Multi-use recreational trails in the Southwest Regional Recreation Area
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Backroads of the Cumberlands

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The Sunday Drive

A lost tradition of Appalachia is going to be reborn this October with the help of Spearhead Trails. Most Appalachians are familiar with the age-old tradition of the Sunday drive. The Sunday drive served many purposes it was a quintessential part of Appalachian Americana that has fell to the wayside for many families during the past 50 years. From the early settlers until the current age of social media, video games, and other distractions families would work all week living in isolation in the mountains of Appalachia and venturing out on Sunday for church and the Sunday drive. The Sunday drive came before the automobile as wagons and horse riders would go see neighbors and kinfolk, our pioneer ancestor lacked Facebook, but needed a little facetime to know they were not alone and to hear the news, take it easy, and to check up on love ones. Then later when the cities developed and the automobile came into the scene the tradition continued as folks now wanted to leave the cities and go back to the family farms, see kinfolk, and friends and get away to a quiet picnic in forests and meadows. Families looked forward to this time of love, friendship, and the adventures of dirt and gravel roadways stretching across holler and farm.

Just in time for leaf season Spearhead Trails will be resurrecting this age-old tradition with the first 4 routes mainly in Scott, Wise, and Lee Counties. Early this year community leaders came together to plan marketing and the future development around High Knob the highest point of the Cumberland Mountains. It was discussed that Scott County alone had over 240 miles of gravel and dirt roads. Adding to this USDA Forest and Lee County also had an abundance of scenic less traveled roads passing through beautiful mountains and farmlands. Another focus group was formed, and they decided to create 6 routes that would take a leisurely day each to complete. These routes which will make up Spearhead’s Backroads of the Cumberlands include the Big Moccasin, Thunderstruck, the Tomahawk, Around the Clinch, Lovelady and the Wilderness Road routes. Modeled after Heart of Appalachia’s popular Appalachian Back Roads, which caters to motorcycles and sports cars, and keeps them on scenic paved routes – this initiative will be predominately on gravel and dirt roads ideal for those with 4-wheel drives, dual sport bikes, or gravel grinder bicycles. They are laid out to give the user the best views of mountains, river valleys, and wildlife. It encompasses our state parks, historical places of interest, and short hikes. The routes will begin and end in areas of Gate City, Weber City, Nicklesville, Jonesville, Pennington Gap, Dungannon, Big Stone, and Norton, with options of endings and starting in other areas as well. Although some of the routes close in winter months by USDA Forest the VDOT roads are opened year-round and connect users to State Parks, unique dining, and unique shopping experiences at farmers markets, and old- time hardware stores.

This October not only will 4 of the above-mentioned routes be opened and available on our website we will have our first Off-Road Jeep Trail opening in Richlands. The Jawbone will feature a little more thrilling ride and tougher trails combining Jeep/Street legal 4-wheel drive vehicles, ATV, side by Side, dirt bike trails. These trails will feature 40 miles of beautiful trails leaving a trailhead in Doran area of Richlands. The trail connects to Coal Canyon at Jewell Ridge to another 60 miles of trails totaling about 100 miles of new trails. Last month Buchanan County decided to allow Spearhead to take over the 20-mile Jewell Ridge Trail in Whitewood making this 80-mile expansion and even 100 miles of connected trails on the two newest trails encompassing both the Jawbone and Coal Canyon at Jewell Ridge.

The Combined experience of riding the new Spearhead Trails Jawbone/Coal Canyon Trails along with the new scenic on road routes making up the Spearhead’s Backroad Routes of the Cumberlands creates a total submersive experience that will take most people a week or longer into the heart of Southwest Virginia’s Coal and mountain heritage. For those seeking peace and tranquility they will find it or if they want trails tougher than woodpecker’s lips, we have those as well. Visitors will find that the mountains are endless, the culture diverse and complex, the history intriguing, and the friendship and love they will experience as they return with their families to the tradition of our ancestors to be unique, familiar, and fulfilling. If you don’t mind mountains steeper than a cow’s face, then you are you ready for a Sunday Drive with Spearhead Trails, through the Heart of Appalachia region!


Around the Clinch:  Best to begin this route in beautiful Gate City, Virginia.  This route takes you along the Clinch River along both paved and gravel roads into Tennessee to Kyles Ford.  You will see waterfalls, swinging bridges and beautiful farmland mingled with karst features.  You will have time to check out the Daniel Boone Center in Duffield if you like or go to Natural Tunnel State Park.  One of the prettiest views of Southwest Virginia is located on mountain top in Tennessee of the beautiful Clinch River.

Thunderstruck:  Beginning and ending in the picturesque mountain town of Big Stone Gap, VA you can visit the Museum of Southwest, Coal Museum or attending the Outdoor Drama, “Trail of the Lonesome Pine” during the summer months.  Your journey begins heading toward Norton for a quick stop at the Powell Valley Overlook then you descend back toward the Valley eventually making your way to Big Cherry and lots of dirt and gravel roads around High Knob with beautiful overlooks, forest full of wildlife and flowers.  Lots of opportunities for short hikes or longer hikes like the famous Devils Bathtub.

Tomahawk:  This route can start out in the City of Norton, VA, Coeburn, or the Town of Dungannon and can end in each depending on what you like to do and when you need to drop into one of the many restaurants just off of High Knob into one of these towns.  This route is mainly on USDA Forest roads that are a combination of gravel with some asphalt and some dirt roads.  You can stop for short hikes and Little Stoney Falls, Guest River Gorge, get your pictures at Flag Rock with the Woodbooger or got the High Knob Tower to see a panorama from the highest point in the Cumberland. Look for lots of options for other explorations, but some of the USDA Forest roads near these routes will close in winter months and at other times for wildlife management.  On this route you can also jump onto the Chief Benge Trail and other trails plentiful in the region along this route.  Make sure to check out the many historic monument you will find along your way.

Big Moccasin:  This route can begin in Weber City or the quaint town of Nicklesville. This route takes you around Copper Creek and Big Moccasin.  You can hike to the Mendota Fire Tower and see some of the prettiest farmland mixed with wooded knobs, and beautiful river valleys.  This route is a combination of lots of gravel with section of pavement.  Great wildflowers viewing and bird viewing along this route.  Riders should be cautious around low water bridges during heavy rains.