Far out in the beautiful wilderness of Southwest Virginia, Breaks Interstate Park is one of the best-kept secrets in America. The park is one of only two Interstate Parks in the nation, sharing a border with Kentucky, and is made up of 4,500 acres of mountain landscape. This incredible canyon spans over five miles and reaches a depth of over 1,600 feet, making it the largest canyon east of the Mississippi and earning it the nickname the “Grand Canyon of the South”. While the park is an important part of Virginia history, scenery, and preserved lands, it has also become well-known for another aspect: extreme sports and adventure activities. Discover why Breaks Interstate Park and the surrounding region draws thousands upon thousands of visitors each year to take on the challenges that the mountains and rivers present.
—KAYAKING, BOATING, & WHITE WATER RAFTING—
The name “Breaks” came from the break in Pine Mountain created by the Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River as it carved a gorge towards the Ohio River. During weekends in October, water is released from the John Flannagan Dam and Reservoir that feeds into the river, creating Class V+ rapids on the Russell Fork through the Gorge and drawing extreme whitewater seekers to take on the rapids. One extreme 75-foot stretch of whitewater, called “El Horrendo” by the locals and brave kayakers that face the rushing water, is considered one of the most difficult in the East.
In addition to these extreme rapids weekends, the Big Sandy River brings visitors all year to kayak, raft, boat, and fish out on the waters.
The latest addition to Breaks Interstate Park, the Canyon Rim Zipline features three sections of zip line over the canyon that give you a spectacular view of the mountains, foliage, and the river below. The zipline tours are available Thursday-Monday as weather allows. Guests must be between 70 pounds and 250 pounds to ride the ziplines.
One of the latest draws to Southwest Virginia are the Spearhead Trails, rugged ATV terrain trails that winds through hundreds of miles of mountainous landscape. The closest trails to Breaks are the Ridgeview Trail System in Haysi and the Coal Canyon Trail System in Grundy. Combined, these two sections make up over 100 miles of trails for ATV, dirt bike, and mountain bike riders. Don’t have your own ATV? Southern Gap Outdoor Adventure in Grundy provides side-by-side ATV rentals for visitors looking to explore the trails, as well as offering elk viewing tours and rental cabins.
—CYCLING & MOUNTAIN BIKING—
Breaks Interstate Park has over 12 miles of mountain biking trails ranging from moderate to difficult that offer breathtaking scenery. For avid cyclers, the Trans-America Bike Route also passes through the park, following Route 80 through Dickenson and Russell Counties, then continuing east all the way to the Chesapeake Bay. You’ll cycle through intense mountain routes, ride on part of the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway, then continue through plantations and farmlands to the Virginia coast.
A few miles from Breaks, Birch Knob Tower rises from the mountains, sitting over 3,000 above sea level and offering views of five states from the top on a clear day.
Elk used to wander the rolling hills of Southwest Virginia freely, but in the 20th century, the population disappeared from the region. Local government and wildlife experts teamed up a few years ago to re-introduce the species to the mountains, and today, visitors can book elk tours through both Breaks Interstate Park and Southern Gap Outdoor Adventures to see the herds as they graze on the pristine lands.
Over 25 miles of hiking trails of varying difficulty levels circle Breaks Interstate Park, but you can also find countless miles of trails in other parts of Southwest Virginia.
Rock climbing is prevalent in the rugged terrain of Southwest Virginia, and Breaks Interstate Park will soon be opening their own rock climbing courses, most of them suited for expert-level climbers.
If you are traveling with family or a group, book a stay at the Breaks Interstate Park Luxury Cabins, which are outfitted with a gas fireplace, washer/dryers, a full kitchen, and three bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms. For smaller parties or private rooms, the Breaks Park Rhododendron Lodge provides more traditional hotel accommodations.
Experience both wild beauty and endless thrills when you travel to Breaks Interstate Park in Southwest Virginia.