Tour 9 -- Fort Valley to Page Valley and Luray
A hidden valley, scenic drives, a rolling river, a dramatic cavern
This tour starts from the Valley Pike north of Edinburg and climbs over the Massanutten Mountain and down into the southern end of the verdant and scenic Fort Valley. The tour can be picked up in Luray if you happen to be coming from Skyline Drive and want to end up closer to I-81, where the tour ends at New Market.
Fort Valley is a hidden valley within the larger Shenandoah Valley, created by two parallel ridges of the Massanutten Mountain. An earlier tour took visitors through the northern part of this lovely and remote-feeling area. The route passes by the nation’s first Civilian Conservation Corps camp from the 1930s. Then the road drops down into Page Valley, crosses the south fork of the Shenandoah River, and past an area of early Swiss and German settlement called Egypt Bend.
The old Valley town of Luray is next, with plenty of shops and eateries and an attractive walking and wildlife trail along downtown’s Hawksbill Creek. The town’s old railway station has been recently transformed into an attractive and helpful visitor center.
Luray has been a tourist destination since the late 1800s, when the underground geologic wonder known as Luray Caverns was discovered. People came from up and down the East Coast by rail, and later by car, to see the cave formations and enjoy the scenic countryside along the western foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Thornton Gap entrance station to Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park is just a few miles east of town.
The tour route runs past Luray Caverns and the old settlement of Hamburg, where the old Hamburg Grocery building gives visitors an idea of how going to market may have looked before Costco came along. Then the route turns east toward Newport, another old Shenandoah river port. It continues to the once-bustling town of Shenandoah, a major ironworks in the 1800s and later a railroad center. From there, the route turns west and follows alongside the Shenandoah River’s south fork for a scenic drive. It passes through a couple of resettlement areas established by the National Park Service in the 1930s to move several hundred families who had long resided in the area that became Shenandoah National Park. Only 43 people were allowed to live out their lives in the park.
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