Some of the Montgomery County’s most treasured outdoor locales, like the New River and the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, are so enchanting that many visitors don’t want to leave even after the sun has set over the Blue Ridge Mountains. Luckily, there are plenty of places where you can set up camp or pull in the RV and enjoy a few nights under the stars in the New River Valley.
George Washington and Jefferson National Forests
Stretching across the breathtaking Appalachian mountains, the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests are among the top attractions for outdoor enthusiasts visiting Montgomery County and the New River Valley. Offering just about every type of terrain, visitors can play all day and then settle in for the night at one of 50 developed campgrounds located throughout the Forest, which feature large, level campsites, tables, fire rings, electricity and bath houses.
Those who really like roughing it can opt for one of the more primitive campsites that are just outside of Montgomery County: Boley Field Group Campground and Caldwell Fields Campground.
Boley Field Group Campground offers a more rustic, old-fashioned camping experience. The large, open field is great for larger groups and families who wish to picnic and camp together. As the campground is located just outside of Blacksburg, campers can enjoy the modern amenities of the town and retire to the quiet of the Montgomery County night sky at day’s end. Similarly, Caldwell Fields Campground offers that authentic camping experience just outside of the thriving towns of Blacksburg and Christiansburg.
Camp sites are available on a first-come first-served basis and reservations are required. For more about Boley Field and Caldwell Field, as well as all of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests’ campgrounds, visit recreation.gov.
New River Junction
Located along the banks of the New River, New River Junction is a family-operated campground where you can set up camp right on the shoreline. All campsites have picnic tables, fire pits and electric service, and RV sites also feature water hook-ups. When not relaxing next to a warm camp fire and allowing the mystic waters to sooth your soul, you can rent tubes for the whole family (along with a tube for your cooler) and simply relax as they float down nearly one mile of calm water. For those seeking a bit more adventure, there is an optional 200 yards of exhilarating rapids at the end of the float. Reservations are required. Please visit newriverjunction.com/camping/ to learn more.
Spend a Day in the Jefferson National Forest
Jefferson National Forestis one of two forests (the other being Washington National Forest) that stretch across the entire state of Virginia, watched over by the beautiful Appalachians. Two thousand miles of hiking trails set among neo-tropical birds in the summer and a kaleidoscopic pallet of color during the crisp fall lend to some of the most breathtaking scenery in the region.
Visitors can enjoy the forest in whatever way their wanderlust desires, whether fishing, mountain biking, camping, hawk watching, cross-country skiing, horseback riding and photographing the incredible landscapes. Additionally, 330 miles of the internationally famous Appalachian National Scenic Trail, along with 160 miles of National Recreation Trails, call the forests home. And recently, a 237-acre section of woodlands near McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs was added to the Jefferson National Forest to preserve the views from those landmarks for years to come.
The forest is divided into different districts given its massive size, with the Eastern Divide Ranger District being the nearest to Montgomery County. With so much to explore, it’s tough to know where to begin if you only have a day or two. So, here’s a guide to some of the top attractions you can easily explore during your next visit to the New River Valley.
Pandapas Pond Loop Trail
Pandapas Pond is an eight-acre man-made pond situated within a hardwood forest, adorned with rhododendrons and flame azalea, and is a favorite location among visitors and locals alike. The trail around the pond and adjacent wetlands is less than a mile long and is suitable for wheelchairs and strollers, while structures like boardwalk areas and bridges let hikers get an up-close glimpse of the pond’s aquatic residents. Numerous spots along the trail are great for fishing and the park claims some of the best mountain biking trails on the East Coast. The Pandapas Pond area also includes the Poverty Creek Trail, which is the main, multi-use trail at Pandapas Pond. The Poverty Creek Trail features more gently rolling slopes across a 7.1 mile one-way trail, perfect for hiking, running, horseback riding, mountain biking, or just enjoying a picnic at Pandapas Pond.
Cherokee Flats Day Use Area
After a short drive west from Blacksburg, visitors encounter a streamside, paved trail that leads to the best fishing holes along Big Stoney Creek, a stocked trout stream. The half-mile trail is lined with American holly, rhododendron and wildflowers, and is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. In fact, Cherokee Flats was designed to accommodate wheelchair-bound anglers and features a metal ramp that allows wheelchair users to experience in-stream fishing.
Two separate two-mile trails lead to Cascades Falls, a breathtaking 66-foot waterfall that feeds into a large, rocky pool below that’s located about 13 miles west of Blacksburg. The lower trail is a National Recreation Trail and tends to bestow more scenic views, as it follows along Little Stony Creek for the entire two-mile duration. Many sections of the lower trail are carved into existing rock, featuring stone steps, walls and walkways. The upper trail is an easier walk as it is less rocky, wider, and ascends more steadily through the forest and above the creek. The locals’ preferred route is to take the lower trail up to the falls, and return via the upper trail.This is just a small sampling of the treasures that await in Jefferson National Forest. For additional information on all of the recreational activities located in the Eastern Divide Ranger District, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/gwj/recarea/?recid=77658.