Virginia is a state etched in history. Step back in time on the cobblestone streets of Colonial Williamsburg. Witness the splendor of Monticello plantation.
But beyond historic landmarks, Virginia is home to many natural wonders that have seen the passing of time but appear untouched by man.
Most of these wonders have that one picture perfect spot. You always know the one when you see it – it’s the kind of spot you can easily envision on a gift store postcard, even though its beauty is too real to be contained to a piece of paper.
From cascading waterfalls to epic mountains, here are eleven of these amazing scenic overlooks to enjoy in Virginia. Make sure you have your camera handy.
11. Ravens Roost Overlook. Lyndhurst, VA
The iconic tree at Ravens Roost Overlook is a classic Blue Ridge Parkway view of Torrey Ridge and the Shenandoah Valley. This overlook gets its name from the ravens and buzzards that frequent the area. At the bottom of the ridge are the ruins of the Torrey Iron Furnace, built in the early 1800s.
Find Ravens Roost Overlook off the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 10.7.
10. Lover’s Leap. Vesta, VA
Legends of star-crossed suicidal Virginian lovers have inspired visitors’ graffiti on Lover’s Leap for decades. This overlook offers a stunning view of the town of Woolwine and its surrounding areas.
Find Lover’s Leap on Route 58 West by Fred Clifton Park.
9. Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve. Willis, VA
Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve gets its name from its shape.
The mountain’s soil is rich in magnesium. This in combination with the high elevation and wind-exposed openings fosters an environment suitable for seldom seen animals and plants.
Among the mountain’s many wonders are 13 rare plants, three rare animals, and six natural communities. Buffalo Mountain is the only place in the world where you can see the mealybug, “Puto kosztarabi.”
Find the Buffalo Mountain trail near Willis, VA, off Moles Road SW.
8. Greenstone Overlook. Lyndhurst, VA
Rocks tinted with blue and green inspired the name for this overlook and self-guided geology themed nature tour. These rocks, called “Catoctin Greenstone,” were formed from ancient lava flows that overwhelmed areas of northern Virginia and Maryland.
Find Greenstone Overlook at milepost 8.8 off the Blue Ridge Parkway.
7. Powell Valley Overlook. Big Stone Gap and Norton, VA
A boardwalk about 40 feet above the highway takes you out to a clear view of the valley. The drastic and sudden change in altitude – about 2,000 feet – between Powell Mountain and Little Stone Mountain creates a stunning view.
Find the Powell Valley Overlook from the North lanes of US Route 23, between the cities of Big Stone Gap and Norton.
6. Crimora Lake. Crimora, VA
At one point, Crimora held the single largest source of manganese in the country, an open-pit mine called “Crimora Manganese Mine” that was started in 1866. The lake was originally created to wash the dirt and clay off the ore.
From this overlook off Skyline Drive, you can see Crimora Lake along with several other nearby lakes, which are actually just flooded mined pits.
Find Crimora Lake Overview at milestone 92.6 off Skyline Drive.
5. Hazel Mountain Overlook Rock. Shenandoah National Park, VA
Those unfamiliar with the wilderness should be wary. There’s no clear path to get to Hazel Mountain Overlook Rock, and the trip up will give you the impression that no one has ever been where you are.
The “Wild West” of 1900s Virginia was called “Free State Hollow.” Law enforcement was reluctant to enter the area, where mountain folks, many of whom were members of the Nicholson family, ruled themselves. Find Hazel Mountain Overlook Rock off Skyline Drive. You’ll need to enter Shenandoah National Park and park between milestones 33 and 34. View full route information.
4. Crabtree Falls. Montebello, VA
Crabtree Falls is the single highest vertical cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River. The first overlook is a short walk from the parking lot, but there are several more overlooks you can see depending on how far you want to go.
Find Crabtree Falls by milepost 27 off the Blue Ridge Parkway.
3. Great Falls Park Overlooks. McLean, VA
Great Falls Park holds both the 76-foot great falls of the Potomac River, and the remains of the first canal in the US.
Three majestic waterfall overlooks are just a short walk from the parking lot and visitor’s center. Find these overlooks and Great Falls Park (only open during certain hours) off Old Dominion Drive in McLean.
2. Birch Knob Observation Tower. Clintwood, VA
183 steps will take you to an elevation of 3,144 feet. From the top of Birch Knob Observation Tower, you can see five, sometimes six, different states: Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and occasionally Ohio depending on how clear the day is.
Created in 2003 by the United States Forest Service, the only access to the knob before was through a small crack in the rock.
The tower is located in Dickenson County, near Clintwood, VA.
1. Falling Springs Overlook. Covington, VA
“Enchanting” is the word many would use to describe Falling Springs Falls, perhaps the most popular overlook in Virginia. Also called “remarkable” by Thomas Jefferson himself, the 80-foot Falling Spring Falls is one of the most photographed shots in Alleghany County.
You can view the springs in all their splendor from US 220 North. There’s no structured trail, but you can hike down at your own risk.
There are many adventures to be had in the backyards of Virginia. Through seeing sights and wonders that have existed many, many years longer than perhaps all of our lives combined, we’re reminded of the historic significance of our state.
We can see the many lives and moments that have been monumental to its continued strength and beauty.
What’s your favorite overlook view in Virginia? Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments below!