Including Atkins, Chilhowie, Marion, Saltville, and Whitetop
Smyth County . . .
Offering Mountains of Possibilities . . .
Since this area was first settled, the lush landscapes, rolling rivers and creeks, and blue-tinted mountain ranges have attracted those who have passed through as well as those who made this their home. Live music, fishing, hiking, golfing, and genealogy, even swimming in a wave pool, creek, or the sandy beach at Hungry Mother State Park: We’ve got something for everyone. Welcome to Smyth County!
Traveling north on Interstate 81, just before Exit 35 at Chilhowie, you’ll get a spectacular view of the highest peaks in Virginia. Looking southward, Mount Rogers (on the left), soars 5,722 feet above sea level, and Whitetop Mountain (on the right), at 5,525 feet, are prominent along the skyline. Between the two mountains, the verdant valley of Elk Garden allows spectacular views and even a hike on the world-famous Appalachian Trail. But before you begin your trek, stop off in town and get your bearings at our Tourism Center, located in the historic H.L. Bonham House. You’ll be welcomed with true Southern hospitality, and we’ll make sure your visit to Smyth County is just what you’re looking for.
In Chilhowie, you might want to stop and shop a little for antiques and unique, hand-crafted gifts or make plans to visit The Art Place for lessons in fine arts and Appalachian crafts. Noted for being the “Farthest West” settlement in 1750, Chilhowie certainly has its place in history. A drive out to Aspenvale Cemetery or St. Clair’s Bottom Primitive Baptist Church can give you a sense of the detailed preservation this community has done. For those seeking popular happenings and hangouts, the weekly Smyth County Jam is the place to be. Chilhowie’s Monday nights come alive with crowds in the hundreds at one of Southwest Virginia’s most popular venues for bluegrass and old time country music. The family-friendly atmosphere makes this Crooked Road affiliate a place where both young and old can share their love for Virginia’s musical heritage.
History buffs, as well as amateur archaeologists and paleontologists, will certainly want to visit the town of Saltville. Known as the “Salt Capital of the Confederacy,” this historic town has made its mark from the Ice Age, through the Civil War, and into the space age. The rich minerals and salt brine bubbling up from the earth attracted now-extinct animals such as woolly mammoths and saber-toothed cats, Native Americans, Confederate salt makers, and modern day chemical companies. The excellent Museum of the Middle Appalachians in downtown Saltville is a must-see, as are the natural ponds known as the well fields and the historic displays showing how salt was made. The summer months in Saltville bring folks out to fairs and festivals, historical reenactments, and outdoor movie screenings complete with fresh popcorn.
Just a few miles north on I-81 lies the intersection with Virginia Highway 16. A southbound journey will take you into the heart of the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. Before making your way up the mountain, consider touring one of Virginia’s oldest and most picturesque trout hatcheries where hundreds of rainbow trout are raised for stocking in our sparkling lakes and streams. The Forest Service headquarters, located at the top of Brushy Mountain, is full of information including brochures, maps, displays, and a well-stocked bookstore with nature guides and a nice selection of locally made crafts. Northbound on Highway 16 you can enjoy a drive along the curves of the specially designated “Back of the Dragon” trail – a unique treat for motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts.
The county seat of Smyth County is Marion, located at Exit 45 off Interstate 81. Marion’s Main Street Historic District offers a great variety of shops, eateries, and distinctive architecture. The 1929 Lincoln Theatre, one of only three Mayan Revival theatres in America, is home to the nationally-syndicated “Song of the Mountains” bluegrass television series, and regularly hosts live performances and events on its historic stage. It’s also an Affiliate Venue on The Crooked Road Heritage Music Trail. The 1927 General Francis Marion Hotel and Conference Center and Black Rooster Restaurant and Lounge is a lovingly-restored boutique hotel in the heart of historic downtown. The Town of Marion offers several parks with walking trails, picnic shelters, tennis courts, and playgrounds, two municipal swimming pools, and even a eighteen-hole golf course. Marion is rich with history – noted author Sherwood Anderson spent his final years here, it’s where Nolan Ryan pitched his first professional baseball, and is the official home of Mountain Dew! From the Second Fridays ArtWalk, and July Chili Championship to the German Club Christmas Market and other special events and activities happening all year, Marion is truly “Your Home in the Heart of the Highlands.”
Just a few miles north of Marion, along Highway 16, is Hungry Mother State Park, one of the most visited parks in Virginia. Built in 1933 as a WPA project by the Civilian Conservation Corps, our state park with the curious name boasts nearly twenty miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, great fishing, kayaking, canoeing and swimming in the 108-acre lake, a wonderful restaurant and conference center, camp sites and cabins, picnic areas and shelters, a gift shop, music amphitheater, camp store, and Discovery Center where you and your family can learn more about the activities and events at the park year ‘round.
A must-see for historians is the Settlers Museum of Southwest Virginia (Exit 54) where displays and knowledgeable interpreters will show you how early pioneers lived and worked. The museum is a working farm with an 1890s farm house, seven original outbuildings, a one-room school, and 67 acres of trails, woods, and open pastures to explore.
A visit to the Davis Valley Winery, also on the eastern end of Smyth County, is an opportunity to tempt your taste buds with wines vinted from grapes grown on site. In addition to several interesting varietals for more discerning palates, Davis Valley offers blends such as Virginia Breeze White and Autumn Red. The winery can arrange for tastings, picnic lunches and tours in all four seasons.
Natural beauty, history, traditional and mountain music, good food and wine and some of the friendliest folks you’re ever likely to meet all combine to make a stop in Smyth County one you’ll
remember for a long, long time.
Regional Visitor Center • 408 Whitetop Road • Chilhowie, VA 24319 • I-81, Exit 35