8 Great Scenic Drives in Northern Virginia Near DC

Updated on February 10, 2024 by Julie McCool

The best scenic drives in Northern Virginia include gorgeous views and fun stops, perfect for a relaxed outing or an active day trip near Washington DC. Our expanded collection of Northern Virginia scenic drive routes includes driving maps, suggested stops, activities for all ages, and local tips.

Enjoy parks, hiking, history, dining, wineries and breweries, and more local stops on these wonderful Virginia scenic drives. There are interesting things to do on all of these drives, or you can just stay in your car and enjoy the scenery.

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Are you a Northern Virginia or Washington DC resident? Bookmark this article and explore a new route the next time you are searching for “scenic drives near me”. These routes include pretty sights and interesting stops all year long.

We have lived in Northern Virginia for more than 25 years and finding cool places to drive is a favorite activity. These auto routes are based on our personal experience driving these roads in every season. That's why our Northern Virginia scenic drive articles include firsthand accurate information, tips, and photos.

8 Fantastic Northern Virginia Scenic Drives Tips

One of the most popular times for a scenic drive in Northern Virginia is on a clear, crisp fall day. Colorful fall foliage makes roadside scenes even more beautiful. But scenic drives are a welcome pastime throughout the year.

In the spring, your vistas and hikes will be colored with Virginia wildflowers and a bright green canopy. In summer, a drive offers a break from the heat, with landscapes of lush fields and forests. During the winter, snow-covered hills are beautiful, and many wineries offer gorgeous scenes from cozy tasting rooms.

Relax, take it slow, and enjoy the journey. Here are a few tips about these scenic drives in Northern Virginia:

  • These scenic drives in Northern Virginia range from a 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. Add extra time to visit the stops on our routes.
  • Routes range from 16 to over 100 miles, and you could combine several drives for a longer 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 is scenic during rush hour in Northern Virginia. These drives are best enjoyed on the weekend or between 10:00 and 3:00 on weekdays.

These scenic drives in Northern Virginia reach from the edge of the Potomac River to the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park.

1. Great Falls Scenic Drive Loop

The Great Falls loop is ideal when you are looking for short scenic drives in the DC area. This route delivers pretty winding roads and beautiful stops near the Potomac River.

Trip Details: Great Falls Scenic Drive on Pretty Country Roads in Northern Virginia

Distance + Time: 30 mile loop drive; 1 hour
Sights: Farms, forests, grand houses, parks
Activities: Hiking, paddling, history, dining
Map: Great Falls Scenic Drive

Fall Foliage on Georgetown Pike, one of the Best Scenic Drives in Northern Virginia Near Washington DC
Georgetown Pike Scenic Drive in Northern Virginia

This scenic drive loop 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 endpoint. The route includes the historic Georgetown Pike (193), named to the National Register of Historic Places, and designated as the first Virginia Byway.

Part of this drive overlaps the route in drive #2 below. You could combine the two drives for a full-day outing.

Things to Do on the Great Falls Scenic Drive

See details, photos and more tips: Great Falls Scenic Drive.

2. George Washington Memorial Parkway + Georgetown Pike

Drive two of the most historic roads in Northern Virginia. Follow Georgetown Pike, a winding scenic road that is the first designated Virginia Byway. Then drive the George Washington Memorial Parkway from Great Falls Park to George Washington's Mount Vernon. This historic roadway is managed by the National Park Service.

Trip Details: Georgetown Pike & George Washington Memorial Parkway Scenic Drive

Distance + Time: 50 miles one way; 1.5 hours
Sights: Parks, historic monuments, Potomac River, and Washington DC
Activities: National monuments and parks, hiking, biking, dining, shopping
Georgetown Pike and George Washington Memorial Parkway Scenic Drive

Fall Foliage on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, One of the Most Historic Scenic Drives in Northern Virginia
George Washington Memorial Parkway

This drive combines two historic roads. Georgetown Pike is the first road to be designated a Virginia Scenic Byway. The Pike is only 12 miles long, but it offers access to several parks with great hiking along the Potomac River. The drive passes through the center of Great Falls, a pretty Virginia small town. See drive #1 on our list for an alternate route through Great Falls.

The second of our scenic drives in Northern Virginia 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. This ca Allow at least half a day to visit the gem at the end of the parkway, George Washington's Mount Vernon.

Things to Do on a Georgetown Pike Scenic Drive

Things to Do on the George Washington Memorial Parkway Scenic Drive

3. Snickersville Turnpike and Northwest Loudoun County

Enjoy a beautiful loop drive through Loudoun County on the historic Snickersville Turnpike and beautiful country roads near Leesburg Virginia.

Trip Details: Snickersville Turnpike and 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
Map: Snickersville Turnpike and Northwest Loudoun County Scenic Drive

Fall on he Snickersville Turnpike Scenic Drive part of a Leesburg Loop Route through Northern Virginia
Snickersville Turnpike Scenic Drive

The roads of Loudoun County offer a wealth of quaint small towns, beautiful wineries, craft breweries, and historic sites and homes. You'll find many opportunities to learn, explore, and relax on one of the most bucolic scenic drives in Northern Virginia.

This scenic route, sometimes called the Leesburg Loop Drive, includes the historic Snickersville Turnpike and a trip through northern Loudoun County wine country.

Things to Do on the Northwest Loudoun County Scenic Drive

4. Hunt Country Drive in Southern Loudoun and Northern Fauquier County

Explore the small towns, wineries, farms, and vistas of Virginia Hunt Country. This gorgeous scenic route through Southern Loudoun and Fauquier Counties is one of the most peaceful scenic drives in Northern Virginia.

Trip Details: Beautiful Hunt Country Scenic Drive in Northern Virginia

Distance + Time: 60 miles; 2 hours
Sights: Farms, quaint towns, Shenandoah foothills
Activities: Hiking, wineries, dining, apple-picking, parks
Map: Southern Loudoun and Northern Fauquier County Scenic Drive

Fall Foliage and Stone Walls Line the Road on the Hunt Country Scenic Drive in The Plains
Hunt Country Drive The Plains VA

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, Marshall, and The Plains plus several wineries and restaurants and a visit to Sky Meadows State Park.

Things to Do on the Southern Loudoun + Northern Fauquier County Scenic Drive

5. Unpaved Roads Scenic Drive Near Leesburg VA

A scenic drive on the Loudoun County unpaved roads near Leesburg Virginia includes beautiful country roads, pastoral farms, historic towns, one-lane bridges, and gorgeous views at every turn.

Trip Details: Beautiful Loudoun County Unpaved Roads Near Leesburg Virginia.

Distance + Time: 42 mile loop drive; 2 hours
Sights: Farms; field, forest, and mountain scenes; historic towns
Activities: Hiking, history, wineries, dining, local shops
Map: Unpaved Roads Near Leesburg Route*

  • GPS will re-route away from unpaved roads, so follow the trip details link for maps and turn-by-turn directions.
Tractor Mailbox on Downey Mill Rd part of the Unpaved Roads Scenic Drive in Loudoun County VA
Unpaved Roads Loudoun County VA

Loudoun County has more miles of unpaved roads than any Virginia jurisdiction, many of them dating to the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, these roads connect farms and historic villages much as they did hundreds of years ago. Drive our unpaved roads scenic route and enjoy sunken lanes, one-lane bridges, stonewalls, historic towns and cemeteries, and some of the best views in Northern Virginia.

While the unpaved roads on our route are rugged, they are generally well-maintained and accessible to any vehicle. Roads are narrow and winding, so please slow down and watch out for cyclists, farm equipment, and oncoming traffic. Below are several optional stops to enjoy, but the unpaved roads themselves are our favorite part of this scenic drive.

Things to Do on the Unpaved Roads Near Leesburg Scenic Drive

6. Scenic Drive on the Virginia / Maryland Border

Drive a pretty route near the border of Virginia and Maryland, stopping at pretty parks, historic sites, wineries, and a delicious local ice cream shop.

Update: Our original route included crossing the Potomac on a historic ferry. White's Ferry closed in December 2020 so you can no longer drive this route as a loop. We hope the ferry will reopen someday.

Trip Details: Leesburg Scenic Drive Along the Virginia Maryland Border.

Distance + Time: 66 miles; 2 hours
Sights: Historic parks and towns, wineries and breweries, farms
Activities: Hiking, history, wineries, breweries, dining
Map: Northeast Loudoun County and Maryland Scenic Drive

Farms line the road on a Virginia Maryland Border Scenic Drive
Virginia Maryland Border Scenic Drive

This scenic drive begins in historic Leesburg and travels over the Point of Rocks Bridge. Allow time for optional stops at parks along the C&O Canal in Maryland for hiking, biking, and history. This route also includes quaint towns, relaxing wineries and breweries, and a multi-generational farm selling tasty ice cream. One of the winery roads is dirt and crushed stone, but this drive is easy to navigate and offers relaxing views of the Virginia and Maryland countryside.

Things to do on the Leesburg to Maryland Scenic Drive

7. Fairfax County Scenic Drive on Beautiful Virginia Byways

Explore a quieter side of Northern Virginia's busiest region on this Fairfax County scenic drive. Our route follows lovely scenic byways past small towns, pretty parks, and hidden gems.

Trip Details: Fairfax County Scenic Drive on Virginia Byways.

Distance + Time: 46 miles; 1.5 hours
Sights: Virginia Byways, quaint towns, parks, historic sites
Activities: Hiking, biking, paddling, history
Map: Fairfax County Virginia Byways Scenic Drive

Fairfax County Scenic Drive on Virginia Byways in Summer
Fairfax County Scenic Drive on Virginia Byway

Explore Fairfax County Virginia as you drive 5 designated Virginia Byways to small towns, beautiful parks, and interesting historic sites. This drive makes a great day trip from Washington DC and includes places to hike, bike, and paddle plus great places to eat and the closest winery to DC.

Things to do on the Fairfax County Scenic Drive

8. Shenandoah National Park Skyline Drive

While Shenandoah National Park is a bit further west, no list of scenic drives in Virginia would be complete without Skyline Drive. With 105 miles of gorgeous scenery and natural beauty, Skyline Dive makes a fantastic day trip from Washington DC. If you are looking for mountain drives near DC, Skyline Drive should be at the top of your list.

Trip Details: Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park Day Trip Planner

Distance + Time: 105 miles one way; 3 hours
Sights: Mountain views, wildlife, visitor centers, park lodges
Activities: Overlooks, hiking, picnicking, history, dining, ranger-led activities
Map: Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park

Fall Foliage on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, One of the Best Scenic Drives in Northern Virginia
Skyline Drive Shenandoah National Park

Skyline Drive stretches 105 miles through the Blue Ridge Mountains from Front Royal to Waynesboro. The drive bisects Shenandoah National Park and is the primary access point for park facilities and many popular hiking trails.

Many people visit Skyline Drive during fall foliage season (October-November), but the road is open year-round. Visit in late spring to see mountain laurel and other Virginia wildflowers in bloom. Shady trails and waterfalls like the Rose River Loop offer a break from summer heat. The park is beautiful in colder months too but check ahead for road closures due to winter storms.

With 75 scenic overlooks, 2 park lodges, a Visitor Center, and over 500 miles of trails, Skyline Drive can be overwhelming to visit in a day. And since the speed limit is 35 miles an hour, it takes about 3 hours to complete the drive in one direction. The distance is fine if you are looking for a long drive near DC, but it does take extra time to reach and follow this scenic route.

If you plan to hike and stop at visitor centers, we recommend a narrower focus on Shenandoah's Central District. The center of the park, between the Thornton Gap Entrance and Swift Run Gap Entrances, covers 35 miles. Here you will find many of the best overlook vistas, National Park facilities, and hikes in the park.

Things to Do on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah Park Central District

Here are some of the best things to do from Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park Central District.

  • Enjoy excellent eastward views of park mountains and the Virginia Piedmont from Tunnel Parking, Hazel Mountain, Pinnacles, and Thorofare Overlooks.
  • See gorgeous scenes of the Shenandoah Valley and Massanutten Mountains from westward-facing overlooks like Jewell Hollow, Stony Man, and The Point. Many westward overlooks are great for watching sunsets.
  • Stop for a meal and souvenir shopping at the two park lodges—Skyland and Big Meadows. Try the Blackberry Ice Cream Pie! You can even hike lodge to lodge if time allows.
  • Join a ranger-led activity and learn about the park at the Harry Byrd Visitor Center.
  • Hike the popular trails to Stony Man Mountain and Little Stony Man for beautiful westward views.
  • Take the Dark Hollow Falls, Rose River, or Lewis Falls trails to beautiful waterfalls.
  • Tackle a longer Appalachian Trail hike to Mary's Rock or a short rock scramble to Bearfence Mountain for panoramic mountain views.
  • Spend the night at a park lodge or one of several excellent campgrounds.

Bonus: Washington DC Cherry Blossom Scenic Drive

Cherry blossom season is one of the most spectacular times to visit Washington DC. The most famous cherry trees bloom around the Tidal Basin, but there are more blossoms to see in nearby parks.

In late March and early April, see the Washington DC cherry blossoms from the comfort of your car on a Washington DC Cherry Blossom Scenic Drive. If you miss the peak bloom, you can still see gorgeous late-blooming cherry trees 2 to 3 weeks later.

Cherry Blossoms Scenic Drive in East Potomac Park Washington DC
Cherry Blossoms Scenic Drive Washington DC

Our DC scenic drive route gives you a great view of the cherry blossoms plus the Washington Monument, World War II Memorial, and more. In fact, this DC scenic drive route is interesting year-round, even when the cherry trees are not in bloom.

More Virginia Scenic Drives That Are Worth the Trip

Scenic drives in Northern Virginia are lovely, but there are many more beautiful road trip opportunities nearby. Here are more scenic drives in Virginia perfect for a weekend getaway or a longer road trip:

Ready to go further afield? Take a Frank Lloyd Wright Road Trip to Laurel Highlands Pennsylvania for historic architecture and stunning scenery.

We hope you enjoy these scenic drives in Northern Virginia throughout the year. Drive safe and have a fun and relaxing time!

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The Best Scenic Drives in Northern Virignia Near Washington DC
Beautiful Scenic Drives Near Washington DC