The World's Shortest Tunnel, Backbone Rock, TN
Backbone Rock street sign, Shady Valley street sign

Backbone Rock



Backbone Rock Recreation Area in Cherokee National Forest

bb-content-2bb-contentA short 10 minute drive outside of Damascus, Virginia is Backbone Rock Recreation  Area.  Backbone Rock is a solid pillar of rock which is a part of Holston Mountain.  The ridge is surrounded by a bend in Beaverdam Creek, flowing directly below Backbone Rock.  The creek offers excellent fishing and swimming.  The rock is home to what is called “the shortest tunnel in the world.”  In the early 1900′s, when the harvesting of timber was the primary industry of Damascus and the surrounding areas, a 20 foot long hole had to be blasted through the rock to accommodate the railroad.  After the hole was created and the track was laid, the narrow gauge railroad engine’s smoke stack could not pass through the tunnel.  The top of the tunnel had to be hand chiseled to resolve the problem, creating an arch in the fin around ten yards thick.  This arch is clearly visible today and makes the short tunnel a very interesting site.

The highest parts of Backbone Rock rise over 100 feet above the ground.  This short day trip is an excellent adventure (and easily accessible if you are able to walk up a large set of stairs) just minutes away from Damascus.

The Backbone Rock Recreation Area offers hiking, rappelling, camping, and fishing, including a hike with one trail leading across the top of the rock and another trail taking you to the beautiful 45 foot high Backbone Falls.  There are rustic but clean bathroom facilities at Backbone Rock managed by the US Forest Service.  Backbone Rock Recreation Area is a part of the Cherokee National Forest, a large National Forest created in 1920 encompassing over 655,000 acres.