VirginiaWind

NOTE: The descriptions of the places in this guide were accurate at the time the articles were posted. Please be advised that you should call ahead before traveling to any of them.

A Room with a View - Woodstock Tower, VA

By: Michelle Harper

Waterfall at a mountain passWhen most people think of spectacular mountain views in Virginia, they immediately think of Skyline Drive. However, for those of us willing to take the road less traveled (and put in a little extra footwork), a view that rivals any you would see elsewhere in Virginia awaits you at Woodstock Tower, in the George Washington National Forest located in Woodstock, VA. Like most trips, the joy is more than the mere destination. It is the entire journey and the road to Woodstock Tower is no exception.

The adventure begins as you travel along Rt. 11 in Northwestern Virginia. This scenic route offers gently rolling hills and a leisurely ride at a pace that reminds us of simpler, slower times. Even the old abandoned buildings that once were diners and family run hotels, serve as a reminders of those bygone days when the thought of interstate highways, fast food restaurants and hotel chains were far away.

Spring House - good food. Every good ride should include at least one good restaurant and in this case the restaurant is The Spring House, which is located on Rt. 11 in Woodstock, VA. This quaint restaurant fits right into the motif of simpler and slower times. It has a homey feel that is genuine. In fact, the restaurant was originally a home that was built in the 1900's. Local lore claims that the house was built over an underground spring and the community used get their water from the lady of the house - hence the name, The Spring House. The restaurant is deceptively larger than it looks on the inside. Each room in the "house" is a separate dining room with its own unique character. Cozy dining areas are tucked here and there in a virtual maze of steps and turns providing for intimate dining for small groups, yet the sounds of many voices throughout the building prove that there are many others sharing the same experience. The menu consists of everything from lobster tails to BBQ ribs. If you are looking for a great old fashioned hamburger, we recommend the Tavern Burger. After eating your fill, you may want to take a few minutes to walk off some of your meal by visiting one of the towns many antique stores. We counted 6 shops within walking distance of the restaurant.

With a full belly and window shopping complete, it is time to head out for the rest of the day's adventure. If you need to gas up before you hit the trail, there is a tried and true Sheetz on the south side of town on Rt. 11 in Woodstock just past Massanutten Military Academy. It is a good idea to make sure you have adequate fuel for the bike, as well as plenty of drinking water for yourself before you embark on the more strenuous part of the journey.

Looking east at Woodstock Tower.Continue traveling southward on Rt. 11 and turn left on to Rt. 675. From there ride to Kings Crossing (Population 39) and make a left on to Rt. 678 (Fort Valley Road). Once again the pastoral views are well worth the drive. Turn left on Rt. 758 (Woodstock Tower Road). Please note that Woodstock Tower Road is a very windy road with sharp turns and steep grades. For this reason it does close from time to time due to weather conditions. As you ride up the steep twisty mountain path lined with rocky crags and rushing water, it is easy to understand why motor homes and RVs are not permitted.

Woodstock TowerAfter approximately 2 miles, the road turns to two-track gravel. Continue for another 2 miles to the top of the mountain to the Woodstock Tower sign. At this point the elevation is approximately 2000 ft. Park in the small lot and proceed to the footpath. The last part of your journey can only be made on foot. The hike is fairly short (.15 of a mile) but the path is a bit rocky so watch your step. Woodstock Tower is an old fire observation tower that is now open to the public. If youhave a fear of heights, the tower may look a bit daunting but rest assured it is sturdy and well maintained just don't look down as you climb the 3 flights of stairs to your perch "on top of the world".

Seven Bends of the Shenandoah RiverOnce you make it to the top and begin to look around, you will realize that it has been worth the trip. From the tower you have a spectacular panoramic view of Northern Virginia. To the west you can see the Seven Bends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River and the town of Woodstock. Further out you can see the Appalachian Mountains. To the east you see Fort Valley and Massanutten Mountain, as well as the Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. If you are lucky, you will see hang gliders lifting off from the platform located just below the tower.

Atop Woodstock TowerOnce you return to the parking lot, take the same route as before back down the mountain. Continuing on Woodstock Tower Road rather than returning the way you came will take you back to Woodstock but this Route is definitely not recommended. Going down that side of the mountain is much more harrowing. The single lane dirt road is much longer and steeper with many hairpin turns that bring you almost to a complete stop. We did successfully master that route several years ago on the Sportster but the steep hillside views were less than comforting from my point of view and the bike itself got extremely hot. Trust us on this one, riding back the way you came on Woodstock Road offers wonderful views worth the second look rather than the complications of an overheating bike and a panicky backseater.

At the end of Woodstock Tower Road turn left onto Rt. 678 (Fort Valley Road). From there continue north toward Elizabeth Furnace. Here the windy road runs playfully along Passage Creek. The rushing mountain creek seems to just beg you to stop and fish in its state stocked trout waters or at least stick your toes in for a bit. Please note that if you plan to fish, you must have a special trout license. Locals tell me the game warden stops by frequently.

Passage CreekAs you continue your drive along Passage Creek in the northern end of the Massanutten Mountain Chain on Rt. 678, you will pass Elizabeth Furnace. This area was once known for the mining and smelting of iron ore found in the surrounding mountains until the early 19th century when it lost favor to the more easily accessible mining areas in Pennsylvania. All that remains of that bygone era is a restored 1830's cabin. Today the area is better known for camping, hiking, picnicking and fishing. Campsites are available on a first come first served basis for family camping. Group campsites are also available but prior arrangements must be made with the Forest Service.

As your journey through the mountainside draws to a close and you find yourself not quite ready to leave it behind. There is one last stop for you to make off of Rt. 678 in Strasburg - Front Royal Fish Cultural Station. Here muskellunge, northern pike and walleyes are seasonally hatched. Since this is a warm water hatchery, it is only open during production season but visitors are welcomed from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM Monday through Friday during that timeframe.

The adventure comes to a close as Rt. 678 ends at Rt. 55 just west of Front Royal. Even though you are well on your way home, the memories of the day will always be with you. In a short few hours you were able to climb to great heights, play amongst the fishes, watch hang gliders soar over the mountain and hug some pretty amazing curves - all for the price of a tank of gas. It just doesn't get much better than this.

For more information visit:
Woodstock Tower: http://www.southernregion.fs.fed.us/gwj/Lee/woodstock_tower.htm
Elizabeth Furnace:http://www.southernregion.fs.fed.us/gwj/Lee/elizabeth_furnace.htm
The Spring House Restaurant: http://www.jesara.com/
Front Royal Fish Cultural Station: http://www.dgif.state.va.us/fishing/fish_stocking/hatcheries.html

GPS reading at the tower N 38° 52.224 W 078° 26.964

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