(Bland, Carroll, Grayson, Smyth, Tazewell, and Wythe Counties and the City of Galax)
The Central Zone features, to the south, the highest mountains in Virginia (culminating in the 5,729-foot Mount Rogers), while the northern portion (in Tazewell County) falls within the realm of Central Appalachia’s coalfields region; in between lies a broad valley where Interstate 81 now carries the nation’s travelers parallel to the Wilderness Road that carried them over 200 years ago. Running north and south through the heart of the Central Zone is Interstate 77 providing another means of highway access to Southwest Virginia. Lovely stretches of the scenic New River meander through this zone also. Mount Rogers and nearby Whitetop Mountain (elev. 5,518 feet) are known as the “rooftop” of Virginia and are the only places in Virginia high enough to be crowned with a forest of red spruce trees more commonly found in Canadian forests. The Central Zone is home to three Crooked Road Major Venues: the Blue Ridge Music Center (along the Blue Ridge Parkway); the Rex Theater (in Galax); and the annual Old Fiddler’s Convention (likewise in Galax) presented every year since 1935 by the Galax Moose Lodge. Ernest “Pop” Stoneman and the legendary Stoneman Family made their home near Galax and played a dominant role in the beginnings of recorded country music. Affiliated venues and festivals featuring heritage music are plentiful in this zone as well. Sites of historical and cultural significance in the Central Zone include: the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum, the former First Lady of the US (in Wytheville); Ripshin, the home of influential American novelist Sherwood Anderson (in Grayson County); the Carroll County Courthouse, site of a famous and deadly 1912 courthouse shootout (in Hillsville); the Saltville Battlefields Historic District, a Civil War site (in Saltville); Austinville, the home town of Texas founder Stephen F. Austin; as well as the workshops of such renowned musical instrument luthiers as Wayne Henderson (in Grayson County). Also found within the Central Zone are several popular recreational sites, such as Mount Rogers National Recreation Area (occupying more than one county); the New River Trail State Park (beginning in Fries); the aptly-titled “Back of the Dragon Motorcycle Trail” (Virginia State Route 16, between Marion and Tazewell); the 100-feet-high observation tower on Big Walker Mountain, Big Walker Lookout (in Wythe County); and the upland valley known as Burke’s Garden, a distinctive geological area (in Tazewell County).