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Devil's Bathtub too crowded? Try these Scott County spots instead

Pam Cox • May 24, 2016 at 9:10 AM

Based upon the number of telephone inquiries Scott County Tourism has received, a huge crowd is anticipated at the Devil’s Bathtub Memorial Day weekend. This will make for a crowded parking area, resulting in spillover parking onto Route 619.

Much of the surrounding property is privately owned and the landowner will not hesitate to tow your vehicle if it is blocking traffic flow.

To ensure a pleasant visit to the Devil’s Bathtub and Scott County, here are a few alternative places to spend your Memorial Day weekend.

Little Stony National Recreation Trail, Jefferson National Forest

This is an easy alternative to the Devil’s Fork Loop Trail and offers similarly beautiful views. The hike is 2.8 miles and its footbridges save you from the 13 cold and slippery creek crossings to the Devil’s Bathtub. You will also find some scenic spots to take a break from the 600-foot ascent by resting at the bridges where you will find a hemlock canopy and rushing waters below.

To get there, start at the Hanging Rock Picnic Area, follow the yellow blazes marking the trail that snake along Little Stony Creek. As the trail climbs in elevation, it becomes narrow and marked with boulders. Within a half-mile of the northern trailhead, you will find a viewing platform across from a 40-foot waterfall — thick, waxy rhododendron and mountain laurel frame the white veil of water. The end of May and beginning of June are the perfect times to view the colorful blooms.

Continue uphill to find two more impressive waterfalls. Several hundred feet beyond these, you will arrive at the Little Stony Falls parking area, where the Chief Benge Scout Trail picks up from Forest Road 701.

Hanging Rock Picnic Area also features 18 picnic units with table and grill or fireplace. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries regularly stocks Little Stony with rainbow trout. If you don’t feel like hiking, bring your fly rod and waders.

To access Hanging Rock in Scott County, take Highway 23/58 into Gate City, turn right onto Highway 71 and then left onto Veteran’s Memorial Highway, Highway 72. Stay on Highway 72 through Dungannon and the road turns into Hanging Rock Parkway.

Bark Camp Lake in the High Knob Recreation Area

This mountaintop lake offers 34 camping units with tent pad, picnic table and parking spur near a 60-acre warm lake, perfect for fishing and boating (kayaks, canoes or electric motors only). There is a paved launch ramp, a 3.7-mile lake loop trail, additional picnic facilities, restrooms and a beautiful waterfront amphitheater.

The tranquil lakeside trail winds through cove woods, wetlands and hemlock forests. It offers nearly level terrain walking with plenty of opportunity to see kingfishers, herons and other lake wildlife. Now is a perfect time for photographers to visit the area to capture the rare Climbing Fern and a profusion of spring wildflowers.

Bark Camp Lake was built in the 1950s by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and is stocked with northern pike, bass, blue gill, rainbow trout and catfish. Two handicapped accessible fishing piers are available with a handicapped trail on the northern shoreline below the parking lot.

To get to Bark Camp Lake: From Dungannon, follow Route 72 for 0.4 miles, then turn left onto Route 653 (next to the old and colorful Osborne store). After 1.7 miles, turn right onto Route 706 and follow it for 2.7 miles, winding up the mountain. Take a sharp right onto Route 822. Follow the road for 3.3 miles and take a couple of lefts to stay on the route. Turn left onto Bark Camp Lake and travel 0.9 miles to the parking area.

Natural Tunnel State Park

More than 850-feet long and as tall as a 10-story building, Natural Tunnel was naturally carved through a limestone ridge thousands of years ago.

William Jennings Bryan called Natural Tunnel the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” and the Weather Channel listed it as one of the Top 20 Caves in the World.

Additional scenic features include a wide chasm between steep stone walls surrounded by several pinnacles or “chimneys.” The park has numerous activities planned for Memorial Day weekend, such as kayaking, Lighting of the Tunnel, tours of the Wilderness Road Blockhouse. 

Tubing, canoeing and kayak rentals are also available in several locations throughout Scott County. Newly-opened Clinch River Outfitters offers a complete array of water activities and provides shuttle service from Fort Blackmore to the Tennessee/Virginia state line.

Located on Anglers Way Road, Camp Clinch offers both tent and RV camping plus tube rentals. Shuttle service is not available. Visit http://www.campclinch.com/.

Adventure Mendota in nearby Washington County, Va. also offers kayak rental and shuttle service along the Holston River. 

Families can also enjoy a visit to Creation Kingdom Zoo, located just outside of Gate City in the Snowflake community off Highway 71. The zoo is privately owned and funded by Marc and Elaine Bradley and is a breeding facility for rare and endangered species. You can walk around the zoo and get up close and personal with a white Bengal Tiger. There is a petting zoo where children can hand feed many of the park’s animals. 

For a taste of small town America, check out Nickelsville Days — a three-day event filled with parades, a strongest farmhand competition, visits to the historic Bush Mill, a special Memorial Day ceremony, music, crafts, food vendors and a lot more. 

Scott County also offers several iconic eateries, such as Campus Drive-in in Gate City, the Hob Nob in Daniel Boone, Teddy’s in Nickelsville and now the Commonwealth of Virginia’s top Bakery, the Family Bakery in downtown Gate City. The Family Bakery was recently voted the top bakery in the “Virginia is for Lovers Culinary Challenge.”

While in Gate City, take a stroll down Jackson Street, used as the town scenes for Mel Gibson and Sissy Spacek’s epic movie, “The River.” You will find nice antique shops, a wonderful gift store, plus an interesting collection of vintage clothing stores.

With so much to explore in Scott County, don’t be deterred by a crowded Devil’s Bathtub. Take a look around this beautiful county where you will find friendly and welcoming people — folks who want to make your experience here memorable.

For more Scott County information, visit www.explorescottcountyva.com.