Escape to the mountains of southwestern Virginia!

Solitude and Serenity Await!

Appalachian MountainsCredit: Wikipedia

Do you need a break from the hustle and bustle of city life? Escape to the mountains of southwestern Virginia. For centuries, the draw of the legendary Appalachian Mountains[1] has beckoned explorers and travelers. Commonly abbreviated as SWVA, this southern most part of the commonwealth draws its culture from its Appalachia roots. The topography of SWVA is composed of rugged mountains carved with deep valleys by the elaborate web of rivers and streams that cascade down the mountainsides. Surrounded by West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina, SWVA is known for its spectacular scenery, sparkling waters, crafts, folklore and friendly folks.

With literally thousands of miles of hiking trails, trophy trout streams, clear mountain lakes, museums, historical sites, fine dining, state parks, resorts, campgrounds, cozy mountain cabins, quaint bed and breakfast inns and superb shopping, Southwest Virginia, known as “the Heart of Appalachia”, attracts young and old alike.

Southwestern Virginia offers four distinctly different seasons that envelop the mountains in vibrant color and contrast. From the abundant wildflowers of springtime to the brilliant fall foliage, the mountains beckon outdoor enthusiasts with dense forests, racing rivers, tranquil mountain lakes and cascading waterfalls. Wildlife is abundant. Black bear, coyotes, whitetail deer, fox, squirrels, raccoons, rabbits and beaver inhabit the wooded parkland. Dense hardwood forests and thick stands of mountain laurel and rhododendron provide habitat for grouse, owls, eagles and osprey.

SquirrelCredit: Morgue File

A compendium of recreational opportunities seems almost endless. Visitors enjoy rock climbing, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, whitewater rafting, paddle boating, motorcycle touring, mountain biking, hiking, hunting, camping, fishing, cross country skiing, ATV excursions, horseback riding, hayrides, downhill skiing, caving, snow tubing, snow boarding, backcountry snowshoeing, snowmobile excursions, geocaching, fall foliage tours and more.

Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park

Located in the town of Big Stone Gap, Virginia, just off U.S. Highway 23, the Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park is a “must see” stop for history buffs. The Southwest Virginia Museum chronicles the settlement and development of the region from pioneer days through the 1890s coal boom.

Construction of the magnificent structure began in 1988 but was not completed until 1895. Designed and constructed by Architect-Builder Charles A. Johnson, the home was crafted from hand-chiseled limestone and sandstone quarried locally. Native red oak adorns the interior of the building including hand-carved oak motifs around all the doors and windows. The mansion’s original owner was Rufus Ayers, the Attorney General of Virginia at that time. C. Bascom Slemp, a native of Lee County, purchased the home in 1929. Slemp served several years in the U.S. Congress followed by a term as private secretary to President Calvin Coolidge. Both C. Bascom and his sister Janie Slemp Newman passionately loved the rugged mountains of southwestern Virginia. Their abiding affection and fascination with the rich historical heritage, culture and people of the area prompted the siblings to amass an extraordinary treasure-trove of more than 20,000 artifacts representing life in the region. Prior to C. Basom's death in 1943, he created the Slemp Foundation. Following Slemp’s wishes, the State of Virginia acquired the mansion to showcase the Janie Slemp Newman Collection.

Native plants including rhododendron, mountain laurel, sugar maple, flowering dogwood and mountain ash are displayed throughout the lushly landscaped museum grounds. The brilliantly colored red Cardinal, the State Bird of Virginia is encouraged to visit with a diverse selection of attractive feeders positioned around the handsome property. Outdoor exhibits feature farm and mining tools from the 1800s as well as artifacts and memorabilia collect during the Slemp family’s extensive world travel. Contact Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park, PO Box 294, Big Stone Gap, Virginia 24219 or call 276-523-1322 for museum hours and driving directions.

PlayerCredit: Morgue File - Tailspin

The Crooked Road – Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail

Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail[3] is a driving route that snakes through the rugged Appalachian Mountains. Following U.S. Highway 58, the route, commonly known as the “Crooked Road”, connects a diverse array of outstanding heritage music venues from the Blue Ridge to the coalfields. Visitors can explore the origins of gospel, bluegrass and mountain rhythms at the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance, the Blue Ridge Music Center and the Carter Family Fold. The rich musical heritage of foot stomping, joyful music lives on through pickers, players and instrument makers along the trail. Informal jam sessions, concerts, festivals, workshops and spontaneous mountain music shows provide numerous opportunities to enjoy the music of the region. For more information on festivals, events and art shows along the route, contact The Crooked Road, P O Box 268

Big Stone Gap, VA 24219, call (866) 686-6874 or visit their website:

Wilderness Road – Virginia’s Heritage Migration Route

For decades before the first white man set foot in the Clinch, Powell, Watauga, Holston and Cumberland valleys, Native American Indian tribes that inhabited the region had developed an extensive network of trails. The Indians named the trail system "Athawominee" or the Great Warrior’s Path. Explorers and settlers that followed the passage renamed the pathway the Wilderness Trail.

Today the complex web of trails traveled by the early eastern Indian tribes remains a vital part of the transportation grid in southwestern Virginia. Visitors driving Interstate 75 and U.S. Highway 25E, follow the western leg of the Great Warrior’s Path. Travelers on Interstate 81 follow the eastern leg. A vital link between the 1-81 corridor and the 1-75 corridor, U.S. Highway 58 twists along the top of the Wilderness Trail section of the Great Warriors Path.

Trace the steps of Daniel Boone and the brave explorers and settlers that traveled the Wilderness Road corridor as it passed through southwestern Virginia. Visit the H.L. Bonham Regional Development and Tourism Center located at exit 35 on I-81. The friendly staff at the Center will generously provide maps and directions for all the many Wilderness Road adventures to be found in Smyth County, Virginia. The Tourism Center advises, “The Smyth County‘s Wilderness Road path is surrounded by some of the oldest and most majestic mountains and natural areas in the world. Present day travelers of the Wilderness Road migration trail have myriad diverse resources at their fingertips: Natural, heritage and cultural. The area is a gateway to the Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area and Whitetop Mountain, Virginia's two highest peaks, as well as to the Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area, one of The Nature Conservancy's last great places on earth. This protected bio reserve is a hotspot of ecological and biological diversity. Largely unspoiled, the area's precious natural surroundings represent thousands of years of geological formation and ecosystem evolution. It is not hard to imagine yourself a frontier explorer like Dr. Thomas Walker or Daniel Boone as you discover the nature of Smyth County.”

Civil WarCredit: Morgue File

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park[2]

Located near the tiny town of Ewing, Virginia, the Cumberland Gap was known as the first "great gateway" to the west. It is a high mountain pass traversed by wildlife, Native American Indian tribes, followed by explorers and subsequently settlers moving to find a new life in the American West. An integral route westward, the Cumberland Gap was fiercely fought over by both the North and The South during the Civil War. Today, the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park encompasses more than 20,000 acres and offers outdoor enthusiasts 70 miles of hiking trails, an abundance of scenic and historic sites as well as access to the famed Gap Cave. The park boasts 160 RV campsites with 20, 30 and 50-amp electrical power. For hikers and backpackers, primitive campsites are spaced along the many trails that meander through the park. Spaces are available on a “first come, first served basis.” However, travelers can reserve a campsite by calling ahead up to 90 days prior to their arrival. For additional information contact the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Route 58, Ewing, Virginia or call (606) 248-2817.

Although the State’s Motto is “Virginia Is For Lovers”, there are an unlimited number of things to see and do for the entire family. So, whether you are planning a romantic get-away or a family road trip, you will be enchanted with southwestern Virginia.