Blue Ridge Tunnel Trail

Virginia

7 Reviews

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Blue Ridge Tunnel Trail Facts

States: Virginia
Counties: Augusta, Nelson
Length: 2.25 miles
Trail end points: Afton Depot Lane (Afton) and Three Notched Highway (Waynesboro)
Trail surfaces: Crushed Stone
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6017506
Activities:

Blue Ridge Tunnel Trail Description

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of central Virginia, lies the Blue Ridge Tunnel, designed by French engineer Claudius Crozet. It was built to allow the passage of the Blue Ridge Railroad through the mountains to reach the Shenandoah Valley.

Construction of the tunnel began in 1850 using only hand drills, pickaxes, and black powder. The work, done mostly by Irish laborers and African-American slaves, was completed in 1858. Stretching nearly a mile long, it was the longest tunnel in the country at the time. Today, it is a designated National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. It was abandoned for a parallel tunnel that could accommodate larger trains in 1944, and CSX donated it to Nelson County in 2007.

The tunnel is located in a wide gap in the mountains called Rockfish Gap with the community of Afton on its eastern side and the city of Waynesboro near its western end. A crushed stone trail leads to the tunnel from both towns. Note that the grade on the Afton end is pretty flat but on the Waynesboro end, gets steep, with an average grade of 6.5% and a maximum grade of 19%!

Despite the light visible at the end of the tunnel, visitors should also come prepared with a flashlight or headlamp as the tunnel is not lit. It's a 15-20 minute walk from one end of the tunnel to the other.

 

Parking and Trail Access

There are trailheads at either end of the trail. In Afton, parking can be found at 215 Afton Depot Lane. On the west end, the trail parking is located at 483 Three Notched Highway, Waynesboro. Remember that the hike from the west end is more challenging due to the steeper grades on that end.

Since the trail is quite popular, trail managers recommend visiting during the week in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowds. And please respect the private property around the area and only park in designated spots.

Blue Ridge Tunnel Trail Reviews

If biking, Afton is a better starting point than the West start. It's neat to be able to basically coast the entire tunnel, as the grade helps considerably.

If biking, Afton is a better starting point than the West start. It's neat to be able to basically coast the entire tunnel, as the grade helps considerably.

great for families

This is a relatively easy trail for all ages and abilities. West side from parking to entrance is more difficult but east side has very little grade to entrance. As others mentioned, parking is limited, but hikers are coming out regularly so it’s not much to wait for a space. We were there on Sunday afternoon and waited just 10 minutes for a parking space. Great family activity.

A fun and unique trail

The tunnel requires a light of some sort because while you can see the end, you are walking for about .84 miles in darkness. The flashlight is a nice addition to the hike, though, as you are able to see the differences in the tunnel as you progress from one end to the other. The parking lots on both the east and west end of the trail are small, but the west end does offer more room. It is also a steeper trail so keep that in mind; you will need to all back up unless someone meets you on the other side.

Great Experience

First... let me say I was nervous about the tunnel! But know that you can see “the light at the end of the tunnel” so I wasn’t claustrophobic,as I had feared. Know that they mean it when they say lights are required. Otherwise, you are not visible to other hikers even when you’re within arms length! We began at the Afton end and although we arrived before 10am all parking was taken. We ended up parking at the post office. As you exit the tunnel on the Waynesboro end there is a good uphill hike...a very distinct path/trail. The entire path is 2.5 one way. We saw plenty of dogs on the trail which was another question I had... we’re dogs allowed? As an added bonus it snowed! We saw

Accordion

Overcrowded. Rude People. Limited Parking.

While this trail is good, you better get there early. Parking is incredibly limited and if you park out of the marked area, your car will get towed. Rude people abound.... Once in the tunnel, it is FULL of people with all manner of lights and kids shining flashlights in peoples eyes. There are better trails without the parking and crowd hassles.

Great Experience

Nicely maintained trail. The west side is a little steep. The actual tunnel is flat. Make sure to have a flashlight as it is pitch black in the tunnel. It’s a beautiful area and neat experience. Lots of history!

opened 11/24/2020

On my bucket list. 50 degree year round. Bring a light. Dark inside

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