Welcome to the Virginia Blue Ridge Railway Trail
In 1997, a small, enthusiastic group of citizens from Amherst and Nelson counties in Virginia formed a grass-roots organization for the sole purpose of converting an abandoned railway bed to a hiking trail. The Virginia Blue Ridge Railway Trail Foundation, Inc. was thus established taking its name from the railway upon which the trail would be built – the longest running, commercially successful short-line in American history.
The trail itself begins at Piney River in Nelson County and follows the river 1.8 miles to Roses Mill in Amherst County. It crosses back into Nelson County 3.5 miles down river just below the confluence of the Piney and Tye Rivers and passes under US Route 29. The trail meanders through the countryside affording views of rolling hills and farms as well as the two rivers. Little evidence of civilization meets the eye. Wildlife and wildflowers are abundant and the trail provides a safe, aesthetically pleasing walking experience.
The initial impetus for developing the trail came from 3 local groups – the Blue Ridge chapter of the Sierra Club, the Nelson Bicycling Alliance and the Blue Ridge Saddle and Harness Club. The project quickly received strong support from the local governments and the regional Planning District Commissions, and the fact that the trail was owned by an adjacent landowner willing to donate the railway bed certainly helped. But it was obvious from the beginning that substantial public and private funding would be necessary to bring the dream of this trail to fruition.
Trail foundation members solicited and received support from Amherst and Nelson counties, local corporations, and private individuals. But the bulk of the project’s financial support has come from the federal Transportation Enhancement Program administered through the Virginia Department of Transportation. Since 1999, seven TEA grants have been obtained and two additional grants – one from the office of Congressman Bob Goodlatte, and one from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Trails Fund Program – helped make the trail a reality.
After almost six years of dreaming, planning, physical labor and fund-raising, the efforts of foundation members came to fruition on National Trails Day, June 7, 2003 when Phase I of the Virginia Blue Ridge Railway Trail was officially opened to the public. Phase I consisted of two trail heads, approximately 1.8 miles of trail surface and improvements, and the renovation of a 200-foot railway bridge.
Additional monies from the TEA grants have made possible the extensive renovation of the 4 remaining railway bridges. All of the structures had usable girders and foundations but required work to bring them to VDOT standards, and all required new decking and fencing.
The most recent TEA grant award provided funding to clear the edges of the trail, repair and add culverts as needed, and put down surfacing material from Roses Mill to the end of the trail, some 5 miles further. The full trail was completed in 2014.
- Open Dawn to Dusk.
- Trail designed for foot traffic, bicycles, & horses.
- No unauthorized motor vehicles.
- Hikers yield to horses and bicycles yield to all other users.
- Please limit horses to a trot and bicycles to a moderate speed.
- Dogs welcome if on a leash 8 feet or shorter.
- Please pack out your trash and clear trail of animal droppings.
- Blaze orange recommended during hunting season.
- Alcoholic beverages prohibited.