Adjacent to Damascus, Virginia, and located in Cherokee National Forest in Johnson County is a man-made tunnel known as Backbone Rock. In this hiking resource guide, we’ll talk about why the shortest tunnel in the world is a fun and easy hike for nearly all skill levels.
We will also provide everything you need to know about preparing for and navigating your way through this incredible landscape.
Backbone Rock is a unique and stunning natural area that offers visitors a chance to connect with nature and explore the beauty of Virginia.
Keep reading to learn more about the shortest tunnel in the whole world!
Backbone Rock: The Shortest Tunnel In The World
Backbone Rock is a natural area located in southwest Virginia and is known for its stunning beauty and unique geological formations.
One of the main features of the area is the Backbone Rock, a large, narrow rock formation that rises over 100 feet above the surrounding terrain.
The rock is believed to have formed over millions of years as sedimentary layers were pushed up by geological forces.
Today, the rock is a popular spot for rock climbing and offers amazing views of the surrounding area.
“A tunnel was drilled through the rock in 1901 to allow railroad access between Shady Valley and Damascus, VA. Motorists pass through what is known as “The Shortest Tunnel in the World” as they travel along TN 133. In the 1930s The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) developed the recreation area for day use, constructing two picnic shelters and hiking trails that incorporated native stonework. The campground was added in the 1960s and rehabilitated in the mid 1990s.”USDA Forest Service
Backbone Rock is a beautiful and unique natural area that offers visitors a chance to explore Virginia’s stunning natural beauty.
Climbing The Stairs at Backbone Rock
Climbing the stairs at Backbone Rock can be a unique and exhilarating experience for visitors.
The stairs are a man-made structure that was built into the rock face, and they provide a steep and challenging ascent to the top of the rock formation.
We only had a short time, so we parked to the left of the road just before passing under Backbone Rock. We quickly located the staircase located behind the parking area and began our climb to the top.
Avid hikers may not consider this much of a hike because the staircase and bridges make it relatively accessible to most people.
However, it can be slippery! Use caution especially if you have children with you.
Virginia Nature at Backbone Rock
While there isn’t a sweeping vista at the top of the staircase, if you love to be outdoors and enjoy the beauty of nature, you won’t be disappointed.
The area is home to a variety of plant and animal species, including several species of rare and endangered plants.
The forests are also home to several species of birds and the streams and waterfalls in the area are home to several species of fish, including brook trout and smallmouth bass.
Visitors to Backbone Rock can explore the area on several hiking trails, including the Backbone Rock Trail and the Appalachian Trail.
View From The Top
After reaching the top, there is a bridge to cross to Backbone Rock. The road running underneath the tunnel is visible from this vantage point.
I recall a time when the fence wasn’t here, but I definitely concur with the decision to install it! Yikes!!
The view from the top of Backbone Rock is simply breathtaking. Visitors are treated to panoramic views of the surrounding forest and mountains.
Climbing to the top can be challenging, but the reward of the stunning views is well worth the effort.
Beaverdam Creek-Backbone Rock
The view from the ground is equally lovely. Beaverdam Creek is stocked with trout so bring your pole, catch dinner, and grill some fish on one of the outdoor grills.
Shady Valley, TN
Shady Valley, Tennessee is one of the loveliest areas in Northeast Tennessee. The day-use area includes picnic shelters and tables, outdoor grills, and bathroom facilities. There is also a small campground nearby with 10 campsites.
Whether you are here for a few hours or a few days, you will fall in love with the beautiful Shady Valley, Tennessee.
Here are a few guides to help you out should you decide to stay for more than a few hours.
- Guide for the Best one-man tents for backpackers
- Guide for the best family camping tents
- Camping in Tennessee
- ATV Riding at Doe Mountain
- Hiking in the nearby Shenandoah National Park.
Fun & Cool Hiking Clothes
Download Our FREE Spring Packing List for the Smokies!
Related Hiking Resources
More Recommended Resources
Now that it’s camping season, bring the kids and check out these fun and educational things to do with kids in the Smoky Mountains!
And if you’re looking for more fun games for the kids at the campground, download these camping scavenger hunt printables that will make them enjoy camping more.