Camping in Charlottesville
Since my husband and I had already taken most of our Charlottesville itinerary on a test drive, our friends looked to us to make the day’s plans for our autumn camping adventure: meet at the campsite around 11 a.m., set up, hike, go to a winery, pick apples, have dinner at a brewery and end our day around a campfire roasting ’mallows.
Of course, we had to start with a visit to the Charlottesville Farmers Market. We left at about 7 a.m. Saturday morning to embark on an action-packed day with the Blue Ridge Mountains serving as our backdrop. After a quick stop at the Market, we walked away with armfuls of homemade goodies like lavender jam, espresso kombucha and habanero pralines before meeting the others at the campsite.
Camping during autumn is, in short, overwhelmingly beautiful. We’d sifted through plenty of campsites before landing on Waynesboro North 340 Campground. This family-owned property was well-kept by the sweetest people. Our spot on the edge of the grounds gave us front row seats to mountain views and even more wiggle room than other campers.
After a little dilly-dallying we set up camp, and we were off to hike the grand Humpback Rocks. We pulled up to a lot full of others who all seemed to have the same agenda for the afternoon. The leaves crunched beneath our feet until we were brought to the foot of the mountain. Aside from the stellar view, the 40-minute hike fit neatly into our schedule. Instead of taking an easier, less-steep trail, we opted for the one-mile, seemingly 90-degree hike. It felt like an endless stair stepper workout with added rocks and narrow turns. Once we reached the top, we looked ahead to see little specks, or hikers, scattered across the massive rocks. As we jumped down onto one of the rocks we walked out into what looked like a painting. Like little furry dashes of bold oranges, reds and greens, the trees and mountains sat against the quintessential blue, blue sky. Treacherous, perhaps, but the hike was all worth it.
Next we headed to Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards. It’s a sheer beauty with a hydrangea path leading guests to its rustic special events barn and tasting room. After discovering they stopped serving food at 4 when we arrived, we reached for our pre-packed snacks and set up a picnic to accompany Pippin’s exquisite Cabernet Franc and a view of the mountains. Especially during the fall, it gets rather busy with weddings and college students and their families visiting during football season, so plan to come earlier if you’d like to eat.
Next up was Carter Mountain Orchard. It’s a place where the lanes for their acclaimed apple cider donuts are more crowded than the orchard aisles themselves. Though our whole group was part of said donut line, we did spend some time among the orchard. There's just nothing like fresh-picked apples. This time of the year the orchards are brimming with more than a dozen apple varieties. The men helped pick the apples as us shorter gals spotted them. Once their arms grew tired, we visited the bins where someone else had already done the hard work, but really it was so we could get our paws on the donuts. My friends raised their eyebrows as I walked away with dozens of apples, when really I thought I should’ve grabbed more.
After we ate our apples and donuts on their deck overlooking the gorgeous mountain valley sunset, we headed for dinner and brews at Blue Mountain Brewery. Established in 2007, the brewery serves up yummy food and brews to wash it all down. The husband and I had visited before, so we recommended getting the flight of 10 beers to try them all. I immediately ordered my favorite, Dark Hollow. Rich and bourbon-y, it’s everything I look for in a stout.
We carried our tired limbs back to the campsite with just enough energy to roast marshmallows. The fire crackled, and s'mores were assembled and devoured as we ended our day in the mountains.
Want to bring your precious pooch along? Here's a dog-friendly guide to Charlottesville.