Clifton Forge and Hot Springs have been crowned among the best adventure towns in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions.

Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine has named the winners of its annual Top Adventure Towns Contest.

For the second year in a row, Clifton Forge was the winner in the best small town category, while Hot Springs topped the list of tiny small towns.

The winners were selected by online votes over a five-week period. The voting opened Sept. 23. The winners were announced in the November-December edition of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine. 

Clifton Forge topped runners-up Thurmont, Md., and Abingdon in voting. Hot Springs bested St. Paul and  Damascus in the tiny town voting.

Blue Ridge Outdoors describes Clifton Forge as an  old railroad town that is working with Alleghany County to capitalize on its location to draw visitors to the area.

The magazine urges its readers to visit the 80-foot Falling Spring waterfall along U.S. Route 220 north of Covington and  to walk, run, or bike the Jackson River Scenic Trail. The magazine also makes note of Humpback Bridge, the oldest covered bridge of its kind in the United States.

“I think people are beginning to realize this is not a forgotten railroad town,” said Clifton Forge resident Joan Vannorsdall in a post on Blue Ridge Outdoor’s website.

Vannorsdall, who represents Clifton Forge on the Alleghany County Board of Supervisors, said: “This is a town where people have put a good chunk of money into, for example, the Jackson River Scenic Trail. It’s a place where parks are being renovated, where you can mountain bike and most likely not see anybody for a while. It’s not crowded, and it’s not commercialized at all.”  

Blue Ridge Outdoors describes Hot Springs as a town “known for the natural mineral springs that bring travelers from all over the world.”

The magazine adds: “With more than 50 percent of Bath County preserved as public lands, there is plenty of open space for the outdoor enthusiast to discover. Hike miles of trails in the George Washington National Forest, ride 40 miles of singletrack at Douthat State Park, one of the commonwealth’s original state parks, or fish the Jackson and Cowpasture River for trout and bass.”

“We’ve lived all over and it’s probably my favorite place that we’ve lived,” wrote Emily Ellis, a recreation manager in the George Washington National Forest. “It’s very simple living up there. If you enjoy the outdoors, you’re in a great location. We have no stoplights in the county. The community is very welcoming. It’s a hidden gem that people haven’t found yet.”

About a year ago, her husband Seth left the forest service to start Bath County’s first craft brewery. An avid mountain biker, he sees Bacova Beer as a hangout for outdoor enthusiasts to gather after a long day outside. 

“I did a ride about a month ago from the brewery in Hot Springs and rode all the way into Covington on I’d say 95 percent singletrack backcountry trails,” he said. 

Most of the trails in Bath County are connected through the national forest.

“I’ve ridden all over the country, across the Southeast and Southwest, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah,” Seth added. “The stuff here rivals anything in the country in terms of user experience. The feeling of remoteness in the backcountry I think is really unparalleled from any place I’ve ridden before.” 

For 23 years, Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine has served as a guide to outdoor sports and adventure travel in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. The magazine is distributed every month from Baltimore to Atlanta.

The top Mid-Sized Town was Woodstock, Ga., while Roanoke was the Top Large Town.


Clifton Forge and Hot Springs have been named Top Adventure Towns by Blue Ridge Outdoors. For the second straight year, Clifton Forge tops the list of Best Small Town, while Hot Springs was named the Top Tiny Town. Winners were chosen by online voting that started Sept. 23. The winners were announced in the November-December edition of the magazine. (Photo Courtesy Blue Ridge Outdoors)