Don't miss riding in Virginia


Country Store at Big Walker Lookout - Google Photo by Arthur Lattanzi III
Country Store at Big Walker Lookout - Google Photo by Arthur Lattanzi III

They say that Virginia is for Lovers, but the real truth is that Virginia is for Bikers! Not only does the Blue Ridge Parkway / Skyline Drive give you unspoiled scenery, but Interstate Highways 81 and 77 make it incredibly easy to get there. Virginia DOT has a scenic byways map you can order.

 

Click the photo to enlarge
Click the photo to enlarge

I-77 has two tunnels between Wytheville, VA and the WV border. Big Walker Mountain Tunnel is the southern tunnel, but you can opt to take the scenic route 9 miles west to Big Walker Lookout.

This 155 mile route (larger map with directions) has sweeping curves through beautiful countryside, with a few small towns along the way, including Saltville, Chilhowie, and Marion. Chilhowie holds an apple festival each September. The Smyth County website has a visitor's guide you can order or view online.

 

Saltville has been producing salt since the 1780's and features Engine No 5 on display. The Madam Russell church was started in 1898. There is a nice view of town from the overlook.

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Wytheville, where I-77 meets I-81, has plenty of accomodations. Here are some ride ideas - personal favorites of Tony Taylor, who grew up in the area.

  • 48 miles on US Hwy 52 from Wytheville to Mt. Airy, NC
  • 28 miles on NC/VA Hwy 89 from Mt. Airy, NC to Galax, VA
  • 28 miles on VA Hwy 94 from south of Galax to Fort Chiswell, VA

Here's the map and directions for this 109 mile route.



Claw of the Dragon website has a great rides page, and other area info for Smyth County, on I-81 south of Wytheville.


 

From Marion, take Hwy 16 north to Sprague and then US 19 (see map) to the New River Gorge Bridge, about 150 mile ride including the "Back of the Dragon" to Tazewell.

 


Fancy Gap, where I-77 meets the Blue Ridge Parkway, has fuel, the rustic local diner on US 52, and accommodations. Try the fried catfish at the diner, or the Reuben at the sandwich shop. Stay right on the BR parkway at Fancy Gap Cabins & Campground, 4 miles west of the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance on US 52.

 

7 miles south of Galax on Hwy 89 you can take the Blue Ridge Parkway north or south.  Travelling south you can exit the parkway on US 21 and follow it back to Wytheville. (see the map)  For a longer ride take the parkway south to Hwy 16 and follow it north to Marion, VA where US 11 or I-81 take you back to Wytheville. (see the map)

 

If you really like a challenge, try US 221 west from north of Sparta, NC to Hwy 16 near Jefferson, NC. This narrow, winding, 2 lane road is not for the faint of heart. New River State Park is along this road. And for more twisties, there's also what the locals call the "back of the dragon" on Hwy 16 north of Marion, VA.

 

US Hwy 221 in North Carolina

 

Abingdon, on I-81, is known for the historic Barter Theatre on Main Street. There's plenty of available food & lodging choices and you can order a visitor's guide

 

For a nice diversion, head east on US 58 to Damascus, rent a bicycle and ride the Virginia Creeper Trail. The 17 mile trail is an abandoned railroad track turned into a bike path. Your outfitter in Damascus will transport you and your bicycle to Whitetop, where you mostly coast back down to Damascus through. Here's the Creeper Trail map.


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90 miles on Virginia Hwy 6 from Richmond
90 miles on Virginia Hwy 6 from Richmond

 

Escape from Richmond on Hwy 6 to Afton for 90 miles. Along the way, a 2 mile detour on Hwy 808 takes you to Rockfish River Road, home of the Walton's Mountain Museum. North of Afton, US Hwy 250 will take you past the Civil War era Confederate Army's Fort Edward Johnson, 240 miles to Wheeling, WV. Both roads are great riding.

Want a longer ride? Cruise west on US 460 for 559 miles from I-95 near Petersburg, VA to Frankfort, KY. See map with directions. Got plenty of time? From Frankfort, take US 127 south another 270 miles to Chatanooga, TN. See map.