Adventure Us: Paint Bank
One of the best local options for a family day trip is the scenic little town of Paint Bank, located northwest of Roanoke just shy of the West Virginia border.
The trip from Roanoke to Paint Bank can be beautiful or harrowing, depending on the weather! The country byway Rt 311 winds through the pleasant valley of Craig County and over two mountain ridges, Catawba and Potts Mountain. Multiple overlooks on both mountains give sweeping views of the valleys below. However, check the weather forecast before starting out on a winter drive!
Finally, as you descend into Paint Bank, begin your adventure with a stop at the fish hatchery. This hatchery, which sources 90% of the brook trout used to stock Virginia’s waters (as well as brown and rainbow trout), offers a unique window into the process of trout raising. Feed the fish from the dispensaries (bring a stash of quarters!) and watch the trout in their different stages of development in the various concrete raceways.
When you’re cold, bundle back in the car and head down the road to the town. Paint Bank, little more than a few buildings and one intersection, is a unique mix of history, backcountry, and rustic charm. The Paint Bank General Store offers a variety of groceries, locally produced goods, and old-fashioned treats. The dime candy sticks and scorpion lollipops are our kids’ favorite!
The General Store grounds offer another opportunity for fun. Behind the store you’ll find Tinglers’ Mill, a restored colonial-era gristmill with a working water wheel. Feel free to wander into the mill building if it’s open, examine the old equipment, and read the historical signs. Just upstream, the small mill pond is full of trout and frogs.
Another aspect of the area’s history lies across the road in the Depot Lodge. Built in 1909, this was the train depot at the end of the Potts Valley spur line of the Norfolk and Western Railway. In those days, Paint Bank was a mining and logging town. The trains stopped running in the Depression era, but today you can stay overnight in a number of beautifully restored structures – the depot, the foreman’s cottage, a restored N&W caboose, or even a vintage Airstream RV!
Your Paint Bank adventures aren’t quite over! Turn left onto Rt 600 and head down the valley, enjoying the views of the rolling farmland and the beautiful mountain ridges. Be on the lookout, because just a mile or two down the road, in the pastures of the Hollow Hill Farm, you’ll see the herds of buffalo that supply the Swinging Bridge Restaurant. These gentle, mangy beasts are definitely worth a photo! If you have more time and are in the mood for a hike, continue down the road, turn right at Rt 15 (Limestone Hill Rd), and climb the mountain ridge to Hanging Rock Observatory in West Virginia for some really stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
Finally, when you’re done with all your exploring, get warm and cozy inside the Swinging Bridge Restaurant in back of the General Store. Enjoy the fresh, delicious buffalo burgers and steaks, browse the gift shop upstairs with its real swinging bridge, and admire the mounted animals!
One last note. If you’re wondering about how the town acquired its odd name, the answer lies with the red clay dug out of Potts Creek. The clay was used by the American Indians for war paint and pottery, and later by the colonists for bricks and paint.
Get away and spend a day enjoying the beauty, history, and country charm of Paint Bank and the surrounding mountains!
Name: Paint Bank, VA 24131
Time from Roanoke: 1 hour
Activity Options: Fish hatchery, historic buildings, mountain scenery, folksy gift shopping, nearby hiking
Nearby Food: Swinging Bridge Restaurant, Kitchen Creek Bakery and Cheese ‘n’ More (Gap Mills, WV)
Nearby Attractions: Hanging Rock Observatory (WV), Hanging Rock Overlook (Potts Mountain, VA)
More Adventure Us
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- Adventure Us: Paint Bank
- Adventure Us: Museum of Natural History
- Adventure Us: Rocky Knob and Mabry Mill
- Adventure Us: Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory
- Adventure Us: Hinchee Park Part 2