Big Stone Gap: Trail of the Lonesome Pine

by Mary and Bill Burnham

Big Stone Gap is an intriguing town in far southwest Virginia, known as the Heart of Appalachia. Pioneer, coal-mining and moonshiner history comes to life in the Trail of the Lonesome Pine, Virginia's oldest-running outdoor drama.

As summer evening falls, the outdoor stage comes to life with the story of June Tolliver, a mountain girl who left her hill country home for Big Stone Gap. She was a real person, and her home is the June Tolliver House, adjacent to the outdoor stage and open for tours.

Southwest Virginia Museum

The John Fox Jr. Museum on Shawnee Avenue memorializes the author's former home. The Harry W. Meador Jr. Coal Museum displays artifacts from the industry that shaped this town and remains a major employer. More recently, the 21st century Big Stone Gap trilogy by Adriana Trigiani, set in her hometown, all became national best-sellers.

The Southwest Virginia Museum, inside a mansion built in the 1880s of locally quarried limestone. Three floors of exhibits vividly describe the boom and bust years of the town, Native American life, and stories of the pioneers who passed through on their way west through the Cumberland Gap.

Hiking Pine Mountain Trail

Click to read about hiking the Pine Mountail Trail, along the Virginia-Kentucky border.

For more on visiting Big Stone Gap, go to

There's no fancy dining in Big Stone Gap, but the prices are right. Mutual Drug on Wood Avenue has cafeteria-style and take-out dining, and is one of the locations in Trigiani's novels. There's Red Flower Chinese Restaurant on Wood Avenue, Little Mexico in Powell Valley Square, and Huddle House, next the Comfort Inn, specializing in 24-hour breakfast.

Places to Stay

The Country Inn Motel & RV Park is really the only place to stay in town and luckily, it takes pets with a $2 charge. It's modest, old-fashioned motel, but the view of the mountains is first rate, and the 101 Car Lonesome Pine Tourist Information Center is right next door. There's also a Comfort Inn about two miles outside town.

Big Stone Gap is one of the many towns included in the Burnhams' upcoming book Backroads of Virginia.