Goshen Pass as seen from
a Route 39 overlook
Goshen Pass is a spectacular gorge (bring your camera) carved by the Maury River about twelve miles north of Lexington, VA. It is a great hot-weather destination, being naturally cooler and drier than the flatlands east of the Blue Ridge, and there are number of nice swimming holes in the Maury River. This is a full day trip as described, and it could easily be extended to become an overnighter.
The scenic trip begins at the intersection of Routes 29 and 56 about 5 miles southwest of Lovingston in Nelson County. You can reach this section of Route 29 by going south at Exit 118 off Interstate 64 or via Route 6 from Richmond, turning left from Route 6 onto Route 29. Heading south on Route 29, turn right onto Route 56. Proceed west about 5 miles to Route 151; then turn right onto Route 151/56. Continue about 1 mile past Henderson's Store and take the left fork off Route 151 and onto Route 56. This follows the Tye River upstream into the George Washington National Forest to Crabtree Falls.
We stopped for a picnic lunch at the Crabtree Falls wayside. The Crabtree Falls are the highest falls east of the Mississippi, and seeing the lower cascade is well worth the short walk up the Crabtree Falls Trail from the wayside parking lot. This walking (more accurately, strenuous climbing) trail continues several miles upstream past five cascades falling a total of 1200 feet. It is a good afternoon hike, but not on a really hot day, so we continued northwest on Route 56 after lunch.
Five miles past Crabtree Falls you will reach Montebello and, after two more miles, pass under the Blue Ridge Parkway. From there it's downhill to the small town of Vesuvius. Continue on Route 56 to Steele's Tavern and turn left onto Route 11. Head south on Route 11 through Jonestown and Fairfield. About 4 miles past Fairfield, turn right onto Route 716 (Mount Atlas Road). Within a mile, Route 716 will pass under Interstate 64/81; continue until you reach Route 39. Turn right onto Route 39, which will take you north and west alongside the Maury River. Pass Rockbridge Baths and Wilson Springs, and enter the Goshen Pass Natural Area.
Take your time on this section of road. There are numerous overlooks, hiking trails, and swimming holes. The photo on the upper left of this page was taken from one of those overlooks. We stopped at the Goshen Wayside (photo below, left) which has rest/changing rooms, picnic tables, and a rocky swimming area in the Maury River (photo below). The water is warm enough in late summer, but we can't make any promises about other times of the year.
Late in the afternoon we continued west on Route 39, through the town of Goshen and deeper into the George Washington National Forest. Just south of the intersection of Routes 39 and 220 is Warm Springs, the location of the 18th century Jefferson Pools. The octagonal men's pool house is shown in the third photo below, and there is a newer women's bathhouse; both are still operated by The Homestead. The Homestead resort complex is located about five miles south on Route 220.
We ate dinner at the Waterwheel Restaurant (photo below, right) inside the old Gristmill in West Warm Springs just off Route 39 one mile west of the intersection with Route 220. We recommend it highly. West Warm Springs is a scenic town small enough to walk around in a half hour. That evening we drove back by going south and east on Route 39 as far as Exit 55 of Interstate 64 just north of Lexington, where you can also pick up Route 11 or Interstate 81 for a quicker return home.
Jim Condon & Sherry Westfall
|Click on any photo to enlarge it|
|Goshen Wayside||Maury River||The Jefferson Pools||The Gristmill|