Waterfalls, river views, rugged rock formations, vibrant fall foliage and delicate flowers in the spring: These are the sights that put the “scenic” in Jackson River Scenic Trail. The serene rail-trail, nestled in the Allegheny Highlands of western Virginia, traces the route of what was once the Hot Springs Branch of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway.
It begins in Intervale, just north of Covington, and winds north hugging the curves of its namesake river. Picnic benches along the water allow you to rest and take in the beautiful surroundings. For added adventure, you can kayak or canoe in the river, and it’s also known as an excellent place for trout fishing.
The trail’s crushed gravel surface stops at the Smith Bridge trailhead; north from there, the trail has a natural, grassy surface to its end at Natural Well. Much of the route is wooded and you may see deer, rabbits, groundhogs and other wildlife.
Round out your experience with a visit to the C&O Depot in Covington for a peek at the trail’s railroad past. The restored 1908 structure now houses the Alleghany Historical Society and their exhibits on the history of the region. Rail buffs may also want to head 11 miles east of Covington to Clifton Forge, where many historic railroad artifacts and equipment are on display at the C&O Railway Heritage Center.
Another nearby and worthwhile side trip is the Falling Spring Overlook. The roadside attraction is a jaw-dropping 80-foot waterfall on US 220, just north of Covington.