Whether you’re out to hike a dramatic mountain summit, take a leisurely drive in the country, or bike the Blue Ridge Parkway, recreation on the Nelson Scenic Loop is refreshing, relaxing, and a quiet way to explore the wonders of Nelson County, Virginia. The Loop’s four scenic roadways, numerous trails and overlooks, dramatic views, clear mountain streams, cool shady forests, abundant cultural heritage, and engaging activities provide just the get-away you need to refresh your spirit.
Drive the Loop!
The Nelson Scenic Loop is designed as an auto and bicycle tour route that provides numerous links with outdoor recreational opportunities, including hiking trails, boating put-ins, and horseback riding venues. First and foremost, the four primary road segments that form the loop are scenic wonders that refresh the soul.
Virginia Scenic Byways are the best way to find historical areas, natural wonders, or recreational spots. The Nelson Scenic Loop features three great Scenic Byways in State Routes 151, 664, and 56. These are joined by the Blue Ridge Parkway, a federally-administered scenic drive that extends for 469 miles through portions of Virginia and North Carolina. A portion of the parkway is also part of the transcontinental U.S. Bike Route 76 that extends between Oregon and Virginia.
To find Virginia Scenic Byways look for the blue signs bearing an image of the state bird and flower, the cardinal and the flowering dogwood. The entire 2,900-mile network of scenic roads within the state is illustrated on a Virginia Department of Transportation road map available for free at tourism centers across the state. The Nelson Scenic Loop will soon be a featured destination in future iterations of this map. (See also Trails.)
Bike the Loop!
Nelson County offers miles and miles of tranquil country roads that wind past meadows, forests, and streams—all accessible by bike. Take the Loop through the gentle rolling hills along State Route 151 and the more challenging terrain in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Nelson Scenic Loop offers a variety of experiences for all skill levels.
U.S. Bike Route 76
The Nelson Scenic Loop includes a portion of the trans-American bike route known as U.S. Bike Route 76, which follows the Blue Ridge Parkway between State Route 56 and U.S. Highway 250. Route 76 continues on to the east to its terminus at Yorktown; to the west, cyclists can travel as far as coastal Oregon, taking in the scenery of several national and state parks along the way. Reduced traffic speeds, varying levels, and limited access points have made this section of the Blue Ridge Parkway popular with bicyclists. Please note, however, that the route is challenging, and cyclists should be aware that weather, including foggy conditions, and elevational changes, not to mention the occasional large recreational vehicle may all be encountered at any time.
For more information, see the map “Bicycling in Virginia” published by the Virginia Department of Transportation. (See also Trails.)
One of the best ways to experience the Loop is by parking your car and following one of the numerous trails afforded along the Blue Ridge Parkway, within National Forest land, that follow the rivers, or are provided by local property owners.
For more information about hiking opportunities, see the Trails section. Offerings include:
Crabtree Falls Trail
Virginia Blue Ridge Railway Trail
Thomas Jefferson Loop
Spy Rocks Trail
Wintergreen Resort/Wintergreen Nature Foundation Trails
Rodes Farm near Wintergreen offers trail rides daily between mid-March and December, except Wednesdays. The facility features guided walking trails using English saddles. There are also one hour pony rides for kids, sunset trail rides, lessons, and a vaulting clinic.
For more information see Losbornerfs@wintergreenresort.com.
Boating the Loop!
The Nelson Scenic Loop offers access to two rivers along its route: the South Rockfish and the Tye. Both arise in the mountains along the eastern face of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and carve relatively narrow corridors within the region.
The South Rockfish flows for approximately three miles between Wintergreen and Beech Grove along State Route 664. This section, the only that is appropriate for paddling, is classified by American Whitewater as class V whitewater, to be traversed by experts only. The area receives the most rain during the month of August.
The upper reaches of the Tye are paddled by experienced kayakers, while gentle paddling is possible on the Tye River downstream from Tyro. Tye River Park along State Route 56 in Tyro includes a public boat launch.
Geocaching on the Loop!
A worldwide game of hiding and seeking treasure, Geocaching brings together the latest Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and good old fashioned back country hiking. Geocache are actual or virtual tokens hidden or placed anywhere in the world by a geocacher, usually somewhere fun to explore. The position of the cache is pinpointed using GPS technology. Finding the cache is fun! You can place your own token, leave a note, or share the location of the geocache online. Anyone with a GPS device can try to locate the geocache. One of the geocaches located along the Nelson Scenic Loop is associated with the Camille Memorial at Tye River Park.
Birding the Loop!
There are several wonderful opportunities to observe birds along the Nelson Scenic Loop. The Virginia Birding Trail lists three stops, which incorporate local trails, along the loop that are prime birding locations. In particular, visit Spruce Creek Park and Camille Memorial Park at the beginning of the loop along State Route 151, Crabtree Falls along State Route 151, Royal Oaks near Love, Virginia just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Montebello area. (See the Natural History section for more information.)
Camping on the Loop!
Backcountry camping is permitted in many areas around the Nelson Scenic Loop, such as along the Appalachian Trail and within the three wilderness areas. It is important to respect the unspoiled nature of these areas by packing in/packing out everything you will need, and taking care not to damage plants and animals.
There are also several campgrounds that provide services and accommodations for a fee along the loop. These include the Crabtree Falls Campgrounds on the Tye River near Crabtree Falls, and the Montebello Camping and Fishing Resort along State Route 56 three miles south of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
At the Crabtree Falls Campgrounds, tent, RV, and cabin camping are available. There is a small store, as well as shower and bathroom facilities. The campgrounds overlook the Tye River.
The Montebello Camping and Fishing Resort permits tent, RV, and cabin camping. The campground is located near a four-acre lake and a smaller lake that are stocked with rainbow trout. Other offerings include kayak and paddleboat rentals, swimming, laundry, a pavilion, horseback rides, and a playground. Pets are allowed.
Nearby in Vesuvius, Virginia is the Tye River Gap Campground. In addition to tent, RV, and cabin camping facilities, the campground offers boating on the Upper South Fork of the Tye River, fishing, swimming, and hiking. 
The Montebello State Fish Hatchery rearing station nurtures more than 150,000 newly-hatched brook, brown, and rainbow trout to maturity each year. The troutlets are released to stock all trout waters east of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Visitors can see fish at various stages of maturity within the series of the cascading pools. The facility is operated by the State of Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The fish hatchery is located along State Route 690, one-half mile from State Route 56 along the Nelson Scenic Loop.
Very close to the Nelson Scenic Loop nestled within and set atop the Blue Ridge Mountains east of State Route 664 is Wintergreen Resort. Promoted as a four-season facility, Wintergreen resort includes a family-friendly ski resort, an inn and several restaurants, condominiums, and various other recreational venues, such a snowtubing, golfing, tennis, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and an indoor pool and gym complex. Wintergreen Resort proudly endorses and actively participates in the National Ski Areas Association’s Sustainable Slopes program, and is committed to preserving the character of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
During the summer months, the resort offers many special programs. Wintergreen Performing Arts presents a variety of musical performances, while the Wintergreen Summer Music Festival includes a Music Academy established for young, outstanding musicians selected for their performance capabilities. The Academy Fellows perform before audiences while under the tutelage of the Festival’s professional musicians. Fourth of July fireworks can be viewed from atop of the mountain, where it is always at least ten degrees cooler!
The resort is located within an 11,000 acre property, of which approximately one-half of the land has been placed in conservation easement as wilderness area. The Wintergreen Nature Foundation, a non-profit organization affiliated with the development, oversees conservation considerations and operates numerous nature programs for visitors. The foundation offers a variety of programs ranging from an introduction to the Blue Ridge Mountains to intensive studies of the region’s flora and fauna to explorations of Virginia’s cultural history. The Foundation naturalists and volunteers lead hikes and outings weekly. Annually in May, the foundation holds a spring wildflower symposium.
Rockfish Valley Foundation Kite Festival
Each year in April, the Rockfish Valley Foundation organizes an area-wide kite festival, held in the field behind Spruce Creek Park and along the Glenthorne Loop, the starting point for the Nelson Scenic Loop. The event is free and open to the public. Activities have included stunt kite demonstrations and performances set to music courtesy of members of the Richmond Air force, one of USA’s premier kite clubs, historical and modern kites displayed and flown, exhibits of handmade kites showing unusual shapes and unique designs and color patterns, kite-making materials and assistance available for children.
Pharsalia Folklife Festival
Located near Tyro, Virginia, east of State Route 56 along the Nelson Scenic Loop, is the antebellum Pharsalia plantation. Set within a pastoral setting of verdant rolling terrain with views toward DePriest Mountain, Pharsalia is a carefully tended farm property that offers a variety of programs, events, and farm products relating to horticulture, gardening, sustainable farming, and historic plantation life to the public.
Pharsalia, with its family home built in 1814, is rich in history. One of the area’s favorite events is the Pharsalia Folk Life Festival, first held in 2007. During the June event, a host of heritage tradesmen in period dress and contemporary craftsmen will be on hand to demonstrate and sell their many types of wares. There will be tours of the house and dependencies. There will be storytelling and children’s hands-on activities and games. A variety of foods of the time, and some to suit today’s tastes, will be available. Wintergreen Winery will offer wine tastings. Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company will have custom crafted beers on hand. Special music and historical performances will take place throughout the grounds. Mini-seminars will be offered on a variety of topics of the day including planting tobacco. Hewing logs and raising a log cabin will be demonstrated. There will be book signings by local authors. Transportation of the day will be on exhibit. The Festival will offer two full days of events to be long remembered. Many volunteers have pledged their time and talents to create an outstanding educational and historical event for the entire family.
Nelson Scenic Loop Grand Discovery Days
Go local and join us June 11 through 13 to celebrate the grand opening of the Nelson Scenic Loop, a 50-mile auto and biking tour route through the scenic and historic landscape of northwestern Nelson County. The Grand Discovery Days celebration will offer something for everyone.
The weekend festivities begin with a good old fashioned country Square Dance at the Rockfish Valley Community Center on June 11th.
Saturday, June 12th marks the opening of the tour road. Visit the many venues offering events and activities such as the Royal Oaks Music Festival in Love, Virginia, the Pharsalia Folklife Festival, guided hikes along the Appalachian Trail, 80th anniversary events at the Montebello Fish Hatchery, and a rally of the Piedmont Antique Auto Club.
Begin your day at the Nellysford Farmers Market, and then stop in at nearby Spruce Creek Park to plan your day. Maps and information, food, jugglers, local artists, historians, and authors, as well as T-shirts, bumper stickers, and hats, and a limited run print of scenes along the Loop will be available at the park. Then begin your journey to explore the treasures along the route – which follows Routes 151, Beech Grove Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Route 56, before returning along Route 151. Follow the colorful banners that mark the sites along the route—Crabtree Falls, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Montebello Fish Hatchery, and the Appalachian Trail among others.
Not to be missed on Sunday, June 13th is an event that links the opening of the Nelson Scenic Loop and the 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The special event will be held at Skylark Farm, a one-of-a-kind property with 360 degree views of the Appalachian plateau. Carlton Abbott, whose father Stanley Abbott designed the parkway is a featured speaker. In addition to the views, enjoy local food and music.
Piney Mountain Music Festival
The Dodd Cabin, a restored historic log cabin located along Beech Grove Road, will be the site of the 3rd Annual Piney Mountain Music Festival on the afternoon of June 12, 2010. Among the events and activities will be bands and cloggers, crafters and vendors, and demonstration by local Civil War re-enactors. Food will be provided by the Rockfish Ruritans and the Cub Scouts-Pack 32. You can also visit the cabin on afternoons during the summer months.
Love Mountain Festival at Royal Oaks
On June 12, 2010, join us for the Love Mountain Festival at Royal Oaks along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The event is both a blue grass music festival and a living history event interpreting “Life On the Blue Ridge.” Between band sets, local speakers will present information about local history, art, music, and wildlife. The festival will be held in a well-shaded natural outdoor amphitheater that seats about 800. Guests should bring blankets or folding chairs. All bluegrass bands are local; many of the musicians reside in the small mountaintop hamlet of Love, Virginia. Lynn Coffey, former editor of Backroads, a local newsletter, will speak on the history of the community, the Civilian Conservation Corps camps located in the area to work on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the prisoner of war camps established in Sherando during World War II. The Virginia Wildlife Center located in nearby Waynesboro will present a live animal wildlife program. Cutch Tuttle, promoter and musician for the “Houndog Hill” bluegrass band, will speak on the history of mountain music. Jane Pendegraft and Charlotte Hodge will discuss natural art inspired by the Blue Ridge Mountains. Lodging (with advance reservations), food, and parking are available at Royal Oaks.
For more information, see http://www.hikercentral.com/metros/44420.html and http://www.riverfacts.com/rivers/13555.html
 Add Wintergreen web site