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Off-season, or a diamond in the rough

Hiding, less than an hour north of Johnson County, at 3,600 feet elevation, Hidden Valley Lake in VA, is a
beautiful spot to visit all season. The lake is just one of many nearby locations where outdoor enthusiasts
can find what nature offers. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

By Tamas Mondovics


Johnson County and the surrounding region are widely known for their lofty heights, lakes, and trails, offering locals and visitors a breathtaking view of the natural world.
While, for many, ‘off-season’ or winter months may not be the best time for the great outdoors, it does not mean the region has nothing to offer.
Winter hikes (snow or no snow) on a safe trail can offer beauty seldom seen any other time of the year. Such walks may be ideal for many photographers who hope to catch a composition that has not been seen before.
For those who don’t mind driving a bit further, the opportunities for weekend or day trips are endless.
To the south, the peaks of Grandfather Mountain, in Linville, N.C. offer just about everything the outdoors enthusiasts want. The winter months are no exception. The park also offers some indoor adventures, thanks to the nearly completed Wilson Center for Nature Discovery.
Under construction since fall 2019, the Wilson Center — part of an all-new Conservation Campus — will nearly double the size of the park’s current Nature Museum with 10,000 square feet of education space, including state-of-the-art museum exhibits, three classrooms, restoration of the ADA-accessible auditorium, enhanced food service facilities to allow for catering and serving educational groups, and expanded capacity for hosting conferences, seminars, receptions and community events.
Outside the center, guests will enjoy new outdoor learning spaces, including an amphitheater with terraced seating and a pavilion, as well as a unique botanical garden. In turn, the park will offer an expanded, mile-high slate of programming opportunities for audiences and participants of all ages.
To the west, just north of Abingdon, VA, is Hidden Valley Lake, one of the most beautiful spots to visit, rain, snow, or shine. Hidden Valley Wildlife Management Area is a 6,400-acre Wildlife Management Area in Washington County, Virginia, along its border with Russell County.
The area is open to hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, boating, and primitive camping. The game species include deer, bear, turkey, waterfowl, squirrel, raccoon, bobcat, and grouse. The deer are few and far between, but mature bucks can be found, especially during the rut. Bear are abundant along with bobcats and other furbearers. Turkey and squirrel hunting are very poor, but the area boasts a large grouse population.
To the north of Johnson County is the Creeper trail, one of the most visited in the region, including Whitetop Mountain and Grayson Highlands State Park.
So, don’t hold back from enjoying the natural beauty near and far just because it’s ‘off-season.’ In fact, it may just be the season that will become a ‘diamond in the rough.’