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Southern Virginia's New River Trail is one of America's premier rail-trails and has been designated as an official National Recreation Trail by the US Department of the Interior. It is also a state park running through Grayson, Carroll, Wythe, and Pulaski counties along the New River. In 1986, the Norfolk Southern Railroad donated the railroad corridor, which originally served to supply the once expanding iron industry to the Commonwealth of Virginia.
If you travel from Galax or Fries and head north, the mileage markers count down beginning at the 57-mile marker. Also, much of the trail is downhill from south to north. If you start from Pulaski (Dora Junction), the first 3 miles are uphill, though most won't find it a burdensome climb. A mile or so before Draper, it's downhill to the Hiawassee trestle at the river. This 5-mile section also features numerous trestles, while offering a look into mountain railroading, since the tracks climbed away from the river to reach the mainline at Pulaski.
Many visitors choose to begin at Foster Falls, the New River State Park headquarters, located about midway along the New River Trail. The park’s Foster Falls Boat and Bike Livery (116 Orphanage Drive, Max Meadows) rents bikes (as well as canoes, kayaks and float tubes), and provides shuttle services and guided horse rides.
The Galax trailhead, which features an old red caboose, has plenty of parking. From here, you follow Chestnut Creek along the 12-mile Galax to Fries Junction section. The creek affords rugged scenery from the narrow valley it carved on its way to the river. At mile marker 38, you'll encounter the beautiful Fries Junction trestle bridge crossing the New River. Just across the bridge, you have the option of taking a pleasant excursion to Fries, a 12-mile roundtrip. This 6-mile spur is included in the trail's 57-mile total length.
The remaining 39 miles proceeds north (downgrade with the river) along the peacefully flowing New River as it runs through Cripple Creek Junction, Foster Falls and Allisonia. The trail is isolated for much of this journey, so if you are on this stretch, be sure to carry all necessary supplies in case of an emergency or quick bike repair.
Along the way, you'll see many railroading highlights, including cavernous tunnels, steep dams, the historical Shot Tower and trestle bridges (you'll marvel at the impressive 950-foot Hiawassee trestle around mile marker 8). Both termini (Galax and Pulaski) have all your post-trail amenities.
To reach the Galax trailhead, take Interstate 77 to the US 221/US 58 Exit (Exit 14) toward Hillsville/Galax. The trailhead is located on the right, where US 58 crosses Chestnut Creek.
To reach the Dora Junction trailhead in Pulaski from I-81, take State Route 99 west for 2 miles toward Xaloy. Turn right on Xaloy Way and look for the trailhead on the right.
You can also access the trail in Fries: Take I-77 to the US 221/US 58 Exit (Exit 14) toward Hillsville/Galax. Turn right at Cliffview Road/SR 721 to Fries. SR 721 becomes Fries Road before crossing the New River. As you come into town, turn left on Dalton Road. The trailhead is at the bottom of the hill; the trail signs are impossible to miss. Parking is available near the town park on Riverview Avenue.
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