Phillips Creek Loop Trail

Length/Type: Approximately 1.2 miles, lollipop loop; Difficulty: Moderate (easy grades but possible heavy undergrowth can obscure the trail in places during late summer/fall); Other Considerations: The trailhead is located at the back of the Phillips Creek Recreation Area, which may be gated in winter months. You can still park outside the rec area (do not block the gate…

Winter Wonderland: Trails to Try This Season in the Cumberlands

The winter hiking season is upon us, a time when many folks hang up their hiking boots and enjoy the warmth of the indoors. If you’ve never been hiking during what many hikers refer to as the “leaf off” season, though, you’ve been missing out. Views through bare trees are more expansive, skies are clearer…

Pinnacle Natural Area Preserve (Copper Ridge Trail and Overlook)

Length/Type: Approximately 2.0 miles one-way, out-and-back; Difficulty: Easy to strenuous (easy grades and footing along Big Cedar Creek, with a strenuous climb to gain Copper Ridge); Other Considerations: The Pinnacle has multiple trail options beyond the one described here, which can be pieced together into a longer day hike, if desired. A detailed trail map is available via the Virginia DCR website. Pinnacle…

Chief Benge Scout Trail, Section 1: High Knob Recreation Area to Mountain Fork

Length/Type: 2.55 miles one-way; out and back; Difficulty: Moderate (several unbridged stream crossings, rough footing in places); Other Considerations: Roads leading to both the upper and lower trailheads may be snow-covered and/or icy in cold weather. The road to the lower trailhead (USFS Road 704) may also be gated during poor weather conditions.  The Chief…

Fish Pond Lake Loop

Length/Type: Approximately 2.5 miles; loop; Difficulty: Easy (paved surface, flat to rolling grades); Other Considerations: The loop is open to vehicular traffic. Watch for oncoming vehicles if walking, riding, or running this loop. If you’ve ever driven US Highway 119 from Jenkins to Whitesburg, Kentucky, you’ve probably seen a sign for the curiously (and repetitively)…

Flag Rock Area Trails: Norton, Virginia’s Hiking and Biking Wonderland

Hearing about Flag Rock Recreation Area in the city of Norton, Virginia probably isn’t anything new if you’ve lived awhile in the Cumberland Mountains of far southwest Virginia, eastern Kentucky, or northeast Tennessee. The park has as its namesake a giant pinnacle of sandstone rising some 40-50 feet above a spur ridge on High Knob’s northern…

Pine Mountain Trail: Birch Knob to Jenny Falls

Length/Type: Approximately 1.0 miles one-way, out-and-back; Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous (very steep climbs and poor footing in places, yet short overall); Other Considerations: The trailhead is located at the end of a long and rough gravel road that travels to just below the Birch Knob summit. While this road is navigable with care with even a…

Viral Trails: The Weird Popularity of the Devil’s Bathtub

If you live in central Appalachia – and maybe even if you don’t – there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the Devil’s Bathtub. The “bathtub” is the local moniker given to a small scour pool in the Devil’s Fork of Stony Creek, a stream cascading off of the south side of Scott County, Virginia’s…

Laurel Fork Trail

Length/Type: Approximately 1.5 miles one-way, out-and-back; Difficulty: Moderate (some moderately steep but short climbs, some undergrowth present in summer); Other Considerations: The trail’s end at the mouth of Laurel Fork can be buggy in warm months, and the trailhead parking area is not secured overnight – both considerations for potential overnight campers. You can download a detailed topo…

New maps for the Chief Benge Scout Trail

If you live and hike in the Wise County, Virginia area, you’ve probably heard of the Chief Benge Scout Trail. The region’s only “long” (>15 miles in distance) trail outside of the Pine Mountain Trail, the CBST forms a tour of the High Knob highcountry, running some 19 miles from the High Knob Lookout Tower…