Things to Do
Table of Contents
If it’s more of the outdoors you’re craving, you’re in luck. Sweet Briar is surrounded by beautiful places to go!
Acess to the Blue Ridge Parkway is only a half-hour away from Sweet Briar, and there are all kinds of hikes and vistas to check out. If you want a great place to watch the sunrise, Waterrock knob is the place to go, at milepost 451.2. With an elevation of 6,000 feet, you’ll be sure to get an amazing view of the surrounding valleys below. Here’s the link to some of the vistor center hours, so you can be sure to time your visit just right in order to learn more about the surrounding natural landscape.
If experienceing art rather than the outdoors is more your style, check out the Folk Art Center at milepost 382. They offer varying events throughout the year, so check out their website to see what’s currently happening!
If history is your thing, venture to the Moses H. Cone Park at milepost 294. Here are some of the activities that go on at ths park:
- Vist the Parkway’s official craft center at Flat Top Manor at the Moses Cone estate and watch mountain handicraft demonstrations
- Explore a family cemetery, carriage and apple barn, and an extensive system of carriage trails for a unique Parkway visit
- Enjoy ample nature walks and hiking trails throughout the parks
- Picnic and take your choice of more than 100 picnic sites
- Camp under the stars at the Parkway’s largest campground
- Enjoy seasonal interpretive programs at a 300-seat amphitheater, guided walks and an evening campfire program
If you like rocks as much as we do, you'll love Natural Bridge. Natural Bridge is a National Histoic Landmark formed when a cavern collapsed a long, long time ago. It was bought by Thomas Jefferson from King George III and is on private land, but it’s well worth the trip. Natural Bridge is just off Exit 175 on I-81 in Virginia between Lexington and Roanoke.
Another favorite park of ours in Shenandoah National Park. The famous Skyline Drive is located in this park, but please remember that calling before you plan to drive out there may be a good idea. Weather can be unpredictable at the higher elevations of the park, and we’d hate it if you drove all the way out there and couldn’t access the road! If you’re interested in hiking in the park, check out the PDFs of trail maps on their website. Shenandoah has over 500 miles of trails, and 101 of those are on the Appalachian Trail! Remember that if you need any outdoor gear, we’ve got you covered. Check out our rental page to learn more about our rental services.
Here are some cool trails to check out in SNP:
- Overall Run Falls is the tallest waterfall in the park, at 93 feet! This hike is about 6 1/2 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 1,850 feet.
- Old Rag Mountain is Shenandoah’s most popular hike. It is a challenging hike that requires steep accents and navigating boulders — scrambling is required! The loop hike is 7.4 miles in length with an elevation gain of 2,510 feet. Spring finds Old Rag sprinkled with mountain laurel blossoms and fall views are filled with autumn colors.
- North Fork Moormans River is a modest path along the Park’s east boundary. Hikers will notice a firsthand account of earth-shaping events, like scars from a 1995 flood, and the process of recovery that follows. This out-and-back hike is 3.7 miles.
- Rocky Mount and Gap Run is a demanding climb that will leave you near breathless, only to reach the top and have the views steal what is left of your breath. A strenuous full-day hike that could be broken up into an easy overnight; it is a 9.4 mile loop.
George Washington National Forest – Website about recreational opportunities, maps and links to the GW National Forest, located just west of Sweet Briar.
Check out these local hikes that are all within 2 hours of Sweet Briar’s beautiful campus. Each website tells you the trails to take to see these spectacular view! Also, check out which day hikes the Outdoor Program’s Office is leading this semester, and join us to see more of the wonderful nature that surrounds our campus.
McAfee's Knob — This 6-mile hike (round trip) leads to the most photographed spot on the Appalachian Trail, a protruding rock that gives you 270 degree unobstructed view.
Cole Mountain — This hike leads you to the top of Cole Mountain, a bald mountain with a meadow at the top. You can see 360 degrees around!
Dragon's Tooth — Scrambling up rocks and steep climbs comes with this hike, but the protruding rock at the top is worth the view!
Crabtree Falls — This hike has beautiful waterfalls, the tallest east of the Mississippi. This 4-mile is hike is more than worth the beautiful sight to behold at the end.
Mt. Pleasant — A local mountain that is worth the hike, there are multiple trails up the east and west sides of the mountain, check out the website for more information!
Fortune's Cove — This hike takes place on a Nature preserve near Lovingston, if you need a quiet beautiful place to think this hike is for you.
Spy Rock — This short hike of about 3 miles has spectacular 360-degree views that get everyone up the mountain quickly!
Priest – This mountain is a steep hike upward, but is one of the Cardinal Range mountains and can be combined with Spy Rock or Crabtree Falls to make a longer hike.
Peaks of Otter — There are multiple trails in the Peaks of Otter Recreational Area for all different levels and lengths. Choose what fits your fancy for the day in order to reach the fantastic views on sharp top and flat top!
Snowshoe Mountain has excellent skiing and snowboarding. With 57 different trails, ranging from beginning to expert there is something for everyone. 32% of their trails are easier, 35% are more difficult, 16% are most difficult, and 6% are extremely difficult. The remaining 11% of trails are considered freestyle. Whether or not it is snowing, Snowshoe will be up and running with their snow makers. Remember to dress warm! You can always rent warm clothes or waterproof outer layers from the Outdoor Program!
There are three different mountain sections available at Snowshoe: Snowshoe Basin, Silver Creek, and Western Territory. The Snowshoe Basin has the widest variety trails, hosting beginner to expert trails as well as everything in between. With 37 trails it also has the most runs on the mountain. Silver Creek Area has 18 trails, with 12 open for night skiing! This part of the mountain also hosts the Coca-Cola Tubing Park. The Western Territory Area is for the most advanced skiers. It is home to 1.5 miles of downhill steeps of up to 52% grades.
Not into skiing or snowboarding? There are plenty of alternate activities for the non-skier to do including off-road tours, snowmobile tours, Snowcat tours and indoor pools! Check out the Snowshoe website to learn more!
Snowshoe also offers summer activities including off-roading vehicles tours, Lift tours, Segway tours, a Zipline, a Bike Park, golfing, hiking and more! Check out all of their summer activities here.
About an hour away from Sweet Briar, Wintergreen Ski Resort offers great skiing, snowboarding, and tubing options at good prices. The Outdoor Program leads multiple trips at the beginning of Spring semester to night ski at Wintergreen Ski Resort. We subsidize the cost and offer, beginning lessons, lift tickets, dinner, and transportation to the mountain. If you can’t make our trips, check out Wintergreen for yourself! It’s 11,000 acres of mountain views in the Eastern Blue Ridge.
Wintergreen blows snow all winter and has trails ranging from beginner to black diamond, so it is a good fit for all levels of skiers and snowboarding. Wintergreen also has summer activities ranging from golfing to summer tubing! Check out all of their activities here!
Mountain biking is a popular sport in this area of Virginia, and it’s easy to see why. If you want to wander off of Sweet Briar’s trails, Lynchburg has plenty other venues to offer. The city of Lynchburg has a couple of well-known bike shops that are must-visits for anyone interested in checking out the local trails.
Blackwater Creek Bike Shop is located at 18869 Forest Rd., Lynchburg, VA 24502, and their phone number is (434) 385-7047.
They are a locally owned bike shop in Lynchburg. Though it is about a 30-45 minute drive from Sweet Briar, it’s well worth it! They have great customer service and with a great selection of bikes, all the gadgets you’ll ever need to take care of one, and knowledgeable staff to do repairs for any unfortunate mishaps that may occur, Blackwater Creek Bike Shop will take care of you!
Their website has highlights and directions to some of their favorite rides, along with a calendar that tells you when and where their group rides are taking place. If you’re interested in learning more about the local trails and culture, Blackwater Creek Bike Shop is a great place to go.
Another great shop, Bikes Unlimited, is located at 312 Jefferson St., Lynchburg, VA 24503, and their phone number is (434) 385-4157.
Bikes Unlimited is a bike shop in Lynchburg that’s been around since 1967. They’ve recently moved into downtown Lynchburg (right next to the delicious Waterstone Pizza — about 20 minutes from Sweet Briar) and have opened up a second location in Wyndhurst (1305A Enterprise Drive). They have years of experience that enable them to provide thoughtful guidance when helping you pick out a bike and/or accessories! They’re also there to assist you with any bike maintenance and repairs you may find yourself in need of.
Their website has a great section about weekly group rides and other events coming up in the biking world!
Since mountain biking is such a popular activity in Lynchburg, group rides are a big hit with the local cycling community. Here are some awesome rides:
- Group rides with Blackwater Creek Bike Shop — every Thursday at 5:30 p.m., meet at the Wingate parking lot! (directions on website)
- Group rides with Bikes Unlimited — every Saturday at 8 a.m. starting at the bike shop and on Sundays at 3 p.m. starting at the Downtown YMCA (through April 24)
Elk River Touring Center – A great place to mountain bike in West Virginia
Rain or shine, rock climbing is a physical and mental challenge for all weather, thanks to the abundant resources in the Lynchburg area. Whether you are bouldering indoors at Rise Up Climbing gym or climbing outside next to the Morey River at Goshen pass on a sunny day, rock climbing is engaging for both the beginner and experienced souls.
The most popular place for a Sweet Briar student to be found defying gravity is in downtown Lynchburg at Rise Up Climbing gym. Sweet Briar College owns six memberships at this gym, meaning that at any time, six Sweet Briar students may venture downtown on their own to climb. Since the Outdoor Program owns its own gear, the opportunity is brought to students at no cost! Grab some friends and scale the 45-foot walls at your leisure OR join the Outdoor Program every other Wednesday to have a group to climb with.
Another option for climbers includes the James Madison University Climbing Competition, which is a great opportunity to meet other climbers of all levels from other schools in the area.
For those who want to take indoor climbing to the next level, the Sweet Briar Outdoor Program does offer Outdoor Rock climbing trips. Usually in Goshen, Va., our students will spend a day in the outdoors scaling the natural rocks with a top rock to ensure safety. The Morey River runs not 200 feet from the base of the rocks, creating a scenic, peaceful climbing scene.
One of our favorite local kayak runs is the Balcony Falls section of the James River. With several class II and one class III rapids, this is a great section of river for beginner paddlers. The Outdoor Program usually runs a beginner-kayaking weekend in the fall, which includes a day of paddling this run.
The Maury and Tye rivers are also close to campus. To find out more, visit American White Water.
The Outdoor Program sends several boaters to state and national collegiate races with the American Canoe Association. Races are open to boaters of almost any ability level. Once boaters exhibit the skills required to paddle safely, they are invited to join the racing team.
Kayak pool clinics are offered biweekly in the pool in the Fitness and Athletics Center at Sweet Briar. Clinics cover everything from the basics to advanced paddling skills.
For those interested in flat water boating, the Lower Lake on campus is a great resource. Once canoe certified through the Outdoor Program, students and faculty can gain access to the canoe room and use canoes!
Endless River Adventures – In North Carolina; an adventure company that guides trips and provides quality instruction in white water sports and specialty outdoor trips.
Tubing, Rafting, Canoeing
Around Sweet Briar there are plenty of opportunities to tube, canoe and raft! We are very close to the James, Tye and Maurey rivers, and only 2 1/2 hours away from the beautiful New and Gauley rivers in West Virginia.
Tubing is a relaxing way to get together and have a fun day with your friends when the weather is warm. The James River Float Company is located right in Madison Heights, only 15 minutes away, and offers tubing trips on the James, in addition to the Tye River. Want to do something a little more technical? They also offer canoe trips!
Go whitewater rafting and have a fun, exciting day with your friends! The James River Float Company also offers rafting trips on the James! This is a great way to experience the beautiful scenery of Virginia right in Sweet Briar’s backyard. If you want rivers with bigger rapids, then heading up to West Virginia is for you! West Virginia is much closer than you think, come by the Outdoor Program Office to rent camping gear and have an amazing weekend! Adventures on the Gorge offers amazing trips on the New and Gauley rivers, as well as student deals.
Are you an experienced caver? Do you want to get in touch with other experienced cavers in the area? Then the James River Grotto of the National Speleological Society is the resource for you! The James River Grotto is part of the National Speleological Society. This society is focused on the preservation and conservation of caves, they go caving together and make sure to use the highest honor for the cave as well as safety procedures for themselves. The society was founded in May 1989 in Lynchburg, Virginia. They started with about 25 members and their first caving trip was to Clark’s Cave in Bath County.
If you are an inexperienced caver, the Outdoor Program leads beginner trips for all levels of cavers each semester. Stop by the office to see when the next one is!
GORP – Great Outdoor Recreation Pages — a good general link to a plethora of recreational stuff out there on the web.
Hiking Upward — A great resource to research hikes in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and North Carolina.