WanderLOVE Your Way to Pennington Gap

Railroad Depot at Pennington Gap, VA

Photo Credit – Ron Flanary

When the L&N railroad came through Lee County it connected to a spur line in Pennington Gap and a depot located in the middle of town. US 58Alternate runs from Jonesville to Big Stone Gap with Pennington Gap about midway, a crossroads of tracks from mining communities.

Stone Face Rock

Photo Credit – Harold Jerrell

Stone Face - Belcher Images

Photo Credit – Belcher Images

On State Route 421 north of Pennington Gap, Great Stone Face Rock  hangs precariously over the highway. Created by nature centuries ago, also suggested it could have been carved by Cherokee Indians, the town’s logo is visible in the southern direction near the railroad trestle. Train tracks tunnel through the bottom making way from mining communities of Bonny Blue, Kem Gem and the town of Saint Charles.

Stone Moutain ATV Trail Overlook

Overlooking Great Stone Face, Stone Mountain ATV Trail has nine stunning overlook vistas never before offered to the public. Experience 34 miles of challenging intermediate to advanced level OHV trails on 500 acres at Pennington Gap. Many of the overlooks have rest areas and picnic tables for outdoor dining with unmatched views. Stone Mountain’s trailhead is located at Leeman Field Welcome Center with Leeman Field RV Park and Campground.

Leeman Field, constructed in 1933, was once the world’s largest enclosed baseball field.  For 25 years Pennington Gap hosted the Miners, a St. Louis Browns affiliate minor league. A greenway along the trout stocked north fork of Powell River, and an 18-hole disc golf course combine to offer leisurely activity along with scheduled events such as dirt drag racing or tractor pulls.  Leeman Field Park also has a children’s playground and seasonal swimming pool, horse arena, stables and is the site for Fourth of July Celebrations, the longest running fair in Virginia in August, and Christmas Fantasy in Lights from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Eve.

Leeman Field RV Park & Campground
Lee Theatre

Entertainment at the restored 1946 Lee Theatre is accessible from Pennington’s ATV friendly streets. The theatre features cover bands, movies and plays. While in town, schedule a visit at the Appalachian African-American Cultural Center for history, genealogy and a look at a once segregated one-room school house full of memorabilia.

Visit Pennington’s LOVEworks sign at the intersection of East Morgan Ave. and Bobcat Circle to snap a selfie to share. Make it known you were there as Virginia has more than 300 LOVE signs on display. In this one, L represents the Lee Theatre marquee, O encircles the town’s logo Great Stone Face rock, V is a tobacco row, Lee County’s heritage crop, and E is within coal scattered railroad tracks.

LOVEworks in Pennington Gap

Photo Credit – Harold Jerrell

Keokee Lake

Photo Credit – Harold Jerrell

On State Rt. 606, discover Lake Keokee at Mohawk Loop a few miles out of town. Paddleboard, kayak and fish this hidden gem near Keokee, where the coal town commissary is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Stop on the way back at the intersection of State Routes  606 and 421 and walk through the Stone Creek Outdoor Classroom and Park, all located on Virginia’s Coal Heritage Trail.

Since 1965, Patio Drive-In has served up THE jumbo cheeseburger and homemade shakes from an extensive menu. It’s always on the must-do list of returning visitors in remembrance of the long line of cruisers on Saturday nights. Thursdays are biker’s and cruiser’s night to show off their rides. Sit in your car or use one of the picnic tables outside.

Heading East on US 58A to Big Stone Gap following Appalachian Backroad’s Panther’s Breath trail.  Pick a back road from their free map or explore your own. Cave Springs Recreational Area near Dryden, part of George Washington & Jefferson National Forest, offers shaded hikes with an excellent view from above. A cave-spring fed swimming hole offers a real cool down and camp sites are available.

State Route 421 South to Dot, VA connects back to Hwy 58 and the Wilderness Road. Axe Handle Distillers offers tastings, gift shop, full view of the still and Sip & Paint events next door to hand hewn logs from the company that brought them, Old Virginia Log Homes. 58 East to the top of Powell Mountain offers a beautiful view of Smokey Mountain foothills at the county line of Lee and Scott. Visit the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Interpretive Center in Duffield for a lesson on Boone’s trek as you’ve just crossed his path where he lost a son near Stickleyville.

Powell Mountain Overlook

Photo Credit – Harold Jerrell

Follow the Wilderness Road West all the way to Cumberland Gap National Park. Drive or hike the park or schedule a tour out to Hensley Settlement, high atop Cumberland Mountain where settlers lived until 1951 without the conveniences of modern day. On the mountain top east is White Rocks and Sand Cave, noticeable on the drive through Lee County near Ewing. These hiking destinations have a continuing link into the settlement. The high canopy offers plenty of blooming mountain laurel in summer, a waterfall at Sand Cave and views of Powell’s Valley. Gap Caverns, at the tri-state junction of Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, features scheduled underground tours of the cave where Civil war soldiers took shelter and mined saltpeter. Near Ewing, Wilderness Road State Park and the re-created Martin’s Fort feature re-enactments of Indian raids and pioneer life and more information on Boone’s trek. You’ll find buffalo grazing there and at Cumberland Gap at the park’s border.

In nearby Jonesville, visit the Lee County Veteran’s Memorial Wall at Cumberland Bowl Park. The county seat is the 1828 birthplace of Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, the founder of Osteopathic medicine. Lee County Historical and Genealogical Society sits West of town.

WanderLOVE far Southwest Virginia and Lee County where Virginia begins. For more information, visit Heart of Appalachia Tourism or email info@townofpenningtonva.gov. We’ll be waiting for you.