Just north of Roanoke lies Craig County, the least populated county in Virginia, with only about 5000 citizens. Much of the county is covered by a National FOrest, in which housing and commercial real estate develoment is restricted. To get to Craig County, take Route 311 north from Interstate 81. Along the way, you will cross the Appalachian Trail and be able to experience some great views as the road goes up and over the mountains. New Castle, the county seat, is a tiny town that is only a few blocks long. Further north on Route 311, you will come to the even tinier town of Paint Bank, which features a good restaurant and bed & breakfast, as well as a nearby buffalo farm.
Another scenic drive in Craig County is Route 42, which runs from the northeast to the southwest, parallel to the mountain ridges. At one point, Route 42 crosses the Eastern Divide, a lesser-known continental divide, which divides the watersheds of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi River.
If you head up Rt 311 N out of Roanoke you will find several wilderness roads in Jefferson National Park. These are great dirt & gravel roads for 4 wheel drives, and Motorcross bikes. You may get wet forging through a few creeks and you will see wildlife while enjoying a fun ride in the wilderness.
There are numerous AT trailheads in the area. Tinker Cliffs, McAphee's Knob, and Dragon's Tooth are all some of the more famous and beautiful sites on the trail, and all of these trailheads can be reached by car in 30 minutes or less. Email me for more details and directions.
I drive by this all the time and take it for granted, but its not everday you can see the paper being printed from the street on a fairly new German press, the Heidelberg Mainstream 80 press, the first of its kind in the Untied States. The Salem Avenue side of the facility has huge windows so that you can see others working while you play!