Although turnpikes were built primarily to facilitate trade, many routes within western Virginia were improved to support recreation. Warm Springs Mountain Turnpike provided access to the Warm Springs and Hot Springs area, home of natural mineral springs. These two small community springs were part of the region known as the "Virginia Springs", a popular tourist attraction among the residents of pre- and post-Civil War Virginia. At the height of its popularity, Warm Springs hosted such notables as Thomas Jefferson and Robert E. Lee.
Although the mineral waters were known to Williamsburg residents as early as 1716, the first bath house was built in Warm Springs in 1761. The 120-foot diameter octagonal structure still stands today, located just north of the Bath County Courthouse in Warm Springs. By 1800, more than a dozen local springs were collectively known as the Virginia Springs, including Warm Springs, Hot Springs, Healing Springs, White Sulphur Springs, Blue Springs, Salt Sulphur Springs, Red Sulphur Springs, Sweet Springs, and several others. Each spring was believed to have curative powers over specific organs of the body. The Warm Springs pools were said to be especially effective in the treatment of liver and bowel disorders.
The springs were especially popular with the upper class, as a visit required considerable investment of time and travel expenses. The combination of distance and mountainous terrain made the trip a hazardous journey. Once at the springs, most people agreed that a minimum stay of three weeks was required for the waters to have a curative effect.