Wild and beautiful country covers the extreme southwestern portion of Virginia. Rugged blue mountains and winding roads to frame this history-laden area full of exciting outdoor recreation, mountain music and crafts. Bordered by four states, Southwest Virginia is a full day's drive from Washington, D.C. Interstate 81 bisects this region which often seems disconnected from the rest of the state for its relatively remote location.
Special, "Don't Miss" spots in Southwest Virginia include the likes of Abingdon, where visitors are treated to old town charms, from its brick sidewalks and historic homes to the quaint buildings that abut Main Street. Just north of the Tennessee state line and just off I-81, Abingdon's downtown includes plenty to entertain those passin' through, including the Barter Theatre, State Theatre of Virginia, which presents productions year-round. Dining options include Historic Martha Washington Inn, still welcoming guests for overnight stays or sumptuous meals and Starving Artist Caf‚, which offers lighter fare and an artsy atmosphere. Abingdon's Arts Depot, housed in an old freight station, is the real center for art-oriented activities, home to resident artists and regular exhibits; William King Regional Arts Center brings works from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to the hills of Southwest Virginia.
Breaks Interstate Park, called the Grand Canyon of the South, is also a note-worthy stop with its five-mile gorge, overlooks, whitewater rafting and camping. The park is located on Rt. 609 off Hwy. 460 on the Kentucky border.
Tazewell, off Hwy. 460, is home to Crab Orchard Museum and Pioneer Park, exhibiting Virginia's history on 110 acres, three miles west of town.
Head north on Hwy. 460 to Bluefield, on the West Virginia border, to visit Pocahontas Exhibition Coal Mine. Coal defined life and work in the Southwest Virginia area, and while it may no longer have the same significances these days the public can at least get a glimpse of how it once was touring the portion of the mine open to visitors.
Travel southwest of Bluefield on Hwy. 460 to Rt. 19 to Alt. 58/Rt. 23 to visit Big Stone Gap, immortalized in the works of two authors. Modern day writer Adriana Trigiani wrote three fictional accounts of life in the town including one titled "Big Stone Gap"; native son John Fox Jr. brought attention to the area in the 19th century with his book "Trail of the Lonesome Pine". Fox's tale of the area is the state's official outdoor drama, presented each summer here at the June Tolliver Playhouse. Town museums include the John Fox Jr. Museum, Southwest Virginia Museum and H.W. Meador Coal Museum.
Head south on Rt. 23 to visit Natural Tunnel State Park where an 850-foot tunnel was naturally carved over centuries by a creek and is still used as a train tunnel. The park includes hiking trails, tunnel tours and chair lifts to view the gorge.
Virginia's musical heritage is celebrated at nearby Carter Family Fold, at Hiltons on Hwy. 58/421. Traditional bluegrass music is played each Saturday night at the home of the Carters, pioneers in country music. A.P. Carter Museum, on the grounds, has recordings, photos and other memorabilia from the "first family" of country music.
Follow Rt. 23 to Hwy. 58 west to Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, to see the gap in the mountains where over 200,000 pioneers crossed through on Daniel Boone's Wilderness Road to head west. The park includes 55 miles of trails and Pinnacle Overlook, where 3-4 states are visible on a clear day.
Southwest Virginia covers the extreme western portion of the state, surrounded by Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina. I-81 bisects the region which is about 340 miles southwest of Richmond, VA.