VASW §38: Garden Mountain (VA-623) to Rich Valley (VA-42)

Southwest Virginia §38 spans 17.3 miles. Parking is available for four mileposts.

Mp 0.0/17.3: VA-623 [Burkes Garden Road]

Locate: {37.07705, -81.30706}

Orient: The AT crosses VA-623 at the crest of Garden Mountain 12.0 miles southeast of VA-61 in Tazewell and 7.5 mi north of VA-42 in Sharon Springs. From VA-61 {37.134712, -81.413510}: VA-623 branches south from VA-61 [Clear Fork Creek Road] 19.5 mile southwest of US-77 at exit 64 in Rocky Gap and 6.3 mi southeast of US-460 [Peery Highway] at exit 3 in Tazewell. Follow VA-623 for 12.0 miles to parking area on right side of road. The final 2.5 mi of this approach is a gravel mountain road winding to the crest. Visibility around bends is generally good, and there are places to accommodate passing. From VA-42 {37.049632, -81.285788}: VA-623 branches north from VA-42 [Blue Grass Trail] 10.4 mi west of US-77 at exit 52 in Bland and 17 mi east of VA-16 [Buchanan Highway] in Saltville. Follow VA-623 for 7.5 mi to parking area on left side of road. From VA-42 to the crest, gravel VA-623 is a narrow and winding road chock-full of hairpin turns and somewhat stingy on shoulder space for passing. The 7.5 mi drive takes about 30 minutes.

Park: Room for 4–6 cars in pull-off at trail crossing, on southwest side of road. There are no signs here for either trail or parking, but several large boulders demarcate parking area opposite a simple road sign "623".

Mp 4.9/12.4: VA-727 [West End Road]

Locate: {37.05452, -81.37862}

Orient: VA-727 branches southwest from VA-623 [Burkes Garden Road] in Burkes Garden. From VA-623 {37.098222, -81.341442}: follow VA-727 southwest for 4.0 mi to end of pavement; continue for 0.4 mi on dirt road uphill to parking area on left side of road. Rutting and gullies along the final 0.4 mi roadway may cause grief to low-clearance vehicles; see alternative below.

Park: Room for 3–4 cars in pull-off at trail crossing.

Mp 4.9/12.4: via VA-727 [West End Road]

Locate: {37.05930, -81.37859}

Orient: This is an alternative to parking at the trail crossing; see Mp 4.9/12.4, above. From VA-623: follow VA-727 southwest for 4.0 mi to end of pavement.

Park: Roadside parking for 2–3 cars looks possible where pavement ends.

Connect: Follow dirt section of VA-727 south for 0.4 mi to AT, as above. For AT northbound, turn left onto footpath. For AT southbound, turn right onto footpath.

Mp 10.8/6.5: FR-222/VA-625

Locate: {37.02274, -81.42491}

Orient: The AT crosses FR-222 in Poor Valley 8.6 mi southeast of VA-16 in Tannersville and 7.9 mi northwest of VA-42 in Ceres by way of VA-625; FR-222 extends VA-625. From VA-16 {37.039592, -81.519108}: VA-625 [Roaring Forks Road] branches northeast from VA-16 [Buchanan Highway] 8.6 mi southeast of US-460 [Peery Highway] in Tazewell and 22.6 mi north of US-11 [Main Street] in Marion. Follow VA-625 east for 6.9 mi to trail. From VA-42 {37.018022, -81.343345}: VA-625 intersects VA-42 [Bluegrass Trail] 14.2 miles southwest of I-77 at exit 52 in Bland and 12.9 mi northeast of VA-16 in Saltville. Head north on VA-625 and continue for 8.0 mi to trail crossing, about 1.2 miles beyond a sign marking the end of state maintenance.

Park: Room for 3–4 cars in pull-off on south side of road at trail crossing and possibly 1–2 additional cars along south shoulder. A blaze post marks crossing on south side of road. Overflow parking looks possible 0.1 mi west of crossing in camping area on north side of road and 0.3 mi east of crossing in large pull-off on south side of road.

Note: Maps and guidebooks variably label VA-625/FR-222 as Mountain Spring Road, Roaring Forks Road, and Poor Valley Road. VA-625 becomes FR-222 where state maintenance ends. The slow-going road is mostly gravel and dirt; some stretches are narrow; some patches are bumpy.

Mp 17.3/0.0: VA-42 [Blue Grass Trail]

Locate: {36.98428, -81.40553}

Orient: The AT crosses VA-42 in Ceres 18.7 mi southwest of I-77 at exit 52 in Bland and 8.4 mi northeast of VA-16 [Buchanan Highway] in Saltville. The parking area is just northeast of this crossing; look for USFS lot on the north side of road and behind a split-rail fence.

Park: Room for a dozen cars in gravel USFS lot; signed. Do not confuse the USFS lot with the O'Lystery Community Picnic Area, a little closer to the AT. The ATC guide admonishes hikers not to use this private picnic area.

Connect: Turn right (southwest) from lot and walk on road for 120 yards to AT; look for blaze post recessed from south side of road. For AT northbound, turn right from road onto footpath. For AT southbound, turn left onto footpath. Alternatively, take short blue-blazed path from back of lot to AT. For AT northbound, turn right. For AT southbound, turn left.