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BLUE RIDGE TUNNEL
OVERVIEW AND FAQs

OVERVIEW

The Blue Ridge Tunnel was constructed between 1850 and 1858 beneath Rockfish Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains of central Virginia. CSX Transportation generously donated the tunnel to Nelson County in 2007.

Nelson County’s ongoing restoration efforts date to 2001. Recognizing the regional value and scope of the project, the County established the nonprofit Crozet Tunnel Foundation in 2012. The group includes public officials from the counties of Nelson, Albemarle, and Augusta and the city of Waynesboro. Interested private citizens and organizations from across central Virginia have also contributed to the restoration effort. This partnership continues to grow as participants work together toward programing and education. Their vision of the passage as a major recreational and historical amenity and an economic initiative that further strengthens the area’s thriving tourism industry continues today.

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The Blue Ridge Tunnel restoration project perfectly functions as a key part of a greenway system that connects the counties of Albemarle, Nelson, and Augusta. Located at the threshold between the Shenandoah Valley and the Virginia Piedmont, the tunnel serves as a recreational gateway between these two historic regions. The tunnel is also strategically located at the convergence of the southern entrance of Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive , the northern entrance of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Appalachian Trail, and U. S. Bicycle Route 76 . Both Interstate 64 and U. S. 250 cross over the tunnel at Rockfish Gap.

Traveling through the long, dark tunnel is a stirring experience for a variety of visitors from across the Commonwealth and beyond: hikers and cyclists of every level, wildlife watchers, history enthusiasts, railroad buffs, heritage tourists, school children on field trips, and nearby residents. The project transformed an abandoned and increasingly vandalized resource back to life for a new generation for public enjoyment and education.

FAQs

What are the hours the tunnel is open?

The Blue Ridge Tunnel is open year round from Sunrise to Sunset. The only exceptions are during times of extensive maintenance requiring the closure for the safety of staff and public, as well as during NCPR coordinated events. Please check out
www.nelsoncountyrecreation.com for closure alerts or call (434)263-7015.

Where are the tunnel entrances?

East Trailhead: 

215 Afton Depot Ln, Afton, VA 22920

  • From North: Take Afton Exit 99 off I-64. Take a right onto 250 East. After 1.5miles, take a sharp right onto VA-6 East. Go .5 mile and turn right onto Afton Depot Lane.

  • From South: From VA-151 take a left onto VA-6 West. Go 3.2 miles and turn left onto Afton Depot Lane.

West Trailhead: 

483 Three Notched Mountain Hwy, Waynesboro, VA 22980

  • From I-64: Take Afton Exit 99. Take a left onto 250 West towards Waynesboro. The trail entrance will be  on your left.

  • From Waynesboro: Take US-250 E approximately 1 mile out of Waynesboro city limits. Trail entrance will be on your right.

Which side is easier?

East Trailhead – Easiest

Considered ADA accessible trail.

Distance from East Trailhead to East Tunnel Portal (entrance): 3,346 ft. (0.63 miles) net change in elevation +37 feet, max. grade 5.3% for 150 feet, most of the rest of the trail is < 1.6% ; avg. 1.5%

Wester Trailhead – Hardest

Distance from West Trailhead to West Tunnel Portal (entrance): 4,279 feet (0.81 miles); net change in elevation -175 feet; grades range from +17% to -19% for lengths of 150+feet with grades over 5% for a majority of the trail; average grade is 6.5% max grade 19%. One section includes a concrete mat stream crossing that may have water flowing over it during or shortly after rainstorms.

Length of Tunnel:

4,273 feet (.081 miles); change in elevation -55 feet; average grade -1.3%
Trail width is 8-10 ft. Cross Slope 1-2% for the entire trail. Surface material: crushed stone

East Trailhead to West Trailhead: 2.25 miles

What are the dimensions of the tunnel?

Located over 500 feet beneath the ridge at Rockfish Gap, the tunnel was designed to be 16 feet wide at a height of 20 feet above the tracks. It is 4,273 feet long. The shape is a partial ellipse. Most of the tunnel sides and ceiling are raw, exposed rock. One 17-feet portion of the east side is lined with brick up to 6 courses thick to prevent the rock from falling. Approximately 1400 feet of the tunnel is brick-lined on the west side.

When was the Blue Ridge Tunnel restoration completed for public access?

Nelson County completed Phase 1 of the Blue Ridge Tunnel project in late June 2015. This phase included a substantial completion of the eastern trail, a parking lot, and fencing along the trail as a barrier to the active rail line next to it. Phases 2 and 3 will complete restoration of the tunnel and final construction of trailheads and trails to the east portal and west portal. Trail connections to other greenways and communities are in the planning stages.

Will the tunnel be lit?

There are currently no plans to light the tunnel. Walkers and bikers are urged to bring headlamps and/or
flashlights to aid their vision. For a list of what else to bring visit:
What To Bring

Are dogs allowed?

Yes, dogs are allowed to join you on your hike as long as they remain on a leash. Please be courteous
and pick up and waste and dispose in the nearest trashcan.

Are there ever events at the Blue Ridge Tunnel?

We occasionally hold special events hosted by Nelson County Parks and Recreation or the Tunnel
Foundation. These events can be found advertised on social media by following “Claudius Crozet Blue
Ridge Tunnel” on Facebook or “Coolesthikeva” on Instagram. You are also usually able to find out
information regarding events by subscribing to the Blue Ridge Tunnel Newsletter.

Is it scary?

We leave that to your imagination.


As you enter the dark tunnel, take a moment to put yourself in the 1850s carving through the Blue Ridge Mountains with your best Irish immigrant friends. Hammering star bits into the hard greenstone rock for 6-8 years straight. Running out to take safety from the blast of black powder cracking through the rock.


Once deep inside the tunnel, safely take a moment, turn your flashlight off and stand in the pitch black, looking at the distant glimmering of daylight at each end, listen for the sounds of trains still whistling through the walls.

Who should I contact?

I noticed something damaged or out of place
I found a lost belonging

I lost something of my own on the trail

 

If you answered yes to any of these, please contact us right away.


Nelson County Parks and Recreation

(434)263-7130
recreation@nelsoncounty.org
Hours: Mon-Fri | 8:30am – 4:30pm

 

Nelson County Tourism
(434)263-7015

info@nelsoncounty.org

Hours: 7 days a week | 9am – 5pm

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