If you want to go from the Smith Mountain Lake area to anywhere north of here, you have pretty much two choices: roll west into Roanoke and take the interstate (I-81) (hello, trucks!) or head north on Route 122, east on 460, then north up 29 through Charlottesville.
But Jim, who travels north to Harrisonburg for work regularly, found a third and marvelous route. If you stay on 122 through the town of Bedford, soon you’ll arrive at the community of Big Island (population 303) and jump on Route 501.
Route 501 takes you through the James River Gorge area of the Washington and Jefferson National Forests, where you meander on a twisty mountain road for about five miles past waterfalls, soaring views of the James, and some pretty nice looking cows. The photos here are from a trip where Jim drove and I rubbernecked, and even though the weather was cloudy, the views were delightful. It’s like having a personal Blue Ridge Parkwaybecause you’re the only one there.
501 is an out-of-the-way route, to be sure, certainly one of the benefits to living in an out-of-the-way place.