Aside from plenty of fishing and hunting in Virginia there is also plenty of hiking trails and wilderness areas to explore. My oldest daughter and I went out on several hikes this spring. Two of our hikes were really deep into the mountains by use of old fire service trails. The western side of Virginia is covered with old access trails built by the "CCC" civilian conservation corps. The third hike was on a state maintained park area. The first of our spring hikes was the North Mountain Trail. Approx 8 mi the entire length the trail can be accessed from either the top of North Mountain or an old logging road that connects Tri County rd to North Mountain rd. Parking approx 1.5 mi on the left on Tri county rd past the road culvert with nice pool of water. You can walk up that old logging road for nearly 2 miles to North Mountain trail connector coming down on the right. In my opinion for the best experience on this trail enter from the top of North Mountain. As you leave the parking area on top you will be walking thru a thick cover of mountain laurel along the ridge line on the trail. To the left of the trail are several overlooks and views of collierstown. Use caution as these have no signs or handrails and the rocks can be slick from moss or dew. The walk is easy going out towards the rock formations. Scenic views on the eastern side of mountain are awesome during the hike. Hike time to rock formations for average hiker is approx 1.5-2 hrs. If you are planning on the full thru trip to tri county road plan for 5 hrs hike time not including breaks or exploring around the formations.
(Daughter at the rock formation on North Mountain)
(Me facing east side of mountain top of rock formation area)
(Autumn checking out one of the formations below)
(Descending the trail follow this sign towards Longdale for Tri county connector)
The second of our hikes this year was in Nelson County. A popular public area known as Crabtree Falls. It has a little too much foot travel for our taste but we enjoyed the hike still. Prepare for a vertical climb from the parking lot in a series of switchbacks to the top of falls. Takes about 1.5 hours and is a good workout. Pretty views of the falls and surrounding mountains await. We prefer the early morning start before the trail gets crowded with visitors and pets. Use caution and heed warnings in this area due to narrow trail and loose rock like North Mountain. Crabtree Falls trail connects to the Appalachian trail above the falls.
(Halfway up the trail Crabtree Falls)
(Top of falls)
The third and final hike so far this summer was into the Rich Hole Wilderness area. This trail is like North Mountain compared to desolation. There are no motorized vehicles allowed only foot travel, horses or mules. Its a solid 6 mile hike (which feels like 10-12 after the uphill) In my opinion the best way to experience this hike is leaving the parking lot beside the hardtop on Rt 850. Once you leave the car its a serious uphill climb with switchbacks to an area known as the orchard. This is basically an old homestead area with a large patch of walnut trees. There used to be apple trees here but this last trip we noticed that they had died.
I made a detour on the mountain to show Autumn these old growth oaks. My dad showed me these trees 30 years ago. We use them as landmarks when climbing the mountain during deer season. On a clear night you could always see the tops of the trees in the skyline while climbing before daybreak.
(If you hike the trail in late May you will find the mountain flowers are a sight to see themselves)
(Descending the top on backside of mountain evidence of the forest fire of 2012)
(Jagged rock formations near halfway mark on descent)
On descending the trail on the backside of mountain you will have to cross the stream several times. At one point the trail seemingly disappears. If you walk this trail just stick close to the creek and the trail picks back up close below. I havent read anything in forest guides about the trail difficulty at that point so I'm just mentioning for anyone who reads this.
(This spring is the beginning of a very healthy creek at this very spot and builds as it flows down the valley).
(The stream building to a nice flow at lower level below)
Old monarch Hemlock dead from the Asian bug called the Wooly Adelgid. This scene is everywhere in this part of Virginia. I remember lots of these trees still in healthy shape when I was a teen. It seems in a short decade that bug has wreaked havoc.
We hope you enjoyed this brief look at our wonderful resources here in Virginia. I have grown up in these mountains all my life and know these trails I shared on this story like my backyard. If you are in need of some more info on how and where to access these trails just email me. There is an email submission form on website. I will be posting more stories with Virginia's natural wonders. Thanks for reading! -Jim