Virginia Hiking Options
With hopes of a beautiful weekend ahead, here are a few Virginia hiking options for those looking to spend their time on the trail.
Crabtree Falls is the highest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River. At a total height of 1,200 feet, it has a series of five cascades. Just one-half mile beyond Crabtree Overlook is the Appalachian Trail. Rated as a moderately strenuous hike; 2.5 mile in length, about an hour from Lynchburg.
Blue Ridge Railway Trail
Open from sunrise to sunset, this trail follows a railroad bed along the Tye River. Handicapped accessible. Less strenuous two miles – will be seven miles when finished. About 45 minutes from Lynchburg.
Blackwater Creek Natural Area
A great place for walking, hiking, biking, and horseback riding; along the trail are local Lynchburg landmarks, including Percival’s Island and Point of Honor. Rated as a less strenuous hike, twelve miles in overall length.
Cold Mountain is the best spot in Central Virginia for 360-degree views of Mount Pleasant, Pompey Mountain, and the meadows in between. The top of the mountain is cleared, allowing for this unlimited view. For a shorter hike of 1.2 miles, one can hike the white-blazed AT (across the road from the parking lot) directly up the mountain). For a longer, 5.8-mile hike that also includes Cow Camp Gap as well as some great campsites, take the blue-blazed hotel trail (also across the road from the parking lot) to the AT, and then hike north back up to Cold Mountain and eventually the parking lot.
The Devil’s Marbleyard, located on the Belfast Trail, is an eight-acre boulder field in the James River Face Wilderness Area. The formation provides great climbing fun and great views at elevations between 1,500-2,000 feet. The Belfast Trail has some steep points but mostly inclines gradually up to the boulders. The trail itself is 2.8 miles round trip. Beware of twisted ankles and bruised knees while climbing on the “devil’s marbles.”
Appalachian Trail Suggestions
From Petite’s Gap to the James River (Northbound)
This hike begins at Petite’s Gap, just off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The first mile follows along a ridge and is uphill, while the other nine miles continue downhill towards the James River at Snowden, VA. A side trip can also be taken from the trail to the Devil’s Marbleyard. This ten-mile hike provides gorgeous views of the James River and the James River Face National Wilderness. The hike ends by crossing over the James River on the longest footbridge in Virginia. To make this a one-way hike, take at least two vehicles and leave one at each end.
From Punchbowl Shelter to the James River (Southbound)
The Appalachian Trail, from Punchbowl Shelter to the James River (Southbound), is a gorgeous trail that journeys through the Pedlar District of the George Washington National Forest. When hiking southbound, the trail travels over Punchbowl Mountain, Bluff Mountain, Big Rocky Row, and Little Rocky Row before descending to the James River. It has a gradual ascent for the first two miles and a sharp descent the last mile, but don’t let that stop you! There are many picturesque points along the trail, with views of the James River Face Wilderness Area, the City of Lynchburg, and the Blue Ridge Gorge. There are two shelters and many campsites along the trail.
Spy Rock is a rock outcropping that at 3,980 feet provides a 360-degree view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The first half of the trail is really a wide access road that leads to the Appalachian Trail. Once at the intersection of the Appalachian Trail, go left (north) to finish hiking to Spy Rock. Considered a moderately strenuous hike, it is 1.3 miles in length and about an hour from Lynchburg.
St. Mary’s Wilderness (Saint Mary’s River Trail, Mine Bank Creek Trail, etc.)
The St. Mary’s Wilderness contains about 10,000 acres of protected land just west of the Blue Ridge Parkway, between Milepost 22.1 (Bald Mountain Overlook) and Milepost 27.2 (Tye River Gap.) The St. Mary’s River runs through the wilderness, and vegetation in the wilderness includes mountain laurel and rhododendron. The land was mined for manganese and iron until the mid 20th century, and ruins of this operation can be seen in the wilderness today. There are several trails within St. Mary’s, including Mine Bank Creek Trail, the St. Mary’s Trail, the St. Mary’s Gorge trail, Cellar mountain trail, and Cold Spring trail. The St. Mary’s Gorge trail leads to the St. Mary’s Waterfall (which is described further in depth in the waterfalls section.) About an hour and a half from Lynchburg. Moderately strenuous hike of seventeen Miles. www.wilderness.net/index.cfm?fuse=NWPS&sec=wildView&wname=Saint%20Mary’s
Rockfish Valley Loop Trail
The Rockfish Valley Loop Trail is run by the Rockfish Valley Foundation, whose mission is to “preserve the natural, historical, ecological and agricultural resources of the Rockfish Valley.” There are currently three trails on the site, and more are currently under construction. The area is known to be great for bird watching and for going on a leisurely hike. Less strenuous six miles about one hour and ten minutes. http://www.rockfishvalley.org/blog/trails/
The Peaks of Otter
Located along the border of Bedford and Botetourt Counties, the Peaks of Otter are a natural beauty. On clear days from the summit of Sharp top (elevation 3875 ft), one can see Bedford and the surrounding area. The trail itself is entirely uphill (obviously) and can be tough for the more sedentary. There is also a shuttle available to the top ($.) The Peaks of Otter are located at milepost 86 of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Rated as a very strenuous one and a half mile hike; overall length is about forty-five minutes from Lynchburg. http://www.nps.gov/blri