Tour any part of Virginia for long, and you can’t help but figure this is what Katharine Lee Bates was picturing when she wrote “America the Beautiful.” From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Atlantic Coast, the state is covered in picturesque landscapes, is steeped in history, features two of the prettiest roads in the US (that’d be the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive), and contains 554 scenic miles of the most famous long-distance hiking trail in the country — the Appalachian Trail.

All you have to do is get here and take a look around you. Check out the images below to see what we mean.


Grayson Highlands State Park

Most state parks wish they had this much game. Grayson Highlands sits next door to Virginia's two highest mountains (Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain) and contains several waterfalls, a short section of the Appalachian Trail, a herd of wild ponies, and, most importantly, views like the one above.
Photo: Sam Dean


Cascade Falls and Trail

The hike along the Cascade Falls Trail is a four-mile round trip through Jefferson National Forest to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Virginia. With a view like this, you know it's unlikely you'll have it all to yourself, so set the alarm early and come on a weekday. And take note: The trail splits in two pretty early on, the lower trail requiring more sure-footedness, keeping you closer to the water.
Photo: Divergent Travelers


Norton's Sailing School

You might assume that if you didn't learn how to sail as a kid, you're out of luck. But not here. Norton's Sailing School (in Deltaville) teaches you the ropes, even if watching Titanic is the closest you've ever gotten to a boat. Really, there's no excuse to let these photo opps go uncaptured.
Photo: Mark Atkinson


Afton Mountain Vineyards

Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewürztraminer, and Sangiovese. No, not Napa, but no newcomer to the scene, either—Afton Mountain Vineyards (in Afton, just west of Charlottesville) is one of Virginia's first farm wineries, with some of their vines dating back to the 1970s. The tasting room is open year-round, but call ahead to reserve picnic times (because "grapes don't grow in ugly places").
Photo: Steven Morris


Pippin Hill Farm

Charlottesville's Pippin Hill Farm is a boutique winery and vineyard, and they've upped the game with their sustainable viticulture program, purpose-designed event venues, and landscaped gardens and courtyards practically built for Instagram.
Photo: Sarah Hauser


Kayaking the Eastern Shore

The Atlantic barrier islands along Virginia's Eastern Shore Seaside Water Trail are beau-ti-ful. The trail itself is 100 miles long, connecting to both the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and the Assateague National Seashore (and the Assateague Canoe Trail).
Photo: Sam Dean


Red Wing Roots Music Festival

Natural Chimneys Regional Park and Campground absolutely lights up for four days in mid-July (though it's worth a stop any time of year). The Red Wing Roots Music Festival brings this limestone palace to life—food, craft vendors, outdoor adventure, and, of course, awesome live music day and night (and some pretty sweet views 24/7).
Photo: Jay Sansone


Lake Drummond

There's a bit of a mystery surrounding Lake Drummond, a strikingly circular lake sitting on top of a hill in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge: No one's quite sure how it formed. For visitors, this peculiar and beautiful wilderness area has some great trails for hiking, birdwatching, and cycling, in addition to the obvious fishing and boating. To add to the fun, if you see the apparition of a ghostly white canoe lit only by firefly lamp, you won't be the first.
Photo: John Henley


Virginia Beach Fishing Pier

Virginia Beach's three-mile boardwalk has views like this for as far as the eye can see. Look hard enough, and you'll find King Neptune lurking somewhere in the distance (along the boardwalk at 31st Street, to be precise).
Photo: Sam Dean


Road tripping Virginia

With the top down, Virginia is basically one giant scenic byway. Choose between the "Nickel & Dime" route, taking in dozens of Civil War sites and three presidential homes; US-250 from Staunton to Monterey, which cuts across the Shenandoah Valley; Skyline Drive, 105 miles of elevated scenery through Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Mountains; or the Colonial Parkway, which connects Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown. (And those are just a few ideas.)
Photo: Sam Dean


McAfee Knob

If you're familiar with the Appalachian Trail, you're probably no stranger to McAfee Knob—it's one of the most photographed sites along the entire route. A 3,197-foot-high ledge not too far from Roanoke, it provides a panoramic view of North Mountain, the Tinker Cliffs, and the Roanoke and Catawba Valleys. (If you're not hiking the AT, the trek to the knob comes in at 8.8 miles round trip. For the best photo opps, definitely visit on a weekday.)
Photo: Sam Dean


Carvins Cove Natural Reserve

Carvins Cove Natural Reserve is the country's second largest municipal park, coming in at around 12,700 acres (for reference, the entirety of Manhattan covers fewer than 15,000). More than 40 miles of trails wind their way through this terrain, and connections to the Appalachian Trail and the aforementioned McAfee Knob are nearby. It's a quick jaunt from Roanoke, and there's a huge reservoir here to enjoy, too.
Photo: Sam Dean


Claytor Lake State Park

Twenty-one miles long with plenty of cozy cabins, Claytor Lake—and its state park as a whole—is the place to get away for the weekend. Boating, swimming, camping, hiking, picnicking, and sport fishing are popular, but stand-up paddleboarding (with Mountain 2 Island Outfitters) might get you the best views.
Photo: Sam Dean


Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon, the plantation home of our country's first president, is aging well. What started out in 1735 as a modest house built by George Washington's father is now an ornate, 21-room mansion complete with an education center, 4D theatre, gristmill, tombs, gardens, and distillery—yep, a distillery. And you thought history was boring? You can even nab a bottle of George Washington's Rye Whiskey at The Shops at Mount Vernon (move fast—production is limited and they sell out quickly).
Photo: Cameron Davidson


Great Falls Park

The Potomac River picks up some pizzazz (and speed) in Mather Gorge, about 15 miles upstream of DC. The steep, jagged rocks—and the water that rushes around them—are the claim to fame in this 800-acre park, but the trails, rock climbing walls, and picnic spots keep visitors coming back, too.
Photo: Mark Mackoviak


Buggs Island Lake

Walking the perimeter of Virginia’s largest lake would take you longer than walking from Las Vegas to Denver. Yeah, Buggs Island Lake (aka, the John H. Kerr Reservoir) is big, with more than 50,000 acres of fresh water and 800 miles of shoreline dotted by coves and inlets. If you can dream it up, you can do it on the water here. And, clearly, that includes stargazing.
Photo: Sam Dean


Ravens Roost Overlook

The Blue Ridge Parkway is widely regarded as one of America's best drives, and the Ravens Roost Overlook is just one of the many spots that make the route such a road trip classic. Elevation here is 3,200 feet, and you'll spot it at milepost 10.7—meaning all you have to do is pull the car over and roll the window down to catch the view.
Photo: Wahoo Photography