Monday, March 5, 2012

Hikes in the Blue Ridge of Virginia

Roanoke Outside shares some awesome hikes off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia!

Tucked away, within the 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway, are hundreds of hiking trails. Trails which provide dazzling images of wildflowers on rolling pastures, cascading waterfalls (some with natural rock waterslides), blue tinged mountains, and majestic gorges. Trails found on the Parkway are suited for all skill levels, and provide an initimate view of the most beautiful wilderness in the country. The trails listed below are either on the Blue Ridge Parkway or located nearby.

Balcony Falls Trail, located at milepost 71 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a strenuous 5.5-mile trail, one-way hike.
Bottom Creek Gorge, is 4.0-mile trail through meadows and along a river. Forming the headwaters of the Roanoke River, Bottom Creek Gorge boasts spectacular scenery: the second highest waterfall in Virginia, virgin hemlocks and hundreds of wildflowers.
Buck Mountain Trail, 1 mile trail through a lovely little forest, under oaks, maples and pines.
Chestnut Ridge Trail is located along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is a wide and well-graded path lined with mountain laurel and rhododendron. The trail offers 5.4-mile figure-eight loop trail that can be shortened to 2.5 and/or 3.4 miles. Less than 10 minutes from downtown Roanoke.

Crabtree Falls Trail, 2.9 miles with cascading falls and scenic views.

Explore Park Trail System, located off the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a 1,100-acre preserve situated along the Roanoke River Gorge with a variety of hiking options. 6+ trail options ranging from <0.5 miles to >10 miles – many of which are loop trails. Only 10 minutes from downtown Roanoke.
Flat Top is a classic Virginia hike - 5.2 mile round trip (out and back) hike at the Peaks of Otter. A lovely trail full of wonderful views, large rock formations, and flora that changes with each turn of the trail, including huge oak, poplar, hickory and beech trees, mountain laurel, rhododendron, and an assortment of wildflowers.
Harkening Hill, the lowliest of the three Peaks of Otter, is the only one with a "loop" trail that swings by the top. Harkening Hill sees far less traffic than it’s bigger brother Sharp Top so the trail is in much better shape. Many interesting granite boulder formations are found on Harkening Hill. This is a 3.5-mile loop trail.
Rock Castle Gorge is an incredible 11 mile hike just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are several variations you can do for shorter mileage but it is highly recommended that you complete the entire loop to obtain the best experience.

Sharp Top is a classic 3-mile round trip (out and back) hike at the Peaks of Otter. Sharp Top was long thought to be Virginia's tallest mountain, when in fact, it is not even the tallest of the Peaks of Otter. Nearby Flat Top rises to 4,001 feet. Mount Rogers near the North Carolina border is the state's tallest mountain at 5,729.

Smart View Loop Trail is a 3-mile loop trail located on the Blue Ridge Parkway that offers excellent views of the Virginia Piedmont. Various trails meander through moist deciduous woodlands, hardwood forests, and open fields.
Stewarts Knob Trail is an easy half-mile hike located at mile post 110.6 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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