Hikers, cyclists, history enthusiasts, train fans and families looking for adventure are fortunate to have the Blue Ridge Tunnel only an hour and a half drive from Richmond. Constructed between 1850 and 1858, this historic railroad tunnel was designed to cross the Blue Ridge Mountains at Rockfish Gap. Claudius Crozet, the Frenchman who engineered the tunnel, once lived in Richmond and was a founder of the Virginia Military Institute. At the time of the tunnel’s completion, it was the longest tunnel in the U.S. After many years of inaccessibility, the tunnel reopened in November, 2020 as a landmark and recreation resource.
Parking: There are parking options on either side of the tunnel: the East Trailhead or the West Trailhead. Note: the East Trailhead is closed until early May to expand parking. The East Trailhead is .6 from the tunnel while the West is .8; this difference might help parents of young children decide where to park. Nelson County encourages visitors to use these directions in lieu of maps or GPS to locate the parking lot.
Inside the tunnel: The tunnel is completely dark, other than the small light at the end. Flashlights and/or headlamps are required to enter the tunnel. Pack a sweatshirt or jacket as the tunnel is about 55 degrees. There are puddles and water dropping constantly; proper footwear is a must. The length of the tunnel is 1 mile. Dogs, bikes, strollers are allowed. Allow extra time to take in the brick walls, exposed rock and ceilings.
Post-hike activities: The Blue Ridge Mountains offer plenty of activities for continuing the fun in Crozet or Waynesboro. In Waynesboro, there are mural tours as well as the Wildlife Center of Virginia. Further, Afton Vineyards offers a beautiful view and relaxation. Still want to exercise? Head to Ridgeview Park in Waynesboro and enjoy the trails and a peaceful picnic. Families traveling with children are sure to love picking fruits and the hand-churned ice cream at Critzer Family Farm in Nelson County. A final option for Richmonders is heading back home and stopping at beautiful Pen Park in Charlottesville for lunch, play and a gorgeous mountain view.
This memorable day trip is completely free. Don’t wait – the light at the end of the tunnel is just an hour and a half drive away!
— By Lindsay Garrison
Richmond on the Cheap contributor Lindsay Garrison is a Richmond, Virginia based mom to two young children. A graduate from Chesterfield Schools and Randolph-Macon College, Lindsay is proud to call Richmond home. In the years prior to planning activities and outings with her own children, she was a French teacher. During her tenure she earned accolades for her creative teaching style and ability to connect with her students. Lindsay now applies the skills she learned when she was planning student trips to France, to her own family adventures. She can’t wait to take her own children to France one day! Follow the Garrison’s family adventures on Instagram: @thegarrisonsrva
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