May, 2015 – After seeking out the waterfalls of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, our RV travels took us over the border into Virginia to the town of Galax (pronounced “Gay-lax”) where we planned to see two famous Parkway attractions: the Mabry Mill and the Blue Ridge Music Center. However, when Mark spotted a microbrew pub in town — Creek Bottom Brews — our truck automatically steered itself right to the front door!
Inside, Mark found himself in craft beer heaven. The walls at one end of the brewpub were lined from floor to ceiling with individual craft beers from every brewery he’d ever heard of, and even a few more. What’s better, the bartenders were pouring pints of unusual craft beers from around the country as fast as the tap handles could go. The place was filled with very happy looking customers.
We ordered a pizza to go along with the Thunder Bay Brewing pale ale they had on tap. I don’t know if we were starving or what, but that was by far the best beer and the best pizza we’d had in a really long time. What a great place!
We never ever do this, but we went back again the next night for the same exact thing, and then we went again for a third time the night after that! We became Creek Bottom Brews regulars in just three days!
As we happily sat there enjoying this truly awesome pizza and beer each afternoon, we noticed that lots of the folks around us were dressed in cycling duds. What was going on? Many of them just buzzed in to get their growlers filled or to pick up a six pack of something exotic. Apparently this was how these Virginia folks rehydrated after their rides!
It dawned on us that there must be a trail or something nearby, so I asked the next gal I saw in a cycling jersey where she’d been riding. “On the New River Trail,” she told me. “It’s a really great Rails-to-Trails ride that starts right across the street from here in Galax”
The next morning we hit the trail!
Oh my, what a terrific Rails-to-Trails system this New River Trail is. We were blown away. It was one of the best Rails-to-Trails rides we’ve done, right up there with the 72-mile Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes in Idaho. It is wide and flat and winds along the New River for 57 miles. And for such a great trail, we were amazed that on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend there weren’t all that many people on it.
The fun thing about this really scenic trail is that it passes by all kinds of interesting things. We came across a small waterfall and stopped to take pics.
And we stopped at the old Cliffview Station depot building.
There was also a very cool wooden bridge that was fun to ride across.
Much of the trail went along under a canopy of trees, but there were lots of open areas too where we saw horses grazing in the fields.
What I loved is that this is a trail for everyone. We saw families out biking on cruiser bikes and we saw more serious folks on fancy mountains bikes. Some people were even out there on road bikes. The trail was wide and flat and smooth enough for any kind of bike. And of course there were walkers and joggers too.
The New River Trail is part of the Virginia State Parks system, and we got talking with a ranger and learned that this trail was actually donated to the state by the Norfolk Southern Railroad back in 1986. Political wrangling got in the way of its management for a while, but now it is a true jewel in Virginia’s state park system.
We were amazed to learn from him that even though they operate on a shoestring budget compared to other states, Virginia State Parks has been rated the top state park system in the country. The care with which this trail is maintained is proof of why.
The trail has several campgrounds along its length, and we passed one of the campgrounds on our ride. What a fun place to pitch a tent! We saw quite a few cyclists who were touring with panniers on their bikes, and we met one couple who was doing a three day, two night ride out and back on the trail!
We did about 20 miles round trip and then we just had to go back to Creek Bottom Brews. After all, that’s how the cyclists around here rehydrate after their rides, and we needed to rehydrate too!
As we sat their enjoying their out-of-this-world pizza, we joked that Galax, Virginia, needs a motto:
Come for the Blue Ridge Parkway, Stay for the Pizza, Biking and Brews!
If you take your RV along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the vicinity of Mabry Mill and the Blue Ridge Music Center, take a little time out for a bike ride and a brew in Galax!
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More about the New River Trail and Rails-to-Trails:
- New River Trail State Park – Trail description and access
- Where’s the brewpub and trailhead? – Google Maps
- Rails to Trails Conservancy
Other posts about cool rails to trails rides we’ve found in our travels:
- Joseph, Oregon – Joseph Branch Rail Riders – Riding the rails on unique bikes
- Northern Idaho – Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes – 72 miles of paved fun