Photography Driving Tour of Virginia

March 18th, 2019 by

The state of Virginia offers photographers an abundance of awe-inspiring vistas and natural subjects. Some scenic destinations like Arlington Cemetery or Jefferson’s Monticello estate are well-known; other stops like Hazel Mountain Overlook are visual treasures located off the beaten path.

Below are two different driving tours designed for both novice and professional photographers who want to capture some the most beautiful sights Virginia has to offer. Each tour begins and ends in Woodbridge, but you can easily begin at any point along the route.

There’s no need to plan anything. Each driving tour comes with a complete step-by-step itinerary of scenic stops, places to eat, available lodging, and driving times. Trip planning is worry-free, leaving you more time to focus on getting a great shot.

The tours are also designed for time and interests, whether you’re looking for an overnight excursion to photograph natural settings or simply a short day trip to capture some historic sites.

If you’d like a more specific look at the route and stops for each tour, visit the Two-Day Photography or Day Trip Google maps.
two different photography tours through virginia

Stop Listings and Descriptions:
Mount Vernon is the beautifully preserved estate of America’s first president, George Washington. Overlooking the Potomac River, the estate includes Washington’s mansion, more than six acres of sprawling grounds and gardens, the Washington family tomb, historic slave quarters, the Pioneer Farm, and more. Because Washington saw himself as a farmer more than anything else, the grounds of Mount Vernon are absolutely stunning, including gardens and farmland that are maintained by a full-time staff, making Mount Vernon the perfect spot for capturing Virginia’s fall foliage.

Row of white tombstones
Photo courtesy of BCRPhoto

Arlington National Cemetery is one of two Army National Military Cemeteries, located in Arlington, VA. The cemetery includes the Memorial Amphitheater, JFK’s gravesite, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where you can witness the Changing of the Guard ritual every hour on the hour. Use the ANC Explorer app to guide you through points of interest in the cemetery, notify you of events, and help you locate gravesites. In addition to its rich history, Arlington National Cemetery is a beautiful setting to reflect and take in the changing leaves all around. Admission is free, or you can purchase tickets for a guided tour.

Barrel Oak Winery is recognized as the #1 Family-Friendly Winery in the World in Wine Enthusiast Magazine 2012. BOW is more than just a winery; it’s a community of wine enthusiasts that welcomes families, dogs, hikers, bikers, events, and more. BOW is nestled in the beautiful wine country of Deleplane and offers views of their vineyards and the mountains beyond. Stop in any day of the week or schedule a wine tasting.

Shenandoah Valley Overlook is your first stop along the scenic Skyline Drive, which runs through Shenandoah National Park and contains dozens of stops for photography opportunities. The overlook is located at milepost 2.8, and its 1,390-foot elevation gives you a great view of the valley below.

Winding road in fall foliage
Photo courtesy of Alex Martin

Dickey Ridge Visitor Center is another Skyline Drive overlook located just minutes away at milepost 4.6. Aside from its breathtaking views, Dickey Ridge also offers restrooms, an information desk, exhibits, and more. The visitor center opens April 8 and closes November 27. Visitor Center times are from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily, but closed on Thanksgiving Day. For a prime fall foliage experience, photographers can visit the overlook during the October 30 – November 27 season. For an updated Fall Foliage Report in Shenandoah National Park, call (540) 999-3500 (press 6).

Range View Overlook is located at milepost 17, sits at an elevation of 2,810’, and gives a southwest view of the Blue Ridge vista. A noon visit will give you good lighting but may wash out any shadows that could give depth to your images. An earlier or later visit would put the sun at an angle behind or in front of you. The sun’s vertical and horizontal angle could enhance mountain shadows, given the sky is relatively clear.

Hogback Overlook is listed as one of the Top 5 Best Overlooks on the Skyline Drive. The turnout at milepost 20.8 provides photographers a perspective that stretches for 100 miles and includes the Shenandoah River, two ridges of the Massanutten Mountain, and the Alleghenies in the distance. In the foreground is the valley of Overall Run, Gimlet Ridge, and Mathews Arm.

Skyline Drive at sunset
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Slaughter Boyer

Hazel Mountain Overlook sits at milepost 33 at an elevation of 2,770’ and looking SSE at a broad valley populated with rural homes and farmland and surrounded by sharp ridgelines. The overlook is a perfect place for wide-angle shots. On the way to Hazel Mountain Overlook, you will travel through a tunnel, running through the mountains, which can serve as a wonderful backdrop for shots of the Skyline Drive.

Pinnacles Overlook begins at milepost 35 and its impressive 3,320’ elevation provides is certainly the pinnacle of views. With a perspective in a SW direction, the overall composition is a shallow valley falling slowly away and framed by a comforting group of mountains that bring a strong sense of balance to the scene.

Stony Man Mountain Overlook brings the view down in elevation (3,100’) at milepost 38.5, but it also expands the horizon significantly. Similar to Hogback Overlook, Stony Man provides a vast look westward and an expansive view fit for a panoramic portrait.

Road running through Skyline Drive
Photo courtesy of Martin He

Skyline Resort is the perfect spot to end your first day, enjoy a relaxing atmosphere, and appraise the day’s photographs. Established in 1888, the historic resort offers affordable guestrooms and cabins, fine dining, and free entertainment. At 3,680 feet, you’ll experience stunning views of Shenandoah Valley, whether you’re taking one of the resort’s many hiking trails, a horseback riding excursions, or rock climbing adventures.

Monticello is the architectural masterpiece of Thomas Jefferson himself. The presidential estate is located in Charlottesville, VA and took Jefferson forty years to build. Monticello offers day passes to explore the extensive grounds, as well as guided tours through the rich historical buildings, including Jefferson’s house, the living quarters of his slaves, and the David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center. Hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission starts at $25 per adult, depending on the package you choose.

Restaurants and Diners:
Mason Dixon Café, located in downtown Fredericksburg, offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch from scratch. Their extensive menu holds true to their theme of “north meets south,” including everything from Pulled Pork Poutine and Jersey Cheesesteak to Southern Fried Chicken and Shrimp and Grits. Mason Dixon Café also serves a full bar, featuring many locally made Virginia brews.

Brock’s Riverside Grill is a riverfront restaurant in downtown Fredericksburg, serving American-style lunch and dinner, as well as Sunday brunch. They offer outdoor seating on a waterfront patio, where they host local musicians regularly. They also have a wide variety of wines and drinks.

Claire’s at the Depot is one of Warrenton’s most prestigious houses of fine cuisine. The restaurant’s history goes back to the mid-19th century when the train depot was first completed. By the mid-1970s, the Depot had been transformed into a restaurant catering to fine diners. Claire’s features a seasonal menu, with unique dishes offering twists of Virginia favorites such as Oysters in a Cornmeal Crust.

You can enhance your experience for both photography tours by traveling in a Honda. The reliability and cargo space of a Honda let you safely transport your equipment to each stop. Stop by Hendrick Honda Woodbridge today and test drive a new or used vehicle. We also have recommendations for our favorite local restaurants.

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