These 5 fantastic Northern Virginia scenic drives near Washington DC are especially inviting when fall foliage and crisp days return to the area. Our favorite routes are perfect for a relaxed outing or an active day trip. Our scenic drive itineraries suggest several stops and activities along the way for hiking, history, dining, drinks, and more local fun.
5 Fantastic Northern Virginia Scenic Drives Tips
Scenic drives are a welcome pastime throughout the year, but fall foliage make these local roads and sites even more appealing. The weather has cooled, the leaves are turning, and the haze of summer has lifted. While crowds of summer tourists are gone, leaf peepers may increase weekend traffic. Relax, take it slow, and enjoy the journey. Here are a few tips about our Northern Virginia scenic drives:
- These scenic drives in Northern Virginia range from an historic parkway near Washington DC to dirt roads in the countryside. 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 day trip.
- 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 Scenic Loop Drive
Map: Great Falls and Georgetown Pike Scenic Loop Drive
Distance + Time: 29 mile loop drive; 1 hour
Sights: Farms, forests, grand houses, parks
Activities: Hiking, paddling, history
This scenic drive through Great Falls begins at the town library and ends at one of our favorite Northern Virginia pubs, You could also use the town green as your start and end point. The route includes two sections of Georgetown Pike (193), named to the National Register of Historic Places, and designated as the first Virginia Byway.
Plan your trip with our guide: Georgetown Pike & George Washington Memorial Parkway Scenic Drive.
Things to Do on the Great Falls Scenic Drive
- Stop at Krop’s Crops to shop for produce and treats. In fall, visit the pumpkin patch.
- Follow Seneca Road to the end for a hike through Seneca Regional 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.
- Take a stroll along Difficult Run and hike to a less-visited section of Great Falls.
- Hike to the prettiest waterfall near Washington DC at Scott’s Run Nature Preserve.
- Hike a section of the Fairfax Cross County Trail from Leigh Mill Road.
- Stop in the center of 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: 36 miles one way; 1 hour
Sights: Historic monuments and parks, Potomac River and Washington DC views
Activities: National monuments and parks, hiking, biking, dining, shopping
One of our Northern Virginia scenic drives is a national park, and is just across the river from Washington DC. The historic George Washington Memorial Parkway follows the Potomac River from northeastern Fairfax County, through Arlington County and Alexandria, to George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
There are many historic stops along the GW Parkway, along with opportunities for hiking and biking. Allow at least half a day to visit the gem at the end of the parkway, George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
Plan your trip with our guide: Georgetown Pike & George Washington Memorial Parkway Scenic Drive.
Things to Do on the George Washington Memorial Parkway Scenic Drive
- Hike along the Potomac at Turkey Run Park
- Hike the boardwalk and visit the Memorial Plaza at Theodore Roosevelt Island (head northbound to access the parking lot). This is also the starting point for a short, easy hike to a small waterfall at Windy Run.
- Visit the Marine Corps Memorial.
- Honor fallen heroes at Arlington National Cemetery.
- Dine, shop, and visit historic sites in Old Town Alexandria, including a very unique pharmacy
- Visit DC’s southern corner at Jones Point Park.
- Relax by the river at Lady Bird Johnson Park.
- Hike or bike at 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 quaint small towns; beautiful wineries, craft breweries, and distilleries; and historic sites and homes. You’ll find many opportunities to learn, explore, and relax along the way. Our route includes the historic Snickersville Turnpike and a drive through northern Loudoun County.
Plan your trip with our guide: 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 craft beer or wine and amazing views at Dirt Farm Brewing and their neighbor
- Bluemont Winery.
- Shop for fresh, local produce at Great Country Farms. If you visit in October, you can enjoy pumpkin patch fun.
- Take a short hike to beautiful views at Bears Den Overlook, or a longer and more challenging hike to Raven Rocks.
- Stop in Purcellville for a meal, a drink, antiquing, hiking and biking.
- 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 Scenic Loop
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 chance 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 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. (Robert Duvall was there the last time we visited.)
- 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 historic Leesburg. Fireworks Pizza, Tuscarora Mill, Lightfoot, and King Street Oyster Bar, are all delicious. A bit further from downtown, Melt has yummy 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 trip 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 historic mansion are available on weekend afternoons during the fall.
Bonus: Scenic Drives Near Northern VA and Worth the Trip
Scenic drives in Northern Virginia are lovely, and there are many beautiful road trip opportunities nearby. Follow these links to plan a scenic weekend getaway or a longer road trip:
- Eastern Shore of Virginia Road Trip on a Chesapeake Bay Getaway
- Northern Shenandoah Valley Road Trip: Winchester to Harrisonburg Virginia
- Southern Shenandoah Valley Virginia Road Trip: Staunton to Lexington
- Fun Things to Do in Southwest Virginia on an SWVA Road Trip
- Frank Lloyd Wright Road Trip to Laurel Highlands Pennsylvania
While we especially love 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.
We hope you enjoy these Northern Virginia scenic drives throughout the year and have a fun and relaxing time.
This article was published in 2016 and updated in 2019.