You can zip through Big Walker Mountain in about 50 seconds when you take the tunnel on Interstate 77. But if you have a few thousand seconds to spare, consider taking the scenic route over the mountain. Along the way, you’ll find Big Walker Lookout, a tourist attraction and souvenir shop, and a nice hiking trail nearby.
Big Walker Lookout is located at the top of Big Walker Mountain, on US 52. If you’re north of the mountain, take I-77 exit 52, and head south on US 52. If you’re south of the mountain, take exit 47, and follow VA-717 west to US 52, then drive up the mountain.
It’s worth noting that US 52 provides a nice scenic alternative to Interstate 77 throughout Virginia.
It was certainly not the perfect day to drive up to Big Walker Lookout, but I had some time to kill before finishing my travels for the night. It’s a nice, scenic drive up to the top of the mountain, but when it’s raining and dreary, it’s not quite as nice. That must be why there was almost no one else at the country store at Big Walker Lookout when I arrived.
Big Walker Lookout
From the parking lot, you have a nice view of the mountains looking south towards Wytheville. If that view isn’t good enough…
… you can pay a few dollars to visit an even better viewpoint. Make sure you wear your Fitbit to get credit for the 100- foot stair scramble to the top.
Big Walker Lookout was once an even bigger tourist attraction. A faded sign on the side of the store suggests you take the Scenic Sky Ride. It was a ski lift-type ride that took you across the road and up the hill to another viewpoint. The Sky Ride has been gone for quite some time.
But, if you’re looking for another viewpoint, you can take a short hike through the woods. I just happened to notice a tiny sign that promised “Monster Rock” was just 1/4 of a mile away. How could I have passed up a place called “Monster Rock”?
The short hike through the woods, on a rainy, cloudy day, was quite mystical. The clouds were so low, it was foggy as I made my way up the lonely trail.
I suppose it was about a quarter-mile when I came upon this sign, instructing me to detour about a hundred feet off the main trail. I’m guessing the overlook was on top of Monster Rock.
It was, indeed, a very nice overlook. You can see miles and miles of farmland, stretching out towards the next mountain in the distance.
I’m pretty sure this view looks towards the north, so that’s probably East River Mountain in the distance — the boundary between Virginia and West Virginia.
After enjoying the overlook for a few minutes, all alone in the misty forest, I hiked back down to the car. But as I left Big Walker Lookout, I noticed a dirt road with a sign that promised an overlook, or picnic area, or something. I thought it sounded interesting enough, so I turned down Walker Mountain Road.
It was about four bumpy miles before I arrived at what turned out to be a picnic area. That dirt road is in poor condition, and I was glad I had a high-clearance vehicle.
From the parking area, the Big Bend Picnic Area was a bit further up a trail (just a minute or two of hiking).
I’m not sure why anyone would make the long drive up the mountain, then endure the gut-jostling ride out the dirt road, just to eat a picnic here. Sure, there’s a clearing in the woods, with a few fire pits and picnic tables…
… and sort-of a view, but you can’t really see much. It’s lonely and feels abandoned, and I definitely didn’t think it was worth the effort to drive out there.
Not far from the picnic area, there are some broadcasting towers. I drove up to them, as well, thinking there might be a better view, but there wasn’t.
I still had some time to kill before sunset, so I planned my strategy as I headed down the hill, back towards Wytheville, to complete the loop back to Interstate 77.
Here’s a look at the drive from Wytheville up to Big Walker Lookout
The Bottom Line
The scenic drive on US 52 up to Big Walker Lookout is great. The country store at the top of the mountain is nice, and the observation tower would be fun on a nicer day. I’d also recommend the hike to Monster Rock, if you’re in the mood for a walk in the woods. But, I’d suggest you skip the drive out to the Big Bend Picnic Area on Walker Mountain Road.