About this Itinerary
Tucked away in southern Virginia’s tobacco country, about halfway between Richmond and Raleigh, N.C., lies a continuous 17-mile stretch of the Tobacco Heritage Trail. (Other disconnected trail segments of only a mile or two each are also open in Victoria, South Boston, and Boydton.) Tobacco and cotton made this region prosperous and in 1890 brought the railroad, which transformed towns along its route from quaint villages to economic hubs. Today, the railroad is gone and the towns’fortunes have suffered from a changing economy, yet the beauty of the landscape and the southern charm of the people remain. Visitors can now bike a section of the old railway corridor, see historical buildings, and learn more about Southern life during the region’s heyday.
Our base for this itinerary is the Brunswick Mineral Springs B&B in Lawrenceville. Set on 28 acres of a former plantation and amid beautifully landscaped grounds, this historical property provides a tranquil refuge and the perfect spot to relax after a long day of biking. The main building was built around 1785 and the grounds hold a number of original buildings from the 1800s, including the smoke house, stable, dairy, former slave quarters, overseer’s house, tack house, and a tobacco barn. The property also contains two springs that are reputed to have medicinal value and led to the plantation serving as a health spa in the early 1800s. Today guests will enjoy more modern amenities such as Wi-Fi and an indoor heated saltwater swimming pool, and start each more with a full homemade country breakfast. Five guest rooms are available, including two private cottages, which originally functioned as sleeping quarters for passing travelers. To reach the property from Richmond, head south on I-95 and take Exit 39 towards Lawrenceville and follow Old Stage Road to Western Mill Road.
Our itinerary for the 17-mile segment of the Tobacco Heritage Trail (THT) completes the trail roundtrip from Lawrenceville in one day. Note that bike rentals are not available in Lawrenceville, or any of the surrounding towns, so you will need to bring your own. The THT travels between the towns of Lawrenceville and La Crosse, and is relatively quiet in terms of crowds. Portable restrooms and picnic tables are located periodically along the trail, but you will not find water fountains trailside, so be prepared and start off with plenty of liquids. There are options for fast food dining in La Crosse. If this is not appealing, your hosts at the Brunswick Mineral Springs B&B can prepare a boxed lunch with advance notice. To reach the restaurants you will need to leave the trail and travel about a half mile toward a busy road (although most of the riding is on a secondary road).
The trailhead in Lawrenceville is located about 4.5 miles from the Brunswick Mineral Springs. After a hearty breakfast, we suggest driving to the trailhead in the center of town. To reach it, head northwest on Western Mill Road and turn left on Brooks Crossing at the airport. Follow this road to town (it will eventually become Main Street) continuing through the center of town until it intersects with Hicks Street. Take a right on Hicks, bear left on N. Hicks, take the first right on New Street and the first left on South Street. Here you will find the trailhead and a parking lot. If you choose to bike, the route is largely on country roads, only becoming busier once you approach town.
As you leave town behind the trail is surrounded by forest and farmlands, setting the tone for most of the ride. Enjoy the quiet and keep your eyes open for signs of the railway that once operated through this corridor. In Brodnax, about 13 miles along, find the Panaderia La Regia (The Royal Bakery). This small bakery feature homemade Mexican-style baked goods. Stop in for a quick break and try the local favorites, conchas, a sweet bun. The shop can be a little tricky to find. After passing the large red roofed barn on your right just past the center of the downtown,take the second right and find the shop facing the street. Whitby’s Country Store, selling fresh produce, cold drinks, and snacks, is also located just a few businesses down if all you are in need of is a refill.
The THT ends in the small town of La Crosse at Rocky Branch Road. Along nearby Route 58, less than a half mile away, is where you can find several fast food options. To reach them, turn right and then take a quick left on to High Street until it intersects with Route 58. Immediately across the street (be careful as this is a busy road), you will find an Applebees. Sonic Burger and Papa John’s Pizza are on the left without having to cross. There are other fast food options along this stretch further down.
After a filling lunch, return to the THT and head back to Lawrenceville, or stop trailside to enjoy a quiet picnic lunch. If you have not yet eaten by the time you return to town, Pinos Pizza is located close to the trailhead in Lawrenceville (you will have passed it on N. Hicks). Stop here for a quick slice of pizza before returning to the Brunswick Mineral Spring B&B. Spend the afternoon wandering the property’s many walking trails, curled up on the comfortable porch with a glass of sweet tea, relaxing in a hammock, or swimming in the saltwater pool. The hosts have worked hard to create an environment conducive to utter relaxation, so take advantage of the peace and tranquility of the beautiful grounds.
It may be hard to tear yourself away from the views of 100-year old oaks, beautiful magnolias, and the sweet smell of honeysuckle to go out in pursuit of dinner, and you don't have to. Dining options in the area are limited, but with advance notice your hosts can prepare a delicious three-course dinner. Once you settle in to a comfortable chair with a nice glass of wine, this opportunity may prove irresistible.
Spend an afternoon wine tasting. This area of Virginia is considered an up-and-coming wine making region, and collectively several local wineries have created an app offering directions to and information about nine wineries in the surrounding area. Take the self-guided SOVA Wine Trail tour and visit several of the wineries for an opportunity to sample local varietals and learn about wine-making in southern Virginia. If time is a limiting factor, consider visiting just one of the closest, Rosemont of Virginia. Located on a 450-acre estate outside of La Crosse, the main building was built in the mid-1700s and has been in the Rose Family since 1858. The winery began in 2006 and offers a number of different varietals. Guests can sample the wines, tour the facilities, and enjoy the beautiful grounds.
Visit MacCallum More Museum & Gardens in nearby Chase City. The gardens were created in 1929 by Lucy Morton Hudgins and expanded over the years by her son, Commander William Henry Hudgins. Commander Hudgins served as a personal aide to President Truman and Admiral Carney, the commander in chief of NATO. In this capacity, he traveled the world extensively and brought back many plantings. The gardens are a total of six acres, and in addition to lush plantings, include a number of statuary pieces and plaques. The museum holds a small collection of interesting artifacts related to the history of the area and the family.
Learn more about Lawrenceville and surrounding Brunswick County at The Brunswick County Museum. Located in historical Courthouse Square in the center of Lawrenceville, the small museum chronicles nearly 300 years of the area’s history and features a collection of Native American relics, antique dolls, Civil War artifacts, and numerous other photos and objects that show what life was like in the county during its economic heyday. Note that this museum has very limited opening hours, so call ahead to be sure they are open or schedule an appointment. Another interesting way to learn more about the region is at the Model Railroad Museum, located in nearby South Hill’s former train depot. This unique museum depicts life in South Hill at various periods of time through a model railway display. Visitors can also climb aboard an old caboose that is located on the depot grounds.
Visit the historical town of Petersburg, located about 45 minutes north on I-85. Petersburg was a strategic town during the Civil War and the site of its longest military event. Over the course of nine months 70,000 soldiers died, and thousands of civilians suffered as Union soldiers assaulted the town attempting to cut off crucial supply lines to Confederate troops. The battle took place in the last brutal days of the Civil War and eventually led to General Lee’s retreat and surrender. Explore the Petersburg National Battlefield on a 16-stop driving tour which passes through all four units of the site including General Grant’s Headquarters, the Eastern Front, the Western Front, and the Five Forks Battlefield. Also near Petersburg, visit the Pamplin Historical Park and National Museum of the Civil War Solider. Located on the site that ended the Petersburg Campaign, the park’s 424 acres includes two museums, four antebellum homes, and living history venues. Before leaving the area, stop by the Blue Willow Tea Room to experience a traditional English tea room. This small cafe features homemade baked goods as well as offering soups, salads, and tea sandwiches for lunch.