The story below is from our September/October 2015 issue. For the DIGITALLY ENHANCED VERSION, download our FREE iOS app or view our digital edition for FREE today!
The Appalachian Trail’s 45 miles and Wintergreen’s bounty of outdoor activities are only the intro to a county full of outside adventure and inside fun, too, in the form of craft breweries and a new distillery. And for a place to sleep? Consider the B&B&B (the last one’s for “beer”) operated by Roanokers Dan and Terri Tatarka.
From the top of its scenic Blue Ridge peaks down to the winding waters of the James River, Nelson County has long been beloved by outdoorsy types for its abundant recreational opportunities. The region is picturesque in all four seasons and a popular getaway destination for couples and families. But in autumn, when blanketed in colorful foliage, Nelson County is truly majestic.
Located midway between Charlottesville and Lynchburg, Nelson County is less than a two-hour drive from the Roanoke Valley, making it a convenient choice for a day trip. But there’s so much to explore, it’s best to budget a few days for your stay, according to Maureen Kelley, director of tourism for the region.
“Day trips are wonderful,” Kelley says, “but a lot of times visitors have such varied interests that they’ll want to spend a night or two—or more. The fall is a do-not-miss timeframe for us—from leaf-peeping to orchard activities, as well as a number of music festivals.”
In addition to the Appalachian Trail, which has 45 miles that run through Nelson County, the region offers a number of scenic hiking spots. One of the most popular is Crabtree Falls, which features a series of cascades that fall a total vertical distance of 1,200 feet.
Beginner hikers can view the falls at the first overlook, which is just a few hundred feet from the parking lot. Those wishing for more of a challenge—and spectacular views—can hike up to additional overlooks and then beyond to Crabtree Meadows, a large field at the headwaters of Crabtree Creek, that leads to the Appalachian Trail. Along the falls, be sure to stay on the trail and avoid the slippery rocks beyond the safety railings.
Another popular hike is the 2.6-mile trek along the AT to Harpers Creek that includes crossing a hand-built swinging bridge over the Tye River. Kelley says one of her favorite outings is the two-mile AT hike to Spy Rock where, at 3,980 feet, hikers are rewarded with a stunning view of the Blue Ridge.
“Talk about a 360-degree panorama,” she says. “It’s unbelievable.”
Wintergreen Resort also has more than 30 miles of mountain and valley hiking trails with diverse terrain, flora and animal life.
Visit hikingupward.com for details on more than a dozen hiking destinations in Nelson County.
Located within the George Washington and Jefferson National forests is Wintergreen Resort, a scenic retreat spanning 11,000 acres on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge.
Visitors will be hard pressed to find an outdoor activity not available at Wintergreen, open year-round just off Virginia 29 north of Lovingston. Archery, mountain biking, golf, horseback riding, swimming, tennis, skiing and a zip line are all available for families to enjoy. There’s also a spa and multiple options for on-site dining at Wintergreen, which offers guest rooms, condos and houses for rent. wintergreenresort.com
Take note: There are no chain hotels in Nelson County—only local hotels, traditional B&Bs, vacation rentals and the resort, so be sure to book early.