Wytheville, Virginia, is only a half-day drive from Washington, D.C. But when Sand Mountain begins to loom large in your windshield, you know you’ve escaped to Southwest Virginia. You won’t find traffic here. Or crowds. Nature takes center stage, especially now.
Located on Interstate 81, Wytheville nestles against massive Sand Mountain. An energetic cyclist can pedal through town and be on forest trails within minutes. Nearby mountain streams splash with trout, some of them trophy sized, and the New River’s gentle riffles attract canoeists, kayakers and fishing aficionados in pursuit of bass and muskies. Anglers can rent a canoe or kayak from the park livery and float the river or simply access it from the easy trail that parallels the river. New River Trail State Park runs for 43 miles along the river.
Mountain bike and foot trails traverse the mountains to spectacular views. Jefferson National Forest’s Seven Sisters Trail, starting at Stony Fork Campground a few miles off I-77 north, gives both hikers and mountain bikers a 4.8-mile workout on Little Walker Mountain’s seven ridges.
Every two-lane route in the country is a scenic drive; many are ideal for cyclists and motorcycle riders. Looping through the Blue Ridge mountains, the Claw of the Dragon is becoming one of the South’s most popular routes for motorcycle enthusiasts. With Wytheville as its hub, the backroads ride loops over 350 scenic miles of switchbacks, twisties and elevation changes. Stops along the Claw include the 100-ft tower at Big Walker Lookout country store, West Wind Winery, Beagle Ridge herb farm store, and Fort Chiswell Animal Park. Exceptional restaurants, such as Bolling Wilson Hotel’s Graze on Main with its curbside service and rooftop dining, provide enticing rest stops.
Wythe offers an abundance of fishing opportunities, from streams and rivers to small lakes teaming with a variety of fish. In addition to the excellent fishing along Cripple Creek in the stocked areas and the National Forest’s Raven Cliff Recreation Area, a private section of the creek offers paying anglers the opportunity to catch trophy trout weighing in at 2 pounds and over. Cedar Springs Trout Farm has two miles of fishable stream on Cripple Creek stocked daily with brook, rainbow, golden and brown trout. Also on some of the private sections of this accessible stream, both Cripple Creek Sportsman’s Lodge and Cripple Creek Mill accommodate anglers overnight.
For those who enjoy camping, a variety of locations offer everything from cozy cabins with all the conveniences to from primitive sites where the only sound is a gurgling creek.
What can be better than camping along a mountain stream, one that is only a few miles from fine take-out restaurants and breweries? Camping for free! The town of Wytheville offers its six primitive campsites, three picnic areas and 18 miles of trails to the public at no cost. With the addition of a free mountain bike terrain park designed for both novices and experts, Crystal Springs has become a gem for mountain bikers as well. What’s special about this park is the construction: its materials came from the trees and rocks of the surrounding forest.
The town’s 1800-acre Crystal Springs Recreation Area is located on the backside of Sand Mountain. Although the isolated campsites were closed at press time; the campsites may well open in mid-June as restrictions ease. Call (276) 223-3378 for reservations.
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