When you think of Virginia, you may think of the beach or the rolling hills at the bottom of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are amazing hikes in our state that are becoming overly crowded. Instead of fighting the crowds for parking, try these 5 underrated places for your next adventure.
1. Buffalo Mountain
This place is a hidden gem that is steadily becoming discovered. This hike has become one that hits my personal top 5! This natural preserve is home to 12 plant species, two animal species, and 6 natural communities that are all rare in Virginia.
The hike is only a mile long. Yes, only a mile to see a hike that is on my top 5 list! You will, however, gain 700 feet during that mile. I suggest bringing trekking poles with you if you find going uphill challenging. With that being said, I do think this hike is suitable for anyone with any fitness level.
Once you reach the summit, you will be at an elevation of 3,971 feet with a 360 view! My mouth about hit the dirt when I reached the summit! I thought I had actually been transported to Montana….the sub-alpine winds and terrain mimmick those from the west.
My favorite picture of us was actually taken on Buffalo Mountain!
You can see North Carolina and West Virginia from the peak.
Tips for visiting the preserve
- No camping
- No fires
- No unleashed pets
- No bicycles, ATVs, or off-road vehicles
- No horses
- No collection of plants, animals, minerals or artifacts
- Operational Hours: the preserve is open from sunrise to sunset
2. Roaring Run Furnace and Recreation Area
Does the pre-Civil War era interest you? If so, this is perfect! There is a historical iron furnace on site with an information kiosk for you to gain some background history in the area.
Want a beautiful weekend picnic with your family or a quick hike for an escape? This hike is located roughly an hour from Roanoke, Virginia.
The parking lot has plenty of spaces but, does tend to be nearly full on the weekends and holidays.
There are primitive toilets located at the trailhead along with plenty of picnic tables.
Want to take a swim? Bring your bathing suit!
With cascading water, rocks, and beautiful bridges, this hike is one of my favorites in the area. The trail is well marked and easy to accomplish within an hour or two.
Tips for visiting Roaring Run
- Operational Hours: Roaring Run is open from sunrise to sunset
- There is no fee
- Open year-round
- No drinking water available
- Picnic tables available
- No camping
3. Canoeing at Fairy Stone Park
Fairy Stone Park has been a staple for many in Southwest, Virginia to enjoy during the summer months, but what few experience the adventure of canoeing on the lake! Pack a picnic and hit the water for a day.
You can rent a canoe for around $25 for the day. This adventure is perfect for families, friends, and a great idea for a date! My husband planned one of our first dates here by canoeing on the lake.
Tips for visiting Fairy Stone Park
- Operational Hours: 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.
- There is a snack bar on site that operates from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
- WiFi is located outside the concession area and at the lower beach parking area.
- Cabins and camping can be reserved by calling 1-800-933-PARK or by going online to reserve online.
- Cabin and camping prices vary and can be located online here.
- A $5 daily parking pass is assessed before you enter the park.
- Picnic shelters
- Swimming and fishing are permitted in designated areas.
- Rowboats, paddleboats, stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes may be rented during the summer season.
4. Strickler Knob
This adventure is the hardest on this particular list, but it’s a MUST see! This trail will have you ascend around 1200 feet on your 5-mile journey to the summit.
Once you have parked you will cross Passage Creek. The hike will begin on a fire road.
The first mile is a steady incline. At 1.3 miles, you will encounter a wooden junction sign. Head straight on to the orange-blazed Massanutten trail.
You’ll want to continue up the purple blazed trail to reach the summit. You’ll have some minor rock scrambling near the top, nothing technical. You will know when you reach the summit because the views are 360 degrees!
Some hikers suggest leaving your pup at home, but I will tell you that I brought my boxer mix (in a foot of snow) and he had a blast here! I imagine this trail would be very difficult for small and older dogs.
My dog Champ loved helping me up the hills in the snow, last time I went. He is a very hyper and energetic dog so this was the perfect place for him. He slept the whole way home!
How to get to Strickler Knob
The road to the trailhead is not easy to get to in the winter months if there has been snow or ice. I drove my Jeep in a foot of snow to the trailhead and made it just fine. We have provided directions below to the parking area since we had trouble finding it.
The parking area at Scothorn Gap has room for around 4 cars, but I have never seen another soul while hiking this trail. Talk about true solitude for a few hours!
Tips for visiting Stickler Knob
- There is a campsite about 1.7 miles from the parking area.
- Keep an eye on the signs and tree/rock blazes, the trail can be difficult to navigate
- Take lots of water and snacks
- Start this hike earlier in the day to avoid hiking in the dark
- Check for forest road closures prior to hiking
- May not be suitable for small/older dogs
Directions to Strickler Knob:
Reach the Scothorn Gap by turning on to Crisman Hollow Road (FD 274) off of 211. Drive along this road for a few miles and park at the Scothorn Gap trail parking. (Check for road closures before heading out to this hike)
5. Channels in Virginia
Not looking for a mountain scape hike or a waterfall? Try this stunning hike that leads you on a maze through geological formations like no other on the East Coast! Save some money by exploring crevasses and sandstone boulders in Virginia, by not having to travel out West!
This hike is located outside of Lebanon, Virginia. The twisting and winding road will lead you to a small gravel parking lot.
This trail is not difficult but, will put you at around 6.2 miles roundtrip. You will begin your ascent up Ravens Ridge Road. There will be signs indicating that the Channels are up ahead. You will be escorted up the trail by white diamond blazes.
You will pass by several private cabins as you make your way up the trail. After you hit the 3-mile mark, you will continue along the Brumley Mountain Trail. Shortly after you hike along this portion of the trail, you will see a fire tower. Follow the arrows that lead to the Channels.
Take your time and explore this amazing place! I took my dog Champ along and we had a blast exploring the deep crevasses and climbing over rocks together. Make sure to carve out plenty of time to enjoy this majestic place.
Tips for visiting The Channels
- Plan to spend around 3-4 hours on this adventure
- There is no fee for hiking
- Do not park in front of the road access gate
- The Channels may be filled with snow in the winter months
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