There’s plenty to do in the heart of Appalachia. Why not make a long weekend trip out of it! Arrive in St. Paul, VA on Thursday night and toss your bags in the new lodging in town. After a long trip in the car or a plane, it’s time to stretch your legs on the River Walk, Sugar Hill, or Cliff Trail, which follows the scenic Clinch River. Then treat yourself to some good country comfort food at the BBQ joint in town. And if your toes aren’t too tired to tap, head on over to Lay’s Hardware in Coeburn for the Thursday Night Jam. Folks have been flatfootin’ to this style of traditional Old Time and Bluegrass music for over a century.
You’ll want to spring out of bed and grab a quick breakfast before hitting the peaks of the Mountain View Trail System. Single, two, or four-seater ATVs are available to rent in St Paul for half or whole day packages that include helmet rental and day pass. This is a family friendly way to experience nature that you don’t get from inside a car. St. Paul is ATV friendly so you can drive your ATV in town to get gas, run to the store, or drop off the family at the room. You could even stop by the Food City Deli for fixin’s for a mountainside picnic lunch. Nothing beats the view!
Spend the afternoon in nearby Norton shopping in the quaint historic district before you continue your photo-op hop by checking out the breathtaking views from atop High Knob Tower and Flag Rock. Bring your camera to record a potential Sasquatch sighting or just the view of 4 states at 4,223 feet above sea level! After an active, exciting day atop the nation’s oldest mountains, treat the gang to an authentic American pastime at the Central Drive-In. In 2013, there were only 357 drive-ins operating across the country so hop in the car and come as you are to the Central Drive In.
You could also go a bit past Norton and get acquainted with Big Stone Gap before this sleepy burg hits the big time. After Big Stone Gap, the movie, hits the silver screen, showcasing performances by Ashley Judd, Whoopi Goldberg, Patrick Wilson, Jenna Elfman, Jasmine Guy, and Jane Krakowski, everyone will have Googled the Gap.
Visit Carmine’s Visitor Center where much of the movie was filmed, Harry Meador Coal Museum, the John Fox Jr. House, and the June Tolliver Playhouse. A visit to the Southwest Virginia Museum State Park is a great way to experience life in the Gap through many eras. Take in a live performance of Virginia’s Official Outdoor Drama in Big Stone Gap. The Trail of the Lonesome Pine’ was not only an integral part of the book and in the 1900s.
The first stop must be the Clinch Valley Farmer’s Market in St Paul. The coffee is free, the produce is fresh, and the bakery is mouth-watering. Can you think of a better way to start your day? A few blocks away, Clinch River Adventures offers a wide variety of watercraft to help you experience the Clinch River from water level. Individuals and families can kayak, canoe or tube one of the cleanest blueways in America officially recognized as the second most bio-diverse river in the world.
It would be a shame to be this close to Creation Kingdom Zoo and not experience it. This zoo offers you chance to get up close with a variety of animals from around the world: tigers, bears, leopards, many species of primates and more. There are no guided tours at the zoo so go at your pace and ask the staff any questions you have. Remember to bring an extra memory card for your camera.
Your journey along the Crooked Road takes you to the Carter Family Fold, a touchstone for the foundations on which American Country Music was built, steeped in historical significance. Complete the authentic experience by grabbing a chili dog at the concession stand. Before the music and two-steppin’ starts, explore the museum next door for a stroll through the decades after the Big Bang of Country Music.
Pack up your gear, souvenirs and great memories, and hit the Natural Tunnel State Park for a last bit of adventure before heading home. Ride the chairlift down into the gorge and experience the Eighth Wonder of the World. The Park also offers cave tours, canoe trips, settlement blockhouse, and a water park for the family.