Is This the Most Scenic Section of the Appalachian Trail?

Southwest Virginia has become a tourist destination for many reasons—scenic mountains, heritage music, farm-to-table restaurants, and Appalachian culture, just to name a few. But many people are passing through on a much larger journey: Hiking the Appalachian Trail. Thousands of hikers each year set out on the 2,200-mile long trail that connects Springer Mountain in Georgia with Mount Katahdin in Maine.

Of course, not everyone is taking the full trek across the country. The Appalachian Trail is filled with scenic sections that make for excellent day and weekend hikes, attracting people from across the country. For long-distance hikers, hitting Southwest Virginia is a mixed blessing: It is indeed considered one of the most scenic sections of the trail, following both ridges with sensational views and tree-covered wilderness. You’ll find the wild horses of Grayson Highlands and Damascus, Virginia, known as the "friendliest town on the trail."

But with those highlights come the unavoidable fact that you’re in for a lot of climbing. The trail crosses the state line from Tennessee into Virginia at an altitude of 3,302 feet, and from there it’s up and down along the 167 miles of trail that go through the region. You’ll hit the highest point of Virginia, Mount Rogers—technically just off the trail, but not by much—at an altitude of more than 5,700 feet, along with many several other high points along the route.

Of course, these climbs are also part of the fun, especially for day hikers who aren’t covering the full 550 miles of the trail that go through Virginia. For those looking for for the best of Appalachian Trail experience in the state, here are some must-hit sections in Southwest Virginia.

Damascus

Damascus is one of the most popular trail towns on the AT. It also features several other regional trails that are good for day hiking, including the Virginia Creeper Trail.
Damascus is one of the most popular trail towns on the AT. It also features several other regional trails that are good for day hiking, including the Virginia Creeper Trail.

Perry Smyre

Those doing the full AT hike look for hiker-friendly towns along the route, and Damascus as become known as one of the best. Travelers on the AT will find restaurants, laundry facilities, a post office, pharmacy, outfitters, plus several hostels and B&Bs where they can take a break. For day hikers, Damascus is also the epicenter of several opportunities for exploring the region, as seven major trails pass through the town. In addition to the AT, you can access the Virginia Creeper Trail, the Trans-America National Bicycle Trail, the Iron Mountain Trail, the Daniel Boone Heritage Trail, the Crooked Mountain Music Heritage Trail, and Virginia’s Birding and Wildlife Trail. You’ll also find loads of recreational opportunities in the adjacent to the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.

After crossing the Virginia/Tennessee state line, the Appalachian Trail reaches downtown Damascus in only about three and a half miles. Here, you have a wide variety of options, whether you plan on sticking to the trail or incorporating some of the other trails as well. Some routes that can be done in a day include:

Loop Hike on the Appalachian and Iron Mountain Trails : From Damascus, start on East 4th Street and the trailhead to the Iron Mountain Trail, which is blazed with yellow markings. After about two miles, you’ll find a short, blue-blazed connecter trail, which will connect you to the Appalachian Trail (with white blazes). The return trip over a ridge features excellent views of the city. You’ll also enjoy some easy stream crossings and some manageable climbing.

Loop Hike on the Appalachian and Virginia Creeper Trail : Once again, start in Damascus for this 8-mile, easy-to-moderate hike. Start heading east on the Appalachian Trail/Virginia Creeper Trail. Follow the signs for the Appalachian Trail when they separate after you cross Route 58/91. Here you’ll enjoy the ridged view for about four miles, before you’ll cross a small log bridge and turn right on the Beech Grove Trail, where you’ll descend over about a quarter mile to the Straight Branch Virginia Creeper Trail parking lot. From there, you can hop on the Virginia Creeper Trail and head back into town.

Damascus is also home to the annual Appalachian Trails Days festival each May, which brings nearly 20,000 outdoor enthusiasts to the town each year to take advantage of workshops, outdoor outfitters, food, and entertainment.

Mount Rogers

The trail to Mount Rogers offers some of the most stunning views in the region.
The trail to Mount Rogers offers some of the most stunning views in the region.

Ryan Somma

You can reach Virginia’s highest point with a very scenic but challenging nine mile, out-and-back hike, mostly on the Appalachian Trail, which starts at Grayson Highlands State Park. While it’s great to reach the summit, one of the draws of this hike is viewing the wild ponies that live in the area. They help keep these bald mountains bald—that is, without significant tree cover—by eating the grasses and underbrush, which also is helpful in preventing wildfires. It also means that you get excellent panoramic views as you ascend the trail.

Start at Massie Gap in the state park, where you’ll pass through a horse gate and begin going up on the wide, gravel path. It isn’t long before you’ll reach the Appalachian Trail, which heads south and takes you most of the way to Mount Rogers. The wide open terrain is much different from the rest of the Appalachian Trail in the region, with little tree cover, rocky terrain and exposure to the elements. The final spur to the summit leaves the Appalachian Trail, where you enter a fairly thick evergreen forest. There’s a marker on the top of the mountain, but no view to speak of. This is truly a case of the journey being better than the destination.

Chestnut Ridge and Burke’s Garden

For those looking for a hike even more off-the-beaten path, Burke’s Garden is one of the more interesting geographic formations in the state features a section of the Appalachian Trail that doesn’t get a lot of day hikers. Located near Tazewell, Virginia, Burke’s Garden is a low valley surrounded 360-degrees by mountains. From above, it looks as if massive being pushed a finger down and created the valley, which has lead to the area’s nickname as "God’s Thumbprint." The lush valley is a throwback to another time, occupied mostly be family farms. The Appalachian Trail wraps around the ridges, and while it is mostly tree covered, you do get a few gaps that allow for some spectacular views.

For those not on a thru-hike, however, this section of the trail isn’t widely promoted. You won’t find signs for the trail in Burke’s Garden, which is made up almost entirely of private farmland. The easiest way to access the trail is through an entry point at Walkers Gap, which is located in Burke’s Garden. From there, take the trail (mostly uphill, with some significant climbs) for a bit over a mile to get to Chestnut Ridge and the stone shelter at the top. The trees open up and you’ll find excellent views of the valley below. Continue on the trail along the ridge to extend the hike. Chances are, the only hikers you’ll meet will be those doing either the full trail or at least a multi-day trek through the state.

Of course, these are just some of the options. Nearly any section of the trail offers something for day hikers to enjoy. And it won’t take long to figure out why so many thru-hikers view Virginia as the most scenic section of this 2,200-mile trail.

Originally written by RootsRated for Southwest Virginia.

Featured image provided by Cody Myers Photography

Hungry Mother State Park – Camping

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From I-81, take exit 47. Drive for about one mile along Route 11 in the direction of Marion until you reach Route 16 where you’ll take a right. After about four miles you’ll arrive at the park at 2854 Park Blvd., Marion, VA, 24354.

Intro

Hungry Mother State Park is said to have gotten it’s name from regional folklore. As the story goes, when Native Americans destroyed a couple of settlements along the New River just a bit south of the park, a woman and her child were among two of the surviving captives. Eventually they escaped, subsisting off berries for a while until, one day, the mother collapsed. Unsure of what to do, the child ran down the creek for help and, once he encountered others, the only words he could bring himself to mutter were “hungry mother.” And so, the park got its name. The woman’s name was Molly, which is reflected in Molly’s Knob Trail within the park.

What Makes It Great

Today Hungry Mother is a vibrant spot for everything from nature excursions to company getaways and retreats that take advantage of the park’s meeting rooms and conference center. There’s a gift shop on site if you want to bring back something special for someone special and a restaurant if you get tired of cooking by campfire. When it comes to aquatic adventures, there’s a boat ramp for easy lake access and a universally accessible fishing pier.

Hungry Mother is a particularly awesome place to camp. You can spend the night in cozy cabins or in a six bedroom family lodge that sleeps 15 total if you’ve got the whole crew in tow, or you can rough it out in the woods. Each camping spot has a feature that is unique to Hungry Mother State Park: raised platforms. They’re designed to fit a tent and, not only do they keep you off the ground and all the nastiness that it can entail, but they situates you for a view that will make you feel like you’re floating every time you unzip your tent.

When it comes to hitting the trails, Stone Lick, Old Shawnee, and Ridge trails are all on the shorter, easier side of things. The C.C.C. and Raider’s Run trails fall pretty squarely in the middle of the difficulty range that the park offers. On the other end, the Lake Trail and Clyburn Ridge Loop Trail are the longest stretches that the park houses, 5.7 and 4 miles respectively.

Who is Going to Love It

A long time local favorite, Hungry Mother has something for everyone. Even AT hikers top off at Hungry Mother every now and then—it’s a nice break from the trail, but still secluded and nature-filled. Families will love the array of available activities (think canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, picnicking, camping, and swimming to name a few) as well as the options for equipment rental as well. Paddlers of all skill levels will be pleased with the easy sessions the placid lake serves up—no need to worry about unexpected rapids here. Bikers will also delight in the fact that there are trails open to them as well.

Originally written by RootsRated for Southwest Virginia.

Featured image provided by Malee Oot

A Guide to Marion, Virginia: The Best Place to Spend a Long Weekend Off the AT

Some of the most scenic sections of the Appalachian Trail run through Southwest Virginia. But sometimes, even the most dedicated hikers need a break from the trail. Marion, Virginia, provides everything a wary hiker could need—and plenty of amenities for those just looking to spend a day or two on the trail. Even if the Appalachian Trail isn’t on your radar, Marion is a unique spot for a weekend escape in scenic Southwest Virginia. From historic charm to first-rate dining, the area makes a great home base whether you’re hiking from Georgia to Maine or simply looking for a quick weekend getaway.

There’s a Shower—A Free One

Mount Rogers is just one of the draws of Southwest Virginia.
Mount Rogers is just one of the draws of Southwest Virginia.

Ryan Somma

For those stepping off the trail and back into society, spiffing up your personal hygiene is probably the first step to take for most hikers. Not only is Mount Rogers, just 15 minutes from downtown Marion, but it sports a free outdoor shower specifically for AT hikers just steps from the trail and a few paces from the visitor center proper. For those staying in Marion for the weekend, the Mount Rogers is part of a pretty and rhododendron-filled segment of the trail, which an excellent option for a challenging day hike. Wondering how you’ll get from Mount Rogers to town? Don’t—there’s a shuttle that runs directly between the visitor center and Marion several times each day and it’ll only set you back 50 cents.

Culture and History Galore

Both history buffs and culture junkies will be happy in Marion. Not far from Marion is historic Saltville, once a bustling company town designed around the area’s salt reserves. Not only can you visit spots where the brine distilling took place and learn all about the process, you can also take a spin through Saltville’s Museum of the Middle Appalachians. Here the entirety of the area’s prehistoric past is at your fingertips.

Once your history-filled daytime adventures are over, catch a show at the architecturally amazing Lincoln Theatre in downtown Marion. One of very few Mayan Revival Art Deco Theaters left in the States, it offers up performing arts programming all year. You can catch everything from renditions of Aladdin to local musicians singing their hearts out on this stage.

A Good Meal

Whether you’re taking a break from dehydrated food on the trail or you’re looking to indulge during your getaway, good grub is essential and Marion delivers. And what would a southern experience be without proper barbeque? Wolfe’s is where you have to go if you’ve got finger lickin’ sauces, steaming mac and cheese, and traditional cornbread on the brain. If you want to cozy up to a little lunch joint alongside Marion locals, Sister’s Cafe is the spot. Owned and operated by longtime residents and serving up delicious coffee and tea to boot, you could easily kick back here for a couple of hours and just watch people go by.

Endless Adventures

The Back of the Dragon route between Marion and Tazewell is one of the area’s most scenic drives.
The Back of the Dragon route between Marion and Tazewell is one of the area’s most scenic drives.

Virginia State Parks

Plenty of places in Southwest Virginia are said to be the sites of paranormal activity. In Marion there’s the Abijah Thomas House, otherwise known as the Octagon House. An architectural feat that was briefly popular in the 1850s, the stop sign-shaped house is composed of bricks build by slaves on the property. There’s said to be ghosts floating around the house, particularly in the storage room that locals refer to as the "dark room."

For those who prefer to get their thrills in the "real world," plan to take a trip along the Back of the Dragon route between Marion and Tazewell—by motorcycle if you can. The twisty and turning road is a fun one to drive and serves up scenic views that are hard to beat all along the way.

Wine and Work

Whether you want to whet your whistle or put a few bucks in your pocket before you get back on the trail, you can do either or both at Davis Valley Winery near Marion. Although hikers can stop by and pick grapes for a few days to earn some extra money, the best thing about the winery is that it’s no longer just a winery these days. They’ve moved into distilling whiskey, vodka, and moonshine as well, so if you’ve got a crew with diverse tastes, anyone and everyone will be able to find something they like here. Even if you don’t drink, the hilltop scenery makes for a pretty place to spend a lazy day.

Supremely Cozy Digs

If you’re going to spring for a weekend off the trail, go ahead and treat yourself to some sweet digs that will put your adored tent to shame. The General Francis Marion Hotel is in a central downtown location and is, of course, titled after the town’s namesake itself. However, if you want something a little more down-to-earth feeling, shack up at the Collins House Inn. This sweet bed and breakfast is run by two ex-Midwesterners and leaves you feeling like you’ve just spent a weekend at your sweet southern grandmother’s house.

Originally written by RootsRated for Southwest Virginia.

Featured image provided by Virginia State Parks

Heritage Music from the Mountains: Experiencing The Crooked Road in Southwest Virginia

Stop by Barr’s Fiddle Shop in downtown Galax, Va., and, likely as not, you’ll find yourself in the midst of an impromptu jam session. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get pulled out on the dance floor for a bit of flatfooting. Fiddle, banjo, guitar, dulcimer, upright bass, mandolin—the Appalachian string musicians bounce cadence and key off each other to create something all their own. Even if you’re new to the town and the music, you feel like you’ve just come home.

Jams have been both entertainment and fellowship on main streets across Southwest Virginia since mountain, or old time music’s inception in the 1920s and ’30s. The Crooked Road Heritage Music Trail, which travels 300 miles through Southwest Virginia, tells the story of how it evolved, what it means to the region, and its impact on music today. It’s both a window on the rich heritage and long-standing traditions of Appalachia and a way for communities to instill hometown pride and a sense of place in future generations.

Hop on and off The Crooked Road as it travels through 19 counties, four cities, and 54 towns to visit nine major venues and 60-plus festivals, shops, events, workshops, and other music-related attractions. An additional 26 roadside exhibits are scattered throughout the region. Whether you journey from end to end or stumble upon it on your way to the trailhead, your appreciation for the beauty and people of the region will be deeper for having found it.

Telling the Mountain Music Story

The Crooked Road takes you to nine major venues and countless smaller opportunities to hear traditional music.
The Crooked Road takes you to nine major venues and countless smaller opportunities to hear traditional music.

Susan Sharpless Smith

Nine major venues along The Crooked Road take you on a journey through the colorful history of old-time music. On the trail’s easternmost tip, the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum celebrates the region’s music, crafts, food, and art. The working 1800s farmstead features live performances at the annual October folklife festival, which traces old time music’s roots from Anglo-Irish and African-American immigrants to blues, bluegrass, and gospel music today.

Weekly music jams at Floyd Country Store and County Sales pack the house for old-time, gospel, and bluegrass with a side of pulled pork and hand-dipped ice cream for good measure. Around the corner, County Sales stocks one of the largest collections of old time and bluegrass music in the world. You can even take guitar, banjo, and dobro lessons at the Handmade Music School.

Kick back and relax at the Blue Ridge Music Center’s outdoor jam sessions and evening concerts just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. You can even learn the percussive art of flatfooting during some performances. Compelling personal vignettes illustrate mountain music’s impact on generations of Appalachian families at the Roots of American Music Museum.

Visit Galax in August for the annual Old Fiddlers Convention. First held in 1935, it’s the world’s largest and oldest fiddlers convention, drawing more than 60,000 mountain-music lovers for a week of dawn to dusk jamming. Celebrities harmonize with amateurs and young and old compete in old time, folk, and bluegrass music and dance competitions. The rest of the year, Galax is home to the historic Rex Theater, where live bluegrass and old-time band performances are broadcast across the Internet every Friday night.

Thursday evenings feature music jams at Heartwood, the regional arts and cultural center in Abingdon. 
    Renee Sklarew
Thursday evenings feature music jams at Heartwood, the regional arts and cultural center in Abingdon.
Renee Sklarew

Thursday evenings are jam night at Heartwood, Southwest Virginia’s hub for regional arts and culture, located in Abingdon, VA. Enjoy live music, local wines, and a farm-to-fork dinner at Heartwood’s restaurant and coffee and wine bar. Exhibits showcase southwest Virginia’s crafts, music, culture, and outdoor recreation.

Bristol’s Birthplace of Country Music transports you back to 1927, when recording sessions by music legends Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter family, and others brought country music to the masses and launched the genre. A museum, workshops, and live performances bring the "Bristol Sessions" to life and the annual Rhythm and Roots Reunion packs downtown Bristol with live music on 20 stages in September.

Saturday night feels like homecoming at the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons. Descendents of country legends A.P., Sara, and Maybelle Carter carry on the family’s musical traditions on their homestead at the foot of Clinch Mountain, with live mountain music, clogging, flatfooting, and homemade snacks. While you’re there, tour the Carter Family Museum and A.P. Carter’s log cabin birthplace for a glimpse into the early years of old-time music.

Saturday nights are also jamming at the Country Cabin II in Norton. Why the II you ask? The original cabin, built in 1937-38, was replaced in 2002 with a larger cabin—cabin II—to hold ever-growing crowds for clogging, two stepping and line-dancing classes. Along with weekly bluegrass, country, and old-time music performances, jam sessions, picking workshops, cake walks (dance contest) and broom dances (traditional Irish dance) are all part of the fun.

A large, four-story Victorian homestead on the western end of The Crooked Road in Clintwood houses the Ralph Stanley Museum and Traditional Mountain Music Center. A vet by trade, Dr. Stanley’s "Stanley-style" banjo riffs solidified his place in mountain music history. Vintage instruments and exhibits, with audio narrated by Ralph Stanley himself, take you back to the ’40s and ‘50s when the Clinch Mountain Boys made their mark on the Appalachian music scene.

Keeping the Tradition Alive

Abingdon’s Barter Theater regularly attracts touring legends.
Abingdon’s Barter Theater regularly attracts touring legends.

Cody Myers Photography

Regular jam sessions and live performances continue to be a centerpiece of the community across southwest Virginia. Abingdon’s Barter Theatre, in operation since the Great Depression, is the place to see bluegrass legends and rising stars perform intimate concerts throughout the month of January through the January Jams series. At historic Lays Hardware in Coeburn, live bluegrass and mountain music are on tap Thursday and Friday nights all year long. Travel back to the 20’s and 30’s at the Lincoln Theater’s Song of the Mountains, a monthly live concert in Marion. Hit the dance floor at the monthly Blacksburg Square Dance and Blacksburg Market Square Jam, where locals will be more than happy to show you how to swing your partner and do-si-do.

Best Times to Visit

While The Crooked Road is open 365 days a year, check out these annual events for maximum music: the nine-day, 25-community Mountains of Music Homecoming; Smith Mountain Lake’s Lyrics on the Lake; local microbreweries and music at Mountain Lake Lodge’s BrewRidge Festival; and Wytheville’s eight-day Chautauqua Arts & Music Festival.

Originally written by RootsRated for Southwest Virginia.

Featured image provided by Susan Sharpless Smith

10 Must-Do Adventures in Southwest Virginia

Southwest Virginia was once dominated by the coal industry. Mining in the region peaked in the late 1990s, but has been on the decline since. The slow disappearance of the once-dominant industry has given way to something that people might not expect: outdoor tourism. The natural beauty was always there, of course, it just wasn’t the focus while coal was the backbone of the economy. If you head to the far left corner of Virginia today, you’ll find a huge number of natural adventures awaiting you. Here are 10 of the best ways to see this incredibly scenic corner of the state.

1. Hike on the AT

Some of the most scenic sections of the Appalachian Trail are found in Southwest Virginia.
Some of the most scenic sections of the Appalachian Trail are found in Southwest Virginia.

Perry Smyre

The best place to start a top ten list is with an activity that is both famous and area-specific—hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Of course the whole thing is a whopper that stretches for 2,190 miles from Georgia to Maine, but a significant slice of it passes right through Southwest Virginia. The AT runs right into Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, which is one of very few places on the trail that has a free public shower readily available to hikers (a rare, rare luxury when you’re on a long hike). The park also has a shuttle that costs 50 cents to go between the visitor center and Marion, Virginia, so it’s an accessible place to start or stop a shorter stint on the trail. If you want to be adventurous, pick it up where it enters the region in Cherokee National Forest across the border in Tennessee and trek it all the way to the West Virginia border in Giles County near Pearisburg. It’s a challenging and unforgettable way to experience the region.

2. Climb Mount Rogers

Mount Rogers is Virginia’s highest peak, so naturally it has to be on your bucket list. Taking off from Grayson Highlands State Park (you can park at Massie Gap), the peak can be reached through a nine-mile stint on none other than the AT itself. The big bonus is that there are wild ponies that fill the park so there’s a chance that your hike could bring you up-close and personal with these adorable and majestic little creatures.

3. Bike the Virginia Creeper Trail

The mostly tree-covered Virginia Creeper Trail follows the path of a former railroad, and offers some of the best cycling in the state.
The mostly tree-covered Virginia Creeper Trail follows the path of a former railroad, and offers some of the best cycling in the state.

Perry Smyre

While the Virginia Creeper Trail, a 34-mile beauty densely surrounded by trees, is a multi-use trail, you’ll mostly find it occupied by mountain bikers. The beauty of the trail is that it’s approachable in a variety of ways. You can take a shuttle to the start at Whitetop Station and make your way to Damascus to get an easy, downhill experience pretty much the entire way. The trail levels off a bit from Damascus to its endpoint in Abingdon, but it’s still a relatively leisurely ride. Make it a round-trip and challenge yourself by riding to the top on the way out and relaxing on the way back. The path is well kept, with incredible water views as the path crosses back and forth across Whitetop Laurel Creek. You’ll find plenty of options for bike rentals throughout the region, most of whom also provide shuttle service to the trailhead.

4. Paddle the Clinch River

St. Paul, Virginia, is the homebase for paddling on the Clinch River. Clinch River Adventures is right there to take you on guided, group floats and kayak trips that range from 45 minutes to seven hours. Tubing, on the other hand, lasts for two hours and is perfect for families—three year olds and up are welcome. The Clinch River is also home to one of the best overnight paddling spots in the state.

5. Rock Climb at the Grand Canyon of the South

Otherwise known as Breaks Interstate Park, or "The Breaks" for short, this spot constitutes the largest gorge east of the Mississippi River. Because the spot only officially opened to rock climbers in May 2016, there aren’t too many established routes, which just means there are plenty to be discovered. Expect Sandstone cliffs like what you’d find at Obed.

6. Ride the Back of the Dragon

The route known as the Back of the Dragon has become a top destination for motorcyclists, but any motorists will enjoy the amazing views.
The route known as the Back of the Dragon has become a top destination for motorcyclists, but any motorists will enjoy the amazing views.

Virginia State Parks

Part of the larger Dragon Series that includes the Head, Tail, and Claw of the Dragon sections, the Back of the Dragon is not to be missed if you’re anywhere near Southwest Virginia. It’s a winding road full of switchbacks that illuminate vast views of the land below the cliff that the road follows for its entirety. Flanking the Back of the Dragon are the towns of Marion and Tazewell—both quaint spots worthy of a visit in their own right.

7. Run the New River Trail

Running along an abandoned railroad the entire way, this 57-mile route is wide, well-maintained, and characterized by a gentle slope that makes it just a bit of a incline challenge. The New River Trail passes by three major bridges and traverses two major tunnels, creating a visually interesting trip throughout.

8. Fly Fish in Whitetop Laurel Creek

Whitetop is one of the premier streams for fly fishing in Southwest Virginia. In these waters you’ll have the chance to snag rainbow trout and brown trout. While wild trout swim throughout the 10-mile creek, seven miles of it are stocked waters, upping your chances for a catch.

9. Take a Ghost Tour

The Lincoln Theatre in Marion, Virginia, is exquisite—one of the very few Art Deco Mayan Revival Theatres left in the states. It’s also supposedly haunted along with a few other notable buildings like the Collins House Inn and the Abijah Johnson House, a octagon-shaped dwelling turned non-profit. Take the ghost tour led by paranormal investigators around town and decide for yourself.

10. Taste Moonshine

The Davis Valley Winery started with crafting local wines from their vineyards, but has since progressed to distilling vodka, whiskey, and moonshine. They’ve got original recipe ’shine as well as fruity flavors like Cherry Pie for those with more particular tastes. Not only is enjoying moonshine a rare event for most, the winery is located on a pretty plot of land with great views that warrants a visit on its own.

Originally written by RootsRated for Southwest Virginia.

Featured image provided by Perry Smyre

A Foodie’s Guide to Southwest Virginia

If smokin’ barbecue, moist cornbread, and a tall glass of sweet tea define southern cooking for you, it’s time to expand your horizons. These traditional favorites remain top of the menu, but don’t stop there. Local farmers, chefs, winemakers, and brewers are taking locally sourced products and regional traditions to new levels with stunning dishes and authentically Appalachian dining experiences to satisfy both your hunger and your sense of culinary adventure.

Craft Brew Boom

Abingdon's Wolf Hills Brewing Company is a great spot for a post-Virginia-Creeper pint.
Abingdon's Wolf Hills Brewing Company is a great spot for a post-Virginia-Creeper pint.

Perry Smyre

Across southwest Virginia, local breweries are the post-adventure destination of choice, with outdoor patios, live music, cornhole tournaments, great food, and dozens of local craft beers on tap. Stop by Damascus Brewery to sample D-Town Brown Ale, named for the AT hikers who pass directly through town center. Abingdon’s Wolf Hills Brewing Co., just off the Virginia Creeper Trail, is the perfect spot to combine a ride or run with a pint of Creeper Trail Amber Ale. Visit Smith Mountain Lake’s Sunken City Brewing Co. for a flight of flagship brews Dam Lager, Red Clay IPA, and fruity, California-style Steemboat, along with a rotating menu of small-batch seasonals. A VA Tech chemistry grad is behind the taps at Right Mind Brewing in Blacksburg, creating inventive brews like Mandarina Pale Ale, Tartbroken Sour, and Golden Otter ESB. Grab a beer and dine at Lefty’s Main St. Grille, a Blacksburg institution that’s right next door.

Wood-fired pizza and crisp, smoked wings are the stuff of dreams at Galax’s Creek Bottom Brewery. Choose from their rotating selection of 20 beers on tap, including signature Hellgrammite Brown Ale, Porter Wagoneer, Peach Bottom Blonde, and D18 IPA, plus hundreds more in the bottle shop. Ingredients farmed in the fields surrounding the brewery are the star at Blacksburg’s Rising Silo Farm Brewery. Year-round staples Leggy Blonde, Goat’s Eye Rye, and Thunder Snow Stout, plus seasonal brews, pair nicely with salads and home-made breads from Tabula Rasa, the adjacent farm kitchen. St. Paul’s Sugar Hill Brewing Co. dishes ultimate comfort foods like pretzel-crusted chicken with beer cheese and chili-centric Frito Pie with Dark Devil Dopplebock, Warm and Fuzzy Scotch Ale, Spring Fever Maibock, St. Marie on the Clinch Rye IPA and many more on their extensive list of in-house craft brews.

Local Vines and Wines

The Chateau Morrisette Winery offers a relaxing setting to taste its fine wines.
The Chateau Morrisette Winery offers a relaxing setting to taste its fine wines.

Susan Sharpless Smith

Appalachia's rolling mountains, temperate climate, and loamy soil produce ideal conditions for growing grapes, and the region’s extensive network of wine trails showcase some of the best in the state. Abingdon Winery & Vineyard is an easy half-mile side trip off the Virginia Creeper Trail to their tasting room and 12-acre vineyard. For fans of sweeter vino, Brooks Mill Winery and Plum Creek specialize in fruit wines, from blackberry and cherry to semi-dry plum. For dry, white wine fans, there’s a dry white pear to sample.

Enjoy mountain vistas, Chambourcin and Cabernet Franc on outdoor patios at Gile Mountain Vineyard, Whitebarrel Winery, and Vincent’s Vineyard. Sweet, citrusy Virginia Breeze Red and the award-winning oak-aged Autumn Red highlights at Davis Valley Winery, also the spot to sample Davis Valley Distillery’s Appalachian Moonshine, Virginia Frost Vodka, and Samuel Franklin Solera Aged Whiskey. Visit West Wind Vineyard for small-batch wines served in their fourth-generation family homestead or grab a bite and a bottle at Rural Retreat Winery's deli or Chateau Morrisette Winery and Restaurant. Dance and drink to live jazz at Chateau Morrisette’s courtyard concert series.

Barbecue Country

Settle into a booth at the Galax Smokehouse on Main St. to sample their St. Louis-style ribs, pulled pork and beef brisket. Be sure to try all five secret sauces and the luxuriously rich banana pudding. Colorful and eclectic Cuz’s Uptown Barbeque in Tazewell County has been serving up barbecue, along with internationally-inspired dishes, for over 30 years. Bluefield’s Savory Flavors makes sauces and desserts from scratch and is a great jumping off point for Spearhead’s Original Pocahontas ATV Trail. Smoking meats for 14 hours is the key to fall-off-the-bone tenderness at Marion’s Wolfe’s BBQ.

Candlelight and Romance

A 1920s general store was transformed into the Palisades restaurant.
A 1920s general store was transformed into the Palisades restaurant.

Adam Fagen

Quaint downtowns, historic surroundings, and creative cuisine transport you back in time at several fine dining establishments across the region. The Tavern Restaurant in Abingdon has hosted kings and presidents since 1779 with intercontinental cuisine and an extensive beer, wine, and specialty cocktail list. Meadowview’s Harvest Table Restaurant serves only seasonal, local produce and meats, and will customize any dish to accommodate vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diets. A 1920’s general store has been transformed into Eggleston’s Palisades Restaurant, known for fresh ingredients, cooked-to-order entrees, and desserts made in-house. The Log House 1776 Restaurant’s rustic and romantic interior sets the stage for sophisticated southern cuisine and hospitality in downtown Wytheville. Graze on Main in Wytheville’s historic Bowing Wilson Hotel serves time-honored favorites like shrimp & grits and fried green tomatoes with an elegant New South twist, alongside an extensive menu of specialty cocktails and bourbons, microbrews, and local wines.

Home Cooking

For local flavor and serious down-home cooking, the Hob Nob Drive-In in Gate City has been serving up burgers, sandwiches, and shakes for more than 60 years. Also in Gate City, Family Bakery's lunch menu of sandwiches and salads is available until they sell out, so get there early. There’s no passing up the muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls, cookies, brownies, and mile-long list of cupcakes in the bakery. Plan lunch, dinner, or Sunday brunch at the historic Hungry Mother State Park Restaurant, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. in the 30s.

Originally written by RootsRated for Southwest Virginia.

Featured image provided by Renee Sklarew

Southwest Virginia’s Top Mountain Biking Destinations

Rolling hills. Rugged mountainsides. Flowy doubletrack. Tight singletrack. Soul-crushing gravel climbs. Heart-stopping switchbacks. Rough roots and technical rock gardens. Teeter totters and creek crossings. Have we piqued your trail shredding interest? These are a few of tasty trail descriptors you can expect when embarking on two-wheeled adventures in Southwest Virginia.

Damascus

The sleepy Appalachian Trail town of Damascus sits in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is an excellent gateway to many of the area’s renowned biking excursions. Damascus is a fantastic base camp for extended biking trips, and local shops provide all the tech wizardry and shuttle services needed to do it right. Although the Appalachian Trail needs no introduction, you won’t be mountain biking it. Lesser known and just as accessible from Damascus, however, are the beginner-friendly and ultra-scenic Virginia Creeper Trail and the legendary Iron Mountain Trail, as well as easy access to the trail systems of Mount Rogers.

The family-friendly Virginia Creeper Trail follows an old railroad grade 34 miles from Abingdon to the summit of the old rail station on Whitetop Mountain. The section from Damascus to Whitetop climbs 2,039 feet over 18.2 miles at a 5 percent maximum grade. The trail winds along the mountain’s topography and features sweeping mountain vistas, views of the waterfalls and pools of the spectacular Whitetop Laurel Creek, and several trestle bridge crossings. While this trail may not feed the beast when it comes to excitement, it’s worth checking out while staying in Damascus. This is a great intro to climbing and distance riding if traveling with kids. If you’re saving this beauty for a rest day ride and trying to save your legs, numerous bike shops and outfitters in town offer shuttle services and to the top. Check out The Bike Station or Creeper Trail Bike Rental & Shuttle.

For more of a challenge, gear up for the full-day onslaught of the Iron Mountain Trail (IMT). Considered one of Virginia’s finest mountain bike rides, this advanced point-to-point can be done as a one-way ride with a shuttle or as an out-and-back epic. Test your technical mastery on washed-out steeps, rock gardens, and gnarled roots as you traverse Iron Mountain’s backbone.

However you choose to do it, expect to set aside a full day for this bucket list ride. Starting from Hurricane Mountain and riding to Damascus covers 2,200 feet of ascent and more than 3,800 feet of descent over 20.8 miles. Riding from Damascus to Skulls Gap and back will earn bragging rights as you cover more than 3,700 feet of ascent and descent over 25.7 miles.

Blacksburg

The Pandapas Pond Day Use Area features some of the toughest riding in the area, with some serious climbing and hairpin switchbacks to test even expert riders. 
    Dylan Jones
The Pandapas Pond Day Use Area features some of the toughest riding in the area, with some serious climbing and hairpin switchbacks to test even expert riders.
Dylan Jones

Located just 13 miles west of Blacksburg, Virginia, and tucked away in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forest, the Pandapas Pond Day Use Area and Poverty Creek Trail System offers a wide variety of riding on 19 trails covering more than 30 miles of mayhem on rolling singletrack, rough rock gardens, heart-stopping switchbacks, and jelly leg-inducing trail climbs. Test your climbing endurance on Horse Nettle and then grab the brakes as you slither your way down 800 feet of vertical and 2.3 miles of hairpin switchbacks and bermed rollers on Snake Root.

Beginner and intermediate riders will enjoy cruising the Poverty Creek Trail and many of its more challenging offshoots. For trail beta, tubes, and repairs, swing by East Coasters Bike Shop on South Main Street. The shop’s friendly staffers ride Pandapas almost daily and are happy to share their knowledge with visiting riders.

Norton

Norton, the westernmost city in Virginia, has grown to become one of the top adventure towns in the region, with easy access to the scenic Jefferson National Forest and the camping, hiking, fishing, and water sports that are found there. But for mountain bikers, it’s the 1,000-acre Flag Rock Recreation Area that draws people to the region. Located three miles above downtown Norton on the lower slopes of the 4,230-foot High Knob Mountain, the park features eight miles of singletrack trails lined with rhododendrons, giant sandstone boulders, and large hardwoods. You’ll find a good variety of trails for every level of rider. The mile-long Lake Lake Show is perfect for beginners and offers excellent views of the Upper and Lower Reservoirs. For experts, the Lost Creek trail features about a mile of very rocky, technical riding that follows the fall line straight down into the “holler.” Trail builders are continuing work in the park, so expect the number options to grow in years to come.

Wytheville

While overshadowed by the technical singletrack of Pandapas and the multitude of options in Damascus, Wytheville is a great hub for distance rides in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forest. For singletrack ridge riding at its finest, check out the 12-mile Walker Mountain Trail. Link it up with a gravel grinder on the 15.7-mile Walker Road, featuring 2,230 feet of descent at the eastern end, for a leg-crushing combo covering almost 30 miles. Wytheville riding is highlighted by the classic Seven Sisters Trail, named for the seven individual sawtooth summits along the ridgeline. Featuring steep ridge climbs and technical downhills over 5 miles along the ridgetop, this trail is not for the faint of heart.

For a more circuitous experience, head a few miles south to the small-but-enjoyable trail network in Crystal Springs Recreation Area, highlighted by the 7-mile Boundary Trail. For pre-ride info and post-ride repairs, swing by Adventures Bike Shop.

Hungry Mother State Park

Hungry Mother State Park offers trails for all levels of mountain bikers and some nice camping options.
Hungry Mother State Park offers trails for all levels of mountain bikers and some nice camping options.

Virginia State Parks

Located just 3 miles north of Marion, Hungry Mother State Park is ideal for beginning to intermediate riders. Set among the forested hills surrounding Hungry Mother Lake, 7 trails provide 16 miles of flowy single track, rolling berms, and enough technical goodness to challenge beginners and make advanced riders smile. Primitive camping is available at the park, providing a scenic escape and excellent ride-from-camp options. Crowd favorites include the 3.7-mile Clyburn Ridge Loop Trail, the 1.9-mile Molly’s Knob Trail, and, of course, refreshing dips in the large lake. Check out Dean’s Bikes on Main Street in Marion for trail beta, tubes, and repairs.

With a multitude of options for everyone from singletrack greenhorns all the way to seasoned pros, the technical trails and spectacular scenery peppered throughout the region’s many mountain biking destinations should more than earn it a spot on your bucket list. Load up the rig, grab some spare tubes, and go see why riders are flocking to Southwest Virginia to get their two-wheeled fix.

Originally written by RootsRated for Southwest Virginia.

Featured image provided by Dylan Jones

A Climber’s Guide to Southwest Virginia

From mountain-top boulders in meadows shared with wild ponies to adventurous routes high on the sandstone walls of a 1,600-foot deep gorge, Southwest Virginia boasts enough rock and route diversity to attract climbers of all styles and abilities. Although the sandstone kingdoms in West Virginia and Kentucky tend to steal the thunder, they also attract big crowds. If you’re into solitude, adventure, and the opportunity for new route development, you’ll find it here in Southwest Virginia. Although you’ll find plenty of notable crags with a few days’ worth of concentrated climbing, we’ve rounded up beta for the region’s gems. Load up the van and find out for yourself why the crags of Southwest Virginia are worth a visit.

Grayson Highlands State Park

Grayson Highlands State Park features Virginia’s two tallest peaks and some of the best bouldering in the region.
Grayson Highlands State Park features Virginia’s two tallest peaks and some of the best bouldering in the region.

Virginia State Parks

Situated between Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, Virginia’s two tallest peaks, Grayson Highlands offers alpine-style vistas of forested peaks and sweeping meadows at more than 5,000 feet of elevation. Pepper in the string of over 100 wild ponies, and you’ve got one of the most unique climbing settings east of the Mississippi.

Grayson is widely considered the best bouldering site in Virginia and the best summer bouldering destination in the Southeast. With more than 1,000 problems covering several concentrated areas, there’s tons of rock—according to first ascentionist and guidebook author Aaron Parlier, the initial boulder field before the park entrance alone has nearly 20 problems ranging from V0 to V6, with many more routes waiting to be cleaned and sent. Geology conspired to make Grayson great, and climbers will enjoy the variety of crimpy rails and fingery flakes on the steep, angular rhyolite and quartzitic faces. Several boulder fields are situated at more than 4,900 feet elevation, and highs in the 70s with cool mountain breezes make summer a spectacular time to escape the soul-sucking heat and humidity of lower elevation destinations.

The ponies were introduced in 1974 to prevent reforestation of the highland balds. Because these are wild animals, visitors should not approach, feed, or pet the ponies. They bite and kick when threatened, and a pony kick to the gut will certainly ruin your climbing trip. Because the highlands is a highly sensitive ecosystem, climbers are asked to keep group numbers low and follow Leave No Trace outdoor ethics to reduce ecological impacts.

Breaks Interstate Park

With bullet-hard sandstone similar to that of the well-trodden crags at West Virginia’s New River Gorge and Tennessee’s Obed River, the towering cliffs carved by the Russell Fork frame The Breaks, also known as "The Grand Canyon of the South." Recently opened to rock climbing and route development in May 2016, more than 70 documented sport and traditional routes from 5.7 to 5.12d—some up to 125 feet tall—will have you exploring the verticality of the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi River.

With sun-bathed crags in the winter, shaded routes in the summer, and the vivid color explosion of the Appalachian autumn, The Breaks offers year-round climbing. Secluded camping and rest-day activities of deep-water soloing, whitewater rafting, and mountain biking may make you consider an extended stay.

Before gearing up for your onsight of Put Your Hand Meat In It (5.9), make sure to swing by the Visitor’s Center and fill out a climbing waiver. Beyond the massive size of the gorge and the blank sandstone canvases awaiting visionary ascentionists, one thing that makes The Breaks so unique is its designation as an interstate park managed by a compact between Kentucky and Virginia.

If you’re into route development, drop your current plans and head to The Breaks while the gettin’s good. Many areas, including Pinnacle Rock, Stateline Overlook, the Notches, the Pavilion, and Grey Wall are open to new route development. Route developers should check with park officials for updates and follow the current protocol of listing new routes on Mountain Project with protection information and a suggested grade. Given the sheer amount of exposed rock, expect the number of established routes to increase exponentially in coming years.

Hidden Valley

After being closed for nearly a decade, the beloved Hidden Valley Climbing Area [Hidden Valley Climbing Area](hhttp://carolinaclimbers.org/climbing-areas/hidden-valley.html) reopened in 2014 thanks to the joint efforts of the Access Fund and the Carolina Climbers Coalition. Located just north of Abingdon, Va., the area is defined by a towering band of sandstone rising to heights of nearly 70-feet, and it offers primarily face climbing, the bulk of which are sport climbs, sprinkled with some trad and mixed routes. Since the reopening, Gus Glitch has written a guidebook, Hidden Valley Rock Climbs, highlighting nearly 500 different routes. Today, the area is accessible by permit, and parking is available in the Carolina Climbers Coalition lot. The climbing area is also adjacent to Hidden Valley Lake and the Hidden Valley Wildlife Management Area, making it easy to enjoy a hike on the Brumley Mountain Trail or a fishing trip on 61-acre lake.

Guest River Gorge

While overshadowed by the amount of concentrated routes and magical settings of Grayson Highlands and The Breaks, stellar boulder problems and a worthy amount of roped routes await climbers along the scenic banks and plentiful rock of the Guest River. Located just outside Coeburn in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forest, Guest is bit further west than The Breaks and is a great alternative for multidisciplinary climbers carrying ropes and pads.

Guest is broken up into 6 areas designated by order of the mile marker signposts as you walk the approach trail from the parking lot. With hundreds of established routes ranging from 5.6 to 5.13 and V0 to V10, Guest is a worthy stop on any road trip. Mile Two currently has the highest concentration of routes, including around 50 roped routes and more than 100 boulder problems. Look for the red tractor before the Mile Two signpost for the approach trail.

The public access lot off of Route 72 just past the Flatwoods Group Picnic Area south of Coeburn is currently the only legal parking lot for Guest River Gorge access. According to the Access Fund, climbing access is currently allowed but tenuous. Respect all private property, rules, and regulations, and help keep it that way. Current land management is welcoming to climbers enjoying established routes and is upholding an active ban on bolting and new route development.

The Breaks, Grayson Highlands, and the Guest River Gorge boast enough quality climbing and breathtaking scenery to satisfy any climber, but plenty of additional crags offer established and new route potential. A little bit of research will produce plenty of beta for other areas including bouldering at McAfee, Atkins, Bluefield Boulders, High Knob, and even the cycling paradise of the Virginia Creeper Trail.

If you’re an Appalachian resident who frequents the bigger regional destinations or a road tripper passing through, don’t pass up the lesser known but just as outstanding climbing awaiting in the stunning mountains and verdant valleys of Southwest Virginia.

Originally written by RootsRated for Southwest Virginia.

Featured image provided by Virginia State Parks

Special Spots and Solitude: Learning to Fly Fish in Southwest Virginia

I fly fished for the first time in Southwest Virginia. I was guided by a local fisherwoman to a special spot that just a few fly fishers in the area have access to. When we pulled up to the remote spot just outside of Marion, Virginia, we opened the horse gate and were immediately greeted by a couple of chipper farm pups. They happily trotted alongside us as we made our way down to the creek a few paces from the entrance.

Once you wade out far enough into the flowing stream, it’s hard to hear anything besides the sound of the water babbling across rocks around you and the chirp of birds in the trees. All I caught that day were a couple of rocks and a tree branch, but it’s one of the most meditative sporting experiences I’ve had.

Fly fishing is like the sophisticated cousin of the spin fishing (the kind that has a mechanical spinner and endless streams of translucent line). When fly fishing, there’s work to be done and it’s constant—no dropping a line and taking a nap. But the motions are so finessed and repetitive that you get lost in the moment with just you, the water, the line, and the great outdoors.

There’s nothing else like fly fishing and nowhere else like Southwest Virginia. Here’s your guide to combining the two.

When to Go and What to Know

Trout fishing is available year-round in Southwest Virginia.
Trout fishing is available year-round in Southwest Virginia.

Virginia State Parks

Before you hit the water you’ll need to know whether or not you need a license to fish in Virginia. If you’re not a resident, chances are you do. You can figure it out on the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ website and they’re easy to buy online. The limit is six trout per day per person and they all have to be bigger than seven inches in length.

The trout season is always open in Virginia, but there can be exceptions that are listed here. Even though you can drop a line any time, you’ll have the most success with trout in the spring, fall, and mild winter months. The summertime usually means more difficult fishing thanks to warm water temps and low stream flows but, hey, if you want a challenge go for it.

Where to Get Supplies and Services

Whether you don’t want to haul your own gear around, end up needing extra line or other supplies, or simply want a bit of inside information to improve your experience, there are a host of local guide services and shops to choose from.

• Richie Hughes runs New River Trips LLC. He used to teach chemistry and physics to high schoolers in his previous life, so he’s got instruction in his bones. Kids can fish for a discounted price.

Tri-State Angler Guide Service is based in North Carolina but they guide through Virginia as well, specializing in trips to Whitetop Laurel Creek.

• A master at tying flies, Mike Smith of New River Fly Fishing has been doing this for over 20 years. They’ve got lodging options to boot.

Grassy Creek Outfitters are masters of the Upper New River and are expanding to offer a variety of paddling and other aquatic adventures on the Little River.

• The Virginia Creeper Fly Shop in Abington is a one-stop shop for everything fly fishing. They’ve got guides, information, and supplies coming out of their ears. You can tell they do it because they love it.

Where to Go

Hungry Mother Lake is one of the area’s most popular fishing spots.
Hungry Mother Lake is one of the area’s most popular fishing spots.

Virginia State Parks

The only problem you’ll run into when fishing Southwestern Virginia is deciding where to go. The silver lining is that you really can’t go wrong because each spot is not only nestled in picturesque natural surroundings but serves up a variety of fish like bass, walleye, sunfish, and plenty of different trout. Here’s a general overview, but have a read through this handy guide or peruse the Blue Ridge Highlands Fishing Trail website for all the details on the type of fish you can snag in each spot as well as exact locations. You can also use this online fish finder if you want to decide where to go that way.

Public Fishing Lakes

  • South Holston Reservoir

  • Hidden Valley Lake

  • Beartree Lake

  • Laurel Bed Lake

  • Hungry Mother Lake

  • Rural Retreat Lake

Rivers and Streams

  • Whitetop Laurel Creek

  • The North, Middle, and South forks of the Holston River

  • Wild Trout Streams in Grayson Highlands

  • Big Wilson Creek

  • The New River in both Grayson and Wythe counties

  • East/West Fork Dry Run

  • Venrick Run

  • Fox Creek

Fee Fishing Areas

  • Clinch Mountain Fee Fishing Area

  • Stocked Trout Waters on Cripple Creek

Where to Stay

The historic Martha Washington Inn and Spa in Abingdon is one of the area’s gems. 

    Renee Sklarew
The historic Martha Washington Inn and Spa in Abingdon is one of the area’s gems.

Renee Sklarew

The best places to stay when fly fishing in Southwest Virginia are Abingdon, Glade Spring, Marion, and Wytheville. They’re all located along Interstate 81 so getting to fishing spots is easy. Because Southwest Virginia enjoys a variety of visitors every year from AT hikers to retirees, there are places to stay across the region that allow you to save on accommodations or splurge on something fancy depending on your style.

For those looking to treat themselves, go for the Martha Washington Inn and Spa in Abingdon. In Marion there’s the Collins House Inn and the General Francis Marion Hotel and Wytheville offers the Bolling Wilson Hotel. If you’re looking to spend money on fishing rather than a room, there’s a well-rated Econo Lodge in Glade Spring and and Best Western and a Ramada in Wytheville. Abingdon offers a Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, and a smattering of other budget-friendly choices. And, of course, camping opportunities are plentiful in the area as well.

If you’ve never tried fly fishing, Southwest Virginia is the place to learn—and fall in love with—the sport.

Originally written by RootsRated for Southwest Virginia.

Featured image provided by Lally Laksbergs/Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing

The Undiscovered Trail Towns of Southwest Virginia

Southwest Virginia is one of the most overlooked adventure epicenters in the Southeast. The region is blanketed with massive tracts of national forest, capped with cloud-parting summits, and airy expanses of high country found no place else in the state. The vast network of trails draped over Southwest Virginia’s wild spaces provides a portal to countless outdoor adventures—and links an array of picturesque mountain towns, each with a unique vibe. Best of all, these are still plenty of undiscovered gems to explore. Here are some of the small towns in the region that serve as an excellent base of operations as you explore the outdoors.

Continue reading “The Undiscovered Trail Towns of Southwest Virginia”