Riding Virginia's SR-42

Cruising through Virginia's beautiful countryside

Feast your eyes on the rolling hills of Virginia.
Feast your eyes on the rolling hills of Virginia.Michael Abraham

From outer space, the mountains of Western Virginia resemble petrified waves crashing onto an unsuspecting shore. In the west is a roiling sea, giving way to organized ridges in the east and finally to the breaker that is the Blue Ridge. In between are troughs—a series of valleys—the easternmost hosting Interstate 81 and its string of small cities. In the next valley to the west, on a broken, irregular, and secluded path, is Virginia State Route 42.

Formed into five separate pieces in 1929, today SR-42 is still in three pieces, the only true discontinuous route in existence in Virginia. Its remoteness, scenic beauty, cue-ball-smooth pavement, and dearth of traffic make it an unforgettable, hidden gem.

Quaint little towns speckle the rolling hills that surround SR-42.
Quaint little towns speckle the rolling hills that surround SR-42.Michael Abraham

Start your journey at the southwestern terminus near Saltville, a historic town that was one of the Confederacy’s main saltworks. From there, it’s a 65-mile jaunt through pastoral Appalachian woods and farmland to the first discontinuation at Poplar Hill. Along the way, I usually make the quick detour to the BW General Store and lookout, from whose tower atop Big Walker Mountain you can see five states.

Taking a cruise through Virginia promises beautiful tree-lined routes.
Taking a cruise through Virginia promises beautiful tree-lined routes.Michael Abraham

The middle and shortest section, from Newport to New Castle, is pure motorcycling nirvana; 30 miles of mountain and farm views that even the locals find extraordinarily beautiful.

The northeastern section is the longest, running from rail-town Clifton Forge through Harrisonburg, the corridor’s only city, to Woodstock, in the heart of the famed Shenandoah Valley. On this busier but still scenic section, don’t be surprised to encounter the horse-drawn cart of a local Mennonite.

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Michael Abraham is author of Harmonic Highways, Motorcycling Virginia's Crooked Road.