On our last day in the Charlottesville area, we embarked on a little bit of history. Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s mountaintop home, was on our list to visit while we were in the area. We hadn’t been here since we both were in elementary school and we were excited to go back and relive childhood memories. It was shaping up to be another beautiful day, but hot, and we were glad would be indoors for most of the day in the air conditioning.
The drive to Monticello was relaxing and the scenery was beautiful. When we had reached the parking lot, we found it to be a little busier than what we thought it would have been during a Tuesday morning, but parking was easy to find. We parked the car and made our way to the ticketing office. The tickets were $25 a piece for the day pass and house tour, which includes a few other tours on the grounds as well. We made our way to the shuttle bus (you can choose to take the less than one-mile trail up to the top instead, but it was just too darn hot that day to take that route!) for a short ride to the top. Once there, we made our way to our tour group under the shady trees. I can’t recall what our tour guide’s name was, but she was very knowledgeable about the house and entertained us with jokes and stories. The only part that I could recall from visiting Monticello as a kid was the Great Clock mounted on the front of the house. There are not photos of any kind allowed while inside the house, so I will link to some information about the Great Clock HERE
After the house tour, we ventured outside and explored the cellar and the gardens. Thomas Jefferson was quite the gardener and loved to experiment with different plants, even crossbreeding some of them! If you want to see an impressive garden, this is one to check out.
We finished our tour by walking down the trail back to the visitors center and checking out the on-site museum. We then made our way back to the parking lot and wanted to get lunch. So off to Blue Mountain Brewery we go!
If it hadn’t been so hot, we would have sat outside to admire the mountain backdrop at Blue Mountain Brewery. They have a HUGE outdoor patio and bar. We made our way inside, ordered a beer, and had a delicious lunch made with local ingredients. After lunch, we made use of our National Park Pass and drove a little way down Skyline Drive, or Shenandoah National Park. Not paying any attention to the gas gauge, we had to turn around and head back towards our campsite to stop for gas along the way. We stopped at Sheetz, got ourselves a “healthy” (joking here, or maybe not) dinner, and headed back to the campsite. We almost had the entire campground to ourselves (FINALLY) so we enjoyed an evening of peace and quiet and stargazing.
Wednesday morning came early, so we had breakfast and packed up to head to our next destination, Hanging Rock State Park, North Carolina. Along the way, we stopped in Natural Bridge, Virginia to see the Natural Bridge. For $20 a person you get to view the Natural Bridge, a living history exhibit and a waterfall at the end of a beautiful, paved trail.
The drive went pretty smoothly, with stops to fill up our cooler with ice along the way (word of advice-don’t keep a cheap, $13 cooler for over 10 years because the ice melts within a few hours and ruins your food!) and a quick thunderstorm passing through. We arrived at Hanging Rock State Park just in time for dinner, but not before a rain shower passed through. We hurriedly set up our tent, got everything inside and had dinner. Later, we decided to go on a short hike to one of the many waterfalls at the park before it got dark, Upper Cascades trail. At the end of the easy 0.2-mile trail, was a beautiful little waterfall. Afterward, we headed back to the campsite to enjoy our dinner and a campfire.
The next morning, we got up early and had breakfast so we could go hike the park’s namesake, Hanging Rock Trail. The trail is listed as moderate and is 1.3 miles one way. Sometimes we get lazy and try to find the easiest trail possible, but we had seen photos of the top of Hanging Rock and wanted to see it for ourselves. We weren’t prepared for the billion (well, not a billion but it seemed like it) steps. It seemed like it had taken us forever to get past the last section of the trail but we finally made it, and the view is incredible.
We spent about 30 minutes or so admiring the view and decided to go back down and head into town for lunch. After lunch, headed to Pilot Mountain State Park so we could check another North Carolina State Park off of our bucket list. The road to the top of Pilot Mountain State Park was winding and didn’t take long at all to reach. The view from the first lookout from the parking lot is amazing as was the trail for a view of Pilot Mountain itself. There is a trail leading to the park’s namesake but since we had already hiked that morning and was still tired, we decided to come back another time to go the base of the mountain. Afterward, we headed to the store to have a nutritious ice cream dinner back at our campsite.
The next morning, we decided to take one last hike before we packed up to go back home. Hidden Falls and Window Falls were on the same trail so we chose them. The hikes were both short, with Window Falls being a little more difficult but worth the climb. We went back to the campsite, packed up and said checked off another state park on our bucket list.
On the way back home, we stopped at Out of Doors Mart, America’s oldest Airstream dealer, in Colfax, North Carolina. They had a huge selection of Airstream’s, plus other brands as well. We got to look at a few older models and check out some of the newer ones as well. We had lunch at Sixty Six Pizzeria Grill and Bar and then made it back home later that evening. We didn’t want to come back but knew that more adventures were lying ahead for us and the memories from this one would last forever.