Category Archives: Abingdon Blog

20170221-Virginia-Southwest Virginia-Virginia Creeper Trail

The 7 Toughest Outdoor Adventures in Southwest Virginia

What constitutes a tough outdoor challenge varies greatly by person. Everyone has differing visions of what constitutes an extremely tough—yet realistic—challenge. But generally with regards to outdoor sports, the longer the distance, the higher the mountain, and the more difficult the terrain, the tougher and more adventurous things become.

The Appalachian Mountains often get overlooked when people think about epic, hardcore adventures. What many don’t realize is that when comparing the mountain chain to the Rockies, Sierras, or Cascades, the Appalachians actually have more elevation throughout the range than the mountains out west. In fact, the old, eroded Appalachians are so scrunched up with ripples and wrinkles that the amount of terrain needs to be examined on a closer level. These micro features create some of the gnarliest, steepest trails; some of the toughest, runnable whitewater creeks; and some of the most technical, bullet-hard rock faces in the nation.

Southwestern Virginia, like the much of the Appalachian range, contains a lifetime’s worth of extremely tough outdoor adventures that are on par or surpass anything out west. Below you will find a brief introduction to seven of the toughest challenges found in Southwest Virginia.

1. Summiting Mount Rogers

Standing at 5,729 feet, Mount Rogers is the highest peak in Virginia and the fourth highest peak east of the Mississippi. Although calling this a peak is a bit of a misnomer—as it’s probably better described as a high-elevation knob. No matter what you call it, making the approximately 9-mile, out-and-back hike starting from Massie Gap in Grayson Highlands State Park is a challenge. Hikers follow the Rhododendron Trail and Appalachian Trail, passing through windswept plains with hearty alpine-esque shrubbery and large exposed rock formations, wild ponies, and possible erratic weather. Many compare the terrain to the famous Scottish Highlands.

2. Sport Climbing at Hidden Valley Lake!

Hidden Valley is a sandstone crag located just north of Abingdon, Virginia. Although Hidden Valley has a storied past going back more than 30 years, it only recently was officially opened to the public. The routes here are similar to what you’d find at the climbing mecca of the New River Gorge. Expect about 200 established single-pitch routes that are mostly clip-ups, but there are a handful of high-quality trad lines as well. (And there’s still some open projects and room for more development.) Thin face climbs, aretes, roofs, and even a few slab climbs are all found at the crag.

3. Trail Running the Seven Sister Trail

The Seven Sisters Trail, located on Little Walker Mountain just outside of Wytheville, Virginia, is a hidden gem that packs a huge punch in a relatively short distance. The 4.8-mile ridge trail is aptly named for its seven peaks that it covers. Trail runners looking for a hard hill workout with a heavy dose of backcountry adventure should tackle the Seven Sisters Trail loop. Start at either the trailhead off of the Scenic Byway or use the Stony Creek Nature Trail (a 1-mile spur trail that intersects the western end of the Seven Sisters Trail) found inside the Stony Fork Campground. Trail runners can create an approximately 10-mile loop with five hard trail miles and five easier road miles on the minimally trafficked Scenic Byway.

4. Mountain Biking the Iron Mountain 100k

The Iron Mountain 100k is organized by Shenandoah Mountain Touring, which also hosts the Shenandoah 100, one of the most popular ultra-distance mountain bike races in the nation. Simply put, these guys have their act together and put on great events. The Iron Mountain 100k, although not as big as the Shenandoah 100, is one of the best mountain bike races on the East Coast. The June race uses the classic Iron Mountain Trail (formerly part of the AT) along with a handful of other amazing trails found in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. This race is well-supported with four fully stocked aid stations. Expect gnarly downhills, big climbs, and wilderness riding along the challenging 62-mile course.

5. Running the Entire Virginia Creeper Trail

The Virginia Creeper Trail is best known as a beginner-friendly rail trail popular with cyclists. However, for hardcore runners out there looking to rack up some serious miles, the 34-mile trail is the perfect challenge. It runs from Abingdon to Whitetop Mountain and is perfect for a high tempo workout—whether you complete the entire length of the trail or not. The multiple access points, ease of refilling water and food, and availability of bathrooms make this a perfect location for those looking for a no-hassle. ultra-distance run.

6. Rack Up a 100-Point Day Bouldering in Grayson Highlands State Park!

Grayson Highlands State Park, located within the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, has a lifetime’s worth of established bouldering routes. In fact, there are more than a thousand problems there. One challenge many boulderers like to set for themselves is to complete a 100-point day. Boulder problems are rated from V0-V16 and based on a problem’s rating, you earn points. For instance you would need to complete 5 V5s, 10 V3s. 20 V2s, and 5 V1s to reach a total of 100 points. No matter how you slice it, this power-endurance day is not an easy task.

7. Backpacking 20-miles through Grayson Highlands State Park!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BMiRb3jhUx9/

Grayson Highlands State Park is the perfect destination for backpacking in Southwestern Virginia, and many options of loops are available. Using the Appalachian Trail (in addition to others), you can create a 20-mile overnighter that will have you hiking through rhododendron tunnels, traversing windswept plains with wild ponies, crossing rocky creeks, and climbing high-elevation knobs. Plan for crazy weather swings and expect cold temperatures at night even in the summer. If possible, plan to take in the stars at night on one of the open plains. It’s a backpacking trip you’ll never forget.

Originally written by RootsRated for AbingdonVA.

Featured image provided by Mark Peterson

20170221_Virginia_Abingdon_Virginia_Creeper_Trail_Bridge_Biking

The 8 Best Biking Trails in Southwest Virginia

Simply put, riding a bike is a smile-inducing escape from the stress of everyday life. And no matter how you like to ride, Southwest Virginia is filled with a wide variety of options to put a smile on your face. The centrally located Abingdon, Virginia, is the logical hub in this region to launch your two-wheel adventure. It’s close to several major bike trails, and offers bike rentals and outfitters, hotels and bed & breakfast spots, downtown shops and restaurants, and post-ride entertainment options to make for a fine cycling getaway. Here are eight of the best biking routes in the region to get you acquainted with the near endless cycling possibilities found here, whether you’re looking for mountain biking trails, a road ride or a mixed-use bike path.

1. Iron Mountain Trail

Distance from Abingdon: 14 miles

Mileage: Approximately 24 miles one way

Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult

The Iron Mountain Trail is an amazing backcountry ridge trail that, when shuttled one way from Hurricane Mountain to the trail town of Damascus, makes for more than 20 miles of technical downhill-trending singletrack. Big oak forests, rocky and root-laden technical sections, au-natural berms, scenic vistas, and even a few rollers make this one of the best mountain bike trails in the entire state. You’ll also find a lot of options for loops using various other trails and forest service roads found in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.

2. Seven Sisters Trail

Distance from Abingdon: 65 miles

Mileage: 5.5 miles

Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult

The Seven Sisters Trail is a well-guarded secret among local mountain bike aficionados. Although there are lots of options in the area for creating big loops using forest service roads, jeep tracks, and some pavement to tie into Seven Sisters; the real prize of the area is the 5.5-mile trail named for the seven mini peaks that one will ride up and down along the ridge. Expect steep, punchy climbs that sometimes test your ability to get traction, coupled with just as steep and feverishly fast descents split up by backcountry flow sections that separate the peaks.

3. Crystal Springs Recreation Area

Life is oh so joyful.

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Distance from Abingdon: 59 miles

Mileage: 13 miles of trails

Difficulty: Easy/Moderate/Difficult

The Crystal Springs Recreation Area, located in Wytheville, Virginia, is a relatively new town-owned park that caters to mountain bikers. Along with its stellar trail portfolio, the park features a bike wash station and plenty of spots for a post-ride picnic. The trails run the full gamut from very technical riding found on the Boundary Trail and the High Rocks Spur Trail to easier riding found on the Crystal Springs Loop Trail and various other spur trails. There’s a little bit of everything out here—rocks, rhodo-tunnels, creek crossings, technical rooty sections, and loamy dirt sections.

4. Heart of Appalachia Bike Trail

Distance from Abingdon: 39 miles

Mileage: 128 miles

Difficulty: Difficult

The Heart of Appalachia Bike Trail is a bike tour through some of the most amazing scenery found in Southwest Virginia. Along the way cyclists need to be prepared for a bit of everything including back roads, rail-trails, gravel roads, and singletrack. Riders will cross over scenic rivers, through Jefferson National Forest, by countless tracts of mountain valley farmland and even over a swinging bridge. There are ample spots to resupply and even make a mid-ride pub stop. Camping or lodging is available along the route if one wants to break this up into two days. It is truly a tour-de-force of the best of the region and widely praised as a must-do adventure tour by many cyclists in the state.

5. Virginia Creeper Trail

Today's been creepy

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Distance from Abingdon: 0 miles

Mileage: 34 miles

Difficulty: Easy

The Virginia Creeper Trail is considered one of the best rail-trail bike routes in the entire nation, and for good reason. The trail is extremely beginner friendly and with the abundance of resupply points, outfitter shuttle services, and post-ride dinner options, it has become a favorite vacation of many families and recreational cyclists. Along the way, riders will have their senses dazzled by the beautiful pastoral farmlands, the rolling Appalachian hills in the distance, and the hum of the beautiful White Top Laurel Creek. Many cyclists will take a shuttle to the end of the trail at Whitetop Station and take the mostly downhill route back to the pick up point.

6. New River Trail

Distance from Abingdon: Approximately 80 miles

Mileage: 57 miles

Difficulty: Easy

The New River Trail is located within the linear New River State Park. It is a classic rails-to-trails bike path that parallels the New River for most of the trail. Like the Virginia Creeper Trail, this ride is a good option for family outings and recreational riders. Along the way bikers will cross many bridges and a couple of tunnels. Access points are easy to find, and there are options for primitive camping along the trail for those that are interested in an overnight adventure.

7. Burkes Garden Century

Distance from Abingdon: 62 miles

Mileage: 100

Difficulty: Moderate

The Burkes Garden Century is an actual event that is put on by the New River Valley Bicycle Association each August, but many cyclists ride this route on their own. The route is notoriously novice-friendly for folks seeking out their first century. Expect gentle grades for most of the ride with the exception of moderately steep climbs and descents in Burkes Garden. Along the way, riders will get long-range views of rolling farmlands and be pleasantly surprised by the interesting topography found in the crater like valley of Burkes Garden.

8. Big Walker National Scenic Byway Ride

What a view from Crystal Springs Recreation Area! #Wytheville #outdoors #hike

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Distance from Abingdon: 55 miles

Mileage: Approximately 50 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

The Big Walker National Scenic Byway ride uses Jefferson National Forest, the Stony Fork Recreation area, and both Little Walker and Big Walker Mountains. Expect a fair amount of rollers climbing up from Stony Fork to Little Walker and then a tough climb up onto Big Walker. At the top of Big Walker Mountain there is a general store with great food and an old observation tower that is worth climbing up to soak up the 360 degree views of the region. The descent off Big Walker Mountain is fast and twisty making for a riotous good time.

Originally written by RootsRated for AbingdonVA.

Featured image provided by Joe DeGaetano

Hey lovebirds, get married for free in Abingdon!

We all know Virginia is for Lovers. Now Abingdon is celebrating lovers with a free joint wedding ceremony this summer.

Love Art, Abingdon, Virginia

Virginia is for Lovers

Save the date for the Summer Lovin’ Concert, Saturday June 10, 2017, and get hitched (or renew your vows)  – for free!

The Abingdon CVB will provide an officiant, wedding cake, party favors, and, for a wedding band, The Carolina Breakers, a popular beach music band.    Plus, one lucky couple will get to spend their honeymoon night at the Martha Washington Inn & Spa.

The Summer Lovin’ Concert takes place at the Abingdon Market Pavilion in downtown Abingdon.  The festivities will kick off with a joint wedding ceremony, after which the happy couples and their friends can party to the upbeat sounds of the Carolina Breakers.  Guests can enjoy a free slice of wedding cake while supplies last, and visit the beer garden for a cash bar (offering beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages for sale).

Carolina Breakers

Based in Myrtle Beach, SC, the Carolina Breakers are a high-energy band with five lead vocalists and a horn section covering beach music hits, plus Motown, Funk, Rhythm and Blues, Disco, Beach and various other special requests.

All couples who register by May 1st will be entered in a drawing to win a complimentary night at the Martha Washington Inn & Spa.  Registration is now closed.

The Martha Washington Inn & Spa

Register to get married and you could spend your honeymoon night at the Martha Washington Inn & Spa!

The fine print: Couples getting married must be over 18 years old, and secure a valid marriage license in advance from the Commonwealth of Virginia and bring the original document with them.  Click here to learn more about applying for a marriage license in Virginia.

The event is free and open to the public. No alcohol will be provided; a beer garden will be available, benefiting the non-profit organization Abingdon Main Street.

For questions, contact Sara Saavedra at ssaavedra@abingdon-va.gov

For more information on destination weddings in Abingdon, and a list of vendors, click here.

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20170127 Virginia Ponies

10 Tips from Locals on How to Make the Most of a Mini-Vacation in Southwest Virginia

Featuring a landscape dappled with mammoth swaths of wilderness, laced with free-flowing rivers, and crowned by high peaks—including the loftiest summit in the state, 5,728-foot Mount Rogers—southwest Virginia is like no place else in the state. For outdoor lovers, this ruggedly wild corner of the state is not to be missed, but the bounty of recreational opportunities can be overwhelming. Luckily, we have the inside scoop from locals in the know—including outdoor outfitters, trail clubs, and thru-hikers— offering some of the best bets for an adventure-filled mini-vacation in southwest Virginia.

1. Epic Day Hikes

The Channels State Forest is a must-see in southwest Virginia.
The Channels State Forest is a must-see in southwest Virginia.

Dan Grogan

“If I were to pick just one long, all-day hike, I would choose the Channels State Forest,” says Karen Moore of the Highlands Ski and Outdoor Center in Abingdon, Va. “Park off Route 80 and hike to the fire tower. At the top of the mountain, there are crevices in the sandstone and on a hot day it is natural air-conditioning down in the maze under the rocks. This is a jewel.”

2. Secret Spaces

One of most stunning anomalies on the Appalachian Trail is in southwest Virginia. Burke’s Garden, also known as “God’s Thumbprint” is a massive crater, 5 miles wide and 10 miles long that from an aerial view does indeed resemble a thumbprint. The Appalachian Trail traces the ridges ringing the crater for 8 miles, and for thru-hikers, the Chestnut Knob shelter provides stellar views of Burke’s Garden.

3. High-Country Rambles

Backpacking at Grayson Highlands State Park.
Backpacking at Grayson Highlands State Park.

red, white, and black eyes forever

The Mount Rogers National Recreation Area is a trail mecca loaded with jaw-dropping routes, including the hike up to the highest point in the state. While options are abundant, according to Anne Maio of the Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club, the group tasked with maintaining 60-miles of the trail in the region, the HIgh Country Loop is one of the favorites. Beginning from the Massie Gap in Grayson Highlands State Park, the nearly 11-mile route cobbles together trails including the Rhododendron Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and the Pine Mountain Trail. For an even more stunning, and more challenging option, the trail club suggests using the Wilburn Ridge Trail instead of the Appalachian Trail for 0.8-mile on Wilburn Ridge. Be sure to keep an eye out for the wild ponies roving the highlands.

4. Clandestine Crags

Experienced climbers can head for the recently reopened Hidden Valley Climbing Area. Closed in 2004 after concerns about vandalism, thanks to joint-efforts of the Access Fund and the Carolina Climbers Coalition, the area reopened in 2014. Featuring nearly a mile of scalable sandstone bluffs, reaching heights of nearly 70 feet, the area includes almost 200 routes, primarily sport climbs peppered with traditional and mixed routes, with grades ranging from 5.5-5.13 (the bulk being 5.10s, 5.11s and 5.12s). Access permits required for the climbing area can be acquired online. For even more information, Gus Glitch has recently written guidebook to the climbing area, Hidden Valley Rock Climbs.

5. Trail Magic

Some of the Appalachian Trail’s best views are in southwest Virginia.
Some of the Appalachian Trail’s best views are in southwest Virginia.

Dzmitry (Dima) Parul

Itching to tackle a spectacular stretch of the 2,160-mile Appalachian Trail? Head for the high-country of southwest Virginia. “I had a lot of magic from trail angels in southwest Virginia,” says Tommy Safranek, an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker and ranger with the National Park Service. “The community really supports the Appalachian Trail.” For thru-hikers in the region, Safranek suggests planning an overnight at the Partnership Shelter, just outside the town of Marion. “It’s really well-built, and because it’s just outside town, you can even have pizza delivered.”

6. Local Strummers

Music is a cornerstones of Appalachian culture—and southwest Virginia is one of the best places to experience the region’s rich heritage. The region is home to the Crooked Road Music Trail), a 330-mile driving route showcasing Appalachia’s rich musical tradition that links performing venues, local musicians, roadside exhibits, and more than 50 towns. Heartwood in Abingdon, Va., is part of the Crooked Road Trail and features live music every Thursday, including open jam sessions three times a month. For a low-key event, catch the Saturday night jam at Capo’s Music Store in Abingdon. Moore also recommends the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons. The nonprofit is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Carter family—the “first family” or country music—and offers performances on Saturday nights.

7. Paddle an Ecological Treasure

Paddling on the Clinch River, which is filled with diverse plant and animal life.
Paddling on the Clinch River, which is filled with diverse plant and animal life.

Clinch River

Running through southwest Virginia for 135 miles, the Clinch River is one of the most unique waterways on earth. Once explored by Daniel Boone, the river is known for its ecologically diversity. According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Clinch is now home to more than 50 different species of freshwater mussels—more than any other waterway on the planet. The plethora of aquatic life also makes the Clinch the most biologically diverse river in the country, and the abundance of freshwater mussels also contributes to water quality, as the tiny bivalves act as sediment filters. The Clinch even attracts snorkelers. Paddlers can hit the water courtesy of a number of access sites, including Mathews Park, in St. Paul. Clinch River Adventures) in St. Paul, can organize and outfit paddling or float trips on the river. Locals celebrate the waterway at the Clinch River Days Festival the first week in June.

8. Wonderful Wildlife

Birders, anglers, and wildlife lovers should head to Laurel Bed Lake at Big Tumbling Creek. “The fishing is great and there are places you can camp or horseback ride,” Moore says. “This is spectacular country, rivaling scenes out west. Waterfalls, rare plants, bears and cubs, eagles, snakes, and beavers. I’ve been camping and playing there since I was in college at Emory & Henry.” The area is also easily accessible, ideal for car campers or family weekends. For birders, the woodlands fringing the lake are a hub for songbirds, including colorful rarities like black-throated blue warblers.

9. Winter Wonderland

The highlands of southwest Virginia is the one part of the state that regularly gets snow in the winter.
The highlands of southwest Virginia is the one part of the state that regularly gets snow in the winter.

Virginia State Parks

Snow is often scarce in the southeast, making the highlands of southwest Virginia even more special. The area’s lofty peaks feature a micro-climate, often seeing snow from October to May. (A few decades ago, the Southern Division of the National Ski Patrol even used the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area for training courses.) Under a blanket of fresh powder, the 67-mile Virginia Highlands Horse Trail becomes an inviting option for exploring on skis or snowshoes. At Grayson Highlands State Park, trails like 3.7-mile Old Upchurch Road and 1.2-mile Seed Orchard Road are also open to skiers. In Abingdon, the Highland Ski and Outdoor Center rents cross-country skis for just $15/day during the week, $20/day on weekends.

10. A Night at the Corral

The Scales is the high country between Massie’s Gap and Elk Garden on the Appalachian Trail. The area was used by ranchers for grazing cattle early in the 20th century, and because the animals were weighed in the highlands, before making the pound-shedding trek back down, the area has long been known as “The Scales.” It’s a great spot for camping, especially in “the corral” when the highbush blueberries are ripe in August. Blackberries are also abundant. Even if you don’t find any berries, the panoramic views are among the best in the state.

Originally written by RootsRated for AbingdonVA.

Featured image provided by Dzmitry (Dima) Parul

00-20170127 Virginia Fly Fishing

An Overview of the Fly Fishing Scene in Southwest Virginia: Some of the Best in the State

Southwest Virginia has been a well-guarded secret among outdoorsmen in the know for decades. However, with so much of the region accessible from the I-81 corridor and the increased demand for outdoor recreation, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the secret is out. It’s no exaggeration to say that in the past few years the region has seen unparalleled attention and growth, and it is currently in the midst of a vibrant renaissance that is putting its outdoor resources, Appalachian culture, and small-town charm on full display.

Destinations like Grayson Highlands State Park, the connected Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, the iconic Virginia Creeper Trail, and the nearby outdoorsy hubs of Damascus and Abingdon have been on the radar for quite some time, and for good reason. But every year new areas of the region are starting to be explored and “discovered” by recreationists, and in doing so many folks are realizing the vast outdoor recreation potential of southwest Virginia. Along with numerous hiking, mountain biking, birding, rock climbing, and paddling possibilities—there’s also great fishing. And to be specific here, I’m talking about mountain stream fishing.

The Blue Ridge Highlands that form the topography of this pocket of Virginia create many deep valleys and and natural drainages that the amount of fly fishing possibilities in the region is staggering. Sound management practices, diverse fishing experiences, and quality outfitters and guide services only add to the allure. When you add in the fact that southwest Virginia gets an annual rainfall of nearly 50 inches, surging many of the smaller creeks and streams to fishable levels, you begin to realize that this area is an anglers’ paradise. Here are just some of the best rivers and streams to fish in southwest Virginia.

Whitetop Laurel Creek

Whitetop Laurel Creek is considered the best trout stream in the state.
Whitetop Laurel Creek is considered the best trout stream in the state.

James St. John

Whitetop Laurel Creek, widely regarded as the best trout stream in the Old Dominion, is both stunningly beautiful and extremely accessible. By using nearby Abingdon, Va., as a launching off spot, and utilizing the Virginia Creeper Trail to get to some of the best holes, an angler is set up for a great day. Its location within the Mount Rogers NRA means that this area is taken care of, and more than seven miles of this waterway are stocked with both rainbow and brown trout. For the angler looking for a more remote setting, the small nearby tributaries such as Beaverdam Creek and Tennessee Laurel Creek are great alternatives and allow one to go after native brookies and soak up the beautiful backcountry of the region.

South Fork Holston River

The South Fork Holston River originates in Smyth County near the community of Sugar Grove. This portion of the Holston River is formed by several cold-water streams, and it has been called by some the best trout fishery east of the Mississippi. In fact, this waterway has produced the Virginia state record for the biggest brown trout caught at over 15 pounds. Although many will enjoy the stocked trout sections, the SFHR also contains many special regulation areas where native brookies thrive and provide the experienced angler a tougher challenge. “The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has done a great job of preserving wild trout sectors in this area,” says Bruce Wankel, a fly fishing guide at the Virginia Creeper Fly Shop. “The stream raises its own.” This highlights that local agencies recognize the importance of keeping things as naturally sustainable as possible.

Middle Fork Holston River

The Middle Fork Holston River is a popular spot for smallmouth bass and sunfish.
The Middle Fork Holston River is a popular spot for smallmouth bass and sunfish.

Dan Grogan

The Middle Fork Holston River is a medium-sized river that contains many different sport fish species. With the headwaters located near the Smyth-Wythe County line, the river flows approximately 56 miles and then connects with the South Fork Holston River to form South Holston Reservoir. Many anglers choose to float sections of this river to maximize their experience. Along with smallmouth bass and sunfish, this river has two designated stock trout areas around the towns of Atkins and Marion.

Wild Trout Streams in Grayson Highlands

Special regulation trout streams in Grayson Highlands State Park include Big and Little Wilson Creeks, Quebec Branch, Mill Creek, Wilburn Branch, and Cabin Creek. These “Blue Line Creeks,” according to Wankel, are for the real fly fishing connoisseur. He explained that these high-country streams require solid backcountry skills. Yet with a little information, these areas easily accessed by most folks. If the idea of hiking into rugged mountain streams, surrounded by Mountain Laurel, Rhododendron, mature hardwoods, and large rock outcroppings sounds like fun, you’ll want to do some exploring.

New River

The New River is actually one of the oldest rivers in the world, and it’s an excellent spot to fish from your canoe or kayak.
The New River is actually one of the oldest rivers in the world, and it’s an excellent spot to fish from your canoe or kayak.

Virginia State Parks

The New River, considered to be one of the oldest rivers in the world, offers a variety of fishing opportunities in southwest Virginia. Some of the most popular access spots are along New River State Park, that stretches from Pulaski to Galax. This stretch is mostly slow-moving and provides great opportunities to fish off of a canoe, raft, or kayak and contains real trophy fishing potential. Walleye, muskellunge, catfish, crappie, sunfish, perch, and bluegill, along with many varieties of bass are all found here.

Trout Steams around Wytheville

Within both George Washington and Jefferson National Forests and the surrounding towns found around Wytheville are a handful of great fly fishing spots. Cripple Creek and East/West Fork Dry Run, both located near Speedwell, are two popular wild trout destinations. Cripple Creek is stocked, whereas East/West Fork Dry Run is a special regulated trout area. Venrick Run, located in the Wytheville town-controlled Crystal Springs Recreation Area, is another great example of an area where you’ll find abundant native brookies. Higher up in the mountains, near Big and Little Walker Mountain, there are a handful of remote mountain streams that can be fished.

It is the quality of Virginia’s mountain streams that makes this region so great. “Folks need to plan to come down for more than a day,” Wankel says. “(You need) a long weekend, or even a week, to soak up the natural flavor of southwestern Virginia.” As much as Wankel would love to have this place to himself, he knows it’s just too good not to share.

Originally written by RootsRated for AbingdonVA.

Featured image provided by Lally Laksbergs/Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing

Announcing the winners of the 2016 Abingdon Shorts competition

Congratulations to the winners of the 2016 Abingdon Shorts competition!

The short film competition was created to promote and support the creative talents in our region, while celebrating the unique people, places and events that make Abingdon a tourist destination.

Films had to be less than three minutes long, and embody the spirit of Abingdon’s tag line: “It’s Always Play Time in Abingdon.”

There were several short films submitted, of which the judging committee selected the top three to receive awards.  The winners will be used in promotional content on the Visit Abingdon website and social media channels.

Abingdon has just announced the next round of competition, with submissions due July 19, 2017.  To enter or learn more, visit AbingdonShorts.com

First Place: “Like a Kid Again” by J.R. Linkous

JR Linkous Headshot

J.R. Linkous is a Bristol based designer and filmmaker. “Like a Kid Again” was filmed entirely on location on Abingdon’s Main Street. See more of his work at jayarelinkous.com.

“When I first read the details for the Abingdon Shorts film competition, I knew in about 20 minutes what I was going to do.  When trying to put together an idea for a video or film, I have these “easy ideas” that come to me right away. You know, the ones that make sense. I typically try to bypass any of those and come up with something that goes the extra mile and looks at communicating the same point or story in a completely different way. When I read the line “it’s always playtime in Abingdon”, my initial thought was to highlight the Creeper Trail, fishing, backpacking, all the elements that easily communicate “playtime”.  However, I decided that I wanted to connect Main Street Abingdon with “playtime”.  As always, I’m working with no budget and little time.  What I had to come up with would have to be simple but communicate the point just as well. I decided that I wanted to use my 5-year-old daughter because she’s cute and she didn’t charge me a dime to act.  At this point, I have to connect shopping and tourism with a 5 year old. It was all downhill after this!  The phrase “makes me feel like a kid again” came to mind. That idea combined with the desire to have a twist at the end resulted in my Abingdon short film entry “Like a Kid Again”.

 

Second Place: “The Shoot” by Jon Phelps/Nice Marmot Productions

Jon Phelps headshot
Jon Phelps of Nice Marmot Productions is an IT professional in Abingdon, Virginia. For more from Nice Marmot Productions, visit their Youtube channel.

“Because we had to use the tagline “It’s always play time in Abingdon” I thought it would be amazing if we were shooting a commercial centered around that one line and the actor just couldn’t get it right. I pitched it to my friend Ryan Henderson, the main star of the short, and we wrote it in an evening and shot it the following day in the upstairs of the Barter Theatre. I think I decided to go with a comedy narrative because I have always enjoyed making people laugh and once I had that central idea the script really wrote itself. We went super meta with the ending, having his girlfriend be the actual star of the commercial, but in the end I think it worked well and was a nice little button on the whole thing.”

 

Third Place: “Playtime” by J.R. Linkous

JR Linkous Headshot

 

“Playtime,” also produced by J.R. Linkous, took home the third place price.

 

 

For more information about the Abingdon Shorts competition, visit AbingdonShorts.com.

 

00-20161222 Grayson Highlands Ponies

An Insider’s Guide to Grayson Highlands State Park: Virginia’s Land of High Peaks, Grassy Balds, and Wild Ponies

Spread over a pocket of Appalachian high country, Virginia’s Grayson Highlands State Park is an alpine Eden. The lofty landscape is embellished by airy mountain meadows, gushing trout streams, rhododendron-filled forests, and a conglomeration of high peaks. Best of all, more than 100 wild ponies roam Grayson Highlands and the neighboring Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, which is a 200,000-acre swath of the massive Jefferson National Forest. If you’re looking for a place to spend the night without camping, the nearby town of Abingdon has a wide variety of options from hotels to bed & breakfasts.

Established in 1965, the 4,502-acre park was originally called the Mount Rogers State Park—long known for providing a portal to the state’s highest peak. Besides offering a route to the forest-shrouded summit of Mount Rogers, today Grayson Highlands is a lofty trail hub with a network of 13 different trails inside the state park, and access to the 2,150-mile Appalachian Trail and 68-mile Virginia Highlands Horse Trail.

Classic Adventures

The Grayson Highlands State Park features the state’s highest peak, and many surrounding summits to conquer. Mallee Oot
The Grayson Highlands State Park features the state’s highest peak, and many surrounding summits to conquer.
Mallee Oot

Peak baggers won’t be able to resist the temptation to tackle Virginia’s highest peak, the 5,729-foot Mount Rogers. Fortunately, the shortest and arguably the most scenic route to the summit comes courtesy of Grayson Highlands State Park. The approximately 8.5-mile out-and-back route begins on the aptly named Rhododendron Trail in Grayson Highlands, beginning from the Massie Gap parking area. It links with the Appalachian Trail and Mount Rogers Spur trail outside the park. Cherish the views along the way—the actual summit of Mount Rogers is in the midst of a moss-cloaked forest.

The park also has plenty to offer less ambitious hikers, with many of the shorter trails in Grayson Highlands loaded with iconic Appalachian vistas. The easily accessible Twin Pinnacles Trail begins at the park’s visitor center and takes hikers on a 1.6-mile loop with sweeping views of Wilbur Ridge and Mount Rogers. The equally short-and-sweet Cabin Creek Trail is a 1.8-mile riverine ramble, leading visitors along a trail framed by rhododendron and mountain laurel that features a 25-foot waterfall.

Grayson Highlands is also a hotspot for anglers. You’ll find nearly 10 miles of trout streams, featuring brook and rainbow trout, which are part of the Blue Ridge Highlands Fishing Trail. The park’s waterways are designated Special Regulation Wildlife Trout Streams, mandating the use of artificial lures and single hooks, and requiring any trout under 9-inches be released unscathed. The longest stretch of fishable water inside the park is the 3.5-miles along Big Wilson Creek, accessible from either the 1.78-mile Wilson Creek Trail, beginning at the park’s main campground, or via the Appalachian Trail, accessed from the Massie Gap parking area. Sections of Big Wilson Creek are also designated as a “stocked trout stream,” requiring both a Virginia fishing license and a trout license.

Secrets of the Park

Hikers have a wide variety of options at Grayson Highlands, with both high peaks to climb and gentle trails to explore. Mallee Oot
Hikers have a wide variety of options at Grayson Highlands, with both high peaks to climb and gentle trails to explore.
Mallee Oot

One of the park’s highlights is the band of ponies roving the highlands—including a famous, flaxen-maned stallion named Fabio, renowned for his salon-quality locks. The origin of the equines is somewhat mysterious, but one story suggests the ponies were bred by locals to survive the fickle Appalachian high country with minimal human interference. Inside the park, the herd was introduced by the Forest Service in 1974 to provide a natural landscaping service for the highland balds, first cleared by loggers at the end of the 19th century and later grazed by cattle throughout first half of the 20th century.

Today, the free-wandering herd is managed by the Wilbur Ridge Pony Association. The ponies are rounded up every fall for a health check–and so that a few individuals (usually young males) can be selected for auction at the annual Grayson Highlands Fall Festival.

Grayson Highlands is not just a bucket-list trip for hikers in the Old Dominion—the park is also one of the premier bouldering destinations in Virginia. With nearly 1,000 problems scattered throughout the park, there are enough routes to suit all kinds of climbers. The lofty elevation of the park’s bouldering areas, many more than 5,000 feet, also make Grayson Highlands a prime climbing destination during the summer, when temperatures render many popular routes in the Southeast off-limits.

The park features more removed climbing spots, like the Highlands Bouldering Area (accessible after a hike from Massie Gap), but is also scattered with plenty of easily accessible problems, especially along the 1.4-mile Listening Rock Trail. There are also climbable boulders in the vicinity of the park’s contact station, picnic area, and even the main campground. One of the area’s most beloved climbs, the Wilson Creek Boulder, is an easily stroll from any tent site there. Without a doubt, the definitive guide to bouldering opportunities in the state park is Aaron Parlier’s book Grayson Highlands Bouldering.

While the park’s trails are positively bustling in the fall, spring and summer, hosting everyone from day-hikers to thru-hikers, Grayson Highlands also has plenty of potential for hearty souls in the dead of winter. The elevation ensures the high country in Grayson Highlands and the neighboring Mount Rogers National Recreation Area consistently get a generous coating of powder, and the airy alpine meadows are ideal for exploring with cross-country skis.

Several of the park’s trails are open for cross-country skiing, including the 3.7-mile Old Upchurch Road, 1.2-mile Seed Orchard Road, the 3.2-mile Horse Trail (east), and the 0.9-mile Horse Trail (north), which connects to the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.

Quick Tips: Getting the Most out of Your Trip

Grayson Highlands offers camping, but reservations fill up quickly, so plan ahead. Mallee Oot
Grayson Highlands offers camping, but reservations fill up quickly, so plan ahead.
Mallee Oot

The park’s campground is popular and fills up quickly, especially in the summer and early fall, during peak leaf-peeping. There is no backcountry camping in the park, but Grayson Highlands provides a gateway to a bounty of options for overnights. The state park is sandwiched between two wilderness areas—the 6,076-acre Lewis Fork Wilderness, laced with nearly 30-miles of trails, and the peak-capped Little Wilson Creek Wilderness, a rugged 5,461-acre expanse crowned with three summits above 4,600-feet. Both part of the larger Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.

Weather in the park can change rapidly, and temperatures in the highlands ensure hypothermia is a consideration year-round. Snow is possible from September to May, and the barren high-country balds, famously devoid of trees, are also especially prone to powerfully unfettered winds. Rangers close the park in the case of extreme conditions—including air temperatures below 15°F and wind speeds above 35 mph. But that still leaves the vast majority of the year to explore one of Virginia’s most beautiful places.

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Originally written by RootsRated for AbingdonVA.

Featured image by S.A., courtesy of Grayson Highlands State Park.

Holiday Shopping in Abingdon

‘Tis the season to shop ’til you drop, and we suggest Abingdon as an especially fine choice for buying unique, meaningful gifts. We’re the quintessential “shop small” destination with quaint boutiques lining our historic downtown streets. Let us show you why.

WEST MAIN STREET

Shops on and around Main Street between Cummings and Wall Streets offer a good selection of gift-buying options. Start at Abingdon Mercantile and Frame Shop, two stories of fantastic finds in what used to be an old hotel. Many of your favorite gift brands are found here, as well as home decor and apparel.

Abingdon Mercantile & Frame Shop

Abingdon Mercantile & Frame Shop

Stuff your stockings with sweet treats from The Candy Shed, Abingdon’s candy store. Bulk candies, lollipops, a variety of mint tins, and nostalgic candies can be found here. Want more sugar and old fashioned fun? Be sure to swing by Ellis Soda Shoppe for a float!

The Candy Shed

The Candy Shed

Looking for local handmade gifts? Check out Necessities, a trove of local love and international delights, too. Find delicious teas and foods, as well as art, kitchenware, and linens.

Those seeking something specific for someone who’s hard to buy for may have luck with a special antique or primitive gift. Try Jerroleen’s Shed, a well curated antiques and primitives store that also carries interesting “man gifts” like beard balm and “bloody knuckles” hand salve.

Jerroleen's Shed

Jerroleen’s Shed

EAST MAIN STREET

On the other side of The Martha Washington Inn & Spa and Barter Theatre is more great shopping. Start at Forget-Me-Not, a ladies boutique in what was once an old apothecary. Today that building is filled with jewelry, clothes, gift cards, and more, but none of it is the ordinary, run-of-the-mill variety. You’ll find something special here!

Forget-Me-Not

Forget-Me-Not

Abingdon Olive Oil Company is the perfect place to find a fine oil for the Betty Crocker in your life. If you don’t know where to start, the knowledgeable staff can give you great recommendations.

Abingdon Olive Oil Company

Abingdon Olive Oil Company

Katbird’s Wine & Gourmet will probably have you at “complimentary wine and beer tastings every Saturday afternoon,” and if so, we don’t blame you. Sample something new and choose a new favorite to take home for a holiday dinner or to gift a co-worker or friend. A variety of home goods and gourmet delights may even find their way into your bag as well.

Katbird's Wine & Gourmet

Katbird’s Wine & Gourmet

Two blocks back on Park Street sits Wolf Hills Brewing Company. If you didn’t find a craft beer you like at Katbird’s try the local flavor and perhaps take home a growler!

Just down Park is Holston Mountain Artisans, the perfect place to pick up a handmade gift from a local artisan. From photography and pottery to joinery and jewelry, there’s no telling what impressive handcrafted object may be the perfect gift.

Holston Mountain Artisans

There’s more GREAT SHOPPING in Abingdon, so don’t stop here. You’ll find music stores, more clothing and jewelry, and LOTS more artisan shops and galleries to peruse this holiday season.

A Very Barter Christmas: Unexpected Delights for the Holiday Season

barter-at-christmas-web

Those who have never experienced the holiday season at Barter Theatre in Abingdon are truly missing out. It’s not your average theater, and it’s not your average “come watch our holiday show and go home” experience. Rather, attending a show at The Barter Theatre during the Christmas season should be a tradition. Indeed, an annual holiday destination.

A Christmas Carol at Barter Theatre

A Christmas Carol at Barter Theatre

“The Christmas shows at the Barter are one of my very favorite things to do during the holiday season. It has become a tradition of sorts for me and my friends or family to start the season off with one of the favorite holiday classics …” Trip Advisor user Evie H.

overtheriverandthroughthewoods

Over the River and Through the Woods at Barter Theatre, Christmas 2017

At Barter Theatre during this festive season, patrons can expect elaborate, gorgeous decorations throughout the common areas, as well as hot cocoa to warm you as you come in the door. Holiday trees are here, there, and everywhere! It’s a truly delightful scene.

The gift shops – one at Barter proper and another at Barter Stage II – have souvenirs and gifts to choose from. Perhaps someone on your list needs a gift certificate to share this experience with you next year?

The gift shop in the Barter Theatre is especially festive at Christmas.

The gift shop in the Barter Theatre is especially festive at Christmas.

2016 CHRISTMAS SEASON AT BARTER

The shows rotate near-daily at Barter and Barter Stage II. Hurry to order your tickets online before they’re sold out!

BEFORE OR AFTER THE SHOW

Downtown Abingdon is especially beautiful this time of year. Stroll Main Street to window shop and appreciate the decorations or get a bite to eat. Some of the nearby favorites are Rain Restaurant & BarSisters American Grill, and Pop Ellis Soda Shoppe & Grille. At Barter Stage II, Political Dogs is serving “gourmet casual comfort food,” including excellent hot dogs, of course!

>> More Places to Eat

STAY THE NIGHT

Walk to the show when you stay the night nearby. Consider the illustrious Martha Washington Hotel and Spa, also glittering with stunning holiday décor. The Park Street Guesthouse is just two blocks away and offers all of the comforts and privacy of home.

>> More Places to Stay

EXTEND YOUR STAY

Expand your footprint beyond downtown Abingdon when you visit “must-see” places like Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway and Harvest Table Restaurant in Meadowview.

A Christmas Tree, fresh cut from the McDaniel Tree Farm in nearby Konnarock, loaded with artisan ornaments for sale at Heartwood: The Southwest Virginia Artisan Gateway in Abingdon, VA

A Christmas Tree loaded with artisan ornaments for sale at Heartwood: The Southwest Virginia Artisan Gateway

No trip to Abingdon is complete without at least a short jaunt on the Virginia Creeper Trail. Walk a brisk mile or two to work up an appetite for hot soup or a hot toddy.

>> More Ways to Play

 

A Destination Christmas in Historic Downtown Abingdon

There’s too much noise in the world today. Too many distractions, and too much chaos. Settle down and settle in with a destination Christmas in Abingdon, Virginia.

Abingdon is a small town that’s big on culture and hospitality. Here, you can escape the hustle and bustle and focus on what’s important: your loved ones. Let us show you the way.

Christmas in Abingdon

DELIGHTFUL STAYS FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY

The Martha Washington Inn & Spa is the grand dame of Abingdon. Steeped in history, this hotel was originally the home of the Preston family but has seen life as a dorm for Barter Theatre actors, a women’s college, a makeshift Civil War hospital, and eventually a hotel.

Merry Christmas Eve!! Cc: @jasonbarnette #abingdonva #themartha #holidays #christmas

A photo posted by Abingdon, VA (@visitabingdonva) on

The Martha’s appeal for families are numerous: an on-site restaurant where kids under 12 eat free, the spa and heated pool, the fire pit, the beautiful decorations, the history, and of course, the ghost stories! Depending on the number of family members getting away with you, your accommodation options range from Martha’s Residence, a two king suite with fireplace seating areas and an optional connecting Deluxe King room, to the Family Friendly Suite, a two bedroom apartment with a king and two double beds.

“Our family, as well as other relatives, recently stayed at the Martha. We all had a fabulous time! This hotel is elegant, charming, and beautiful both inside and out. We found the rooms spacious compared to other historic hotels we’ve stayed in. The pool is also quite large for a hotel and it was so relaxing to sit in a jacuzzi outside in the middle of the winter. We also enjoyed the library and could have spent hours inside reading all the interesting books.” – TripAdvisor user Jennifer S.

Abingdon’s bed and breakfasts are stunning. Inquire with an innkeeper about renting the whole house if your family wants a private, more intimate environment.

Summerfield Inn is a 1920s Colonial Revival with plenty of room for the whole gang. Seven guestrooms with en suite are in the main house while three additional suites are available in the Carriage House. You’ll want to choose your room carefully as some sleep up to three people and at least one has its own special perk: the Rose Room has a two-person whirlpool tub!

“This location was central for widely separated family members. Lots of room for a gathering …” – TripAdvisor user Tim11502

While breakfast is not served at A Tailor’s Lodging, morning beverages are available and the location is top-notch. Tucked away within the historic downtown, the property offers three queen suites with fireplaces and en suite. The Tailor’s Shop is a sweet little cottage with private entrance and kitchenette.

A Tailor's Lodging in Abingdon, VA

“This is a great place to stay have stayed here several times of the last few years. This is a place you can rent the whole house for you and your guests. Very quiet and close to the Barter Theaters.” – TripAdvisor user M7735XUgregb

Copper Lantern Boutique Inn is also a centrally located bed and breakfast that consistently receives incredible guest reviews. The 1873 Georgian Colonial boasts five immaculate suites with fine linens and shower amenities.

“We traveled from Colorado to join family members in Abingdon. The Copper Lantern Inn was our home base for a 5-day stay in Abingdon. The Inn’s central location was perfect for hiking, shopping, dining … It was a delightful meeting place for our family.” – TripAdvisor user Carol K.

Have you considered a cabin or cottage? It’s the ultimate “away from it all” Christmas destination, and we happen to have a few options within historic downtown Abingdon.

Creeper’s End Lodging is two new cottages built in a Colonial style and offering two rental spaces in one of them and three in the other. Each cottage can sleep up to 10 guests and each unit has its own kitchenette, which means everyone gets a turn at cooking!

“What a fabulous place for a family reunion! We took over the place and were in heaven. Lovely furnishings and very comfortable. They thought of everything a traveler might need. Close to trail, park, good food, the Barter, and a wonderful yard to play in!!”- TripAdvisor user Cathryn T.

Another excellent collection of cabins is that of Crooked Cabin Properties, a trio still within the historic downtown of Abingdon. The largest and most accommodating for a full-family getaway is The Brook House with sleeping arrangements for eight in 3,000 square feet. Need more room? The Creekside Hatch is an adjacent two-bedroom cottage that sleeps four more people.

 

“A wonderful experience in a lovely historic town. We had a 20 year reunion at the Brook House and it could not have been more perfect. Spacious, clean, we had everything we needed for a perfect weekend.” – TripAdvisor user Alice P.

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO MAKE IT MEMORABLE

Prepare your family for a fantastic Christmas getaway to Abingdon with these resources.