You can commence your journey through this Nelson County Experience by visiting our Saturday Farmers Market in Nellysford from May to October between 8 AM and 12 Noon. For more than five years, the market has been the meeting place of our community members to interact with local produce and plant growers, artisans and bakers. You can walk the canopy-roofed market and chat with locals while enjoying folk music.
Besides the market, the Nellysford area offers multiple eating choices, nearby you can find a cluster of local food options: Basic Necessities, if you’re looking for a deli/bistro menu or just a picnic basket to bring along the road. Blue Ridge Pig smokes traditional barbecue in their cozy joint. Ambrosia completes the ensemble with sandwiches, homemade pastries, cakes, and cookies. Yum!
A few miles south, the former Wintergreen Village is showcased in Spruce Creek Park. The park is one of only a few Nelson County public spaces where visitors can picnic, and photograph the historic structures that gave life to the village, like the Wintergreen Country Store. Spruce Creek Park is also the hub for a series of trails that traverse the beautiful natural resources of the South Fork of the Rockfish River and the Spruce Creek. This area is especially remarkable for birding and wildlife photography and interpretation.
At the intersection of Route 151 and Route 664, you will find Glen Mary, an on going, green-design commercial development that will provide Nelson County many more sophisticated amenities. Java Depot brews renowned regional coffee and prepares breakfast inside of what used to be the Arrington Train Station. Nearby, The Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company is becoming a destination for beer lovers and musicians. Their varied lunch and dinner menu, seasonal beers, and music events gather everyday both Nelsonians and regional visitors.
On your way up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, you will find a series of old communities that have remained intact, surrounded by a true, rural environment. Beech Grove is a small community that still contains exemplary 20th century vernacular architecture. For instance, you will pass a Sear’s Roebuck house and the Beech Grove Christian church, an unusual stone building with fine detailing. High View, now known as Mill Hill is an 1830s manor house with numerous outbuildings. A barn is now part of Wintergreen Winery. Two miles up the road the Dodd Cabin stands as one of the few examples of rural backwoods lifestyle. The cabin is fully furnished and seasonally hosts diverse folk events and re-enactments.
Where Route 664 meets the Parkway at an elevation above 3000 feet, you will find a very special place. Reid’s Gap has been for centuries not only a trade and transportation gateway, but also an important natural corridor and airway for butterflies and insects. At Reid’s Gap meadow, visitors can experience a vibrant and ever-evolving natural landscape including wild flowers and butterflies. There are parking facilities from where you can take a short hike south to breathtaking view along the Appalachian Trail.
As you drive South on the Blue Ridge Parkway ,do not forget to stop in one of the scenic outlooks and exhibits. We truly recommend wandering around 20-Minute Cliff for a photo-op view of the Blue Ridge. Also Spy Rock Mountain Overlook is an excellent place for picnic due to its low meadow surrounded by wild flowers.
In order to go back to the valley and Nelson’s marvels, take Route 56 east –The Crabtree Falls Highway- that will lead you down hill following the historic Tye River. The Tye is the main waterway in the area, and over the centuries has carved magnificent bluffs, pools, and the Crabtree Falls, the highest falls east of the Mississippi. Next, one passes an agricultural landmark representing the tobacco era society: Pharsalia plantation. Pharsalia, William Massie’s manor house, and its well-preserved outbuildings constitute a living memory of agricultural heritage and outstanding Federal style architecture.
The Tye has also been the economic motor for a flourishing milling industry in Tyro and Massie’s Mill. Today, visitors can sight see the river’s meanders and one surviving mill built by the Massie family at Tyro. These towns and the mill are old witnesses to a flourishing past and the aftermath of Camille Hurricane of 1969.
Going back north on Route 151, people driving on the scenic loop can pass quaint villages and historic farms in an unspoiled landscape. Among others, the old Roseland community, Jonesboro with its fortress-like church, and Bryant with its small schoolhouses and verdant rolling hills. On this road, people can either stop at Mac’s Market just North of the Tye River Bridge, where a Southern style local menu is offered; at Cat Rock Antiques , 5 miles North, for crafts by local artisans; or just admire inspiring vistas from Zion Hill Church. This is a unique spot to just experience, paint, or photograph the rural scenery that seems to be frozen in time.
The journey ends after passing Brent’s Gap, a sinuous pass in the wilderness, and a gateway for many cultures connecting north and south of the Piedmont. As you descend Horseshoe Mountain you see the Rockfish Valley before you and then pass Dervil’s Backbone , ELK HILL and the Rockfish Valley Trail head before arriving at Spruce Creek Park, your point of beginning.
The NELSON SCNIC LOOP driving experience with leisurely stops take 3 hours or so.