Best Bets for Exploring Scott County
Swim with the Devil in his crystal-clear aquamarine “tub” only in Scott County, Virginia. Here you will find the secret locals have known for centuries—the Devil’s Bathtub is the only pool cold enough to squelch the fires of hell.
Located in the Jefferson National Forest, the major access to the Tub is via 13, mountain-fed creek crossings, encased on both sides by old forest growth and long-forgotten remnants of harder times in the hills of Appalachia. Plan on at least an hour’s trek to this swimming hole, which the Weather Channel and countless national and international media have proclaimed one of the top hikes in Virginia.
The iridescent waters of the Devil’s Bathtub spill forth into two larger spectacular swimming holes, where experienced divers often leap from the mountainside cliff into the chilling waters below. After spending the day in the Devil’s Tub, enjoy a slow ride through the picturesque countryside and stop for a bite to eat at the Front Porch Store & Deli in Ft. Blackmore.
With so much to explore in Scott County, Virginia, we encourage to mark at least two days and possibly four to see all the gems this Southwest Virginia County has to offer.
Falls of Little Stony
The Falls of Little Stony are a must see for photographers and outdoor enthusiasts. The hike is a mere 2.8 miles and its footbridges save you from the 13 cold and slippery creek crossings to the Devil’s Bathtub. You will also find some scenic spots to take a break from the 600-foot ascent by resting at the bridges where you will find a hemlock canopy and rushing waters below.
Starting at the Hanging Rock Picnic Area, follow the yellow blazes marking the trail that snake along Little Stony Creek. As the trail climbs in elevation, it becomes narrow and marked with boulders. Within a half-mile of the northern trailhead, you will find a viewing platform across from a 40-foot waterfall, thick, waxy rhododendron and mountain laurel frame the while veil of water. The end of May and beginning of June are the perfect times to view the colorful blooms.
Continue uphill to find two more impressive waterfalls. Several hundred feet beyond these, you will arrive at the Little Stony Falls parking area, where the Chief Benge Scout Trail picks up from Forest Road 701.
Hanging Rock Picnic Area also features 18 picnic units with table and grill or fireplace. DGIF regularly stocks Little Stony with nice Rainbow Trout. If you don’t feel like hiking, bring your fly rod and waders.
To access Hanging Rock in Scott County, take Highway 23/58 into Gate City, turn right onto Highway 71 and then left onto Veteran’s Memorial Highway, Highway 72. Stay on Highway 72 through Dungannon and the road turns into Hanging Rock Parkway.
Easier access to the Falls of Little Stony is to continue past the Hanging Rock entrance for another curvy six miles. Take a left onto Route 664 for 1.1 miles and turn left at the sign to Little Stony Falls. This will be a gravel road and in another 1.4 miles, the road will split and continue left for another mile to the parking area at the end of the road. From the parking lot, follow the trail downstream to the upper waterfall, which is only 0.15 miles away and is a short 10-minute walk downstream.
Depending on the amount of time you want to spend, you can stay an hour or all day at this spectacular waterfall area. To capture stunning waterfall pics, photographers recommend a tripod and a polarizing filter.
Bark Camp Lake in the High Knob Recreation Area
This mountaintop lake offers 34 camping units with tent pad, picnic table and parking spur near a 60-acre warm lake, perfect for fishing and boating (kayaks, canoes or electric motors only). There is a paved launch ramp, a 3.7 mile lake loop trail, additional picnic facilities, restrooms and a beautiful waterfront amphitheater.
The tranquil lakeside trail winds through cove woods, wetlands and hemlock forests. It offers nearly level terrain walking with plenty of opportunity to see kingfishers, herons and other lake wildlife. Now is a perfect time for photographers to visit the area to capture the rare Climbing Fern and a profusion of spring wildflowers.
Bark Camp Lake was built in the 1950s by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and is stocked with northern pike, bass, blue gill, rainbow trout and catfish. Two handicapped accessible fishing piers are available with a handicapped trail on the northern shoreline below the parking lot.
From Dungannon, Virginia follow Route 72 for 0.4 miles, then turn left onto Route 653 (next to the old and colorful Osborne store). After 1.7 miles, turn right onto Route 706 and follow it for 2.7 miles winding up the mountain. Take a sharp right onto Route 822. Follow the road for 3.3 miles and taking a couple of lefts to stay on the route. Turn left onto Bark Camp Lake and travel 0.9 miles to the parking area.
Natural Tunnel State Park
William Jennings Bryan called Natural Tunnel the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” and the Weather Channel listed it as one of the Top Twenty Caves in the World.
Additional scenic features include a wide chasm between steep stone walls surrounded by several pinnacles or “chimneys.” The park has numerous activities planned for Memorial Day weekend, such as kayaking, Lighting of the Tunnel, tours of the Wilderness Road Blockhouse. Visit http://www.explorescottcountyva.org/archives/feature/natural-tunnel-march-events for a detailed list.
For more information on Natural Tunnel State Park, visit http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/natural-tunnel#general_information.
Tubing, canoeing and kayak rentals are also available in several locations throughout Scott County. Newly-opened Clinch River Outfitters offers a complete array of water activities and provides shuttle service from Ft. Blackmore to the Tennessee/Virginia State Line.
Visit http://www.explorescottcountyva.org/archives/feature/new-clinch-river-outfitter for more information.
Located on Anglers Way Road, Camp Clinch offers both tent and RV camping plus tube rentals. Shuttle service is not available. Visit http://www.campclinch.com/.
Adventure Mendota in nearby Washington County, Virginia also offers kayak rental and shuttle service along the Holston River. http://www.explorescottcountyva.org/archives/3922
Regardless of your taste in music, a visit to Scott County is not complete without spending a Saturday night at the world-famous Carter Family Fold, the true “Birthplace of Country Music.” It was in these hills and “hollers” of Scott County, Virginia that AP Carter found the sound of what is known today as country music. A collector of songs, AP would roam the hills and valleys and listen to the “porch music” played by the descendants of the Scotch-Irish settlers of this region. AP took the old tunes and crafted a new sound, which was discovered at the 1927 Bristol Sessions by Ralph Peer.
AP convinced his wife, Sara, and sister-in-lay, Maybelle Carter to accompany him to Bristol and make a recording for Peer. The Bristol Sessions are recognized as the beginnings of country music. As AP lay dying, he asked his daughter, Janette Carter, to help preserve “old time traditional” music. Janette, replied, “Daddy, I’ll try;” and try she did. Forty plus years later, the Carter Family legacy has been preserved at the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Virginia. AP’s legacy lives on every Saturday night at The Fold where traditional artists take the stage and honor the father of this original sound.
Creation Kingdom Zoo
Families will enjoy a visit to Creation Kingdom Zoo, located just outside of Gate City, Virginia on in the Snowflake community off Highway 71. The zoo is privately owned and funded by Marc and Elaine Bradley and is a breeding facility for rare and endangered species. You can walk around the zoo and get up close and personal with a white Bengal Tiger; children will love the petting zoo and getting to handfeed many of the park’s animals. http://www.creationkingdomzoo.com/about-creation-kingdom-zoo/
Throughout the summer and fall, you can experience small town America with several festivals offered from Memorial Day to the end of October. For a detailed timeline of events, visit http://www.explorescottcountyva.org/archives/feature/nickelsville-days-celebration-this-weekend.
Scott County also offers several iconic eateries, such as Campus Drive-in in Gate City, the Hob Nob in Daniel Boone, Teddy’s in Nickelsville, the Duffield Grille in Duffield, and now the Commonwealth of Virginia’s top Bakery, the Family Bakery in Downtown Gate City. The Family Bakery was recently voted the top bakery in the Virginia is for Lovers Culinary Challenge—and now the secret is out—they have the best cupcakes in the world.
While in Gate City, take a stroll down Jackson Street, used as the town scenes for Mel Gibson and Sissy Spacek’s epic movie, “The River.” You will find nice antique shops, a wonderful gift store, plus an interesting collection of vintage clothing stores.
Downtown also features a great barbecue restaurant, Smokin’ Pig, that features a delicious Moon Pie dessert. For a taste of authentic Mexican, try Molacates, a new locally-owned restaurant.
From camping under the stars to a mountaintop cabin, Scott County offers some truly original lodging choices, including Appalachian Mountain Cabins, Boone’s Pointe Cabins, Camp Clinch, Natural Tunnel State Park Cabins and Campgrounds, Pap Paw’s Cabin, The Ole Nickelsville Hotel, Estillville Bed & Breakfast and Valilee Farms.
There is so much to explore in Scott County that you could stay for a week, month or even a lifetime. You’ll meet friendly folks who want to make your experience here memorable.
For more Scott County information, visit www.explorescottcountyva.com