Overview & FAQs
The Blue Ridge Tunnel was constructed between 1850 and 1858 beneath Rockfish Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains of central Virginia. CSX Transportation generously donated the tunnel to Nelson County in 2007.
Nelson County’s ongoing restoration efforts date to 2001. Recognizing the regional value and scope of the project, the county established the nonprofit Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel Foundation in 2012. The group includes public officials from the counties of Nelson, Albemarle, and Augusta and the city of Waynesboro. Interested private citizens and organizations from across central Virginia have also joined in. This partnership continues to grow as participants work together toward reopening of the Blue Ridge Tunnel. They envision the passage as a major recreational and historical amenity and an economic initiative that will further strengthen the area’s thriving tourism industry.
The Blue Ridge Tunnel restoration project is perfectly positioned to function as a key part of a greenway system that connects the counties of Albemarle, Nelson, and Augusta. Located at the threshold between the Shenandoah Valley and the Virginia Piedmont, the tunnel can serve as a recreational gateway between these two historic regions. The tunnel is also strategically located at the convergence of the southern entrance of Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive, the northern entrance of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Appalachian Trail, and U. S. Bicycle Route 76. Both Interstate 64 and U. S. 250 cross over the tunnel at Rockfish Gap.
Traveling through the long, dark tunnel will be a stirring experience for a variety of visitors from across the Commonwealth and beyond: hikers and cyclists of every level, wildlife watchers, history enthusiasts, railroad buffs, heritage tourists, school children on field trips, and nearby residents. The project will bring an abandoned and increasingly vandalized resource back to life for a new generation. Restoration of the tunnel as a trail for public enjoyment and education is an idea that practically sells itself.
Where are the tunnel entrances?
The eastern entrance is near Afton, a village in Nelson County, Virginia. The western entrance is near the city of Waynesboro in Augusta County. To ensure public safety and prevent liability, NO public access to either entrance is allowed currently or during the coming reconstruction. This restriction includes the tunnel interior. “No Trespassing” signs are posted on the Nelson County and Augusta County sides of the project. A gate now blocks entrance to the eastern trail parking lot. Violators are subject to prosecution.
What are the dimensions of the tunnel?
Located over 500 feet beneath the ridge at Rockfish Gap, the tunnel was designed to be 16 feet wide at a height of 20 feet above the tracks. It is 4,264 feet long. The shape is a partial ellipse. Most of the tunnel sides and ceiling are raw, exposed rock. One 17-feet portion of the east side is lined with brick up to 6 courses thick to prevent the rock from falling. Approximately 1400 feet of the tunnel is brick-lined on the west side.
When will the Blue Ridge Tunnel restoration be finished?
Nelson County completed Phase 1 of the Blue Ridge Tunnel project in late June 2015. This phase included a substantial completion of the eastern trail, a parking lot, and fencing along the trail as a barrier to the active rail line next to it. Phases 2 and 3 will complete restoration of the tunnel and final construction of trailheads and trails to the east portal and west portal. If Phase 3 becomes fully funded, the entire project could be completed in 2017 or 2018.
Will the tunnel be lit?
There are no plans to light the tunnel. Upon completion of Phase 3, walkers and bikers are urge to bring headlamps and/or flashlights to aid their vision.