The Virginia Coal Heritage Trail was designated by the Virginia General Assembly as the Virginia Coal Heritage Trail, an official Virginia Byway in July, 2007. The 325 mile route meanders through the heart of Virginia’s Coalfield Region including: Buchanan County, Dickenson County, Lee County, City of Norton, Russell County, Scott County, Tazewell County and Wise County.
The project partners are the Heart of Appalachia Tourism Authority (and all localities within the region), the Virginia Tourism Corporation, Lenowisco PDC and the Cumberland Plateau PDC.
Some of the existing sites along the Virginia Coal Heritage Trail include the Pocahontas Display Mines, and the Crab Orchard Museum (right) in Tazewell County.
When entering Buchanan County remember you are in an active coal mining community and be alert for coal trucks that will be sharing the highway with you. You will view many active and inactive mine sites- even passing through one active tipple at Big Rock, VA. You will see coal stockpiles and mining equipment around every turn.
Be sure to visit the Mountain Top Golf Course (left) and the Grundy Plaza to see how the citizens of Buchanan County have made use of a reclaimed strip mine site and an old coal docking site. The Grundy Mural near Vansant is a community project that tells the story of the counties ties to the coal industry.
The Jewell Smokeless Coke ovens located on Rt. 460 near Dismal are still a breathtaking site to view even during the hustle and bustle of an ordinary work day for the miners at this site.
On your way to the Breaks Interstate Park you will pass an active mine and the old Harman Mine sign-the only remnant of the largest mine in Buchanan County during its time. Buchanan County offers you a look at the past and a trip through the present as you travel through this coal mining community.
In Dickenson County, the trail begins at the Breaks Interstate Park, better known as “the Grand Canyon of the South”. There you will view the Russell Fork River, with the railroad tracks nearby and the location of the old Domus Mine which was in operation many years ago. The Breaks Park has a Visitor’s Center Museum with a large collection of coal mining memorabilia. Also in Dickenson County, in the town of Haysi, you will be able to spend the night at the Red Caboose Inn, visit the Red Caboose Museum where you will find a large collection of railroad and coal mining items on display.
In the town of Clinchco, Dennis Reedy Railroad and Coal Mining Museum offers one of the most extensive collection privately owned by the Reedy family. The Coal Miners Memorial is also located in Clinchco, in Dickenson County. Traveling from Clinchco to Fremont, you will see the old railroad depot of Fremont which is currently being used to house the PSA offices. Traveling from Fremont into McClure you will pass the entrance to the McClure #1 mines, the site of a large explosion in 1983 which killed 7 miners including one female miner. In Trammel, Virginia, the old Company store and rows of homes that were once used for the mining camps still stand.
As you enter into Dante, leaving Dickenson County and entering into Russell County on the Virginia Coal Heritage Trail you will first come to Lower Bear Wallow which is one of the few remaining coal camp communities still in existence. From there, traveling into the Dante Square you will find the Dante Coal and Railroad Museum, which offers a wide array of memorabilia pertaining to the coal and railroad industry from years past and information about the booming little town it once was.
While in Dante you can also visit the Coal Miner’s Memorial which is located on Rt. 63 adjacent to the Dante Fire Hall. Traveling on 63 into St. Paul and then turning left onto Hwy. 58 leading to Castlewood, then turning onto Hwy. 65 you can also see the area where Daniel Boone once lived for approximately two years in Russell County.
In Wise County, the town of Appalachia is full of coal heritage and continues to mine coal. There are many scenic mountains and valleys on the Coal Heritage Trail and you might want to stop off and visit Mountain Rose Vineyards located just past The University of Virginia’s College at Wise.
In Scott County, Natural Tunnel State Parkthe 850 foot natural tunnel provides a way through to the coal fields beginning in 1890 and continuing until today. The State Park offers a variety of recreational activities. The Fannon Railroad Museum is located on the right at the intersection of Rt. 58/421/23 in Scott County.