The Great American Road Trip: Southwest Virginia Style

There’s something about a road trip that feels like a throwback to a simpler era. Hop in the car, pack lots of snacks, and take off for the great unknown. Who knows what you’ll discover along the way?

Just a few hours from the major metro areas (5 hours from Atlanta, less than 3 from Charlotte, and 2 hours from Roanoke), you'll find Southwest Virginia, an area of Virginia filled with rich culture and pristine mountain landscapes. 

We’ve put together a classic road trip through Southwest Virginia: a 5-night trip that takes you along winding mountain roads, discovering the adorable and unique small towns that make up this Southern Appalachian region. It’s chock full of classic Americana, including friendly mom & pop stores, interesting roadside attractions, and the unspoiled beauty of a different side of Virginia.

Start your itinerary at either end, and work your way through the scenic back roads of Southwest Virginia!

Main Street Martha panorama credit Jason Barnette

Day 1: Floyd

Jump off of Virginia’s I-81 to start your trip with the artsy town of Floyd, population 425. Floyd is known for its creative arts and music scene, and a bit of a hippie vibe that makes it a welcoming, relaxing destination.

Stay at the Floyd Hotel, a boutique property with themed rooms in the heart of downtown Floyd. Then head out to music venues like the famous Floyd Country Store, or the Blue Ridge Music Center.

Enjoy a wine tasting at Chateau Morissette, then explore the natural beauty of the area. Mabry Mill, located in Floyd County, is one of the most visited and photographed sites along the 469-mile length of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Rocky Knob recreation area along the Parkway also features hiking, camping and panoramic views.

Visit Floyd VA

Day 2: Wytheville

Head south on US Highway 221 for a scenic drive through the mountains. When you reach I-77 North, it’s just a quick hop up to the town of Wytheville.

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Dine at the Log House Restaurant, located inside an original log cabin structure built in 1776. Stroll down the charming Main Street for a perfect slice of small town Americana. Explore three different house museums in downtown, including the birthplace of First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson, considered “the first female President,” for her behind-the-scenes leadership during Woodrow Wilson’s incapacitation.

Explore the beautiful lush forests of Crystal Springs Recreation Area, and visit Beagle Ridge Herb Farm to tour the lavender fields.

Visit Wytheville

Day 3: Marion

Just a quick half-hour drive down I-81, you’ll discover the town of Marion, VA. At one time it was most famous as the birthplace of Mountain Dew.

Now, it’s known for its revitalized downtown area, and as the gateway to two of the crown jewels of Virginia’s State Park System: Hungry Mother State Park and Grayson Highlands State Park.

Locals will tell you that a stop at the Dip Dog Stand is an absolute must before you leave Marion. Serving up the original “dip dog,” milkshakes and onion rings since 1957.

Visit Marion VA

Day 4: Abingdon

As you head to historic Abingdon, VA choose the road less traveled, bypassing I-81 for a leisurely drive on the Mount Rogers Scenic Byway.

Near Konnarock, pick up Highway 58 for a winding ride through the mountains, and you’ll learn first hand the origin of “The Crooked Road.”

When you arrive in Abingdon, you’ll find a charming historic town dating back to 1778, and a community named one of the Coolest Small Towns in America by Budget Travel.

Make sure to arrive hungry, because Abingdon was also voted the Best Small Town Food Scene in the country in 2019 and 2020 by USA Today 10best. With over 30 independently owned restaurants, you’ll find every kind of dining, from classic southern fare to exquisite fine dining. 

As mile marker zero for the famous Virginia Creeper Trail, Abingdon is the perfect place to get out of the car and on to the trail. Rent bikes at numerous outfitters, or simply take a shady stroll beginning in downtown Abingdon.

Main Street exterior - The Bank - credit Jason Barnette

Stay at the 4-Diamond Martha Washington Inn & Spa, or redeem your points at any number of familiar hotel properties. See all lodging options.

Take a self-guided walking tour of the historic district: Abingdon’s entire downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Plan your trip to Abingdon

Day 5: Bristol TN/VA

Who says you can’t be in two places at once? This unique, musically rich town is bisected by the famous State Street, letting you stand in Tennessee and Virginia at the same time.

As you leave Abingdon, take the scenic route to Bristol, driving south along South Holston Lake, and making a stop at the South Holston Dam, the first in the TVA lake system. With spectacular views of South Holston Lake, it’s a great picnic spot.

Then arrive in Bristol, known as the Birthplace of Country Music, where the 1920 Bristol recording sessions first captured the sounds of country music.

Thanks to a strong revitalization effort, downtown Bristol is now thriving and continues to grow. Visitors will find a variety of food choices at 20-plus restaurants, several craft breweries, clothing shops, antique stores, museums, art galleries, ice cream and candy stops and much more.

Discover Bristol

Getting there is half the fun: Map your perfect Southwest Virginia Road Trip

Header image by Chad Thompson for Friends of Southwest Virginia

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