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A morning on Virginia's US Route 211



At a fraction over 59 miles long, US 211 in Virginia is one of the shortest US Routes in the United States. But make no mistake, this highway packs a nice bunch in that distance, starting in the west at the Shenandoah Valley at the town of New Market, going across Massanutten Mountain, the Blue Ridge Mountains of Shenandoah National Park, through the rolling hills of the Piedmont and ending in the outskirts of the Washington, D.C. suburbs in the historic town of Warrenton, passing by places like Luray and Sperryville along the way. Speaking of Washington, D.C., US 211 once extended east to end at our nation's capital, but the route's eastern end has been in Warrenton since 1980. There's also a VA 211, a Virginia state route about six miles long that extends west from US 11 in New Market to VA 42 in Timberville.

That being said, driving US 211 from end to end is a perfect way to spend a morning, or any time of the day. You can explore mountains, towns and the countryside and still have time for a late brunch. I recently took a trip where I drove US 211 from west to east and had an enjoyable drive. I've taken bits and pieces of US 211 in a few other instances as well. So let's take a tour, shall we?

I actually started my drive on 211 by driving the VA 211 portion of the route in between Timberville and New Market. This was numbered as VA 260 until 1977, when the highway was renumbered as VA 211.

The short VA 305 takes you to the Virginia Museum of the Civil War and the New Market Battlefield, where the Battle of New Market took place in 1864. Unfortunately, the battlefield and museum were closed on the day that I went.

Downtown New Market, where we meet up with US 11 briefly.
I like this neon sign in New Market, actually on US 11.

Architecture in downtown New Market.
US 211 turns off of US 11 to begin its journey east.

Time to begin the quick drive over the mountains and to the Piedmont.
Massanutten Mountain starts to come into view soon after leaving New Market. There was a bit of fog and low clouds that seemed to rule the morning, obscuring some views.

Let's climb the mountain, shall we?
Or we can take a slight detour and check out the views from Massanutten Mountain. By leaving US 211 near the crest of the mountain, the Massanutten Storybook Trail is a short drive up Crisman Hollow Road. There's a short interpretive trail that leads you to a scenic overlook.

Massanutten Storybook Trail.

Here's the overlook.

Low clouds kind of ruled the morning, but also led to some nice photographs.
You're supposed to have a nice scenic overlook of the Page Valley (part of the Shenandoah Valley) from this overlook. That wasn't the case that morning, but it was still worth my time. I spent a few minutes soaking everything in and getting some photos.

There's some craggy looking rocks to find your way around as well.

There's US 211 down below.

Almost time to head back on the road.
Heading back down Massanutten Mountain on US 211 now. So much green!

Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

US 211 picks up a friend in US 340. The two highways will run concurrently out to Luray.

Sweeping curves rule the day. It's one of my favorite things about Virginia's highway system.
As I was driving down US 211 west of Luray, I spotted the General Lee and Boss Hogg's Cadillac at Cooter's, a Dukes of Hazzard themed restaurant and museum. There was also a car show going on that morning. I had to make a quick stop for a few photos.
Approaching some construction for the bridge over the South Fork of the Shenandoah River.

Making a quick detour down Business US 211 in Luray, home of Luray Caverns. What might I be stopping to see?
Why, it's the Luray Singing Tower, of course. The Luray Singing Tower was built in 1937 and is officially known as the Belle Brown Northcott Memorial. At 117 feet in height, the Luray Singing Tower contains a carillon of 47 bells. The largest bell weighs 7,640 pounds and is six feet in diameter. The smallest weighs a mere 12 ½ pounds.
The Luray Singing Tower is recognized as one of the United States' major carillons, where recitals are held free of charge during the spring, summer and fall seasons. The carillon is situated in a park opposite Luray Caverns.
Back on US 211 now as we bypass Luray.

The Blue Ridge Mountains start coming into view again. There's even a mention of the Skyline Drive of Shenandoah National Park.

This is a pleasant view.

Along Virginia's highways, you may often come across the case where one carriageway is graded to be flat and the other carriageway follows the topography of the land. As Virginia widened and expanded their highway capacity, this was a common occurrence, as seen here on US 211.

Starting the climb up to Thornton Gap.
Continuing the climb up Thornton Gap. It was very leafy.

At the top of Thornton Gap is the turnoff for Skyline Drive and the Shenandoah National Park. I went through Skyline Drive many years ago during my boyhood, but I'd like to drive Skyline Drive again some day. My most memorable experience from Skyline Drive stuck with me, as I was being sized up by a rattlesnake as I was climbing some rocks. Fortunately, I was not bitten and I get to tell the tale.

Beginning the eastward descent down Thornton Gap and into the Piedmont.
The descent down Thornton Gap is a long one, but is certainly scenic. The Thornton River follows US 211 to the right of this photo.

Welcome to Sperryville, which is to your right hand corner.

Founded in 1820, Sperryville has an eclectic mix of businesses and homes in its downtown area.

Sperryville is a charming place.
Meanwhile, at this western edge of the Piedmont, US 522 has joined US 211 for the ride. Going south on US 522 would take you to Culpeper and Mineral, epicenter of the 2011 Virginia earthquake.

US 211 has also went to a divided highway at this point, and will be the case until Warrenton.

East of Sperryville lies the small town of Washington, Virginia. You can take a detour on Business US 211 to get to Washington, home of some quality inns.
The county seat of Rappahannock County, Washington, Virginia is also known as Little Washington, to distinguish itself from the nation's capital. The village was surveyed and laid out by George Washington himself during his time as a surveyor.

The Inn at Little Washington, located right in the village of Washington, Virginia.

Back on the main track and back to those rolling Piedmont roads.

US 522 splits off to head north to Front Royal and Winchester, while US 211 continues straight to head east to Warrenton. You'll also start to see plenty of signage for local wineries at this point.

Now that US 522 has parted ways, something's amiss...

Really digging the bucolic drive that I took that morning.

Passing by the award winning Gray Ghost Winery.

If you enjoy a nice drive through the country, US 211 is for you. Then again, I feel that a lot of the roads around this part of the Piedmont are pretty nice.
I didn't encounter many other cars, which was nice.

Approaching VA 229, which will take you south to US 15, US 29 and Culpeper. As a side note, we have also entered the Mosby Heritage Area, an educational, historical and scenic region that encompasses several counties in northern Virginia and is named for Colonel John S. Mosby.
Approaching Warrenton.

In Warrenton, US 211 bypasses the downtown area. US 17 and Business US 29 come along for the ride. You can continue on Business US 211 to go into downtown Warrenton, and this was also the historic alignment of US 211 into Warrenton itself.

Driving into downtown Warrenton and its historic downtown. Incoporated in 1810, Warrenton was located at the junction of the Falmouth-Winchester and Alexandria-Culpeper Roads and was where U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall practiced law at one time.

There's a statue of John Marshall in front of one of the county buildings in downtown Warrenton.

Plenty of people dining outdoors in downtown Warrenton on a Saturday morning, enjoying their brunch and contemplating spending the afternoon driving on US 211.

Old Town Warrenton, Virginia.

Fauquier County's courthouse in downtown Warrenton. There was a demonstration going on as I passed by that morning.

Heading back to regular US 211 to finish up this driving experience.
Many US highways pass through Warrenton. You saw signs for US 17 in other pictures, but US 15 and US 29 also make their way around Warrenton, as does US 211.

END US 211! From here, it's about 12 miles northeast on US 15 and US 29 to get to I-66 and just 45 miles from Washington, D.C. I hope you enjoyed this tour of US 211 through the lens!



Sources and Links:
US 211 - Virginia Highway Project
US 211 - USEnds.com

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