The trail traces the route of the former Virginia Blue Ridge Railway. The line originally extended from Tye River Depot, where it interchanged with the Southern Railway, to Massies Mill. The railroad followed the course of the Tye and Piney Rivers for several miles before entering the mountains. It passed through the communities of Roses Mill, Piney River, Canopy, Lowesville, and Buffalo Mine. It was built in 1915 to haul chestnut timber out of the heavily-timbered Piney River area to local mills. Timber runs were halted during World War I, since they were not essential to the war effort, and a chestnut blight wiped out much of the timbered areas. Passenger service carried the line through 1936. The line saw a true resurgence when a company began extracting titanium dioxide from the Piney River and needed transport. Also, three companies were built to extract aplite from the area and used the rail for transport and the line thrived until the late 1960s. Hurricane Camille destroyed some of the tracks in 1969 and Cyanamid, the company that began the line’s industrial boom in the 1930s, closed in 1970.
Today, part of the roadbed was developed as a rails-to-trails project. The bulk of the project was funded by the Virginia Department of Transportation. When completed, the entire rail-trail will cover seven miles along the railroad bed to Tye River.
The trail is opened for hiking, biking and horseback riding. The trail passes under tall conifers and other deciduous trees while paralleling Piney River near its north bank with plenty of places to pull off to get closer to the river. Near Rose Mill, the trail passes over a bridge that traverses the Piney River. There are parking lots at both ends of the trail. Parking for horse trailers is available at Piney River. The trail is open sunrise to sunset.
From the Nelson Scenic Loop, the western trailhead can be accessed from Roseland VA by following Route 151 north for 3.8 miles to Piney River. The trailhead is at left, next to a refurbished train depot that now serves as a small visitors center.
Trail End Points: Piney River (Patrick Henry Highway) to Tye River Depot
Trail Length: 2 miles
Trail Surfaces: Asphalt, Crushed Stone, Ballast
Trail Activities: Walk, Horseback, Bicycle, Cross Country Ski, Mountain Bicycle, Wheelchair