(Last Updated On: September 30, 2022)
Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park building front side

Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park building front. Photo: Blackoffee, Wikimedia

A Victorian mansion dedicated to Southwest Virginia’s history lies nestled among the Appalachian Mountains mere hours from Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina. This picturesque state park, Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park, has a museum, gardens, picnic areas, live entertainment and access to trails.

The museum’s exhibits showcase the development of Big Stone Gap from the late 1870s and the development of the mining industry, the new railroad and the prominent citizens of the time.


Visit this peaceful Virginia state park and explore the museum, gardens, gift shop and nearby trails. Birdwatch along the river while enjoying a quiet picnic, or pick up a book written by a local author in the gift shop and sit in the beautiful garden to read it.

Whether you spend a few nights at cozy Poplar Hill Cottage or somewhere outside the park you’ll enjoy discovering this area and Big Stone Gap.

Here are some of the other activities that you can do during your visit to Southwest VA Museum Historical State Park:

Victorian Home, Garden & Museum at Southwest VA Museum Historical State Park

The Southwest Virginia Museum is housed inside of a Victorian stone mansion that features an original oak interior. The building was built during the 1890s by Rufus Ayers, a Virginia attorney general.

It features a collection of more than 60,000 pieces plus exhibits that tell the story of SW Virginia’s exploration and development from the 1700s to the late 1800s.

Displays of tools, household furnishings and quilts help to chronicle the pioneer period during the 1700s, when settlers searching for a fresh start arrived from Pennsylvania and Maryland. These exhibits continue on through the coal mining boom of the 1890s.

The museum offers activities for kids, workshops, quilt shows, music festivals and outdoor exhibits. The gift shop on the first floor features Victorian-era and pioneer items, local crafts, books and other souvenirs. You will also find historically themed children’s toys and games here.

The Victorian Parlor is available for special events, large gatherings and business meetings. And the Victorian Garden is perfect for outdoor weddings and picnics. The Southwest Virginia Walk of Fame, a permanent outdoor exhibit at the museum, features renowned Southwest Virginians who have made significant contributions.

Wildlife Viewing at Southwest VA Museum Historical State Park

This small park attracts many birds and other wildlife species because it’s located near a greenbelt area and Powell River. While visiting the Museum’s garden you’ll see songbirds (the museum is an Audubon Bird Sanctuary), squirrels, chipmunks and more.

And while exploring inside the Greenbelt area along the river you’ll notice swans, ducks, mallards, blue heron, bald eagles, hawks, deer, raccoons, otters, turtles, frogs, snakes and salamanders.

Trails Near Southwest VA Museum Historical State Park

  • Bullitt Park’s Greenbelt Trail is within walking distance from the Museum. This paved multi-use trail is a 2.8 mile loop around the city of Big Stone Gap and along the river. While walking you’ll get a chance to see work by local artists and lots of wildlife.
  • Forest Road Trail is another good hike nearby. This 5.1 easy trail leads through the woods to the top of the mountain, passing streams, wildflowers and historical markers (an old fire tower) along the way.
  • Roaring Branch Trail is an 8.8 mile harder hike. It starts near a waterfall and follows a forest trail along the rocky creek and up the mountain to High Butte overlook.

Fishing Near Southwest VA Museum Historical State Park

Lake Keokee has catfish, bass, sunfish and bluegill and nearby Powell River also has bass and catfish plus muskie and sunfish. There is limited public access on the Powell River so be sure to request permission to access the river from private land owners.

Also be sure to pick up a Virginia freshwater fishing license ahead of time.

Lodging at Southwest VA Museum Historical State Park

Poplar Hill Cottage is the park’s only accommodation for overnight guests. Eight people can sleep comfortably in this 3 bedroom garden-themed cottage located in historic Poplar Hill.

The cozy cottage is fully furnished and has a full kitchen, 2 baths and a large living room area with pull-out sofa bed. You will need to bring your own linens and towels.

If this cottage is fully booked or you’d rather stay in a hotel or campground there are several options for each nearby. Here are a couple:

  • Quality Inn – 4609 Aerial Way, Big Stone Gap

    Comfortable rooms, free breakfast and an indoor pool only 1.6 miles from Southwest VA Museum State Park.

  • Appalachian Mountain Cabins – 126 Appalachian Dr, Duffield

    Fully furnished cabins 10 miles from the Museum and close to Natural Tunnel State Park.

  • Jessie Lea RV Park & Campground – 900 Wood Ave W, Big Stone Gap

    Riverside campground .6 miles away from the Museum.

Pets at Southwest VA Museum Historical State Park

Pets are allowed inside the park but must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet or in an enclosed area. There’s an additional fee per pet per night for Poplar Hill Cottage.

Please clean up after your pet and do not leave them unattended at any time.

Attractions Near Southwest VA Museum Historical State Park

  • Visit Big Stone Gap for shopping, dining, history, trails and more outdoor entertainment.
  • Natural Tunnel State Park
  • Wilderness Road State Park

Park Location

Southwest VA Museum Historical State Park
10 W 1st St N
Big Stone Gap, VA 24219
Phone: 276.523.1322




Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Southwest VA Museum Historical State Park: