Fall Foliage Driving Tour

Craig County

The Craig County Driving Tour begins in New Castle.

Recommended route:

At Exit 141 on Interstate 81 near Salem, follow Route 311 for 19.2 miles to New Castle. Begin the tour by turning west onto Route 42 in New Castle.

  • On the right corner of Rt. 42 and Rt. 311 is the first of several beautiful old Victorian houses leading out of New Castle. This house was built by Senator George W. Layman in the late 1890’s. Next to it is the New Castle Methodist Church. Across the street, behind the Craig Automotive garage on the left corner of Rt. 42 and Rt. 311, is the oldest home in New Castle. It was Union General David Hunter’s headquarters when his army of 21,000 camped in New Castle June 22-23, 1864. On the right just before starting up the mountain is a lovely Victorian, locally called “the castle”.
  • Two miles up the mountain on the left is the “Lookout” presenting a majestic view of New Castle and four mountain ranges beyond.
  • Rt. 42 continues to climb through a gap between Johns Creek Mountain (where you are now) and Sinking Creek Mountain to the left. Meadow Creek Falls, also called by its older name of Buttermilk Falls, (cannot be seen from the road at the present but an overlook is planned), tumbles nearly 1,000 feet down to Craig Creek on the southern edge of New Castle.
  • Next is Route 624 on the right. Keep going on Rt. 42 about 5 miles from New Castle to the community of “Looney”, so called for the earliest settlers and the post office stores, tan yard, blacksmith shop and harness maker, school and church.
  • Turn right there just before the Chestnut Grove Church (1877), onto Route 645. On the right is the old Looney School (1883 – 1946), restored by the Sam Lowrey family. A tenth of a mile from Rt. 42 on the left is “Mag’s" (Abbott) store.
  • Turn right onto Route 623 and go 1.1 miles to Route 624.
    Turn left on Rt. 624. In about 3 miles is the continental divide where all waters flowing west run into the Gulf of Mexico and all running east flow to the Atlantic Ocean. Here, Sinking Creek runs west and Meadow Creek runs east. On up Rt. 624 about another 2 miles on the left is Mount Carmel Church, built by the Caldwell family in 1899. One tenth of a mile beyond on the right is a big tan house with brown shutters situated against Johns Creek Mountain. This was the home of William “Ad” Caldwell who walked 28 miles from here over the mountain to Blacksburg to enroll as the first student of Virginia Tech, October 1, 1872. His brother “Mick” enrolled as the second student. About three-tenths of a mile on the left is Rt. 625 which leads 2.3 miles back to Rt. 42. At the stop sign, look to the left to find William Addison Caldwell Historical Marker at a two story brick colonial called the "old Wiley" home.
  • Turn right onto Rt. 42. A short drive brings the tour past a U.S. Forest Service road on the left called “Hall Road” which crosses Sinking Creek Mountain to Route 621 on Upper Craig Creek. Next is Sinking Creek Store on the left. About 2 miles beyond on the right are the twin churches, Bethel Christian (1912) and Bethel Methodist (1870).
  • Turn right at the churches onto Rt. 626, which meanders about a mile and a half over Sinking Creek back to Rt. 624. (This point where the tour turns back onto RT. 624 is not quite 3 miles beyond Rt. 625 where the tour cuts back onto Rt. 42.) About 1.5 miles farther west on Rt. 624 is the nearly 100-year-old Trout School on the left. The fields surrounding it served as a fairgrounds in the early 1900’s. On the right is the old Trout home with beautiful maples along the lane. Three tenths of a mile further is the Woodall Blueberry farm. Six tenths further, Rt. 624 ends at Rt. 42.
  • A left turn onto Rt. 42 leads past the old Maywood school 2.5 miles back to the twin churches. Turn right onto Rt. 42 for three miles through Simmonsville which was a very prosperous spot with a store, post office, millinery and blacksmith shop, tan bark house, school, and Gravel Hill Church (1835). Next on the right is the Simmonsville Fire Department.
  • Nine-tenths of a mile further is Route 658 which turns right through Happy Hollow, over Johns Creek side. Coming out of the trees near the bottom of the mountain is a majestic view of land that was cleared by what was the Tri-State Lumber Company. At the bottom of the mountain Rt. 658 runs into Route 632.
  • Turn right onto Rt. 632 and drive less than a mile to “Maggie”, so named after the postmistress, Maggie Tingler. A left turn onto Rt. 658 takes you to the Johns Creek Fire Department and the Forks of Johns Creek Church is located on the right. Staying on Rt. 632, follow Maggie's 9.6 miles of twisting road along beautiful Johns Creek. Rt. 632 and Rt. 658 intersect again.
  • Turn right onto Rt. 658 and travel 4.7 miles to Rt. 311 at the foot of Potts Mountain. Turn right onto Rt. 311 and travel 5 miles over Peter’s Hill and end your tour at the starting point in New Castle.