A Scenic, Historic Route Through Virginia’s Piedmont
A Virginia Byway
Snickersville Turnpike is one of Loudoun County’s seven Virginia Byways, which were adopted by the General Assembly in 1988. With extraordinary cultural and aesthetic value, these traditional travelways lead to and pass within areas of historical, natural and recreational significance, linking Loudoun's old towns and villages. Starting in Aldie at Route 50, Snickersville Turnpike travels northwest, rolling over foothills and crossing Goose Creek and its tributaries. At Bluemont (formerly Snickersville) the Turnpike climbs to 950 feet and meets Route 7 where it crosses the Blue Ridge through Snickers’ Gap.
When the Iroquois hunted in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, they followed a trail that eventually became the roadbed for Route 734, the Snickersville Turnpike. Over the centuries, many names were given to this meandering byway that rises and falls across the lush Loudoun Valley. Land deeds from the early 1700s refer to it as the Shenandoah Hunting Path. From the late 1700s until the early 1800s it was called the Mountain Road. Still, at various points along the route, people found other names more suited to their purposes, such as the Blue Ridge Road, Colchester Road, the Middle Road and Snickers Gap Road.
By all its names, Snickersville Turnpike has been a setting of great significance to our nation’s history. While still a land surveyor for Lord Fairfax, George Washington traveled this road over Snickers Gap and often spent the night along the Shenandoah River, where Edward Snickers kept an inn and operated a ferry.
Increased commercial traffic in the early 1800s put an extra burden on the road, and during its 1809-10 General Assembly, the Commonwealth of Virginia created a system of privately owned toll-roads or “turnpikes”, and appropriated $20,000 to build the 13.75 mile Snickersville Turnpike. As late as 1915, a toll booth was still in operation on top of the Blue Ridge at Snickers Gap.
Many Civil War skirmished took place along the full length of the turnpike, where both Union and Confederate troops covered Snickers and Ashby’s Gaps, while troops lead by Robert E. Lee and “Fighting Joe” Hooker traveled up and down the Shenandoah Valley. Major General J.E.B. Stuart, Brigadier General Alfred Pleasonton, and John Mosby with his Rangers were prominent figures in Loudoun Valley’s Civil War action.
The War took its toll on the turnpike. The Goose Creek Bridge was burned, and after the war, only the westernmost five miles were in a condition to merit payment for passage.
A Surviving Culture
Many of the houses and other buildings along the Turnpike predated the Civil War. Some houses were set up as hospitals during the war, others served as inns. At the turn of the century, parts of Snickersville Turnpike enjoyed a thriving tourist trade. The architecture along the road spans all periods, including early stone and log construction, classic Victorian farmhouses, post-Depression cottages and contemporary structures.
Today, Snickersville Turnpike is home to people from a diversity of backgrounds and occupations. Farm vehicles move along the road from field to field. Cattle and horses graze in pastures quilted with trees, streams, board fences, and century-old stone walls. Commuters stop at country stores for their morning coffee and paper. Cyclists and motor clubs enjoy the scenery on weekends. A community of walkers, runners and horseback riders share the road daily.
Proving a strong sense of place for Loudouners and carrying travelers across one of America’s most beautiful landscapes, Snickersville Turnpike supports today’s lifestyles while allowing echoes of the past to resound among the hills.