New River Trail State Park Adds to Outdoor and Lodging Options
by Colette Boehm
Park adds to unique recreational and lodging options in Wytheville
Long known as an easily accessible destination, Wytheville, Virginia, is one-of-a-kind. There’s no other place named Wytheville and there is no place with such a unique collection of attractions that celebrate the arts and the culture of the region.
Located at the intersection of Interstates I-77 and I-81, Wytheville gained fame long ago as a convenient stop for travelers. Now it is a favorite destination for those who enjoy both the hometown atmosphere of its classic downtown and homegrown attractions as well as the easy access to outdoor adventure. The unique lodging options here round out the reasons to visit Wytheville for a one-of-a-kind getaway. This year, new facilities are adding to the options.
New River Trail State Park (116 Orphanage Drive, Max Meadows, Virginia 24360; 276-699-6778) is a shining star of the region’s outdoor amenities. This exceptional linear park encompasses more than 1,200 acres and is home to 31 bridges and two tunnels. Its 57-mile stretch follows the former Norfolk and Western rail corridor along the New River. One of the most popular locations in the park, Foster Falls, is near Wytheville in an area known for its natural beauty.
After more than 50 years, a 19th century hotel in the park is coming back to life. It has been completely renovated and reopened as a 10-bedroom boutique hotel. The Inn at Foster Falls has the distinction of being the only inn in the Virginia State Park system.
Wraparound porches will provide uninterrupted views of the New River and state park below. The restoration has been painstakingly undertaken to bring the long-abandoned structure to new life, preserving a sense of place that celebrates the region and the park’s character. The design team used vintage photographs of the hotel and orphanage to capture the appearance of the roofline and porch.
Many of the park’s bridges are also getting upgrades this year, ensuring the longevity of its signature New River Trail, popular for hiking, biking and horseback riding. There are amenities for equestrians as well as a boat and bike livery at Foster Falls. The livery provides rental bicycles, kayaks, canoes and float tubes, as well as shuttle services. A boat ramp allows river access for anglers, as well, and the fishing here is legendary. Target species include walleye, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, muskellunge, panfish and more.
The Discovery Center at Foster Falls has an indoor theater, aquariums, terrariums and mounted wildlife displays. Educational programs and activities, including crafts, touch tables, critters in the creek, film viewing and more, are held here throughout the year.
Nearby, the Shot Tower, one of the park’s most significant attractions, overlooks the New River. The tower was built more than 200 years ago to make ammunition for the firearms of the early settlers. Lead from nearby mines was melted in a kettle atop the 75-foot tower and poured through a sieve, falling through the tower and into the water below. Guests may ascend the tower, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Note that many of the park’s amenities close seasonally, opening on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from April to Memorial Day, seven days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day and Fridays and again on weekends from Labor Day through October.
More outdoor adventure can be found at Crystal Springs Recreational Area (723 Pump Hollow Lane, Wytheville, Virginia 24382; 276-223-3378), which comprises 1,800 acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Its trail system includes two loops and a connector trail. Hikers enjoy views of Sand Mountain on a seven-mile trail, or a shorter option, along a creek and reservoir. This is also a popular mountain biking spot. A Terrain Park includes launch ramps, balance beams, domes and rain drops as well as more advanced features. The design makes a minimal impact on the environment by using natural features like boulders and inclines.
There is a full slate of trails to explore in the region, from easy morning hikes to quite challenging treks for those looking for excitement. For guided trips, White Blaze Outdoors (276-356-7068) offers guided nature hikes and overnight hikes on some of the region’s beautiful trails, and also provides hiker/biker shuttles.
Unique Lodging Options
When the Inn at Foster Falls opens, it will join an eclectic list of unique lodging options in Wytheville, including:
The Bolling Wilson Hotel (170 E. Main Street, Wytheville, Virginia 24382; 276-223-2333), part of the Ascend Hotel Collection, features 30 luxurious guest rooms and is located in the heart of Wytheville. The hotel pays homage to first lady and native daughter Edith Bolling Wilson with themed floors and impeccable service.
Trinkle Mansion Bed and Breakfast (525 West Main Street, Wytheville, Virginia 24382; 276-625-0625) has been named in the top 10 in the country in Trip Advisor reviews. This beautiful historic home features four guest rooms and a garden cottage.
The Airstream Inn (245 Queens Knob Road, Wytheville, Virginia 24382; 276-284-0017) is a vintage 1971 27-foot Airstream Excella nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It offers a nostalgic experience with panoramic views.