Blue Ridge Tunnel

  • Highlights: Historic railroad tunnel
  • Distance: 4.6 miles out and back
  • Elevation change: 456 feet
  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • Trailhead Parking: East Trailhead 215 Afton Depot Lane, Afton VA
  • Website: Nelson County
  • Beer Pairings: Wild Man Dan Brewery—Rye She Knows IPA & BoHo Slipper Pilsner

The Hike:

This easy hike follows the path of a historic railroad tunnel from the 1850s. Claudius Crozet designed and engineered this tunnel with such precision that the excavated tunnel was within inches of his plans. This was a remarkable engineering feat at the time. The excavation of the tunnel through solid rock under Afton Mountain took nearly ten years. 

Bring a flashlight as most of the tunnel is in complete darkness. We hiked on a very hot August day and the cool temperature in the tunnel was refreshing. On cooler days a light jacket might be needed inside the tunnel.

Walking through the tunnel you can understand why it took Irish and enslaved laborers nearly ten years to dig this tunnel through solid rock. It is both an engineering marvel as well as a testament to the workers who toiled under difficult and dangerous conditions. Several placards describe the history of the tunnel and profile those who helped to build it.

There are two parking areas with trailheads for this hike. We began at the east trailhead in Afton. The tunnel itself is nearly 3/4 of a mile in length. The eastern end is of the tunnel solid rock while the western end has a brick facade. The trail is mostly level from the eastern trailhead through the tunnel. The western trailhead in Waynesboro has most of the elevation gain. We hiked from the east trailhead to the west trailhead and then returned through the tunnel back to the parking area. 

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing:

We have had Wild Man Dan’s Brewery in Afton on our list for sometime. Our recent visit was long overdue. Dan is a gracious host and he brews some great beer. His brewery is located near the Rockfish Gap entrance of Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway. They have indoor and outdoor seating and Dan and his lovely wife also have a B&B on site.  This is a really cool place.

Kathy really liked Rye She Knows IPA brewed with Galaxy, Cascade, Mosaic, and Simcoe hops. It was nicely hoppy at 73 IBUs. Pete tried several beers including BoHo Slipper Pilsner which was a crisp, complex and well-rounded ale brewed with Cashmere hops. He also liked Pik Ax an Irish Red Ale with pleasant caramel and toffee notes. We are already planning our next visit to see Dan and enjoy some of his fantastic beer.

Hike and drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Stay safe and be responsible.