With the official arrival of fall, it’s time to plan your Scott County and Southwest Virginia leaf tour.
This season welcomes a new pumpkin patch, Pungo Farms, as our long-time Punkin’ Man, Walter Manis retired after 30 years of running the Punkin Patch in Nickelsville, Virginia. Also located in Nickelsville, Pungo Farms is a family-owned operation run by P.J. and Amanda Johnson, and their daughters, Abany, 17, Elly Anna, 13, Natalee, 12, and Kayla, 9.
Pungo Farms opened September 4 and will be open until October 31. They sell pumpkins, fodder, mums, fall décor, gourds and additional handmade specialty items. For $3, families receive the full farm experience that includes the corn maze, petting zoo and farm games. Pungo Farms is open Mon. – Fri., 3-8 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; and Sun., 2-6 p.m. For more information, visit pungofarms.com or call 276-479-3809.
Cooler temperatures also make fall the perfect time to visit Creation Kingdom Zoo when animals are more active during the day. The zoo offers a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with rare and endangered species. In October, Creation Kingdom Zoo will bring back its popular “Boo at the Zoo,” where children can safely stroll through the zoo under soft lighting and receive a treat bag. Be sure to check out their incredible festival of jack-o-lanterns. Hotdogs, funnel cakes and tacos will be available for purchase.
Admission to this special event is costumed children 12 and under $5; costumed children ages 13 and up $10. Proceeds from this event benefit local needy families.
Located at 1692 Snowflake Rd., the Zoo is open daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., with the last ticket sold at 4 p.m. For more information, visit creationkingdoomzoo.com or call 276-479-1910.
September and October are great months to catch the changing color along the river. Squatchy Adventures, 1750 Clinch River Hwy., Duffield, is open weekends by appointment for rafting and kayaking, 276-202-6074.
Leaf peepers with their own watercraft can cruise the Clinch River from any of these hand launch sites – Dungannon, Coordinates: 36.831111, -82.46222; Fort Blackmore, Coordinates: 36.7627188, -82.5778836; Hill Station, Coordinates: 36.708437, -82.652167; Clinchport, Coordinates: 36.675833, -82.7425; Speers Ferry, Coordinates: 36.659833, -82.748497; or Stateline, Coordinates: 36.59891, -82.87856. The Holston River can be accessed at Wadlow Gap Road Bridge, Weber City Bridge and in Yuma on Warm Springs Road.
Fall Road Trips
Scott County offers numerous fall road trip options. Here is a personal favorite:
Clinch Mountain Valley and Clinch River
Grab a hearty breakfast at Campus Drive-In, located at 432 Kane St., Gate City. Head on into Gate City and turn right onto Jackson Street, which turns into Hwy. 71 toward Nickelsville. Proceed approximately five miles and turn right onto Big Moccasin Road for a pleasant ride through this picturesque rolling valley and ridges farm community. This valley road traverses the Clinch Mountain, with its mixed deciduous hardwood forest of maple, oaks, poplar and evergreens for an autumnal mix of reds, oranges, yellows and greens.
Shortly after you enter Russell County, turn left onto Little Duck Road where you will again be treated to more rolling hills and large, picture-perfect farms and homes. At the end of Little Duck, turn left to downtown Nickelsville. If you visit on a Saturday morning or early afternoon, be sure to visit the Heritage Virginia Square where the Copper Kettle Bakery is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The bakery features homemade delectable treats, including cinnamon rolls, bread, yeast rolls, scones, cookies, plus lemon meringue, butterscotch and blueberry cheesecake pies.
Throughout the week, the center is home to Virginia Heritage Mills, a family-run business specializing in fresh ground corn meals and grits, plus additional non-GMO and organically-grown baking products.
When in Nickelsville, a must-stop is Teddy’s Restaurant. With its red and white outside wall, featuring iconic restaurant fare, you can’t miss this friendly hometown restaurant. Grab a seat at the red gingham draped tables and settle in for a real treat. Make sure to leave room for dessert, and if you dare, order Teddy’s famous “Gutbuster,” a combination of every dessert on the menu. It would be a challenge for even five strapping young men to finish off this massive conglomeration.
For the next part of the trip, you might want to take a stroll through Nickelsville’s Keith Memorial Park to ease up on your full stomachs before tackling the beautiful, but curvy next leg of the trip—Twin Springs Road.
Approximately one mile from Teddy’s, turn right onto Twin Springs Road where at the bottom of the road, you will find historic Bush Mill, a restored 1818 water-powered grist mill. Although destroyed by a fire in the late 1800s, the mill was rebuilt by Valentine Bush and his family and operated well into the 1950s.
Bush Mill features a 30’ diameter and 4’ wide metal wheel that generates approximately 30 horsepower at maximum operation capacity. Reconstruction was financed through grants from the Tobacco Commission and Virginia Department of Transportation. The mill maintains a prominent spot in the history of Nickelsville and is open every year for Nickelsville Days and Bush Mill Days. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy a walk along the creekbank.
Stay on Twin Springs Road for another 8.2 miles to Sinking Springs Road and turn left. At the stop sign, take another left into the town of Dungannon, where the road becomes Route 72. Travel approximately 10 miles and turn right onto Highway 65, the Clinch River Highway.
For the largest part of the journey, the road parallels the Clinch River, one of the most bio-diverse rivers in the world, second only to the Amazon. About a mile after turning onto Clinch River Highway is another Scott County favorite eatery, Front Porch Store & Deli, known for its daily white fish offerings and great homecooked foods. Enjoy the meandering ride along the Clinch, and if time allows, take a walk across one of the county’s many swinging bridges.
One of the easiest bridges to access is located approximately 15.3 miles from the Front Porch Store & Deli at the corner of Bridge Street in Clinchport, Virginia. For the first-time visitor, a swinging bridge can be a little intimidating, but all of the open bridges are safe and well-maintained. There will be a little bounce and sway underfoot, but the bridge presents a perfect opportunity to view the Clinch River. After this stop, continue following the Clinch River Highway until it intersects with Highway 23/58. Turn left to head back towards Gate City.
Manville Road Option
Visitors desiring another high-rise spectacular fall showing, should turn left onto Manville Road approximately 13.1 miles from the Front Porch Store & Deli. Right after turning, you cross over the Clinch River. This spot provides a great opportunity to capture a wide expanse of the Clinch and fall foliage via car. After crossing the bridge, you begin a twisty climb up the road. As you ascend the hill, take a look to the right for another view below of the Clinch River. You quickly approach an S curve and another point with a 360-degree view of Scott County’s ridges and valleys.
At the top of the hill, visitors have the option to turn right onto Bellamy Tipton Road. For capturing fall foliage, this short road provides one of the best views in the county. Just a short skip down Bellamy Tipton, visitors will see an old barn with a spectacular backdrop of fall color. Continue on this road for more leaf viewing, and after about one mile, travelers will encounter Heaven’s Gate, a dead-end road that lives up to its name. Here is another panoramic view where you can capture glorious sunrises and sunsets.
Make your way back to Gate City by turning left onto Copper Creek Road. At the end, turn left and then right onto Manville Road which takes you back into Gate City.
Stop by our Love Mural at the corner of Jackson and Manville Road for a photo op. Then park and take a leisurely stroll through downtown Gate City and stop in at Southern Collective, Made by Hands by Floral and The Wildwood on Jackson. All of these shops offer unique gifts and collectibles. Top the day off with one of Virginia’s best cupcakes a The Family Bakery on Jackson Street, voted one of Virginia’s best bakers in the “Virginia Culinary Challenge.”
For overnight accommodations, Scott County has several locally-owned and operated home rentals, cabins, plus bed and breakfasts to round out your adventure. Choose from Appalachian Mountain Cabins, offering one to three bedrooms near Natural Tunnel State Park; cabins at Natural Tunnel State Park; Boone’s Pointe Cabins, located on the famed Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Route; Estillville Bed & Breakfast, a gracious and well-appointed B&B in downtown Gate City; Happy Trails Cottage Guest Home, situated in the rolling farmland community of Nickelsville; The Hiltons-Fulkerson House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and close to the Carter Family Fold; The Sugar Maple Inn, a bed and breakfast also in Nickelsville; or Valilee Farms, located in the middle of a 500-acre family farm near Duffield.
Recreational camping, both primitive and RV hook-ups, can be found at Natural Tunnel State Park and Camp Clinch. Natural Tunnel also has four primitive Yurts, perfect abodes for a fall escape.
Visitors who prefer leaf viewing by foot are in luck because Scott County offers some of the most wonderful autumnal trails in the region. The county’s most popular hike to the Devil’s Bathtub offers a striking contrast of reds, oranges and yellows both along the trail and on the road. Located behind the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Interpretive Center, the hike to Kane Gap offers a somewhat challenging switchback hike over one of the few remaining sites along the famed Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail. Near the top of the gap, hikers will see a large rock outcropping that once served as a primitive hotel for the thousands of migrants who passed through this region on their westward migration. Just a little beyond the pioneer hotel, hikers will come to the gap, where they can peer down into Wallen’s Creek Valley. Lucky hikers may even spot a grouse or two along the hike.
Another favored Scott County hike is the Falls of Little Stony that can either be accessed via Hanging Rock Park or High Knob near Coeburn. This less-traveled hike features three waterfalls and is a 5.2 mile out and back trail that follows Stony Creek and is a great fall escape through a lush forest canopy. Rated moderate in difficulty, this trail can be hiked in its entirety or in segments.
Perfect Fall Photography Shots
Even though the Scott County Scenic Fall Drive provides ample fall foliage photo opportunities, by far, the best photos can be found atop High Knob. Scott County’s Bark Camp Lake, a 61-acre lake is the ideal location to capture autumn water reflections. A three-mile trail is also available for hikers to wander through the brightly-colored leaves.
Bark Camp Lake can be accessed via Hanging Rock Parkway outside of Dungannon or by traveling up and around High Knob via Highway 23/58 via Norton, Virginia. Aside from Bark Camp Lake, High Knob Land Formation also has additional high elevation lakes, including the Norton Reservoir and High Knob Lake.
While on High Knob make sure to schedule a pilgrimage to the High Knob Tower with its 360-degree view of five states. Pack a light sweater or jacket and be prepared for cooler, crisper autumn air as you enter the mountain top. For photographers, icing on the cake is a slight fog encased mountain ranger which provides a subdued beauty to the fall brilliance that surrounds the mountain top.
Another must stop on High Knob is Flag Rock, where visitors can get up close and personal with Bigfoot. Walk on out on the trail for a great view of Flag Rock and the town of Norton below.
One of the most popular viewing spots for autumn color is the Powell Valley Overlook, just outside of Norton on Highway 23/58. Pull over to the roadside parking lot and walk out onto the ramp for a view of the open, farming valley below.
Scott County is the ideal base for a fall wandering. Your options for prime leaf peeping are plentiful, whether by road, by foot or water.
For more information, contact the Scott County Tourism office at 276-386-2951 or 423-863-1667 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org