The Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel is part of a greenway system connecting three counties — Nelson, Augusta and Albemarle. Hikers, bikers, railroad enthusiasts, and history buffs will be amazed at the trail through the restored tunnel. Visitors can jog, walk, or bike while admiring the raw, exposed rock, brick walls and ceiling. The walking/biking trip through the tunnel is about a mile long. There’s another surprising twist to this attraction- those who enter must bring flashlights and headlamps. Be brave – the tunnel isn’t lit! After your trip through the tunnel, you can enjoy plenty of activities and interesting places to visit on both sides of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Once your eyes re-adjust to the light, head to downtown Waynesboro for one of three self-guided walking tours: the Tree Street Tour, the downtown historical tour, and a tour of the murals of Waynesboro. History buffs and art enthusiasts alike can pick up a card at the Waynesboro Department of Tourism on 301 West Main Street to pick up a rack card and more information to observe the landmarks and attractions of Waynesboro.
To enjoy a little bit of the unusual side of history, visit the nearby Russell Museum, opened recently by a new-age organization. The museum also focuses on the former residents of Swannanoa Palace in nearby Nelson County. Sixty tons of artwork created by Walter Bowman Russell, an Impressionist American artist and author. The museum is also home to the University of Science and Philosophy. The museum, which encompasses 32,000 square feet, houses sculptures of Mark Twain, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and photos and documents from Swannanoa Palace.
Another interesting Waynesboro attraction is the Wildlife Center of Virginia. It’s a hospital for native wildlife. Though the hospital is not open to the public, but free open houses take place throughout the year at designated times. For more information about tour schedules, check out their website.
For another wildlife experience, head south to view majestic birds at the Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch. The Watch is one of over 200 in North America and collects data during the birds’ fall migration. The site is easy to access and takes place each fall at the Inn at Afton. It’s possible to drive to the location, park, and watch the hawks. Enjoy the 180-degree views of Rockfish Gap, the Piedmont, and the Shenandoah Valley.
With the wonder of nature still in your heart, visit Afton Mountain Vineyards next. This beautiful vineyard is one of Virginia’s first farm wineries, and some of their first vines are still producing today. The gorgeous winery provides spectacular scenery as you wind down from the pace of Waynesboro. Nearby Veritas Vineyard and Winery to learn how the grapes are grown and how their wines are made. The deck at Veritas has some of the best mountain views around. If hard cider is your passion, Nelson County boasts three cideries nearby: Bryant’s Small Batch Hard Cider, Blue Toad Hard Cider, and Bold Rock Hard Cider offer crisp, refreshing hard cider.
Travel on Nelson County’s picturesque Route 151 and stop at Dickie Brothers 151 Farm Market. Grab fresh apple cider, tomatoes, jellies, apple butter, pumpkins, tomatoes, and check out their selection of fresh apples straight from the orchard. Once your fresh produce is safely in the car, it’s time to head back home or onto the next leg of your road trip. Nothing beats a day that mixes both the excitement of city culture and peaceful farm views on both sides of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
For more information on fun places to visit on both sides of the Blue Ridge, call Nelson County Tourism at 434-263-7015.