Fall is here and the fresh mountain air calls. How better to experience Loudoun’s stunning countryside than on a drive down our winding country lanes, scenic byways and rugged dirt roads?
Here we select three of the greatest drives in the county – and where to stop along the way.
Drive One: Snickersville Turnpike (15 miles)
Follow this historic Virginia byway (734) over rolling foothills and across Goose Creek and its tributaries from the historic Village of Aldie on Route 50 to picturesque Bluemont in the slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Only 15 miles, the route was traversed by George Washington and the scene of skirmishes during the Civil War. From relatively low-lying Aldie with its famous early 19th Century brick mill, the road climbs past stone-fenced fields, horse farms and 19th Century establishments- you pass the glorious Goodstone Inn to your left-, flattening out a little near Philomont, before rising again. Just before entering Bluemont, turn left on Foggy Bottom Road (626) to visit Great Country Farms as well as scenic Dirt Farm Brewing and Bluemont Vineyard – both on the east-facing slopes of the Blue Ridge with stunning Virginia landscape views.
Bluemont itself, founded as Snickersville in 1824, was once an affluent mountain retreat for the DC residents, last stop on the Washington & Old Dominion railway before the mountain. When the train went away in 1939 the town fell into decline, but 80 years later it’s thriving again. Pop into Bluemont General Store for an ice cream, walk past the gorgeous Victorian-era homes and then take Highway 7 five minutes west to Bear’s Den Overlook on the Appalachian Trail for spectacular west-facing views of the Shenandoah Valley. On the other side of Blue Ridge Mountain Road from Bear’s Den is the ever-popular brewery Bear Chase. Besides beer, you can order a fruit juice or a soda and simply soak up the fresh air and panoramic views.
Drive Two: Back Roads & Mountain Views (28 miles)
From Leesburg, take Old Waterford Road from near the Morven Park entrance, six miles over a small range of hills to the village of Waterford. The steep, winding dirt road takes you through forests, past vineyards and farm fields, stunning views of the Blue Ridge from its highest point. Waterford, founded in 1733, is a National Historic Landmark comprising of dozens of immaculately preserved colonial and Federal homes. Buy flowers or eclectic vintage items from The Corner Store and visit the Second Street School, a one-room African American schoolhouse from the 19th Century.
Back in the car, continue past the historic Waterford Mill and cross Catoctin Creek on the west side of town and then turn right onto Milltown Road. Two miles further on turn left onto the gravel John Wolford Road, which will lead you to Wheatland Spring Farm + Brewery. Stop to let your passenger taste a German-style craft beer at the bench tables near the barely fields before heading on to Berlin Turnpike (287). Turn left here and then right at the traffic light on Route 9 West (Charles Town Pike), which takes you to Hillsboro, birthplace of the mother of the Wright brothers. Pick up fresh produce, sandwiches and a coffee at Stoneybrook Farm Market and continue west. When the road forks, take the right fork, Harpers Ferry Road, and a few miles down is the lakeside 868 Estate Vineyards. Have your passenger enjoy a wine tasting there or at scenic Breaux Vineyards a little further on, while you both soak up the stunning Blue Ridge views. Magic.
Drive Three: Exploring Horse & Hunt Country (25 miles)
Follow Route 50 west from the village of Aldie toward Middleburg – vineyards, horse farms and stone-fenced fields on either side. Founded in 1728, Middleburg is the US capital of horse and hunt country. Grab a coffee to-go at the aptly named Cuppa Giddy Up, and stroll past the historic Red Fox Inn & Tavern, where Jackie O, once a member of the local hunt, frequently stayed.
Continue west on 50 for a stop at the National Sporting Library & Museum and then turn right on St Louis Road, then left on dirt road, Welbourne. Welbourne B&B, a working horse farm, was established by the founder of the Upperville Colt & Horse Show - the oldest horse show in the country. Continue to the historically African American village of Willisville (named on the National Register of Historic Places), and then loop around to Unison, another scenic horse country village, on dirt roads 719 and 736. End your trip with a soda and a sandwich at Philomont General Store, founded in 1913.