The Blue Ridge Tunnel Trail is Charlottesville’s best new outing
After many years in the making, the Blue Ridge Tunnel Trail anticipates its official opening on November 21, according to Nelson County Parks official Claire RIchardson. We recommend you get there as soon as possible!
The eastern trailhead begins along the active CSX rail line in Afton, while the western trailhead starts just a half mile below King’s Gourmet Popcorn off of Highway 250 heading into Waynesboro. The distance between the two spans just under 3 miles and is punctuated with interpretive markers that tell the story dating back to the 1850s of the rail line and tunnel’s origins.
Here we come face to face with the legacy of engineer Claudius Crozet, and his laborers, both Irish immigrants and enslaved African-Americans. As you hike, their achievement is on magnificent display and will smash your consciousness over and again as you pass along the Catoctin greenstone, as slick as it is thick, through which these men forged the rail line.
From the east you’re bound to experience the thrill of trains coming and going only 40 feet beneath you, as they rumble by and trace the base of the Rockfish Mountains rising to the south across the valley. From the west, you’ll make a gentle ascent through a forest below both Skyline Drive and the Appalachian Trail before your eye is drawn to the verdant entrance of a magical tunnel.
The tunnel itself spans three-quarters of a mile and entreats you to near pitch-black darkness. So far away it could be a star, the light at the tunnel’s opposite end guides you along the gentle path deep inside the cool mountain where water runs continuously. The experience of darkness and occasional perfect silence stimulates both wonder and awe, and with one passage, we believe you’ll agree this trip to be one of the finest you’ll ever take.
Which makes it perfect for post-Thanksgiving exercise. Perfect for strolling. Or dog-walking. Perfect for cycling. For birding. For soul-searching.
What’s more, the trail from either side is within easy striking distance of numerous wineries and breweries, as well as Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway. From the east, consider slipping down Route 750 to Nelson 151 where almost immediately you’ll encounter UVA Alumni stronghold Valley Road Vineyard or, across the street, Blue Mountain Brewery. Both are excellent destinations for a relaxing libation and opportunity to recount your adventure. From the western portal, we recommend easing down Hwy. 250 W and into Waynesboro where you’ll find a most excellent brew pub, Basic City Brewing, right on Main Street.
In New England, Paul Revere said, “One if by land, two if by sea.” But here in the Blue Ridge, we’re sure Claudius Crozet would have added, “Three if by tunnel.” We recommend this path, for it will make all the difference.