The Potts Valley Rail Trail is built upon an abandoned corridor of the Norfolk and Western Branch rail line. Called the Potts Valley Branch, it operated between 1909 and 1932 and was built to haul iron ore, then timber, out of the lush mountain region. Much of the 5-mile rail-trail lies within the George Washington and Jefferson national forests, while a small portion is on a private property right-of-way. Along the trail you will find interpretive signs about Potts Valley's history as well as benches to stop and take in the scenery or the quiet solitude of the forest.
The southwest trailhead lies a few hundred yards from the Eastern Continental Divide, which at that location separates the headwaters of Stony Creek (a New River tributary) and Potts Creek (a James River tributary). Mountain ridges on each side of the valley trail reach elevations of between 3,700 and 4,100 feet, and the trail overlooks the South Fork of Potts Creek, a brook trout stream.
The trailhead begins in West Virginia, just shy of the border with Virginia, on State Secondary Route 17 (Waiteville Road). The trail traverses a forest of mixed pine and hardwood, with rhododendron in the understory. Because it was a former railroad grade, the slopes along the Potts Valley Rail Trail are gentle. Beginning at the southwest trailhead, you will follow the border of the Mountain Lake Wilderness, the largest wilderness area in the Jefferson National Forest.
Take one of the side trails and view the handiwork of stone masons, who carved culverts for the forest's ubiquitous streams to run underneath the former rail line. At about the 3-mile point, you arrive at the site of the former Crosier trestle. The wooden bridge, once 98 feet tall and 600 feet long carried trains across the stream. Unfortunately, rebuilding it for foot traffic was unfeasible, so the rail-trail detours here down slope away from the rail bed. Notice the hand-cut stone pillars that once supported the railroad bridge.
About 0.75 mile beyond Crosier Branch (a stream you must cross), the trail enters private property and continues for another 0.5 mile to the northwest trailhead. A bench just before the trailhead provides a great location for enjoying the pastoral scenery. The trail ends about a mile or so above Waiteville, but if you continued on (following public roads), you come across the old Waiteville depot then the Paint Bank, another former depot, now a lodge. In the nearby brick building you'll find a general store and restaurant.
Mountain bikers can do a loop ride by using State Secondary Route 17 (Waiteville Road) and State Secondary Route 15/5 (Rays Siding Road) to reach the trailheads of the Potts Valley Rail Trail.
Parking and Trail Access
From Rt. 219 at Union: follow Rt. 3 east for 9 miles to Gap Mills, and turn right onto Zenith Rd. After 3.5 miles, turn left onto Limestone Hill (Waiteville) Rd. Follow for 5.5 miles across Peter's Mountain. At the bottom of the mountain, turn right onto CR 17. Follow CR 17 for 1 mile to Waiteville, and then for another 4.5 miles to the SW trailhead, on the left, not far from the Giles County line.
From Rt. 460: about 4 miles east of Pearisburg, VA, turn onto Rt. 635 (Forest Service Sign for White Rocks Campground). After 5.5 miles, turn left to stay on Rt. 635. Continue for another 12 miles. At the Monroe County line, Rt. 635 becomes CR 17. The SW trailhead will be on the right, roughly 0.25 mile in from the border.
From Rt. 311 at Paint Bank: follow Rt. 600 (CR 17 at the Monroe County line) for 12 miles to Waiteville. Continue on CR 17 for another 4.5 miles to the SW trailhead.
From Mountain Lake: follow Rt. 613 north, past the War Spur and Wind Rock trailheads, and the road to White Rocks Campground. At the bottom of the mountain, turn right on Rt. 635, and follow 1.5 miles to the SW trailhead.
NE trailhead from SW Trailhead: follow CR 17 to the northeast for 3 miles. Turn right on CR 15/5, Ray Siding Rd. Follow for 0.75 mile to the trailhead, on right.
NE trailhead from Waiteville: follow CR 17 to the SW for 1.5 miles. Turn left on CR 15/5, Ray Siding Rd. Follow for 0.75 mile to the trailhead on right.