Today, modern road tripping is a fast growing hobby, and not just a means of vacationing. Groups dedicated to the art of the road trip, known either as professional road trippers or road enthusiasts, are becoming prevalent online.
Although there are many personalities in the road tripping community, many road enthusiasts advocate sharing the roadways, preservation of historic places and natural spaces, and safe driving. Much like backpacking, many road enthusiasts also subscribe to the ideas of Leave No Trace
The Leave No Trace message is framed under seven principles:
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Dispose of Waste Properly
Leave What You Find
Minimize Campfire Impacts
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
So I ask you, are you ready for a road trip? I am compiling an itinerary of the state parks that would be fun to visit on one road trip per month, I have grouped them in 12 different trips, so that equates to one per month. This is part 2 of this road trip!
Part 2 consists of Natural Tunnel State Park, Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park, Wilderness Road State Park and Breaks Interstate Park:
Let's begin at what was called the Eighth Wonder of the World by William Jennings Bryan, Natural Tunnel been attracting sightseers to the mountains of southwestern Virginia for more than 100 years. Today it is the focal point of Natural Tunnel State Park
, a park which offers visitors not only spectacular sights but also swimming, camping, picnicking, hiking, a visitor center, an amphitheater and interpretive programs.
The creation of Natural Tunnel began more than a million years ago in the early glacial period when groundwater bearing carbonic acid percolated through crevices and slowly dissolved surrounding limestone and dolomite bedrock. Then, what is now Stock Creek was probably diverted underground to continue carving the tunnel slowly over many centuries. The walls of the tunnel show evidence of prehistoric life, and many fossils can be found in the creek bed and on tunnel walls.
Drive Times to reach this park: Northern Virginia, eight hours; Richmond, six hours; Tidewater/Norfolk/Virginia Beach, eight to nine hours; Roanoke, three and a half hours.
Natural Tunnel State Park
, 1420 Natural Tunnel Parkway. Duffield, VA 24244-9361; Phone: (276) 940-2674. This park has overnight facilities: Cabins, and Camping. For information on availability of overnight accommodations, particular park amenities or to make a reservation, you can reserve online
or call 1-800-933-PARK. Click here
for park fees. See the map below (click for road trip turn-by-turn directions, you can visit all parks in one day or mix them up).
The tunnel is 850 feet long and 100 feet high inside (look out for trains!)
The re-constructed Martin Station as it sits today at Wilderness Road State Park
Step back in history at the SW VA Historical Museum State Park
The View at Breaks Interstate Park
The Southwest Virginia Historical Museum State Park
, 20 minutes from park in Big Stone Gap, Va., illustrates the early development of the area and features exhibits on the coal boom era. The museum is housed in a mansion built in the 1880s by Rufus Ayers, a Virginia attorney general.
The museum was bequeathed to the commonwealth in 1946 by C. Bascom Slemp, private secretary to President Calvin Coolidge and a member of the U. S. Congress. The museum was officially dedicated by the state in 1948. It features a collection comprised of more than 20,000 pieces, about one third of which is on display at any given time. Call for hours of operation.
Address: Southwest Virginia Museum
, Historical State Park, 10 West First Street, Big Stone Gap, VA 24219-0742; Phone: (276) 523-1322.
Wilderness Road State Park
is 55 miles west on Rt. 58. Wilderness Road illustrates the story of westward expansion in the late 1700s and has a replica of Martin's Station along the Daniel Boone Wilderness Road.
A great state-of-the-art visitor center awaits you. Bikes can be rented to ride the Wilderness Road Trail, an eight-mile multi-purpose trail that passes through the park. The park also has the Indian Ridge Trail, which is a self-guided trail, and offers interpretive and environmental educational programs.
Lastly, a park that is jointly managed by Virginia and Kentucky called the Grand Canyon of the south is Breaks Interstate Park
, which is located on a 5-mile gorge that plunges 1650 feet.