb.
The Brewery: Beale’s Brewery is about 11 miles from the Peaks of Otter Lodge, a good starting point for any of the three Peaks hikes.
The Hike: High Bridge Trail
Photo Credit: Big Orange Frame
A renovated rails-to-trails project, High Bridge Trail is about 31 miles long and is open to both hikers and bikers. The trail’s namesake bridge spans 2,400 feet over the Appomattox River, providing views of the surrounding countryside. The trail is relatively flat, making it an ideal route for families, hiking beginners, or hikers with leashed pets.
The Brewery: Third Street Brewing is .3 miles from the trailhead in Downtown Farmville, but the trail itself runs right beside the brewery.
High Bridge Trail is is a flat and easy hike, bike…..
Checking out the Macafee knob this Wednesday.
Debra Sue Cotten
We’re looking for hiking trails for older people that aren’t quite so difficult or steep.
Monticello Trails in Charlottesville. Park and drive to Carters Mountain Orchard after.
How can I find out more about Payoff Hikes?
These are great suggestions! I am from the northeast, but will soon be relocating to Charlottesville Virginia, to join adult children and grand children! I have put all of these on my bucket list for sure! Thanks for sharing!
Great stuff – I’m bookmarking this one! Our family visited SW Virginia last summer for a week of hiking and called Hotel Roanoke base camp for the week stay. Really enjoyed our hikes (some of which you listed) and the different brew stops we found along the way. Beautiful part of the country – Cheers!