Virginia’s Historic Trails

When the pavement ends, the travel by gravel fun begins.

Douglas Graham Douglas Graham / WLP

Willisville Road

UNITED STATES – November 12, 2018: Fora Hillman of Bloomfield, Va., drives her welsh pony along Willisville Road in Western Loudoun County. (Photo By Douglas Graham/WLP)

Some historic treasures don’t fit inside a museum. Take the 300 miles of gravel roadways that wind through Loudoun County’s pastures and ridges. “These are the same paths traveled by early colonists, Revolutionary War soldiers, and George Washington when he surveyed the Shenandoah Valley,” says Douglas Graham, an award-winning photojournalist who is among those spearheading their preservation. “They represent the beginning of the rural economy of the United States, and they are worth saving.”

Graham and a team of volunteers formed America’s Routes to save the back roads and their living history, a challenging mission in Loudoun, where development has already paved over many of these historic roadways.

America’s Routes encourages people to experience Loudoun’s gravel roads, whether by hoof, foot, bike, or car. Says Beth Erickson, CEO of Visit Loudoun, “These roads force us to slow down and connect with the history, villages, farms, wineries, and breweries that make Loudoun so special.”

This article originally appeared in the December 2021 issue.

Jill Devine
I’m a Northern Virginia-based freelance writer specializing in human interest stories and business profiles.
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