Distance - 79 miles // 128 km
Elevation - 6,700 ft. // 2,100 m
Est. Time - 5 - 7 hours
Difficulty - Hard ♦
This is one of those special routes to keep in your pocket until the perfect summer day. The terrain of Rappahannock County is rugged enough that you’ll want to avoid the heat and humidity, but you’ll also find that the dark green mountains stand out marvelously against a sunny, clear blue sky. By riding along shaded gravel roads, you will avoid the worst of the glare.
The sheer variety of spectacular views provides plenty of incentive to stop and smell the roses. This is perfect because despite the route’s unimposing terrain profile, you should expect your climbing muscles to be completely toasted at the end of the ride. The two longest climbs bookend the route: neither is particularly daunting, but both are quite steep. Aim to ride conservatively and shorten the route if need be (see “Insider Tips”).
It is not only the journey that makes this route notable, but also the destination. Pick up a delicious woodfired pie from Rappahannock Pizza Kitchen in Sperryville, then finish the afternoon cooling your tired legs at the local swimming hole!
Not enough time? Here are two shortcuts: If you want to shorten the route, you can cut out about 20mi (32km) by turning left instead of right onto Slate Mills Road (707) at mile 15 (kilometer 24). However, you’ll miss some amazing views of Old Rag as a result. If you cut this loop out, I recommend stopping at Reuwer’s Grocery as it will occur around the new halfway point of the ride (35mi/56km)
You can also cut out another 17mi (27km) loop at mile 47 (kilometer 75) by taking a left onto Castle Mountain Rd. (649) instead of continuing straight on Castleton Ford Rd. (615) towards Eggbornsville Rd. (720). Note that if you cut out this loop, you will lose the option to stop at Reuwer’s Grocery.
Views not to Miss? Plan to take some time to appreciate the amazing views on this route. There is one wonderful view of Old Rag at the corner of 707 and 601. It’s overshadowed a bit by the panorama of Old Rag from the ridge on Whipporwill Rd. (603), which will bring you to tears. Another amazing vista can be found at the top of the last climb on Red Oak Mt. Rd. (618). Every single country road offers something special that will help this ride stick in your mind for years to come.
Don't Miss This: Sometimes on warm sunny summer days, yellow Tiger Swallowtail butterflies will “puddle” together on the gravel roads, fluttering away in a magical cloud as you ride past.
After the Ride: If it’s summertime, cool off in the local swimming hole with your favorite post-ride beverage! Mount Salem Baptist Meeting House: 64-54 Long Mountain Rd, Washington, VA 22747. Park at the gravel area near the corner of Rock Mills Rd./Long Mountain Rd. and Aaron Mountain Rd. The swimming hole is right by the side of the road.