Backbone Rock Tunnel in Shady Valley
The History of “The Shortest Tunnel In The World”
Back in 1901, Backbone Rock rested solidly in the Cherokee National Forest and extended itself prominently from Iron Mountain effectively creating an impassable 100-foot tall barrier. The Beaver Dam Railroad wanted through to the quaint little town of Damascus Virginia and its treasured timber, and so they blasted and bore through the twenty-two feet of solid rock and stood back to admire their work. Tracks were laid and the steam engines fired up but they soon discovered they had forgotten a little something… Steam engines have smokestacks. Back to work, the railroad went and hand-chiseled some additional space to accommodate. And that was how the creation of the “shortest tunnel in the world,” came to be.
** This post also contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.**
We love visiting the little recreation area at Backbone Rock. The tunnel itself is a marvel and you can easily climb stone stairs to stand atop it and enjoy the views of Beaverdam Creek flowing below. A short hike away stands a forty-five-foot tall waterfall, appropriately named Backbone Falls. There are fishing spots and a short hiking trail as well as a lovely little picnic area with grills. There is also plenty of parking. It’s a beautiful place to visit. And just ahead lies Damascus and the Creeper Trail and bike rentals and lots more fun!
Walk Beside Us – Photo Tour of Backbone Rock Tunnel and Recreation Area
This was the view from our picnic table. This is Beaverdam Creek and it’s lovely. In the summer T always wants to get in and splash around. It’s a bit colder than I enjoy but he loves it and so do a lot of other visitors.
You can get to the top of the rock on either side of the road. These are the stairs leading up from the parking area. And this sign is a good reminder of why I wouldn’t take any little people up to the top. There are drop-offs. Also, many hikers mention not to climb if it’s wet because the stairs get extra slippery. There are some areas at the top that do have railings but I wouldn’t have let T up there when he was little for anything.
Here are the stairs from the picnic area across the road leading up.
This is from the top of the tunnel looking down. Motorcyclists frequent Shady Valley and we saw many of them. About ten years ago we went up on Mr. Wonderful’s ride and it was so much fun. The road up is all twists and turns wrapped in thick forest. It’s an amazing journey by car or bike.
And here is a view from the other side all washed in the rays of golden hour. It was just after five when we captured this moment.
Finally, T watching the day start to fade from a rock at the creek while we finished off the rest of our picnic. There are charcoal grills available for use here as well as a pavilion and a few picnic tables.
Truly, the perfect day for a family picnic and a quick little hike.
Backbone Rock Tunnel – The Details:
A tunnel was drilled through the rock in 1901 to allow railroad access between Shady Valley and Damascus, VA. Motorists pass through what is known as “The Shortest Tunnel in the World” as they travel along TN 133.
Directions to Backbone Rock Tunnel:
From Bristol, take US 421 south for 20 miles to Shady Valley. Turn left onto TN 133 for eight miles to Backbone Recreation Area. From Abingdon, VA, take US 58 east for 15 miles to Damascus. Turn right onto VA 716 for five miles to the recreation area (VA 716 becomes TN 133 at the state line).
Recreation.gov is your source for discovering and experiencing America’s federal recreation activities and outdoor adventures.
There are 10 single campsites, including two double sites within Backbone Rock Campground. The campground has flush toilets. Each site contains a table, fire ring, and lantern holder.
If you have visited Backbone Rock Tunnel or the surrounding areas share your recommendations in the comments below. If we have inspired you to gather your crew and get out exploring, let us know in the comments section below. We love to hear from you!
I know I say it all the time but wow, what a wonderful world! Don’t you think?
Thanks for visiting Geez, Gwen today! We are so glad you found us! We are not believers in coincidence so we are confident you are here for a reason! Perhaps we can offer you tasty recipes? Maybe our inspirational quotes are just what you need in your life! Perhaps you’ve been wondering where to take that family vacation? Maybe you want to know the truth about what us homeschoolers really do all day! Maybe you love photography and see it as an art, just like me! Whatever it is, it’s clearly Destiny at its finest! Don’t let this opening door of opportunity slam shut! Run through by subscribing to our newsletter
Some posts on this blog contain affiliate links. I receive a small commission whenever a product is purchased through these links. Occasionally I receive products in exchange for a review or giveaway post. The owner of this website, is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking http://geezgwen.com to Amazon properties including, but not limited to, amazon.com, endless.com, myhabit.com, smallparts.com, or amazonwireless.com. However, all opinions expressed on Geez Gwen are solely my own, and I only suggest products or services that I believe will be helpful to my readers.
Other Geez, Gwen! Posts You Will Enjoy:
Beautiful Falls and Great Hike in North East Tennessee
Imagine this… The weather is in the high fifties as you find yourself meandering down a wooded trail lined on one side by the crystal clear waters of Laurel Fork Creek and on the other, towering, almost magical forest. Laurels bend toward the dusty path your walking sporting bright pink buds just about to burst open with the promise of spring. Meanwhile, the birds are singing, the breeze is light, and the sky canopies bright blue above you. The smells of fresh earth and clean air, and rushing water, plus sunshine combine to create this particular blissful fragrance you have come to think of as the scent of Appalachia. Read More
Did you know there is a new theme park in Gatlinburg? Anakeesta boasts beautiful mountain views, a long walk through the treetop canopies along rope bridges that have just the right amount of bounce, treehouses, and a Firefly Village full of fun shops and good food!. You can also visit the gardens and find countless butterflies enjoying all the vibrant blooms. It’s a beautiful park. Let me take you through the adventure with me and I’ll tell you whether I think it is worth the cost and what I loved and I what I didn’t. Read more…
Imagine a town so lovely it seems to belong more in a picture book than right here in reality. Add friendly shopkeepers with unique items and fun displays. Imagine a town where the chefs deliver tastes you never before thought possible in bite after bite of exquisite cuisine. Imagine a town surrounded by waterfalls, some just off the side of the road and others buried deep within lush green forests. You are imagining Highlands North Carolina. Let me show you what I found there. Read More…