Tour 6 -- Woodstock to Lost City
Up and over Great North Mountain (not for the faint of heart)
The tour begins off I-81 in Woodstock, in the north-central part of the Shenandoah Valley, about 40 minutes south of Winchester, an hour and a half from the Capital Beltway, and two and a half hours north of Roanoke.
Founded in 1761 but settled by Germans a decade earlier, Woodstock is home to the oldest county courthouse west of the Blue Ridge. The North Fork of the Shenandoah River meanders lazily along the base of the Massanutten Mountain behind the town. The 1795 courthouse is topped with a weathervane sporting an unknown figure. One historian thinks it may be a Swiss Guard, put there to commemorate the Swiss Guards massacred during the French Revolution who may have been kin to some of Woodstock’s settlers. A short walking tour provides a taste of the town’s long history, and shops and cafes offers a chance to get ready for the rest of the driving tour, which happily leaves civilization behind for a few hours.
The tour continues west toward Great North Mountain, the eastern-most range of the Alleghenies. You’ll pass a few early pioneer stone homes and make a short detour to Orkney Springs, where one of the last surviving minerals springs hotels of the 1800s still stands. The Shenandoah Valley Music Festival takes place here on the lawn each summer.
The tour then runs along little-traveled backroads up and over Great North Mountain (and the Virginia-West Virginia line) and down into the hamlets of Lost River and Lost City. The road is unpaved in parts, and there are no guard rails, but the views of the Valley below are magnificent, especially in spring and fall. In June, the woods up here are full of the light pink blossoms of mountain laurel.
You’ll come back up and over the mountain partly the way you came, but you’ll return to I-81 by way of Columbia Furnace, site of one of the many iron-making operations in the Valley during the 1800s.
To learn more about the Shenandoah Valley’s history and its scenic backroads, and for detailed driving directions and more in-depth information for the tours on this website, get a copy of Touring the Shenandoah Valley Backroads (2nd ed., 2010; ISBN 978-0-89587-3-866; $19.95) by Andrea Sutcliffe.
It’s available through your favorite bookseller (go to www.indieBound.com to find an independent bookstore near you), at many Shenandoah Valley gift shops and museum stores, or directly from the publisher, John F. Blair www.blairpub.com, 1-800-222-9796.
Original text and photographs for the tour descriptions on this website © 2012 by Andrea Sutcliffe