tobacco heritage trail

On the southern Virginia border, an old Norfolk Southern rail bed has been transformed into miles of pristine trails known as the Tobacco Heritage Trail. The trail system is open to non-motorized traffic including those who want to walk, run, bike or ride their horses.

The Tobacco Heritage Trail (THT) is still a work in progress. It isn’t quite as impressive as its rail-trail cousin, the award-winning Virginia Creeper Trail.

Keep reading for everything you need to know before you visit the TBT including GPS coordinates for the paved trail section.

Kevin and kara at tobacco heritage trail brodnax railroad street access point

Table of Contents

Why we went to the Tobacco Heritage Trail?

As full-time travelers, we spend a lot of time enjoying free outdoor activities including biking and hiking. Check out a few of our favorite biking destinations Zion National Park, Moab Utah and Coronado Island California.

While visiting my parents on the North Carolina Virginia border, we discovered the Tobacco Heritage Trail in southern Virginia.

After spending several hours on the internet researching the trail status, the multiple trailheads and routes, I felt only slightly less confused. The Tobacco Heritage Trail maps are overwhelming because the trail is a work in progress and it is unclear which sections are open.

Our group included multiple ages, bicycle types and fitness levels which made finding a good route even more challenging. We wanted a mostly paved trail with at least 10 miles roundtrip ride. After a lot of head-scratching and a few educated guesses, we set out for a multi-generational bike ride.

The paved section between Brodnax and La Crosse was a crowd favorite because it was easy nice riding. I enjoyed the more natural crushed stone trail between Brodnax and Lawrenceville and would love to explore it fully on another trip.

bike riders on tobacco heritage trail

About the Tobacco Heritage Trail

The mission of the Tobacco Heritage Trail is:

To enrich Southside Virginia’s communities and countryside by creating a regional network of public trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors.

Tobacco Heritage Facts At A Glance

  • The trail covers five counties in Southern Virginia including Brunswick, Mecklenburg, Halifax, Charlotte and Lunenburg.
  • Currently the trail runs from Lawrenceville to Chase City Viriginia with long term plans to connect to Danville using the exsiting Richmond to Danville Rail trail system.
  • The Rail Trail follows abandoned Norfolk Southern rail lines.
  • Planning began in 2003 for the first trail section from La Crosse to Brodnax Virginia.
  • It is being constructed in segments as funding is available.
  • Segments are unique and trail surface ranges from on-road, crushed rock to asphalt. Bicycles with narrow wheels (<35mm) are not recommended on crushed rock segments.
  • Not all segments of the Tobacco Heritage Trail are connected such as Victoria, Boydton and South Boston.
  • As of 2021, the trail is less than half finished.
  • There are 11 trailheads with parking areas and 17 trail access points without parking.
  • Solar powered vault toilets are available along the trail.
  • Interpretative signs educate trail users about the history and nature of the area.
tobacco heritage trail sign

How long is the Tobacco Heritage Trail?

When searching the internet to find out the length of the Tobacco Heritage Trail you get different answers depending on the age of the website and its data. The trail is a work in progress and new sections are constantly being created.

The Tobacco Heritage Trail master plan is a long-distance multi-use non-motorized trail. It will consist of a 110 miles on-road section connected with 160 miles of off-road trail along the old railbed.

Funding for the trail construction will be provided from a variety of sources (including several small towns and individuals) so work has been completed in phases.

As of late 2021, the THT is over 40 miles long but much of this mileage is road riding alongside cars.

tobacco heritage trail is paved between brodnax and la crosse

Is the Tobacco Heritage Trail paved or dirt?

The Tobacco Heritage Trail surface varies by segment. The segments vary from crushed gravel, asphalt or shared road riding. Keep reading to plan your perfect trip to the Tobacco Heritage Trail. Skip to the parking section for GPS coordinates for trailhead parking.

bridge on tobacco heritage trail

Tobacco Heritage Trail Segment Details including Trail Type

  1. Victoria segment of THT (not currently connected to other sections)
    • Roundtrip Distance & Trail Type: 4 miles crushed stone
    • Trailhead is located in the downtown Railroad Park with restroom, paved and gravel walking trails and playground facilities
    • Peaceful wooded section of the trail
  2. Chase City to South Hill segment of THT
    • Roundtrip Distance & Trail Type: 42 miles on road riding
    • Recommended for experienced cyclists
  3. Boydton segment of THT (not currently connected to other sections)
    • Roundtrip Distance & Trail Type: 2.2 miles crushed stone
    • Wooded, mostly shaded path
    • The Boyd Tavern, a National Historic Landmark is located near trailhead
  4. South Hill to La Crosse segment of THT
    • Roundtrip Distance & Trail Type: 10 miles of winding and hilly on road riding
    • Recommended for experienced cyclists
  5. South Boston segment of THT (not currently connected to other sections)
    • Roundtrip Distance & Trail Type: 7.8 mile crushed stone
    • Ends near Berry Hill due to unexpected expense to build a bridge over Miry Creek
    • Great section for history lovers
    • Historic Cotton Mill ruins at Trailhead in South Boston
    • Berry Hill Plantation and Conference Center offers self guided tours including former slave graveyard
    • Darby’s Tavern at Berry Hill Resort has a full restaurant and bar
  6. La Crosse to Brodnax segment of THT
    • Roundtrip Distance & Trail Type: 6.6 miles on paved trail surface
    • Restored caboose in La Crosse
  7. Brodnax to Lawrenceville segment of THT
    • Roundtrip Distance & Trail Type: 28.4 miles crushed rock (bicycle tires wider than 35mm recommended)
    • picnic tables, solar powered vault toilets and benches located along this section
    • slight uphill grade from Lawrencville to Brodnax

Which sections of Tobacco Heritage Trail are off road?

If you are an average rider like us and want to get in more than a couple of miles, the most enjoyable section of the Tobacco Heritage Trail is the off road section between La Crosse and Lawrenceville. Most of the section follows the old rail bed and is a crushed rock surface.

It is great for standard or mountain bikes but not recommended for tires narrower than 35mm which are generally on road bikes. Narrow tires will struggle in the sand and uneven surfaces on this more natural trail. The paved trail section between Brodnax and La Crosse is better for road bikes who don’t want to ride with car traffic.

Which sections of the Tobacco Heritage Trail are paved?

Between Brodnax and La Crosse is the best choice for cyclists who want to avoid riding alongside cars but want a smooth surface. The trail is paved between Broadnax and La Crosse. It can be used by all types of bicycles including those with narrow tires or training wheels.

This section was the first completed area of the trail and follows an abandoned railway. In the 1970s the land was acquired by local governments to use as a right of way. It was primarily used as a right of way for underground transmission lines including sewer and fiber optics.

The paved section of the Tobacco Heritage Trail is 4 miles one way and has parking at both ends of the paved section. Check out the parking section for more details.

On a beautiful Saturday morning in September, the trail was surprisingly empty. We saw a cyclist repeatedly riding this paved section back and forth. It seemed like a great place to work out without the risk of riding on a road. If the trail was busier, it might have been more difficult.

la crosse end of paved section of tobacco heritage trail

History

In 2003, a group of citizens and officials, the Lake County Trails Advisory Committee, met to develop a regional bicycle plan. As part of the plan, they created a tax-exempt corporation to start acquiring abandoned railroad properties within southern Virginia.

The corporation was named the Roanoke Rails to Trails since the geographic area all fall within the Roanoke River Drainage Basin. Participating counties include Brunswick, Mecklenburg, Halifax, Charlotte and Lunenburg.

All localities in the Southside area were asked to contribute $50 towards the creation of the corporation. Each town also appointed a representative to the Board of Directors of the Roanoke Rails to Trails Corporation.

By December 2003, twelve localities had joined the corporation with the membership growing to fourteen by the end of 2004.

The name, Tobacco Heritage Trail, was chosen by the Board of Directors as an homage to the region’s rich history of tobacco farming.

The first section of the trail was completed between La Crosse and Brodnax. It was abandoned railway land purchased by the local government to safely serve underground utilities. Today the La Crosse to Brodnax section of the Tobacco Heritage Trail is a great paved section accessible to all.

Who paid for Tobacco Heritage Trail?

The Tobacco Heritage Trail is still being built and funds have come from various sources. Despite the various organizations, the dollars are primarily taxpayer-funded. In short, every taxpayer paid for the THT and should definitely use it.

The Virginia Works program paid the largest contribution to date, $775k, to assist in acquiring the property for the trail. Additional funding sources include Bikes Belong Coalition, VDOT Enhancement Program, USDA Rural Development, Virginia Land Conservation Fund and the Recreational Trails Fund. The National Park Service (NPS) is also providing advisory assistance for the THT through the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA).

The Tobacco Heritage Trail is being completed in sections as funding is available. Original trail plans to extend beyond Miry Creek near Berry Hill were abandoned after construction costs were estimated at $400k for a new bridge. Other sections of the trail are still being pursued as funding is available.

Tobacco Heritage Trail Map

This is one version of the official THT map but it does not include all of the trail segments. It seems the shorter sections like Victoria and Boydton are too small to be represented at this scale.

Official Map Courtesy of Tobacco Heritage Trail

Below I provide a parking guide for each trail segment so you don’t have to fumble with the map unless you want to.

Parking at the Tobacco Heritage Trail

There are 11 trailheads with parking areas along the Tobacco Heritage Trail. The trail can be also accessed via 17 access points. Some of the access points have roadside parking available and some do not. Not all sections of the THT are connected such as Victoria, Boydton and South Boston.

Tobacco Heritage Trail Parking Guide by Segment including GPS Coordinates

Below I have listed the recommended parking areas by trail segment. GPS coordinates with Google map direction links are included.

A complete list of parking areas (not just recommended ones) can be found below. Please leave a comment if you find one parking area is better than another.

  1. Victoria segment of THT (not connected to other sections)
    • Roundtrip Distance & Trail Type:
      • 4 miles crushed stone
      • Bicycles tires at least 35mm wide recommended
  2. Chase City to South Hill segment of THT
  3. Boydton segment of THT (not connected to other sections)
    • Roundtrip Distance & Trail Type:
      • 2.2 miles crushed stone
      • Bicycles tires at least 35mm wide recommended
  4. South Hill to La Crosse segment of THT
  5. South Boston segment of THT (not connected to other sections)
    • Roundtrip Distance & Trail Type:
      • 7.8 miles on crushed rock
      • Bicycles tires at least 35mm wide recommended
    • GPS Coordinates for Parking:
  6. La Crosse to Brodnax segment of THT
  7. Brodnax to Lawrenceville segment of THT
tractor in tobacco field

Complete List of Tobacco Heritage Trail Parking Areas and Amenities

For your reference, I’ve included the official Tobacco Heritage Trail list of trailheads (in red) and access points (in yellow) including the amenities.

But I wouldn’t recommend trying to decipher this list unless you know the area or have a unique route planned. Instead, let me do the work for you and use the most recommended parking areas for each trail segment listed above.

Tobacco Heritage Trail parking list
Official Listing of Tobacco Heritage Trail Trailheads & Access Points

What is there to see on the Tobacco Heritage Trail?

The Tobacco Heritage Trail is over 40 miles and has a little something for everyone. Nature lovers will enjoy the beautiful flora and fauna of southern Virginia along the trail. History lovers will find historic structures and educational interpretive signs along the trail.

Historic Sites on the Tobacco Heritage Trail

This is not a comprehensive list of all historic sites along the trail just a handful that I found interesting. Comment below if you love another spot along the THT.

Cotton Mill in South Boston

Ruins of a historic Cotton Mill are located adjacent to the Cotton Mill Park trailhead in South Boston. All that remains of the former cotton mill are two brick towers.

Prizery in South Boston

In the South Boston trail section, the Prizery, a restored former tobacco warehouse, is a highlight. It now serves as a community theater, museum and events venue. Trail users are welcome to use facilities at the Prizery, including restrooms and showers.

Berry Hill Plantation Resort in South Boston

Berry Hill Plantation Resort and Conference Center welcomes walkers and riders from the nearby trail to visit. Slaves built a stone wall adjacent to the railroad tracks and it still serves as a landmark for Tobacco Heritage Trail visitors indicating they have arrived at Berry Hill.

Popular attractions at Berry Hill are Diamond Hill a former slave graveyard, the plantation and slave quarters. Visitors can even enjoy a meal or cocktail at the former mansion kitchen, now operating as Darby’s Tavern.

Restored Caboose in La Crosse

Don’t miss the restored train caboose at Centennial Park in La Crosse. The bright red antique caboose was installed to commemorate the 2001 Centennial of the town of La Crosse. The caboose is located adjacent to the Tobacco Heritage Trail paved section between Brodnax and La Crosse.

caboose in la crosse on tobacco heritage trail

Nature Along the Tobacco Heritage Trail

The Tobacco Heritage Trail is nestled among hardwoods and pine forests in South Virginia. Wildflowers attract butterflies and other pollinators during spring.

Duck Impoundment in South Boston

A wildlife impoundment is a natural area developed to provide an ideal habitat for designated wildlife. Waterfowl impoundments are commonly created by permanently flooding fields.

Visitors will find a duck impoundment about 2 miles from the Cotton Mill park trailhead in South Boston. It is a popular destination for bird watching and nature enthusiasts. The impoundment attracts fox, deer and other wildlife in addition to waterfowl.

Dan River

Much of the western portion of the THT follows the Dan River. The shallow river is home to wood ducks and grebes. It is a great area for bird watching or spotting other wildlife.

Wildlife

Forests and floodplains surrounding the THT are ideal habitats for many species. Many reptile species, fox, deer, coyote and black bear live in southern Virginia.

Birds are particularly abundant as southern Virginia lies along many migratory routes.

Resident species include vireos, thrushes, sparrows, woodpeckers, belted kingfisher, and raptors; red-tailed, red-shouldered, cooper’s, sharp-shinned, osprey, and bald eagles. Seasonal species include blue grosbeak, orchard oriole, summer tanager, migrating warblers and yellow-breasted chat.

For more details on which birds have been spotted along the Tobacco Heritage Trail including time of year, check out eBird.

tobacco heritage trail from brodnax to lawrenceville

Tobacco Heritage Trail Regulations

  • Trail Closed After Dark
  • No Motorized Vehicles
  • All Dogs on Leash
  • Please Clean Up after Pets
  • No Alcoholic Beverages
  • Stay on Trail at All Times
  • No Firearms
  • Share the Trail with Others

Trail Etiquette

Stay Right: Keep to the right side of the trail to allow others room to pass on the left.

On Your Left: Announce yourself when approaching others on a bicycle. It’s common practice to say ” on your left” to let others know when you are planning to pass them on their left.

Bicycles Yield to Everyone: Bicycles should yield to all other trail users including horses and pedestrians.

Leave No Trace: Trash cans are available at most trailheads. Be sure to pack out all of your trash to keep the trail beautiful.

Leave Nature Wild: Do not feed wildlife. Do not pick flowers or collect any other items. If you take that pretty rock or flower, then no one else will be able to enjoy it.

Other Popular Virginia Bike Trails

Virginia is home to hundreds of miles of rail trails. The Rails to Trails grant program helped fund the restoration of abandoned rail lines into beautiful trails open to everyone.

Virginia Creeper Trail

The Virginia Creeper Trail is the old guard of Virginia rail trails. It opened in 1987 and has been recognized as one of our nation’s best rail trails. Running 34 miles from Abington to Whitetop, it is Virginia’s most Googled rail trail.

Virginia Capital Trail

Although not a rail-trail, the Capital Trail is a notable bike trail covering Richmond, Charles City, James City and Henrico County. All 57 miles of the multi-use Capital Trail are fully paved. The urban setting also offers trail amenities including trail-front restaurants and accommodations.

James River Heritage Trail

James River Heritage Trail runs nine miles around the town of Lynchburg VA. Sites include both wildlife along the James River and downtown Lynchburg.

Washington & Old Dominion Trail

The 45 mile Washington & Old Dominion trail follows the Washington and Old Dominion rail lines from Shirlington to Purcellville. It is located in northern Virginia and includes the city of Arlington.

Virginia State Park Rail Trails

A few other notable rail-trails in Virginia are located in state parks.

High Bridge Trail in High Bridge State Park is 31 miles long. It is open for pedestrians, bikers and horseback riders.

The New River Trail State Park is home to a 57-mile multi-use trail. Riders will cross multiple bridges and ride through a few tunnels. The trail runs parallel to the New River for 39 miles.

Roanoke Canal Trail in Roanoke Rapids NC

The Roanoke Canal Trail is shorter than the other trails highlighted. And it is technically located in North Carolina. But it’s worth an honorable mention since it is only 13 miles south of the Virginia border. It follows the Roanoke Canal for 7.8 miles and the trail surface includes natural areas with tree roots and rocks.

Conclusion Tobacco Heritage Trail

It is not the longest or oldest rail-trail in Virginia. However, the Tobacco Heritage Trail is definitely one of the best bike trails in Virginia.

The trail is still a work in progress and sections that don’t connect and can be confusing. The Tobacco Heritage Trail is worth it. Use our parking guide to go straight to the best trail segments based on your ride preferences.

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tobacco heritage pin

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