We meet our guides at the REI store in Fairfax, VA at 10am, picking up any last-minute gear you may need for the ride. After loading up the bikes we hop in the van and head to Front Royal, where we begin our 200-mile loop down the Shenandoah Valley and back north along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. After a box lunch, we get our bike fit dialed in and mount up for a warmup ride to Luray, VA. This route covers low-traffic, rural, scenic roads shaded by the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east, with the Shenandoah Valley and the Appalachian Mountains to the west. We cycle the lower foothills of the Blue Ridge range, so the route will be anything but flat?a perfect primer for the hilly days ahead. After our 40-mile ride, we reach Luray, VA and our accommodations for the night. Hot showers, a hearty meal, and comfy beds warmly welcome us. We watch the sunset over the Appalachians before settling in for the evening. Lunch and dinner included.
Cycling: 40 miles (3-5 hours, paved road), Elevation gain/loss: +3,021? / -2,722'; Van transfer: 1 hour
After a hearty breakfast and our daily route review, we roll out for a wonderful day of cycling? more miles, more hills, but even more smiles. We ride south through the Shenandoah Valley, making our way to Waynesboro, the southern terminus of Skyline Drive and the northern terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway. As the sun lights up the valley from the east, we ride through the rural Virginia communities that line the foothills of the Blue Ridge range, on low-traffic roads hugging the valley?s eastern slopes. We have lunch at a well-known local eatery around midday before finishing our ride with a series of inclines pointing us to Waynesboro, where the mountain slopes we?ll ride tomorrow awaits. Another filling meal, beautiful sunset and perhaps an adult beverage top off this invigorating day. All meals included.
Cycling: 59 miles (5-6 hours, paved road), Elevation gain/loss: +3,555? / -2,749'
This is the day we?ve waited for! After a very early, hearty breakfast, we begin the slow, steady climb to the entrance of Shenandoah National Park. The 6,000? of climbing on our first two days gets eclipsed today, when we cover 6,700? of elevation over 60+ miles. It?s all uphill to the park entrance, with no relief from the ever-increasing grade. Once we reach Skyline Drive, we turn north and continue the climb to our first overlook. Our guides are with us all the way, providing support for every rider?s needs throughout the day. Uncountable spectacular vistas along the roadway provide ample opportunity to rest while absorbing the natural beauty of the region. The phrase "for every uphill there is a downhill" comes to life as we ride up one long grade, then cruise down another, then do it all over again. We?re rewarded midday with a guide-prepared lunch at one of the many scenic overlooks. Our relaxing accommodations and a hearty dinner at Big Meadows Lodge help cap the night off. All meals included.
Cycling: 61 miles (6-7 hours, paved road), Elevation gain/loss: +6,672? / -4,592'
On our final day, we depart Big Meadows Lodge after breakfast and continue along the Skyline Drive for the last 50 miles of our journey. The 4,000? of climbing is rewarded with nearly 6,400? of exhilarating descents. The parkway continues to meandering in and out of the many small gorges, gaps and divides within the park. Deer, black bear, wild turkey and a host of other wildlife regularly cross Skyline Drive, so we should catch a glimpse of some critters throughout the day. A big highlight today is Mary?s Rock Tunnel, a 670? bore through the solid granite of Mary's Rock. Our guides provide lights for the ride through the tunnel. Our cycling adventure ends with a bang?a 10-mile, 2,000? descent to the Shenandoah Valley Overlook. Here we take in one last view of the majestic Shenandoah Valley while our guides load up our bikes. We hop in the van for a short ride to our celebratory lunch, then make our way from Front Royal back to Fairfax, where we bid each other happy trails. All departing flights should be scheduled for after 7:30pm this evening. Breakfast and lunch included.
Cycling: 50 miles (3-4 hours, paved road), Elevation gain/loss: +4,085 ? / -6,337'; Van transfer: 1.5 hours