Southwest Virginia

Is there a place that you just can’t visit often enough?  Southwest Virginia is that place for me.  It is within a short distance of our home and we often take day trips there.  You might not realize what all is there if you don’t venture off of the main roads.  There are quaint towns, unique restaurants, antique shops, a winery (probably more than one), hiking, camping, kayaking, and much more!  There is so much to do and see in the area that I can only highlight a few things here.

HWY 23

Let’s begin with the views!  Traveling from highway 23 in Kentucky, we are immediately met with the most beautiful mountain views no matter the time of year.  The road through here really makes the best of the scenery.  There are several spots for a photo opportunities but my favorite is the overlook at Powell Valley.  It is breathtaking.  You really shouldn’t just drive straight through this area, take some detours toward High Knob or Phillip’s Creek.  We can always find a great spot to stretch our legs and have a picnic lunch.  My favorite spot to grab that picnic looks like a fruit market just off of the main highway.  It is a fruit market but also houses This Little Piggy Went a Smokin’ BBQ and Catfish.  I have never had the barbecue because I just can’t get past the catfish. However, I can tell you that the catfish sandwich and potato wedges are absolutely delicious!

outdoor activities

Phillip’s Creek is a part of Pound Lake and has a small beach, picnic area and short hike.  It is also near the Cane Patch Campground.  I have never camped here but we have done the hike, swam and kayaked at the beach area.    It is a great place to spend a little time.  High Knob is a little harder to get to with a winding elevated road leading up to the area, but is so worth the trip. There is a fire tower, trails, camping, a mountain lake and more.  There are even some mentions of the elusive “Woodbooger” here.  Driving on past Big Stone Gap and toward Gate City, you will come to Natural Tunnel State Park.  We have camped and hiked there, but I have heard they also have canoeing and caving available. The chairlift down to the natural tunnel which was formerly used as a train tunnel through the mountain was a highlight for us.

Back toward Wise, Va., you could have exited toward Coeburn instead of going on toward Big Stone Gap.  My favorite hike in Virginia is located along this road.  It is the Little Stony Falls trail.  There are a couple of entrances and we typically hike the whole thing without too much trouble.  If you start at the Little Stony Falls parking area, you will begin seeing the different waterfalls right away.  Just remember, what you hike down has to be hiked back up 🙂.  We like to begin at the Hanging Rock Picnic Area. It will be a bit before you get to any falls’ views; however, the hike beside the water is beautiful and peaceful.  It is more strenuous going up but is much easier coming back down. 

Downtown areas in southwest, Virginia


We love the downtown areas in Southwest Virginia.  In Wise, we nearly always eat at MoonDog Pizza. (There is another location in Big Stone Gap which is equally as good).  We also like to get the cupcakes at K and E Southern Sweets.  The Clapboard House is a great place to look at Appalachian arts and crafts along with a selection of nice furnishings for your home.  The Mountain Rose Vineyard is a bit of a drive but I loved visiting there.  They not only have a vineyard and tasting room, but also a greenhouse.  I’ve been wanting to go back ever since visiting for the first time. 


Norton is the next downtown area that we like to visit.  It is just a quaint place to look at historic buildings and grab a bite to eat at the Woodbooger Grill. You can even get your picture taken with him. 

Big Stone Gap

My favorite downtown in Southwest Virginia is Big Stone Gap.  It is the setting of the movie and book of the same name. It definitely met my expectations after reading the book.  We also like the outdoor drama here called Trail of the Lonesome Pine. It is excellent if you like theatrical performances.  There are many businesses in the downtown area including an ice cream shop, coffee shop and bakery.  My personal favorite restaurant in town is Curklins which has a large menu and a small outdoor eating area.  The other restaurants downtown look great, too.  I just haven’t tried them yet!  After a wonderful meal, take a short stroll along the Powell River on the Greenbelt Trail before moving on. 

Gate City

Gate City’s downtown has some wonderful antique shops. I love going there on the weekends leading up to Christmas as they often have an open house going on!  If you have little ones, you might also want to check out the Creation Kingdom Zoo!

There is no way that I could cover all of Southwest Virginia in this one article.  It is full of hidden gems!  Grab a room at one of the inns or book an AirBnB and enjoy some fantastic Appalachian culture!

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