What The Heck Is That Over There? (Birch Knob Edition)

Have you ever climbed a local mountain and wondered what in the world you’re seeing? What’s that mountain way in the distance? Is that a lake on the horizon? Which direction faces towards home? Distinguishing landmarks in the jumbled mass of mountains that is the Cumberlands can be a bit tough unless you have a…

Let’s Talk About Waterfalls

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of safety risks on the trail? Bears? Snakes? Bees? Poison Ivy? How about getting too close to the edge of a towering cliff at a scenic viewpoint? While all of these things can pose varying levels of risk in particular situations, one of the…

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…

Backcountry Science: Cougar Tales

“My cousin saw a cougar in his backyard last week.” “I saw a momma panther and three cubs cross US-23 the other night.” “You’d better be careful if you’re going hiking. My sister’s friend knows a guy whose brother’s coworker was attacked by a mountain lion while hiking on the Appalachian Trail.” If you live…

New Signage in Norton’s Flag Rock Area Trails System

By now, you’ve probably heard of (or maybe even ridden!) the City of Norton, Virginia’s Flag Rock Area Trails. The FRAT system is the mastermind of local resident Shayne Fields and is just an awesome piece of trailbuilding: miles of singletrack crisscross their way between the Flag Rock overlook in Norton and High Knob in…

Have you seen a snake in far southwest Virginia recently? Let us know!

As we’ve written about recently, it’s snake season both on and off the trail in southwest Virginia and the surrounding Cumberland Mountain region. Since that earlier post, we’ve received a ton of comments and photos of snake sightings from local trails. And, most encouragingly, most of these folks have reported leaving snakes be and not killing…

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…

Backcountry Science: What Is A Topo Map?

There are a ton of skills that are key to a successful and safe hike. Careful planning, knowing how to use a compass, and letting someone know where you’ll be hiking are all part of that list. But one of the most neglected skills among many hikers is being able to read and navigate using…

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)…