WanderLove: A Southwest Virginia Road Trip from Roanoke to Abingdon

Wanderlust is defined as a strong desire to travel, but here in Virginia, we call that feeling WanderLove. And while travel doesn’t look quite the same in 2020 due to COVID-19, you can still explore Virginia’s endless beauty with an epic road trip! To help you plan your next vacation out on the open road, we’ll be sharing a few of the most scenic and adventure-filled routes through the Commonwealth, including the best outdoor adventures, iconic sites, restaurants, and lodging options to add to your itinerary.

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Our last road trip routes took us along the coastal regions of Virginia, from Norfolk to Chincoteague along the Eastern Shore, followed by a journey from Fredericksburg to Kilmarnock on Virginia’s Northern Neck. Next, we take you through the mountains in Southwest Virginia, traveling from Roanoke to the charming small town of Abingdon, with a few detours along the way to turn your average summer vacation into an unforgettable Virginia road trip! While you can follow Interstate 81 for the quickest drive between Roanoke and Abingdon (about two hours total), we recommend following the more leisurely route outlined below to get the most out of your getaway. 

**While we have shared COVID-19 alternate hours and closures when possible, please contact individual businesses before visiting, as these details may change at any time.

ROUTE 11: FROM ROANOKE TO WYTHEVILLE

81 miles, approximately 2 hours 2 minutes

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Begin your trip in Roanoke with some social-distanced outdoor activities, like a bike ride along the Roanoke Valley Greenway, which has over 30 miles of paved trails winding through the city. If you don’t plan on hauling your own bikes along for your vacation, you can rent bikes through Roanoke Mountain Adventures. Another option for either hiking or biking are the numerous trails in Mill Mountain Park. After you’re done conquering these trails, you can experience spectacular views of the city from the Roanoke Star, one of the most iconic sites in Virginia’s Blue Ridge

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Photo Credit: Sam Dean, IG account: @sdeanphotos

Consider getting in a little shopping in downtown Roanoke at shops like Black Dog Salvage, a salvaged antiques warehouse that is well known due to the DIY Network’s television series, Salvage Dawgs. Take a pic in front of their LOVEwork, made from reclaimed materials, to remember your visit to Roanoke. 

Depart the city and head south towards Christiansburg along Route 11. If you didn’t get a chance to ride the bike trails in Roanoke, the paved Huckleberry Trail that runs from Christiansburg to Blacksburg is a fantastic alternative. ROAM New River Valley lets you reserve bikes in advance and pick them up from their Christiansburg Recreation Center hub. This bike rental service is perfect for social distancing, as you check in and out with an app on your phone and bikes are checked out from one of their hubs, requiring no human contact to get your bikes. 

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Photo Credit: Sam Dean, IG account: @sdeanphotos

For waterfront outdoor adventure, detour off Route 11 towards Claytor Lake State Park. Rent paddleboards or kayaks through Mountain2Island Paddleboard Company and head out on the water, where you’ll discover prime views of the surrounding landscape while paddling leisurely along the lake. Looking to soak up some sun on the shoreline? The park also has a beach area with a snack bar and bathhouse. 

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Photo Credit: Sam Dean, IG account: @sdeanphotos

Another worthwhile detour off Route 11 is a stop in Draper, where you can stop for lunch and a little bit of shopping at Draper Mercantile & Trading Co. For over 125, this dining/shopping village has been a gathering ground for locals and a hot spot for visitors. 

In addition to food and shopping, Draper Mercantile offers bike rentals and is conveniently located right beside New River Trail State Park, a linear park that runs 57 miles along the New River through four counties and the city of Galax. The park trails are also open for hiking and horseback riding.

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Photo Credit: Keith Lanpher

Another place to visit along the New River is Iron Heart Winery, located about twelve miles south of Draper in Allisonia. While the winery tasting room is currently closed due to COVID-19, they offer an even better alternative for your visit: private cabana rentals located throughout the property. These rentals range from sun-dappled waterfront sites beside swimming holes to peaceful shady spots within a bamboo forest. A four-hour rental period costs just $100 and includes a bottle of wine, a tent, two chairs and a table, and a cooler with ice, all set up before your arrival. You’ll also get two Iron Heart wine glasses and a corkscrew to take home with you. To book your Appalachia Cabana rentals, call or email the winery.

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Photo Credit: Adam Fariss

Continue south on Route 11, driving to the Big Walker Lookout Tower & Country Store in Wytheville. Climb this 100-foot tower to get breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and spend some time perusing the country store, where you can purchase goods handmade by local Southwest Virginia artisans, as well as old fashioned fudge, homemade jams and jellies, hand-dipped ice cream, and a variety of other products. The shop often hosts historic demonstrations, such as apple butter cooking and blacksmithing, and live music performances during the weekends. 

A can’t-miss destination in the Wytheville area, Fort Chiswell Animal Park is the largest zoo in Southwest Virginia. This 45-acre animal park has a petting zoo that lets you get hands-on with animals like goats, llamas, and deer. Book a ride on the Safari Bus to explore the park’s Outback and get close to exotic animals such as camels, zebras, antelopes, ostriches, and buffalo. The park has limited seating on these rides to 50% capacity and are sanitizing the buses fully between rides to ensure the safety of their visitors. 

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Photo Credit: Tim Cox

Restaurants, Breweries, Wineries, & More

The River & Rail RestaurantSouthern bistro in Roanoke featuring locally-sourced and seasonally-available cuisine. Open for patio dining or curbside pickup. 

ScrambledFast & casual breakfast spot in downtown Roanoke.

Pop’s Ice Cream & Soda BarOld-fashioned soda fountain and ice cream parlor in Roanoke that serves delicious diner fare. Currently opened for online ordering and curbside pickup only due to COVID-19. 

Skeeter’s Hot DogsHistoric restaurant in downtown Wytheville known for their “Skeeter Dogs”, which they have been serving since the 1920s.

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Photo Credit: Emily Miller

FarmburguesaRoanoke farm-to-table burger restaurant that uses fresh, local ingredients. Curbside pickup and delivery available in addition to dine-in. 

Al’s on FirstCasual full-service restaurant in Pulaski at the Jackson Park Inn serving Southern homestyle dishes. 

7 Dogs Brew PubBrewery/restaurant serving burgers, sandwiches, and a wide range of appetizers and light bar fare. 

Graze on MainRestaurant inside the Bolling Wilson Hotel that offers Southern food with a twist.

Wiffle PopsWytheville ice cream shop creating homemade gourmet ice pops and gelato made with natural ingredients.

Moon Dog Brick OvenBrick oven pizza restaurant in historic downtown Wytheville. Currently open with 50% seating and also offering takeout. 

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FlourzSandwich shop and bakery in Wytheville serving homemade sweets. 

West Wind Farm VineyardPet-friendly winery on a fourth generation homestead in Wythe County minutes from the New River.  

Hotels, Resorts, & Other Lodging

Bolling Wilson HotelPet-friendly boutique hotel in downtown Wytheville that is steps away from Historic Main Street. Enjoy 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains from the hotel’s rooftop bar and outdoor dining space. 

Trinkle Mansion Bed & BreakfastRenovated historic bed and breakfast with four elegant and unique guest rooms featuring private bathrooms and a private garden cottage.

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Photo Credit: Cameron Davidson

New River RetreatCabin and cottage rentals on the New River, Claytor Lake, the New River Trail, and in the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Claytor Lake State Park Cabins12 two-bedroom cabins overlooking the lake, 1 three-bedroom cabin (handicapped-accessible), and 3 six-bedroom cabins available to rent within the park. From Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, cabins are rented by the week. Otherwise, a two-night minimum stay is required. The park also has yurts (two-night minimum) and campsites available to rent.

ROUTE 11: FROM WYTHEVILLE TO ABINGDON

55 miles, approximately 1 hours 20 minutes

Depart Wytheville, continuing along Route 11. If you’re into gardening or simply want a relaxing stop during your road trip, detour down Route 21 to Beagle Ridge Gardens & Herb Farm. A lavender, herb, and flower farm, this outdoor oasis also has a garden shop where you can purchase plants and gardening equipment to recreate the beauty found at the farm when you return home. 

Back along Route 11, Hungry Mother State Park is just north of Marion and is a great option for outdoor activities between Wytheville and Abingdon. The park contains a 108-acre lake nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and is surrounded by picturesque woodlands. Spend some time unwinding on the lake’s sandy beach area or rent boats from the park to set out on the water. The park also contains a public fishing pier, cabins and yurt rentals, campgrounds, an on-site restaurant, gift shop, and a visitor center. Hiking and biking trails wind throughout Hungry Mother State Park, providing even more outdoor activities for visitors. 

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Photo Credit: Chad Williams, IG account: @echadwilliams

Get a bird’s eye view of the mountains around Hungry Mother State Park with a zipline tour at Hungry Mother Adventures. Featuring the longest, highest, and fastest zipline in Virginia, their state-of-the-art zipline system runs for nearly a mile above the rolling landscape. 

Follow Route 11 to Abingdon and, for a bicycling adventure, rent bikes from the Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Shop. In addition to bike rentals, the shop will shuttle you and your bikes further down the Virginia Creeper Trail, a 34-mile trail that runs between Abingdon and Whitetop Station, with additional access points scattered throughout the trail at Alvarado Station, Damascus, and Creek Junction. The Creeper Trail is mostly a downhill ride, allowing you to coast and take in the scenery, maybe even catching some wildlife during your cycling trip.

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Photo Credit: Sam Dean, IG account: @sdeanphotos

If biking the entire route from Whitetop Station to Abingdon, stop through Damascus, an enchanting mountain town, to peruse their outdoor-centric shops and grab a bite to eat. The Appalachian Trail runs straight through the center of town, so if hiking is on your agenda, Damascus is the perfect spot to start. 

Return to Abingdon for your overnight stay and catch a play at the Barter Theatre Moonlight Drive-In, a drive-in live theater opened in response to COVID-19. Watch the actors perform on the stage and on a larger screen backdrop from the safety of your car while tuning in to a local radio station to hear the performance. 

Before ending your vacation and heading home, stop by the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace to peruse goods made from local artisans, including home decor, artwork, body products, and woodwork. Don’t miss the stunning LOVEwork flanking the doors of the cultural center, a prime spot for another photo opportunity. 

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Photo Credit: Kalen Collins

Restaurants, Breweries, Wineries, & More

Wolfe’s BBQAcclaimed BBQ restaurant in Marion serving ribs, brisket, barbecue, and other classic smoked cuts along with a bevy of delicious sides. 

Abingdon VineyardsPet-friendly winery on the South Holston River accessible by boat or kayak as well as by road. 

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Photo Credit: Sarah Laughland

Jack’s 128 PecanLocal quirky restaurant centrally located in downtown Abingdon. Open for lunch and dinner.

The PakalachianFood truck based out of Abingdon that blends the culinary elements of Southwest Virginia with flavors of South Asia.

White Birch Food & JuiceHealth-centric juice & smoothie bar in downtown Abingdon that also serves locally-sourced breakfast and lunch dishes. Limited outdoor seating and curbside pickup available. 

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Bone Fire Smokehouse & MusictoriumBBQ restaurant in Abingdon open for lunch and dinner. In addition to their smoked meats, the restaurant is known for their frequent live music performances. Currently offering curbside pickup in response to COVID-19. 

Wolf Hills Brewing Co.Craft brewery in Abingdon creating modern-style beers. Often host live music acts and trivia nights. 

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Hotels, Resorts, & Other Lodging

General Francis Marion HotelBoutique hotel on the National Historic Registry that dates to the 1920s but remodeled with all the modern amenities. 

The Martha Hotel & SpaUpscale hotel in downtown Abingdon that was originally built in 1832. Indoor and outdoor pool. 

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Photo Credit: Tim Cox

A Tailor’s LodgingCharming historic home-turned-inn in downtown Abingdon with three unique rooms, each with in-suite bathrooms. Just steps from the Virginia Creeper Trail.

Hungry Mother State Park Cabins, Yurts, & CampsitesCabins rented by the week only between Memorial Day & Labor Day, however the stay is dropped to a two-night minimum if booked less than a month out. Yurts sleep up to four people. Campsites available year-round. 

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Photo Credit: Chad Williams, IG account: @echadwilliams

Creeper’s End LodgingColonial-style cottages at the base of the Virginia Creeper Trail that accommodate groups of up to 20 people.

Damascus Old Mill InnHistoric waterfront hotel and restaurant in downtown Damascus; easy access to the Virginia Creeper Trail and the Appalachian Trail. 

Need more ideas for road trips around Virginia? Check out our previous WanderLove getaways! 

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