Top 10 Ways to Have the Best Summer Ever in Lee County

Cowan Mill by Harold Jarrell

We’re knocking on summer’s door, which means it’s time to make a plan to wring out every drop of fun that we can.

Parents have 18 summers with their children; each summer has roughly 10 weeks. What memories are you creating for your children in the time you have left with them at home? Make this summer one of the best ever with this “top 10” list to #experienceleeco.

1. Sittin’ On Top of the World :: Lace up the hiking shoes and grab a sturdy stick, day pack, bottles of water, and a picnic for a challenging, rewarding climb to Sand Cave and White Rocks in Cumberland Gap National Park.

headstand.white rocks.kendra keaton
A handstand at White Rocks. Image by Kendra Keating.

An 8.2-mile trek with an elevation change of more than 1600 feet, the quest to reach White Rocks Overlook is not for the casual hiker. Ascending switchbacks, post-rain puddles, loose gravel, and a crevice climb are required hurdles before the Overlook is achieved. Indeed, this is a great adventure for families with teens, couples, or a group of adventurous friends. The views of the Powell River Valley are tremendous and unforgettable. It’s the perfect senior year send-off or place to pop the question.

2. Declare War :: Held annually in May at Wilderness Road State Park, The Raid at Martin’s Station is a unique reenactment of history found nowhere else in Virginia. Portraying the clash between the Cherokee and the frontier militia, it’s a glimpse of westward migration and the ensuing conflict with Native Americans because of it.

Wilderness Road State Park is 393 acres with the reconstructed Martin’s Station Fort and Karlan Mansion being focal points for any visit. The Fort is an outdoor living history museum depicting the 1775 Virginia frontier while the Mansion is an 1870s fixture popular for weddings, reunions, and meetings.

3. Toe-Tappin’ Time :: The Lee Theatre is a recently renovated 1940s treasure showcasing film and live entertainment in Pennington Gap. Having become the hub of the community, it’s a gathering place for great times and great memories.

Kentucky Sunshine Trio at Lee Theatre.

In June, The Lee is part of the Mountains of Music Homecoming, an eight-day event spanning more than 50 communities and putting a spotlight on the culture of the region. See Blue Highway, voted the Favorite Bluegrass Artist of All Time by readers of Bluegrass Today in April 2016. They’ll take the Lee Theatre stage at 7 p.m. on June 17.

4. Just a Swingin’ :: If you love the nostalgia of an old swinging bridge, Lee County is a great place to have that feeling wash over you again (and introduce it to someone you love). A drive down Swinging Bridge Road is a must. Take a count of how many you can find crossing the Powell River, but be mindful of trespassing on those that aren’t publicly accessible. Capture photos to retell your story to the next generation, as unfortunately, bridges can be washed away. PRO TIP: The most popular swinging bridges are in Cooney Hollow and Harris Hollow.

5. Lest We Forget :: The Veteran’s Memorial Wall is the centerpiece of the 23-acre Cumberland Bowl Park in Jonesville. Dedicated on Memorial Day weekend, 2003, the granite memorial bares the names of 197 soldiers who valiantly gave their lives to protect our freedom in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. The back side of the wall includes the names of those who fought but were spared.

Cumberland Bowl Park is a beautiful place to reflect on the past, look to the future, and live in the now.

Veteran’s Memorial Wall

Another memorial worth the stop to pay respect to the heritage of the region is the St. Charles Coal Miner’s Memorial. It’s a simple memorial honoring the hardworking residents of Lee County who lost their lives while providing for their families. Nearby, evidence of the one-time coal boom are still present with the still-standing Bonny Blue and Monarch tipples.

6. Selfies & Selfeets :: Have a little fun! Adventure around in search of great #selfie spots (or show where your feet are with a #selfeet) in Lee County!heritagerockface

Look closely and you’ll see it above Highway 421 about one mile north of Pennington Gap. The face in the stone is aptly named “Stone Face Rock,” and as legend has it, it was carved by the Cherokee to honor their chief. For a #selfie with Stone Face Rock, pull off at the old Stone Face Food Mart. P.S. There is also a swinging bridge over Wallen Creek in that vicinity.

One of the most beautiful photos you can add to your collection is sunset at Cowan Mill in Ewing. Need proof? It’s one of (if not the most) photographed sites in all of Lee County, but it is on private property and your utmost respect is appreciated. Cowan Mill was a working gristmill built in 1890. Indian Creek pouring over the dam provides a stunning #selfie backdrop.

Cave Springs Overlook is a destination on a loop trail at Cave Springs Recreation Area in Jefferson National Forest. Anchored by one of the largest campgrounds in JNF, a jaunt out to the overlook and back is easy but rewarding and includes access to Stone Mountain Trail, should you want to venture up and out a little farther.

7. Kick the Dust Up :: Looking to get a little rugged? Whip up some mud and leave a lasting impression when you tackle the Stone Mountain ATV Trail, the “blue and black” of the Spearhead Trails collection.

Built with intermediate to advanced technical riders in mind, the Stone Mountain Trail boasts extraordinary views, including nine overlooks and opportunities to picnic along the way. Carefully choose your path; black trails are for advanced riders only. A day pass wristband or annual pass helmet sticker is required to ride and can be purchased online at There are no tours or ATV rentals available at Stone Mountain.

Stone Mountain ATV 2
Stone Mountain ATV Trail. Photo by Sam Dean / Virginia Tourism Corporation.

8. Float the Day Away :: The Powell River is an 80-mile stretch of river originating in Wise County, flowing through Lee County and into Tennessee that supports schools of smallmouth bass, redbreast sunfish, rock bass, and more.

bo Seals Powell River
Powell River. Photo by Bo Seals.

While the fishing is good, perhaps the floating and paddling is even better. Slide in near a bridge, as that’s the only “public access” on the river. The entire 68 miles of Powell River frontage through Lee County is private property.

9. Play Me Some Mountain Music :: Wayne’s Place is the only place you should be on a Friday night in Lee County. The atmosphere is electric with good people, good food, and good music. New to flat-footing? Let a sweet Southern gent show you a thing or two while legit Appalachian tunes ring out. You’ll find Wayne’s Place in Hubbard Springs.

10. St-r-r-e-t-ch Summer to October :: One of Lee County’s biggest events of the year is held annually the fourth Saturday of October. The Lee County Tobacco Festival is Virginia’s oldest tobacco festival, dating to 1949, and has drawn recent musical talents like Marty Stuart. Kids get a kick out of the pepper eating contest while the older bunch of kids enjoy the antique tractor exhibit, car cruise-in, and street vendors. The Tobacco Festival’s parade is always a hit and is Lee County’s oldest parade. A special summer-stretching trip to the mountains is definitely in order just to experience this event.

Have a blast and #experienceleeco this summer!

This article was sponsored by Lee County Tourism.
Image of Cowan Mill by Mr. Harold Jarrell.

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