Want to experience the feeling of freedom that comes from jumping in the car and hitting the open road? Whether you like to plan ahead or play it by ear, the Heart of Appalachia has what you are looking for… the scenic beauty, the outdoor adventure, the local eateries, and a unique sense of community. Plan your freedom ride today!
“Love to Bike”
Just a short drive from the town of Tazewell, you will find the largest Rural Historic District in the state, as well as Virginia’s highest valley, with the floor looming over 3,000 feet above sea level. From the air, the bowl-shaped valley closely resembles a volcanic crater, resulting from the collapse of an ancient limestone cave. The Heart of Appalachia Touring & Bicycle Route begins in this serene, pastoral landscape and winds over 100 miles through three counties to Saint Paul, VA. As you make your way into the Garden, pause for a photo op at the Virginia is for Lovers LOVEworks Barn Quilt on your right. After descending into the valley, you can set out for a leisurely exploration by bike or by car. On the Eastern loop, the Burke’s Garden Artisan Guild is housed in the historic Post Office. Access to the famed Appalachian Trail lies at the end of West End Road and rewards you with a picturesque view over the Garden following a steep, 1.6-mile, southbound hike. In addition to the breathtaking scenery you’ll find Mattie’s Place – a true Amish owned and operated general store offering fresh local food and baked goods you won’t soon forget. Enjoy your meal on the log-cabin-style covered porch as you watch the farm animals graze peacefully nearby. If you’re in the mood for a different atmosphere, head back to Tazewell where you will find Painted Peak Brewery, along with several small retail shops and other restaurants. Located outside of town on the way to your next stop is Fisher and Company. Renowned for their barbecue and desserts among the locals, they are situated just off Route 460 in a historic, stand-alone building near the Crab Orchard Museum & Pioneer Park.
“Love to Off-Road”
One of the premier outdoor recreation attractions in the Southeast United States, Southern Gap is home to the Coal Canyon ATV Trail. Here you can rent UTVs and enjoy a day of off-roading on over 200 miles of trails where you can ride into the nearby towns Haysi, Grundy, or even the Breaks Interstate Park for lunch, moonshine tastings and more. Southern Gap is home to another unique LOVEworks piece, which is a great photo opportunity and attracts many wedding photographers! While enjoying the morning mist and dramatic evening sunsets, you may be rewarded with an amazing sight not often seen in the Eastern United States – a majestic herd of elk, which is a successful repopulation project of the Virginia Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. During the day we recommend you try out the Birding Trail, with over 220 documented species having been spotted. At night, you will find yourself under a blanket of stars. Southern Gap Outdoor Adventure offers RV and primitive camping, as well as several cozy cabins with excellent views!
“Love to Hike”
Breaks Interstate Park
Breaks Interstate Park is one of only two Interstate Parks in the entire United States. Gracing the park entrance is another unique LOVEworks… so don’t miss this photo op! Once inside the park, you will find hiking trails, rock climbing, a plethora of lodging options, the Russell Fork Gorge, which is also known as the “Grand Canyon of the South”, the Rhododendron Restaurant overlooking the Gorge, and (when not closed due to COVID 19), a Splash Pad for the kids and Ziplines for all those who dare. Soon, construction will begin on North America’s Longest Pedestrian Bridge, which will take the not-so-faint-of-heart on a trek high above the gorge, where you will cross from Virginia into Kentucky! Plan a visit to Haysi Supply Company for all your rental needs to float the river. Also visit the locally owned Pizza Factory in Haysi for lunch, where you will find unique daily specials – not just pizza!
“Love the Past”
Old Russell County Courthouse Museum
Castlewood, formerly known as “Castle’s Woods,” is one of the region’s oldest settlements. Here you will find the Old Russell County Courthouse & Museum and the Dickenson Bundy Log House, which dating to the 1700’s. The museum building itself is a work of art, containing many artifacts from the past and perhaps even a ghost or two. Visit the historic courtroom and basement jail, and shop for locally crafted items in the gift shop. Also on site is a former one-room school, as well as a historic tenant house, relocated from the iconic Stuart Land & Cattle Company’s Rich Mountain Farm. Be sure to take your photo with the official LOVEworks sign, which was a project created by students of the Russell County Career & Technology Center in 2016.
“Love to Float”
Historically known as the “Western Front” due to the knife fights, brawls, and whisky drinking that routinely spilled out into the streets in the early 1900’s, this tiny town has embraced its colorful past and is now thriving on outdoor recreation and tourism. Home to the Western Front Hotel and Mountain View Lodge, the town boasts the Mountain View ATV Trail system as well as Sugar Hill Trail System, and Bluebell Island trails. In addition, you’ll find a locally owned brewery, small shops, and friendly home-town greetings. UTV rentals are available at Western Front Hotel, so park the car and ride the trails (or the streets in town, which are also UTV friendly). Don’t forget your photo op at the Western Front’s LOVEworks. Float the Clinch, North America’s most biologically diverse river, with either Clinch Life Outfitters or Clinch River Adventures. The Heart of Appalachia Regional Visitors Center is in Market Square, where you can obtain more information on all the attractions and activities in the area.
“Love the Adventure”
Norton is home to High Knob – a lookout tower allowing you to take in panoramic views of all the beauty the Appalachian Mountains have to offer. A stop at Flag Rock Recreation Area will give you a photo op with the famous creature known as Bigfoot, Sasquatch, or in the Norton area…the Woodbooger. After your hunt for the Woodbooger and spending time hiking or mountain biking on the trails, you will be ready for a hearty meal. Try one of Norton’s numerous downtown restaurants – such as Fishtales, Mi Finca, or the Woodbooger Bar and Grill. If you need guidance on trails or things to do in the area, stop by Pathfinders Outdoor Adventures or Stone Mountain Adventures. Your LOVEworks photo op will be found at the Country Cabin, a Crooked Road music venue which presents old-time and bluegrass music on Saturday nights.
“Love the Big Screen”
Big Stone Gap
Visit the namesake of the 2014 film starring Ashley Judd, Patrick Wilson, & Whoopi Goldberg. Located in the historic district, the June Tolliver Playhouse was often featured in the movie and offers outdoor dramas throughout the summer. Visit the LOVEworks in Big Stone Gap, which was designed and built by a local craftsman in honor of the film. If physical activity is more your style, visit Iron Works Cycling, where you can rent a bike to ride. After working up an appetite, we recommend a stop by the Big Stone Gap General Store, where you will find gourmet coal-fired pizzas and cold beer. Also an option is Curklin’s, a casual sit-down restaurant offering flavorful food, craft cocktails, and beer. The Quality Inn is a solid choice for lodging in the area.
“Love to Explore”
Duffield is home to the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Interpretive Center. This new, state of the art museum takes you on a trip into the life of those pioneers who followed in Daniel Boone’s footsteps. Nearby, you’ll find the “Eighth Wonder of The World”, Natural Tunnel State Park, where you can ride a chairlift down to the floor of the impressive tunnel (over 850 feet long and 10 stories tall) that is still used today by CSX Railroad. There are many activities within the park that will keep your entire family entertained, including cave tours, hiking, canoeing, biking, and more. The park also offers an array of lodging options, including cabins and camping.
“Love the Atmosphere”
Pennington Gap is home to the Stone Mountain ATV Trail, the Spearhead trail system that issues the challenge “not recommended for inexperienced riders”. The trailhead is located at Leeman Field, which also offers recreation facilities for the entire family. In addition, the Lee Theatre, located in downtown Pennington Gap, has an impressive lineup of shows year-round. Often partnering with the renowned Barter Theatre in Abingdon, VA, the Lee Theater has an amazing atmosphere and incredible acoustics. Just outside of town is the peaceful, 92-acre Lake Keokee, which is great for kayaking, fishing, grilling and picnicking. Make sure to visit Pennington’s LOVEworks, one of the newest love signs erected in the state! This one was designed by Pennington Gap Middle School’s art teacher.
“Love the Views”
Cumberland Gap National Historic Park
Explore America’s First Gateway to the West – the path that Daniel Boone blazed in the late 1700’s – as you embark on the historic routes surrounding the Cumberland Gap National Park. You can envision the herds of buffalo and elk that historically populated this fertile valley as you approach the park. Plan an overnight stay at a local Airbnb so you can spend a day hiking to Sand Cave, an otherworldly cave tucked into the mountains with a floor of deep, white, powdery sand. If you choose to extend your hike, you’ll climb high atop White Rocks, where you will have unparalleled views from the 500’ cliffs – offering a series of the highest overlooks in three states.
This itinerary is meant to be a tool you can use to pick and choose places to visit on your road trip. Our office will be happy to provide you more information on any of the features listed here or help connect you to guides and outfitters whose services you might require. Please contact us at for more information.
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