DescriptionStretching from Big Stone Gap to Winchester, the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests contain some 1.8 million acres.
The northern end of the forest, known as the George Washington National Forest, extends more than 1 million acres across the Blue Ridge, Massanutten, Shenandoah and Allegheny mountain ranges into West Virginia. Towering over all these ranges is 4,463-foot Elliott Knob, just west of Staunton.
Among the major recreation areas are Brandywine Lake and Todd Lake, respectively west and southwest of Harrisonburg; Elizabeth Furnace, south of Waterlick; Trout Pond, west of Woodstock; Sherando Lake, near Waynesboro; and Lake Moomaw, southwest of Warm Springs.
More than 950 miles of trails wind through the George Washington National Forest leading to scenic views of mountains, valleys and rivers. A portion of the Appalachian Trail traverses the forest, and another trail leads to Crabtree Falls, five cascading waterfalls that are the highest in the Blue Ridge. A 5-mile loop trail winds gradually to the top of Pompey Mountain and Mount Pleasant. Popular because it is not steep, the trail provides scenic vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Also noteworthy is The Highlands Scenic Tour, a 20-mile scenic drive through the mountains along a steep, twisting road.
The southern end of the forest, known as Jefferson National Forest, embraces approximately 710,000 acres in west-central Virginia. Jefferson National Forest has more than 1,100 miles of trails, 500 miles of trout streams, 24 developed campgrounds, 25 picnic areas and six fishing and four swimming lakes, some of which have bathhouses. The Cascades National Recreation Trail is a scenic 4-mile hike leading to a 66-foot waterfall.
Beginning near Wytheville, Big Walker Mountain Scenic Byway winds 16 miles through forested countryside past old farm homesteads, hiking trails, fishing ponds, picnic areas, campgrounds and beautiful mountain vistas. The byway leads up the mountain to Big Walker Lookout, a privately owned attraction featuring a country store and a 100-foot observation tower. The site is open daily 10-5. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas. Another scenic route, Mount Rogers Scenic Byway, passes through valleys and over mountains rich in the ever-changing colors of leaves and wildflowers.
Nearby are the towns of Abingdon, Big Stone Gap, Blacksburg, Natural Bridge, Roanoke, Winchester and Wytheville.
The main recreation season for George Washington and Jefferson National Forests is April through November. Fees are charged at some sites. For more information contact the Forest Supervisor, 5162 Valleypointe Pkwy., Roanoke, VA 24019; phone (540) 265-5100 or (888) 265-0019.
Things to SeeCave Mountain Lake Recreation Area