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These 5 fantastic Northern Virginia scenic drives are especially inviting when fall foliage and crisp days return to the area. Our favorite routes are perfect for a leisurely outing, but we’ve also suggested several stops and activities along the way for hiking, history, dining, drinks, and more local fun.
Tips for our 5 Fantastic Northern Virginia Scenic Drives
Scenic drives are a welcome pastime throughout the year, but the return of fall color makes leisurely exploring of local sites even more appealing. The weather has cooled, the leaves are turning, and the haze of summer has lifted. The crowds of summer tourists are gone, but leaf peepers may increase weekend traffic. Remember to relax, take it slow, and enjoy the journey. Here are a few tips about our Northern Virginia scenic drives:
- Our scenic drives range from dirt roads in the countryside to an historic parkway near Washington DC. Some are loop drives and some are one way. Click the map link to see the route and decide on your best starting point.
- Distance and time estimates are from Google Maps assuming normal traffic and no stops.
- Routes range from 16 to 57 miles, but you could combine several for a longer outing.
- Links within each drive lead to more detailed descriptions of our recommended stops.
- It’s hard to reach all of the scenery without including some major roads, but we’ve tried to avoid congested areas when possible.
- No drive in Northern Virginia is scenic during rush hour. These drives are best enjoyed on the weekend or between 10:00 and 3:00 on weekdays.
1. Great Falls and Georgetown Pike Loop Drive
Map: Great Falls and Georgetown Pike Scenic Loop Drive
Distance + Time: 26 mile loop drive; 1 hour
Sights: Farms, forested roads, grand houses
Activities: Hiking, paddling, history
Our scenic drive through Great Falls begins at the town library and ends at one of our favorite area pubs, You could also use the town green as your start and end point. Our route includes two sections of Georgetown Pike (193), named to the National Register of Historic Places, and designated as the first Virginia Byway. Read more about a Georgetown Pike scenic drive.
Things to Do on the Great Falls Scenic Drive
- Stop at Krop’s Crops to pick up a pumpkin.
- Follow Seneca Road to the end for a hike through Seneca Park, then backtrack to Beach Mill Road.
- Beach Mill is a narrow, twisting road that passes the top-rated L’Auberge Chez Francois. Stop in for brunch, lunch, or a glass of wine.
- Make a short side-trip to Riverbend Park for an easy hike along the Potomac River.
- Stop at Great Falls Park for waterfall views and a hike along Mather Gorge.
- See a less-visited section of the Potomac from Difficult Run.
- Scott’s Run Nature Preserve is another good stop for beautiful wooded hiking along our route.
- Hike a section of the Fairfax Cross County Trail from Leigh Mill Road.
- Stop at Great Falls for a meal or drink at The Old Brogue, Bollywood Bistro, or another Great Falls restaurant. There’s a nice playground near the library if you have kids along.
2. George Washington Memorial Parkway to Mount Vernon
Map: George Washington Memorial Parkway Scenic Drive
Distance + Time: 16 miles one way; 30 minutes
Sights: Historic monuments and parks, Potomac River and Washington DC views
Activities: National monuments and parks, hiking, biking, dining, shopping
The only one of our Northern Virginia scenic drives that’s also a national park follows the historic George Washington Memorial Parkway from the northeastern end of Fairfax County, through Arlington County and Alexandria, to George Washington’s Mount Vernon. There are many historic stops along the parkway along with some interesting opportunities for hiking and biking. You should really allow a separate day to visit the gem at the end of the parkway, George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Read more about a George Washington Parkway scenic drive.
Things to Do on the George Washington Memorial Parkway Scenic Drive
- Hike along the Potomac at Turkey Run Park
- Take a short, easy hike to Windy Run.
- Explore Theodore Roosevelt Island.
- Visit the Marine Corps Memorial.
- Honor fallen heroes at Arlington National Cemetery.
- Dine, shop, and visit a very unique pharmacy in Alexandria.
- Visit DC’s southern corner at Jones Point Park.
- Relax by the river at Lady Bird Johnson Park.
- Explore Dyke Marsh and the Mount Vernon Trail.
- Visit the gem at the end of the parkway, George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
3. Snickersville Turnpike and Northwest Loudoun County
Map: Snickersville Turnpike and Northwest Loudoun County Scenic Drive
Distance + Time: 60 mile loop drive; 1.5 hours
Sights: Farms, small towns, country stores
Activities: Dining, wineries and breweries, antiquing
The roads of Loudoun County offer a wealth of bucolic small towns; beautiful wineries, craft breweries, and distilleries; and historic sites and homes, providing many opportunities to learn, explore, and relax. Our route includes the historic Snickersville Turnpike and a drive through northern Loudoun County. Read more about Snickersville Turnpike and Loudoun County scenic drive.
Things to Do on the Northwest Loudoun County Scenic Drive
- Visit the Massachusetts 1st Calvary Memorial and learn about one of the bloodiest calvary battles of the Civil War.
- Visit the Philomont General Store and shop for food and souvenirs. Try the Virginia salt and pepper peanuts!
- Enjoy Virginia wine or beer with amazing views at Bluemont Winery and Dirt Farm Brewing.
- Shop for fresh, local produce at Great Country Farms. If you visit in October, you can enjoy pumpkin patch fun.
- Stop in Purcellville for a meal, a drink, antiquing, hiking and biking.
- Head to Old 690 to visit one of the first farm/craft breweries to open in Virginia.
- Check out the historic German cemetery in Lovettsville
- Stroll the streets of Waterford and visit the Waterford Corner Store.
- If your car is sturdy, take a side trip on the Unpaved Roads of Loudoun County.
4. Southern Loudoun and Northern Fauquier County
Map: Southern Loudoun and Northern Fauquier County Scenic Drive
Distance + Time: 57 miles; 1.5 hours
Sights: Farms, small towns, Shenandoah foothills
Activities: Hiking, dining, apple-picking, parks
A scenic loop drive is extra fun when it includes both beautiful small towns and open parkland. Our route includes the lovely towns of Aldie, Middleburg, and The Plains plus the option to stop for a hike at Sky Meadows State Park and Bull Run Conservancy.
Things to Do on the Southern Loudoun + Northern Fauquier County Scenic Drive
- Check out the historic Aldie Mill.
- Stop for a tasting at one of the wineries along the way.
- Dine and shop in Middleburg.
- Enjoy a meal and a pint at Hunter’s Head Tavern or the Blackthorne Inn in Upperville.
- Stop at Sky Meadows State Park for history, hiking, and seasonal pumpkin fun.
- Detour west on 66 to Markham for apple picking at Stribling Orchard.
- Stop in The Plains for lunch, dinner, or a glass of wine at The Front Porch. (You may see Robert Duvall there like we did.)
- Visit the Bull Run Mountains Conservancy for a hike then toast your outing at The Winery at La Grange.
5. Leesburg and Northeast Loudoun County
Map: Leesburg and Northeast Loudoun County Scenic Drive
Distance + Time: 30 miles; 1.5 – 2 hours
Sights: Historic parks and towns, Potomac River ferry, wineries, farms
Activities: Wineries, dining, shopping, hiking, ferry ride
While the distance for this route is modest, allow time to stop for a ride on the ferry, to enjoy a glass of Virginia wine, and to explore downtown Leesburg. Some of the winery roads are dirt or crushed stone, but they are all easy to navigate and several offer relaxing views of the Virginia countryside.
Things to do on the Leesburg and Northeast Loudoun County Scenic Drive
- Hike to a view at Red Rock Overlook Regional Park
- Dine and shop in Leesburg. Fireworks Pizza, Tuscarora Mill, Lightfoot, and King Street Oyster Bar, are all delicious options. A bit further from downtown, Melt has amazing gourmet cheeseburgers.
- Pick up a pie or a slice at Mom’s Apple Pie.
- Take a hike through history at Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Park.
- Take a side trip across the Potomac on the Jubal A. Early at White’s Ferry. It’s a fun stop even if you just ride across to Maryland and back.
- Stop and sip at a Virginia winery. We like the vibe at Lost Creek and the patio in the trees at Tarara, and there are several others to choose from along this route.
- Shop for hidden gems and antiques at the Old Lucketts Store.
- Explore the gardens and grounds at Morven Park. Tours of the mansion are available on weekend afternoons during the fall season.
While we especially love these Northern Virginia scenic drives on a clear, crisp fall day, they are generally beautiful year-round. In the spring your views and hikes will be sprinkled with Virginia wildflowers. In summer, a drive offers a break from the heat, with views of lush green fields and forests. During the winter, snow-covered hills are beautiful, and many wineries offer gorgeous views from cozy tasting rooms.
Whether you enjoy these Northern Virginia scenic drives throughout the year, or cover one every fall weekend, we wish you a fun and relaxing journey.