Article written for Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine 8/2017
Buchanan is situated halfway between Lexington and Roanoke, Virginia. This small town sits at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, just 4 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway (mile marker 90.9). While Buchanan is known for civil war history, its location makes it a prime stopover for outdoor enthusiasts. With the James River close to downtown, the Jefferson National Forest at its back door and the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Peaks of Otter just a stones throw away, there’s plenty of adventure to be had in, and around, Buchanan.
You can’t come to Buchanan without experiencing the James River and the best way to do this is by canoe, kayak or a slow drift in a tube. If you’re bringing your own canoe there are five boat launches close by to access the river. Buchanan’s downtown launch provides an information kiosk with a map of the river and access points. They also provide loaner life jackets near the kiosk.
Twin River Outfitters
Twin River Outfitters offers a large fleet of canoe, kayak, and tube rentals for river trips along the Upper James. You’ll enjoy the beauty of the river as it meanders its way through the Appalachian Mountains. They offer day trips and multi-day trips with stopovers at riverfront campgrounds. Add your fishing gear and take advantage of some great small mouth bass fishing. Pick up all your fishing supplies and live bait, just up the street at H and H Outdoors.
Twin River Outfitters is located riverfront in downtown Buchanan. Reservations are required and can be made at their website, canoevirginia.net. The business operates from April until October.
Fly Fishing – Arcadia
Arcadia is located on the outskirts of town, in the Jefferson National Forest. Three mountain streams make up this area; Jennings Creek, Middle Creek and North Creek. There are daily creel limits and bait restrictions for all three creeks.
Peace and solitude sum up a day of fly fishing in these pristine trout waters. Add the Brook, Rainbow and Brown Trout stocked throughout the year and you’ve got some of the best trout waters in the state. There’s also a special regulation area further up North Creek, offering some good wild Brook and Rainbow trout opportunities (catch and release only).
This and more information can be found on the information kiosk, located just ¼ mile past the sign marking the entrance to the Jefferson National Forest.
License Requirements: State Fresh Water License, Trout License (only needed Oct 15 – June 15), and a National Forest Permit
Hike Apple Orchard Falls
Strap up your boots for this scenic hike through the Jefferson National Forest. This 5.6 mile loop trail will take you along cold mountain streams and across rocky mountain paths to a beautiful waterfall. The hike has a difficulty rating of moderate. If you want to vamp it up a bit, continue a couple miles past the falls, to the Blue Ridge Parkway and change the rating to hard. There are lots of places to stop for a break to enjoy the water and eat. Camping is also permitted if you wanted to make this a multi-day excursion. More information
Hike Virginia’s Triple Crown
Need more of a challenge? Hike along the Appalachian Trail for what is known as the Triple Crown; Tinker Cliffs, McAfee Knob and Dragon’s Tooth. Each section can be completed separately or in one multi-day hike. This can also be turned into a 40 mile loop hike for those seeking a real challenge. Each hike has its own amazing features. All three include magnificent vistas and great photo opportunities. Camping isn’t permitted at the summits, however there are four primitive camping shelters along the trails that are available; Campbell, Catawba Mountain, Johns Spring and Lamberts Meadow. Check out this site for more information, Triple Crown.
What to Eat
Buchanan Fountain & Grille: Step back in time in this 50’s style soda fountain right on Main Street Buchanan. You can’t go wrong with a burger and a milk shake from Ransoms Grill. More info
Swinging Bridge Café: In the mood for a taco salad, pizza or ice cream? Try the Swinging Bridge Café on Main Street. More info
Brink of the James Bistro: Looking for a place to grab a beer after a long day of hiking? Check out the Brink of the James Bistro on Main Street. More info
Foot of the Mountain Cafe: Enjoy good food as you enjoy the mountain views. This quaint restaurant is located just outside of Buchanan near the Jefferson National Forest. More info
Where to Stay
The Railcar Inn: Railcar Inn boasts, “A vintage 1934 Hiawatha Dining Car houses this one of a kind inn. The car is richly appointed with fine furnishings and inlaid woods shined to a soft patina and harkens to the era when a journey was more than just a means to get from place to place, but an event to be savored by those fortunate enough to travel in first class luxury.” More info
Wattstull Inn: Enjoy amazing mountain views from your room at Wattstull Inn. They also offer kayak rentals and float and stay packages. More info
The James River House: Located on Main Street, the James River House puts you within walking distance to the river, antique stores and dining. More info
Middle Creek Campground: A privately owned campground just on the outskirts of Buchanan that offers electric and water hook ups, camp store and a swimming pool. More info
North Creek Campground: This small primitive campground is located on North Creek in the Jefferson National Forest. It’s operated by the forestry department and reservations can be made at reservations.gov. More info