Ever walked through 4,273 feet of 1800s railway tunnel? Now you can at the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel Trail.

Looking for a little (safe) adventure? Ever wanted to walk through a mountain? Are you okay with wet shoes? If you answered yes to these questions, then the newly-opened Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel could be your next outing.

Following decades of construction and renovation, the tunnel opened to the public this November. Now maintained by Nelson County, the tunnel was originally carved out between 1849 and 1859 by renowned French engineer Claudius Crozet and was an integral part of North America's longest railroad. For 86 years, trains rumbled along 700 feet below the Blue Ridge—under Rockfish Gap, I-64, the Appalachian Trail, and Skyline Drive.

2-mile tunnel virginia
Courtesy Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel on Facebook

The tunnel trail is open to the public daily from sunrise to sunset. Hikers, bicyclists, and dogs on leashes are welcome on the 2.25-mile-long trail. At either end of the tunnel (in Nelson and Augusta), there are half-mile approach trails and small parking lots. Starting at the eastern trailhead at 215 Afton Depot Lane is recommended (it's less steep that way). Hikers will want good shoes—the tunnel floor is gravel and often wet. The temperature in the tunnel stays at about 50 degrees. Oh, and bring your own flashlights for the tunnel!

Social distancing measures are expected, including 6-feet of distance and no large groups, and face masks are encouraged.

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Courtesy Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel on Facebook

Nelson County Parks and Recreation Director Claire Richardson recommends checking the department’s Facebook page or website for any closures or maintenance before setting out. 

Richardson also leaves a tantalizing hint, “Stay tuned for Halloween 2021.”

A Walk Through History

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Courtesy Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel on Facebook

Visitors can touch original pin-scars in the walls from where the rock was blasted and picked away by 33 enslaved people and thousands of Irish workers. Signs on the trails share a history of exploited labor and dangerous conditions. The tunnel is astoundingly level due to the training and care of the architect, even before the use of slide-rules. And the stone itself tells geologic stories—as you wend your way under and through a mountain, the rock begins to change and you can see where tectonic plates pushed together.

Does this sound like your kind of adventure? Or are you claustrophobic? Leave a comment!