Whether you’re a nature lover or just want to unplug and relax, Bath County, Virginia should rise to the top of your to-visit list.
Fall, with its gorgeous leaf peeping and crisp weather, is an especially beautiful time to visit the Allegheny Mountains.
Getting to the heart of Hot Springs is an easy and gorgeous day’s drive. While road tripping into this area nestled between majestic and soft-tipped mountains, you’ll pass through a storybook world of forests, rivers and natural warm spring pools. Once you arrive in Hot Springs, the charming, gentrified town envelopes you like a warm quilt.
Stacey Sexton is the general manager for Natural Retreats, Hot Springs, and works and lives in the area.
Sexton came up with the following short list of tips to make sure you do it right when visiting Hot Springs:
1.) Lean into your outdoorsy side.
Outdoorsy themes are liberally sprinkled throughout this article, and we’d be remiss to start anywhere else.
With more than 10,000 acres of conservancy land and plentiful hiking trails, Bath County can accommodate every skill level.
“Maybe you say, ‘I want to try Deerlick Trail for a short hike.’ Or ‘I want to go fly-fishing,’” Sexton said. “There’s golf, skiing, horseback riding -- just lots to do outdoors. It’s an incredibly pastoral area.”
There are even more gentrified pastimes that hearken back to earlier times, such as skeet-shooting or falconry, courtesy of the Omni Homestead Resort. Most activities you can dream up that involve the great outdoors, can be satisfied in this region of the state.
2.) Make sure you stay somewhere you love, if you do decide to extend your trip.
Have you ever considered a luxury vacation rental home? Natural Retreats is a company that manages 13 homes in the Hot Springs area. No matter what size home -- from quaint cabins like the Madison Cottage to larger homes such as Donald Ross Trial -- the company can accommodate your needs.
“We have large, stately places if there’s a multi-generational element, or a cabin for a couple or small family,” Sexton said. “They are very quaint and very private.”
Natural Retreats even provides on-site personnel to ensure guests are well-attended to, which includes housekeeping and staff who can make suggestions for dinner or activities. People can come for a weekend or for an extended stay. And guests can use the amenities of the Warm Springs Dairy Community Center, which includes a game room and summer-use pool. (Which is actually part of the historic Old Dairy compound -- more on this in a bit!)
“It’s all part of our offering, and what makes us rather unique in the area,” Sexton said.
Given the climate and health concerns of the time, travelers want to feel comfortable and have peace of mind that their surroundings are safe. Natural Retreats offers that assurance. From stays in a contemporary farmhouse atop 400 acres with stables and fishing streams, or a country cottage nestled on hiking trails and the Cowpasture River, the staff can ensure guests spending more than a day around Bath County will have an enjoyable experience. These vacation rentals, selected for their connection to the natural landscape and unique experiences, provide an escape to simpler times -- with the convenience of modern comforts, Sexton added.
3.) Make sure you have experts to consult with for all the best insider tips.
Natural Resources' team of Bath County locals welcome you warmly to their home mountain, with connections to rafting and kayaking guides at Alleghany Outdoors, or if you prefer, the chance to tee off on the Old Course, home of the nation’s oldest first tee in continuous use, Sexton said.
The NR team can even connect you with the local resources to plan your dream wedding or reunion at the historic Old Dairy.
Don’t aimlessly Google for all the best spots. There’s a better way.
“We can definitely help make recommendations,” Sexton said. “That’s why we’re on site -- to make sure our guests have a great experience.”
4.) Take in the area’s history and your surroundings.
The history of this region is incredible, Sexton added.
Hot Springs, and the neighboring town of Warm Springs, aren’t just named that way for show. People have flocked there for the natural hot springs for centuries, to come to the area and “take in the waters.” And consider this: Thomas Jefferson first visited the springs in 1818. Suffering from what he called “rheumatism,” Jefferson had heard of the healing waters and sought their aid.
Other presidents such as James Madison have also visited Hot Springs to take advantage of their healing properties. And the nearby historic Omni Homestead Hotel is the oldest resort in the country, Sexton said.
Fun fact: Built in 1928, the Old Dairy Barn (mentioned above), once served all of the dairy needs for the Omni Homestead Resort.
5.) Prepare to make your own experience.
There’s an “understated gentility” to this area, as Sexton described it.
You’re not going to find big neon signs, a McDonald’s or anything like that.
“It’s not a place for dazzle or a New York City-type experience,” Sexton added. “And people like it that way.”
You’ll make your own entertainment with the all-natural offerings the region boasts.
Most Hot Springs visitors are within driving distance. The top cities people are traveling from include Roanoke, Richmond, Washington D.C. and Charlottesville.
“Lots of people come to get away from everything. ... And what we find is that people might come over for the day and think they’d like to come back and spend some more time,” Sexton said. “Then they’ll come back multiple times. (They might) end up buying a second home here. We have lots of multi-generational families who love this area, because it’s what they grew up with.”
Rental homes managed through Natural Retreats are available year-round. The company also offers The Preserve, luxury-level real estate homesites in this premier mountain community. Traveling to another part of the country? Natural Retreats offers destinations nationwide.
If you’ve heard of wanderlust, you might have heard it represents a strong desire to travel, but in Virginia, we call that feeling #WanderLove. Though travel hasn’t looked quite the same this year as previous years, you can still fulfill your #WanderLove by exploring Virginia’s beauty with an epic road trip, in just a day’s drive.