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Outdoor Adventures in Smyth County, Virginia

Smyth County, Virginia is home to some of the state’s highest peaks, world class fly fishing and breathtaking scenery. Here, where the mountains of Southwest Virginia surround Interstate 81, the outdoor recreational opportunities bring visitors all year. Easily accessible by multiple interstates, it’s just over two hours north of Asheville and less than a day’s drive from most of the east coast. Those who choose to fly have less than an hour’s drive from Tri-Cities Airport, in Blountville, Tennessee.

This is home to an amazing collection of protected lands, providing public access to a wide array of outdoor activities in pristine environments. There is hiking, bouldering, fly fishing, trail riding, camping and more. Thru hikers know Smyth County as also home to 42 miles of the famed Appalachian Trail.

Hungry Mother State Park (2854 Park Boulevard, Marion, Virginia 24354; 276-781-7400) is one of Virginia’s six original state parks and is marked by beautiful woodlands and a centerpiece 108-acre lake with its iconic dive tower. The park is a family favorite for outdoor vacations with its cabins, yurts and campgrounds. Canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding are great ways to enjoy the lake and its sandy beach and fishing pier are popular, too. Extensive programming at the park includes nature walks focusing on various aspects of the park’s more than 3,000 acres.

Hungry Mother Outdoor Adventures (760 Walkers Creek Road, Marion, Virginia 24354; 276-243-4333) is just outside Hungry Mother State Park and has the longest, highest and fastest zip line in the state of Virginia. The nearly mile-long course in in five sections, flying over valleys and through the treetops. There is also a mini-zipline as well as tubing, spacewalk bouncy houses and a cafe and general store.

Grayson Highlands State Park (829 Grayson Highland Lane, Mouth of Wilson, Virginia 24363; 276-579-7092) is home to spectacular views, wild ponies and back country hikes. Its highland balds offer views of Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, Virginia’s highest peaks. Its hiking, bicycle and equestrian trails are popular, and trails range from easy two-mile loops to challenging backcountry terrain excursions. There are also nearly 10 miles of wild trout streams whose pristine waters entice anglers each year.

Big Tumbling Creek (2387 Tumbling Creek Road, Saltville, Virginia 24370; 276-783-4860) is another popular spot for fly fishermen. It is a favorite fishing spot among the 25,000-acres of the Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area. It offers excellent fishing amid beautiful waterfalls in waters stocked several times per week throughout the season. The fee fishing program here operates from the first Saturday in April through September at Clinch Mountain.

Nearby in Saltville, the Helen Williams Barbrow Interpretive Trail (217 Palmer Avenue, Saltville, Virginia 24370; 276-496-5342) is a half-mile mile out-and-back trail that is also part of the 8.6-mile Salt Trail and is home to brackish waters that draw salt-loving plants and many bird species uncommon to the area. The walk combines local history and unique views.

Mount Rogers National Recreation Area (3714 VA-16, Marion, Virginia 24354; 800-628-7202) offers approximately 200,000 acres and spans what’s known as the Crest Zone, with elevations of over 4,000 feet. The variety here is unmatched, with large rock formations and mountain balds as well as forest lands. The 68-mile Virginia Highlands Horse Trail, Hall of Fame Virginia Creeper Trail rail trail, as well as the Mount Rogers Scenic Byway, with 50 miles of views, each traverse these lands.

The Smyth County Visitor Center (408 Whitetop Road Chilhowie, Virginia 24319; 276-646-3306) is a great place to map out the options for exploring the amazing outdoor adventures of Smyth County.

NOTE: Fishing regulations and fees as well as COVID protocols for all attractions and facilities should be confirmed before visiting.

WHERE TO EAT:

Sur 81 (1050 VA-16, Marion, Virginia 24354; 276-781-1681) Here, breakfast and burritos are a little slice of heaven. Fresh ingredients highlight the breakfast, lunch and dinner menus as well as the daily chalk board specials. Beyond burritos, there are blue plate specials, sandwiches and desserts.

Wooden Pickle Food & Spirits (120 East Main Street, Marion, Virginia 25354; 276-783-2300) Burgers, sandwiches, seafood and an extensive drink menu keep locals and visitors coming back. The comfortable pub atmosphere and eclectic menu combine for memorable meals here.

Riverfront Restaurant (154 East Lee Highway, Chilhowie, Virginia 24319; 276-646-2233) This family-owned restaurant serves lunch and dinner and is a local favorite. The extensive menu features Appalachian specialties and everything from burgers and wraps to steaks and pasta and homemade desserts to top it all off.

Lilypad Café (105 W Main Street, Saltville, Virginia 24370; 276-496-929) This chef-driven menu highlights seasonal ingredients in simple, handcrafted dishes served straight from the kitchen. Outdoor seating is the norm at this casual spot as patrons savor the coffees, sandwiches, desserts and more.

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