Southern Belle in Training

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May 23, 2019

TRAVEL GUIDE: Outdoor Fun in Virginia's Alleghany Highlands

     I spent last weekend visiting and exploring the Alleghany Highlands region of Virginia with my dad! I actually discovered this part of the state via... Instagram! Last spring, I saw a gorgeous photo on Instagram of Falling Spring Falls, which is an incredible waterfall in Covington, in the heart of the Alleghany Highlands. I knew that I had to eventually plan a trip to see this stunning waterfall, and I also wanted to see more of the region near it. I'm excited to be recapping our weekend trip today and sharing some of the natural gems I found in Alleghany Highlands!



     About:
     The Alleghany Highlands is a region in western Virginia (not West Virginia, although Alleghany County is on the state line of WV! Confusing I know). Alleghany Highlands is best known for tourism purposes for its natural beauty and outdoor activities, but this area is also known for its arts and culture, small mountain towns, and railway history. Alleghany County has the two larger municipalities of Clifton Forge and Covington, as well as lots of rural and natural areas. The Alleghany Highlands is located just about 30 minutes away from two famous and historic resorts: The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, WV, as well The Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, VA. 

     Travel: 
     The town of Clifton and the city of Covington are both located off I-64. This made it super easy for my dad and I to visit, as I-64 also runs through Charlottesville, so it was a very easy two hour drive over. Alleghany Highlands is just under an hour from Roanoke, and about three hours from Richmond. There is Amtrak service that passes through Clifton Forge. The closest airports would be Roanoke or Staunton. 


       Stay:
     Since the Alleghany Highlands is more of an up and coming tourist destination, there aren't currently a ton of lodging options. There are several motels, and a Hampton Inn in Covington, which my dad and I stayed at! It was clean and comfortable, and like most Hampton Inns provides a free breakfast. I wouldn't say it was the best hotel ever (or even best Hampton Inn ever), but it did the job for what we needed! Before writing this post I did an AirBNB search for the area, and it looks like there are several cheap options in Covington and Clifton Forge. I'd recommend checking into those for more lodging options, especially for groups!

      Eat:
      As great as the Alleghany Highlands is for outdoor activities and small town charm... it's lacking in the food department. I always give 100% honest reviews here on the blog- so I'm going to be straight with you! The restaurant scene here is pretty dismal. My dad and I ate both of our dinners at the #1 and #4 ranked restaurants on TripAdvisor for Covington. #1 is Cucci's Pizza, and #4 is San Juan Mexican Restaurant. Cucci's wasn't bad... but definitely not the best pizza I've ever had, and the environment was super casual. San Juan really wasn't that great, and was also home to the worst fried ice cream I've ever ordered. We had lunch on Saturday at Dairy Queen in Clifton Forge- and that might have been my favorite meal!
     Even though there isn't much of a food scene here, I still highly recommend a visit to the Alleghany Highlands because of all else that it has to offer! If you were to do a trip here and took the AirBNB route, you might get access to a full kitchen and be able to cook some meals (which might be a better option!). Had we stayed longer, I might've tried harder to convince my dad for a trip to the Greenbrier or Homestead for a fancy meal at one of their restaurants. 



      Play:
    Now to get into the good stuff! Alleghany Highlands is a nature lover's paradise. There is so much to do! You can also visit Clifton Forge and Covington's historic downtown areas, which is truly like stepping back in time many decades. Here's what my dad and I enjoyed doing:

     *Falling Spring Falls, Covington: This was the reason I wanted to go to the Alleghany Higlands!! I saw a picture of Falling Spring Falls last year on Instagram and immediately went to research where such a stunning waterfall was. I read online that the trails leading to the base of the falls have recently been closed (and there will several signs up once we got there telling visitors not to trespass and get close to the actual falls), but there is a parking lot and viewing area, just to the side of US-220! It's located about 10-15 minutes from Downtown Covington, you just keep following US-220. This waterfall was incredibly stunning to see in person! I can only imagine how beautiful it is during fall foliage.




     *Douthat State Park, Millboro (Clifton Forge exit on I-64): One of the oldest state parks in Virginia, which also boasts 40+ miles of trails! We had looked at maps of the park prior to visiting and picked out a hike to do, but a park ranger that my dad spoke to when we arrived suggested that we instead do the Blue Suck Falls and Lookout Rock hikes. It was a great suggestion! It's about a 2.5 mile hike to Lookout Rock, and I'd consider it moderately difficult. Blue Suck Falls was the smallest of the three waterfalls we saw during the weekend, but still ridiculously beautiful! If we had more time, I would've liked to explore other trails within Douthat State Park.




      *Humpback Covered Bridge, Covington: Built in the 1800s, this is one of Virginia's oldest covered bridges! The last state I lived in, Vermont, is famous for covered bridges, so it felt kinda cool to find one of these here in the South. This bridge is very well maintained, and the river running by it was so beautiful that I just had to stick my feet in! I also loved getting a picture with the LOVE installation- pun intended.





     *Jackson River Outfitters Kayak Trip, Covington: This was the highlight of the trip for me- I enjoyed our kayak excursion on the Jackson River so much! Alleghany Outdoors is a brand new excursion company, and their headquarters is right on the shore of the Jackson River in Covington. They offer all sorts of fun activities: tubing, biking, and kayaking, which we opted for! My dad booked us an afternoon kayak trip on the Jackson River, and Alleghany Outdoors took care of everything to ensure that we had a great time. We ended up kayaking about four miles in just under two hours. I had my phone secured the whole time in a waterproof bag, but I wish I could've taken pictures from the river- the sights were incredible!



     *Explore Historic Downtown Covington and Clifton Forge: Never in my life have I visited towns that have transported me back in time like those in the Alleghany Highlands! Seeing the downtown of both of these made me feel like I was back in the 70s or 80s... if not the 50s or 60s! Basically just sometime before my generation. Old houses of all shapes and sizes and historic Main Streets in both Covington and Clifton Forge are to be found! It's very clear to me that both of these places take extreme pride in their historical downtowns. Neither are very large, and both have several vacant businesses on the Main Streets (as do many small towns across the country), but there was a special charm to both that you don't find in a lot of places anymore. The picture below is outside of an art store and studio in Covington!
     One super cool thing that Covington has downtown is a hometown department store! I honestly had no idea Main Street department stores still existed in 2019, but there is a two-story Peebles going strong in downtown Covington right now! I got quite a chuckle over that.
     I read that there is an Alleghany Highlands Arts & Crafts store in Clifton Forge! We weren't able to have time to visit here, but I'm sure this store has many unique treasures from the local area.



     *Roaring Run Furnace and Falls, Eagle Rock : This was the second hike that we did, found in nearby Botetourt County! It's in the Jefferson National Forest, and free to do. We did this one on our way back to Charlottesville. The falls trail here is very easy to hike (really more of a walk!), and it's filled with beautiful waterfalls and streams, and picturesque trail bridges. There is also another walk leaving from the same parking lot that takes you to see the historic Roaring Run Furnace, but we skipped that part since we wanted to get home.





     And that's my Alleghany Highlands Travel Guide for you! I loved all of the outdoor activities and exploring, but wasn't as big a fan of the lodging and food options here. My honest recommendation for visiting here? Splurge on a luxurious stay at the Greenbrier or the Homestead, as both resorts are under an hour from Covington and Clifton Forge. I personally haven't stayed at either of these hotels yet, but both are definitely bucket list! 😉I'd suggest taking a day trip from the resort to explore the natural, serene beauty of the Alleghany Highlands- you'd still be able to fit a lot into a day!


     Have you ever been to this part of Virginia before? When I posted my first photo from the trip on Instagram- I got a lot of messages from people saying they'd never even heard of Alleghany Highlands before! Honestly that made me even more excited to create this travel guide... there are so many tourist destinations right now that are so popular with bloggers, so it was fun to highlight one for y'all that's more up and coming.


      God Bless,


      xoxo Annaliese

     

     
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9 comments

  1. Alleghany Highlands looks so beautiful! It sounded like a lovely little weekend trip. I love all of your outfits too. :) Happy almost weekend

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  2. That waterfall is stunning! Sounds like a wonderful getaway! Nipa

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  3. What a gorgeous area to explore!

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  4. Beautiful photos. I'm originally from Pittsburgh and didn't realize what was so close to us when I lived there!

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  5. Yes! It’s gorg! Glad you are exploring the whole state ❤️Virginia is the best!

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  6. Oh my goodness that waterfall!!! Sounds like you had a great time!

    Nell | adventureswithnell.co.uk

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  7. Your photos are amazing, and it sounds like you really had a good time being in the Highlands!

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  8. I'm not an outdoorsy person. But this would be something my fiance and his family would enjoy.

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  9. Loved getting to see what you were able to do so close to my hometown! Love it! I have never seen that beautiful waterfall and will definitely need to check it out!

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