Recreational Opportunities Abound!

The following recreational information was provided by the Nelson County departments of Parks & Recreation & Tourism. We are grateful for their assistance!

For such a rural area that Nelson County is, one could say that there are almost no activities that are not available here (although we haven’t noticed any Sumo wrestling just yet)! Many tourists are surprised to see that so much is going on! The Nelson County and Parks and Recreation Department does an excellent job, not only administrating the county-sponsored activities below but also maintaining part of the VA Blue Ridge Railway Trail and the new Blue Ridge Tunnel and trail.

The following article touches on the many things there are to do, but due to space limitations this is not inclusive of all activities. For the most complete source of Nelson County recreational opportunities, visit

Nelson County Youth Programs

Gymnastics – School Age
The Nelson Center, 8445 Thomas Nelson Hwy,
Lovingston, VA 22949

This Beginner and Advanced Beginner class teaches fundamentals, conditioning, and positive progression of exercises and skill development.

Gymnastics – Creative Movement
for 3–5-year-olds
The Nelson Center, 8445 Thomas Nelson Hwy,
Lovingston, VA 22949

This fun class for ages 3-5 teaches progressive movement and basic gymnastic skills.

Gymnastics – Mommy & Me 18–36 months
The Nelson Center, 8445 Thomas Nelson Hwy
Lovingston, VA 22949

This class uses guided play and exercise to increase flexibility, coordination, and motor skills. Adults must accompany the children.

Nelson County Youth Sports

Dixie Youth Baseball Spring and Fall
Practice site: Dixie Youth Fields, The Nelson Center Field, and Ryan Ballfield

Dixie Youth Baseball for ages 4 – 15 years is hosted by the Nelson Youth Baseball Association.

Spring and Fall Soccer
Nelson County Parks and Recreation. Operates at the Rockfish Valley Ruritan Park & Tye River Elementary School

We offer Spring and Fall Soccer for boys and girls ages 5 – 14 years. Practices are held on weekdays and most games are on Saturdays. Players are divided into teams according to age. Registration ends March 5.

Tae Kwon Do
8445 Thomas Nelson Hwy Lovingston, VA

These Tae Kwon Do classes are for both kids (age 5 and up) and adults. Classes are geared toward building strength and flexibility, then developing proper martial arts techniques and self-defense.

Nelson County Parks and Recreation. Held at the Nelson Center Softball Field in Lovingston.

Rockfish River Elementary School Gym and RVCC

Pickleball is a racquet sport that combines the elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis.

This fun sport can be played in singles or doubles.

Nelson County High School Courts, 6919 Thomas Nelson Hwy, Lovingston, VA 22949

Nelson County Community Events
(Recreation Dept)

Annual Egg Hunt
The Nelson Center, 8445 Thomas Nelson Hwy,
Lovingston, VA 22949

Come meet the Easter Bunny! Sponsored by NCPR and the Y Afterschool Program this egg hunt offers lots of fun, eggs, and crafts for children 11 and under. Come at 9:30 am for crafts and activities. The first hunt begins promptly at 10 am.

Photo Credit Nelson County Parks/Rec.

Piney River Mini-Triathlon
The Nelson Center, 8445 Thomas Nelson Hwy,
Lovingston, VA 22949

You can enter this race solo or as a team of 2-4 people. You will run 1.5 miles,  paddle .75 mile, and  Bike 2.5 miles.

Hiking For All!

Appalachian Trail
from State Route 56 (Swinging Bridge) to Harpers Creek

45 miles of the Appalachian Trail lie in Nelson County with moderately challenging to rugged terrain. Explore on a 2.6-mile hike along the Appalachian Trail to Harpers Creek, where the water gurgles through the large rocks.

Blue Ridge Tunnel
215 Afton Depot Ln, Afton VA 22920

2.25 miles long, the Blue Ridge Tunnel Trail passes through a 4,700-foot tunnel hand-bored through Rockfish Gap in the 1850s. Visitors should bring a headlamp or flashlight as the tunnel is not lit. The eastern trailhead in Afton, VA provides flatter access and the western trailhead is located in Augusta County at 483 Three Notched Hwy, Waynesboro, VA. The western trail is much steeper on this side with a 19% grade in one section and is not recommended for those with limited mobility.

Blackrock Park
Wintergreen, VA

Blackrock Park contains a large number of climbing crags and has several weeks’ worth of hiking routes.

Crabtree Falls
11581 Crabtree Falls Highway, Montebello, VA 24464

Crabtree Falls, the highest vertical-drop cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River, is a popular attraction. It’s located just six miles off the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway near milepost 27.

Fortune’s Cove Nature Preserve
Fortune’s Cove Lane, Lovingston, VA 22949

The Preserve provides a challenging hike that rewards visitors with stunning mountain vistas. It’s situated within some 29,000 acres of relatively intact forest habitat and hosts rare plant communities on a series of rocky glades.

Tubing on the James River

James River State Park
and Wildlife Management Area
751 Park Road, Gladstone, VA 24553

James River State Park features over 15 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails that meander through 1500 acres of rolling meadows and quiet forests. Three miles of river frontage offer spectacular views, boat launches, picnic areas, camping, cabins, and picnic shelters.

Mau-Har Trail
Blue Ridge Parkway (milepost 13.7)

The blue-blazed Mau-Har trail provides an excellent circuit hike in conjunction with the Appalachian Trail through the Three Ridges Wilderness area in Nelson County.

Montebello Nature Trail
359 Fish Hatchery Lane, Montebello, VA 24464

A short trail (.5) follows a small stream that was once part of the Montebello Fish Hatchery. The path is lined with a wide diversity of ferns as well as native shrubs and wildflowers.

Montreal Park
on Route 56 east (James River Road)

Montreal Park, located beside the VDOT station, has a pavilion, picnic tables, and restrooms.

Nelson County Wayside
7 miles north of Lovingston on Route 29

Nelson County Wayside has picnic tables, trash cans, and portable restrooms.

Tye River Memorial Park

This very short hiking trail has views of the Tye River and includes a Hurricane Camille memorial marker and a
picnic table.

Nelson County Wilderness Area
Tyro, VA 22976

The Wilderness designation provides permanent protection for the two areas in their natural state: The Priest and Three Ridges. Additionally, the Appalachian Trail runs through this scenic wilderness.

North Fork of the Piney River
Route 827 (Perkins Mill Rd.)

The North Fork of the Piney River creates scenic driving and cycling routes with views of Piney River as it cascades over large rocks.

photo courtesy of nelson county parks & recreation

Pinnacle Ridge Rock Climbing
11039 Crabtree Falls Hwy, Tyro, VA 22976

Pinnacle Ridge has large granite slabs, numerous boulders, and challenging routes. Bouldering and traditional climbing using removable gear is allowed. Use of bolts or pitons is not permitted.

Virginia Blue Ridge Railway Trail
3124 Patrick Henry Highway, Piney River, Virginia, 22964

The Virginia Blue Ridge Railway Trail is a hiking, bicycling, and equestrian trail that was once part of the longest-running, commercially successful short-line in American history. The trail meanders through the countryside affording views of rolling hills and farms as well as the two rivers. The trail features picnic tables, trash cans, and restrooms.

Rockfish River Trailhead
800 Rockfish Valley Highway, Nellysford, VA 22958

The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s Kids in Parks Track Trail program offers self-guided outdoor opportunities for kids and families to connect with nature. This trailhead is part of that program.

Rockfish Valley Loop Trails
800 Rockfish Valley Hwy, Nellysford, VA 22958

Experience the Rockfish River and Reid’s Creek on approximately 4 miles of trails on a farm surrounding the confluence. Part of the VA Birding and Wildlife Trail, these paths offer recreation and interaction with nature and history.

Spruce Creek Park
800 Rockfish Valley Hwy, Nellysford, VA 22958

The park is located at the trailhead of the Rockfish Valley Loop Trails and the Rockfish Valley Foundation Natural History Center at the intersection of Route 151 (Rockfish Valley Highway) and 617 at Nellysford.

The Nature Foundation at Wintergreen
39 Mountain Inn Loop, Nellysford, VA 22958

The Nature Foundation at Wintergreen has marked and maintains 25 miles of scenic trails in the mountains.

White Rock Falls
Blue Ridge Parkway (milepost 19)

The 2.5-mile moderate hike highlights an impressive gorge, which has a waterfall and a natural wading pool. On the climb back up to the Parkway, you will be treated to glimpses of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Northeast.

Lake Monocan Park at Stoney Creek
239 Camping Ridge Road, Nellysford, VA 22958

Swimming at Lake Monocan is available from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. Swimming at Lake Monocan is open to the public every day except Saturday. Members and all registered resort guests have complimentary access to Lake Monocan Park.

Little Piney River 
The junction of Rt. 666 and Woodson Rd.

Little Piney River is a stream located at the intersection of Lowesville and Woodson Rds. Fishermen will find a variety of fish including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and bluegill.

Nelson Scenic Loop
1368 Rockfish Valley Hwy, Nellysford, VA 22958

The Nelson Scenic Loop is a 50-mile auto and bike tour that features Nelson County’s bounty of natural, cultural, and historic attractions.

Oak Ridge Loop
2300 Oak Ridge Road, Arrington, VA 22922

The Oak Ridge Loop is a 29-mile auto and bike tour beginning and ending at Oak Ridge Estate.

Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch
185 Afton Circle, Afton, VA 22920

Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch is a site where volunteer hawk-watchers congregate annually to count the hawk migrations from mid-August to November. Seasonal hawk watching occurs in the parking area at The Inn at Afton on top of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Tye River near its confluence with the James River.

Tye River

The Tye River is one of the most beautiful whitewater streams in Virginia. The upper section can have strong whitewater for advanced paddlers, and the middle and lower sections, moderate whitewater on a seasonal basis.

Walton’s Mountain Museum Loop
6484 Rockfish River Rd, Schuyler, VA 22969

Walton’s Mountain Museum Loop is a 31-mile auto and bike tour. It begins and ends at Walton’s Mountain Museum.






Activities For Everyone


Nelson County offers miles and miles of tranquil country roads winding past meadows and streams. With gentle rolling hills near the James River and challenging terrain in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this rural region has something for all skill levels. For general information about cycling in Nelson County, call Martin Versluys at

Mountain Biking at Wintergreen Resort

The DISCOVERY ADVENTURE CENTER AT WINTERGREEN RESORT – features 5 miles of single- track biking over challenging terrain. For the best mountain views, and trails that will challenge you and provide excitement and fun, come ride at Wintergreen. The trails are cross-country full loops with uphill and downhill portions suitable for intermediate or expert riders. The trails are not intended for beginner or inexperienced riders.


Nelson County offers three river options for enjoying canoeing, kayaking or tubing: the Tye River, the James River and the Rockfish River.


With headwaters beginning high in the Blue Ridge Mountains and the George Washington National Forest, the Tye River is one of the most beautiful whitewater streams in Virginia. The river begins at the end of two mountain passes, the North Fork and South Fork, at the foot of a mountain. It travels for about 34 miles through Nelson County, through beautiful scenery, with mountain, valley and pastoral views. The upper section can have strong whitewater for advanced paddlers, and the middle and lower sections, moderate whitewater on a seasonal basis. The rapids are rated Class I to Class II+. Depending upon water conditions, some rapids on the Tye River can approach Class III to IV.


The James River forms the southeastern border of Nelson County, and is the longest and largest of Virginia’s rivers, draining the center of Virginia, from the Appalachian Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay. Important as a transportation center, the canals, railroads, highways, factories, cities and dams show how central the role of the James River was in developing the state of Virginia. Many access points exist for canoeing or kayaking the river. Small boats (such as john boats) can also be used at most access points.


The Rockfish River is formed in Nelson County, Virginia, by the confluence of its North and South Forks (37°54′13″N 78°49′58″W), both of which rise in the Blue Ridge Mountains near the Blue Ridge Parkway. It flows generally southeastwardly through northern Nelson County; in its lower course the river is used to define the boundary between Nelson and Albemarle counties. It enters the James River from the northwest on the common boundary of the two counties, about 8 miles (13 km) southwest of Scottsville.


Nelson County offers many fishing opportunities along its rivers, lakes and streams, including the Tye River, James River, Little Piney River (stream) and Rockfish River.

Visit the DEPARTMENT OF WILDLIFE RESOURCES for fishing rules & regulations.

Get information on:




The Tye River is a 35.4-mile-long tributary of the James River in central Virginia originating on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Nelson County, and is fed by the Piney and Buffalo rivers. It joins with the James River near Norwood, in Nelson County, VA. The Tye River is home to dozens of species of fish and other aquatic life, including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and bluegill. Browns, rainbows and brooks can be taken on a fly by the studious angler.


Little Piney River is a stream located at the junction of Rt. 666 and Woodson, at the southern part of Nelson County near Lowesville, VA. Fishermen will find a variety of fish including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and bluegill here. Be sure to check with DEPARTMENT OF WILDLIFE RESOURCES  to ensure the stream is open to the public, and that you have the necessary fishing license.

JAMES RIVER (Upper & Middle)

James River Nelson County. From the confluence of the Jackson and Cowpasture Rivers in Botetourt County, downstream to Richmond, the James River offers a wide range of angling opportunities and settings. Smallmouth bass are the dominant game species, but spotted and largemouth bass can also be caught.

Smallmouth bass fishing can be good throughout the river. Both the mountain sections (upstream from Lynchburg) and the piedmont sections (between Lynchburg and Richmond) generally provide good fishing. Other species are also plentiful in the James River, including channel catfish, flathead catfish, and various sunfish species (redbreast, bluegill, and rock bass).


The Rockfish River (South) is stocked with catchable-sized trout periodically by the Department of Wildlife Resources from October through May. See the TROUT STOCKING SCHEDULE for their stocking plan. Virginia Fishing License required. Trout license also required between October 1 and June 15.

Access Points: put-in by the bridge on Route 6 and take-out at the Nelson County Wayside on Rt. 29.


Nelson County golf offers exceptional variety and challenges in one of the world’s most beautiful areas. WINTERGREEN RESORT is a golfer’s haven. DEVILS KNOB and STONEY CREEK, are two courses with two completely different designs.


When Ellis Maples designed this 18 hole gem, the highest golf course in Virginia, his challenge was to enhance its stunning Blue Ridge Mountain setting. Sitting at an elevation of over 3,800 feet, players leave DEVILS KNOB golf course remembering narrow fairways, excellent turf conditions and unsurpassed vistas. Typically 12-18 degrees cooler even than its sister golf course, Stoney Creek, Devils Knob provides Virginia’s coolest playing conditions throughout the summer and the most dramatic mountain foliage backdrop throughout the fall. If you are searching for a true mountain golf challenge, Devils Knob golf course is a “must play.”

At 3,850 feet, the highest course in the State of Virginia

Access is only available to members, guests and registered resort guests

50-mile views of the Shenandoah and Rockfish valleys

Surprisingly level mountaintop terrain

Pleasant 70-85 degree temperatures throughout the spring and summer

Spacious 16,585 square foot clubhouse, featuring pro shop with top-of-the-line merchandise, locker room, fine dining and snack shop.

Route 664, Wintergreen  434-325-8520

Stoney Creek

Golf year round in the Rockfish River valley on the 27-hole Rees Jones Design STONEY CREEK Golf Course. With contoured greens and the occasional side hill lie, Jones brought the natural elements of the landscape into play: meandering streams, hardwood forests and pristine wetlands. When playing the course for the first time, one should be careful to not be distracted by the stunning scenery or wildlife… it may cost them yet another par.  Winter golf in Virginia? It’s true. Few other places on earth provide the opportunity to snow ski in the morning and play championship-caliber golf later in the day. Because of a dramatic 3,300 foot change in elevation, it happens at Wintergreen. Route 664



Everywhere you look there are sweeping vistas on the SWANNANOA GOLF COURSE atop Afton Mountain.  On one side is the majestic Shenandoah Valley and on the other spreads the Piedmont. With a long history of being the scenic destination of golf afficionados this course has been around a long time. President Calvin Coolidge played here and those who know and want an exciting golf game with views still flock to play here.

Afton  540-943-8864


Enjoy scenic mountain views on horseback for a unique experience in Nelson County and the Blue Ridge Mountains. In the Fall and Spring there are organized trail rides sponsored by local organizations in the Massies Mill and Montebello areas. Spend the weekend camping and enjoy a trail ride through the valleys and mountains to view the spring wildflowers, mountain vistas, fall colors and much more. For more information check the Events Calendar for Spring and Fall or contact the Nelson County Visitor Center, 434-263-7015.

Trail rides may be customized for you at APPALACHIAN HORSE ADVENTURES and REBEL’S RUN. Contact these businesses prior to arrival to plan your perfect horseback ride.

Rebels Run at Afton Mountain

REBEL’S RUN AT AFTON MOUNTAIN offers trail rides, English and Western lessons and summer camps. Mountain rides, vineyard rides for a few hours or all day let you see a side of Nelson County only seen on a trail ride. 703-623-5243

Appalachian Horse Adventures

APPALACHIAN HORSE ADVENTURES at Montebello, VA offers a riding experience for everyone – from children as young as 6, who have dreamed of being on horseback, to experienced trail riders looking to explore the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains and ford the Tye River.


Indian Summer Guide Service

At INDIAN SUMMER GUIDE SERVICE, each of our private vineyard horseback rides is led by one of our knowledgeable guides, who will ensure your safety as well as your enjoyment. After the ride, make your way to the tasting room to enjoy locally crafted wine and stock up on your favorites. Offering vineyard rides to Veritas Vineyards & Winery, and others in the Charlottesville area.



WINTERGREEN RESORT, twice named “Best Ski Resort” by the readers of Washington, boasts the most thrilling winter playground in the Mid-Atlantic. Its snow-covered amenities include the most extensive beginner-to-expert terrain for skiers and riders alike and Virginia’s largest tubing park.











Historic Attractions

Oak Ridge is a 200-year-old estate formerly owned by a number of businessmen prominent in Virginia history. Wall Street financier and Nelson County native Thomas Fortune Ryan purchased the estate in 1901 and transformed the small, Federal-style dwelling into a 50-room Colonial Revival mansion. Much of Ryan’s American Empire furniture remains in the home.

The Holland family acquired the 4,800 acre estate (with 50 outbuildings) in 1989 for the purpose of restoration.

Leisurely tours can be scheduled throughout the year by advance appointment for groups of ten or more guests.

Visitors will see selected rooms in the Mansion as well as certain Grounds features. For more information about tours or scheduling events call 434-263-8676  visit

Oakland-The Nelson County Museum of History Oakland, originally a tavern on the Stage Road between Lynchburg and Nelson County, now houses exhibits displaying various aspects of Nelson County’s history.  Included among the exhibits is the Nelson County Timeline room, an historic tool room, a replica of a tavern room, an exhibit on rural electrification, a Hurricane Camille exhibit and resource room, and several rotating exhibits. Also available at the museum are the society’s historical archives for research and review by appointment.  For more information and to join the society, visit, call 434-263-8400, or email

After building Pharsalia in 1814, Revolutionary War veteran Major Thomas Massie deeded it to his son William as a wedding present. The current owners, Foxie and Richard Morgan, are dedicated to preserving, protecting and sharing this unique property.

Located off Crabtree Falls Hwy. (on the way to Montebello for most Nelson County residents), Pharsalia was accessible only to the family and friends of its owners for decades. Now it is on the Virginia Historic Registry. For
more information, call 434-277-5231 or visit

Walton’s Mountain Museum is located in Schuyler (Sky-ler). Opened on October 16, 1992, this building was Schuyler’s ca.1924 high and elementary school until 1955, grade school until 1991, and it is now the community center. “The Waltons” creator and John-Boy’s alterego, Earl Hamner, grew up in the home across the street. WMM attracts thousands from all over the world. The Museum offers replicas of John-Boy’s Bedroom, Ike Godsey’s Store, “The Waltons” kitchen and “The Waltons” living room. Hundreds of photographs and pieces of memorbilia are on display. For more information, visit or call (434) 831-2000.

Another notable historic property in Nelson County is Swannanoa Palace, located in Afton. This 52-room, $2 million marble palace was built in 1912 as a token of love. More than 300 artisans were hired to create the palace as a replica of the Villa de Medici in Rome. Small group tours of the palace may be arranged and on selected weekends the palace is open for tours to the public. Contact 540-885-5653 for more information


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