In the Loop
The Nelson Scenic Loop comprised of four scenic byways is a 50-mile auto and bike tour that features Nelson County, Virginia’s bounty of natural, cultural, and historic attractions. Encompassing the Blue Ridge Parkway, Patrick Henry Highway, Beech Grove Road and Crabtree Falls Highway, the Nelson Scenic Loop traverses both the verdant foothills of the Piedmont as well as the summits of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. It extends along the steep, narrow valleys and wider floodplains carved by the Tye and Rockfish rivers. Connected to the “Loop” as it is also referred to are beautiful sections of the Appalachian Trail. One of those sections is cared for by the Tidewater Appalachian Trail Club (TATC).
“Our section of the A.T. Three Ridges Wilderness from Reeds Gap to the Tye River Bridge, is within the ‘Loop.’ So, I guess you could say that TATC has been involved with a tremendous amount of Trail work specific to [this area of] the Loop,” says TATC president Phyllis Neumann. Numerous trails can be accessed from the loop. For a list of “best trails accessed from the Loop and maintained by TATC,” Neumann recommends: Meadow Mountain (on the A.T.); “Start at Reeds Gap and hike south…excellent views. You can continue south to Hanging Rock or on to the summit of Three Ridges for more views.” The Tye River Bridge; “A beautiful swinging bridge built by TATC, Konnarock Trail crew, and the U.S. Forest Service. Accessed from Rt. 56…you can hike north on the A.T. from here to Three Ridges.” Mau-Har Trail; “A blue-blazed loop trail off TATC’s section of the A.T. …with spectacular waterfalls.” White Rock Falls Trail; “An easy walking trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway, accessed from the Slacks Overlook at mile marker 20…with a beautiful waterfall.” St. Marys Wilderness; “Numerous trails located off the Blue Ridge Parkway near mile marker 23….with waterfalls and old mine sites.”
In celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway, as well as the Nelson Scenic Loop, a Grand Discovery Day will be held on June 12 to include a 50-mile auto tour along the Loop with dozens of events, points of interest, hikes, programs, and festivals. And on June 13, the celebration will continue at historic Skylark Farm in Nelson County, where guests can picnic on Round Top Mountain with 360 degree views at 3,300-foot elevation or by the lake of the 365-acre farm, which fronts on the parkway and the Nelson Scenic Loop. Compelling stories will be told by representatives of the National Park Service, Friends of Blue Ridge Parkway, and Washington and Lee University, along with remarks from the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, Oakland Museum and the Rockfish Valley Foundation. Guests can tour the buildings, listen to local musicians and their mountain music, view historical exhibits, and meet local authors and leaders of Parkway support organizations. “The June [celebration] program is really interesting for Trail club members in that it connects them to Nelson County, gives them an opportunity to visit Skylark and at the same time to participate in a guided hike along one of the pieces of the A.T.,” says Peter Agelasto, executive director of the Rockfish Valley Foundation in Nelson County. The celebration, will also take place in many other areas just off the Loop with picnics, croquet, horseshoes, and music workshops.
TATC, as well as other Trail Clubs in the area, will participate in the celebration. “So far we have committed to participate in the ‘Love Mountain Festival’ to be held at the Royal Oaks Cabins in Love, Virginia, June 12-13,” says Phyllis Neumann. “The owners of Royal Oaks are sponsoring a two-day event involving food, music, local culture and representatives of nearby trail maintaining clubs. We’ll have info available about TATC, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Trail maintenance, hiking, backpacking, Leave No Trace, gear, and back country cooking.” TATC will also lead some hikes on their section of the Trail.
Today, apple orchards, wineries, and breweries along the Loop perpetuate Nelson’s agrarian heritage. A recommended starting point for the Loop is located at the Spruce Creek Park Visitor Center on Route 151 in Wintergreen, Virginia. The visitor center showcases the Loop and its associated points of interest. While there, visitors can stroll the adjacent Rockfish Valley Foundation trails. By virtue of its geographical location, the Loop serves to support local commerce along the way, including potters, painters, and burl wood artists in their studios, as well as local food and wine sold in nearby restaurants and markets.