Five Star Trails: Roanoke and the New River Valley showcases 40 hikes in the mountains, valleys, and Piedmont of Western Virginia. The guide includes an array of treks reflecting the area's superlative scenery, from wild waterfalls in the New River Valley to highland wildernesses of the Jefferson National Forest, historic paths along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and waterside strolls beside Smith Mountain Lake. It is authored by the Southeast's most experienced outdoors writer, Johnny Molloy.
Hikes in this book range from just under 2 miles to over 10 miles, creating opportunities for hikers of all ages, and will accommodate your desires for hikes of multiple lengths, depending on mood, time, and company. Trail configurations are diverse as wellincluding out-and-back hikes, loops, and balloon loops. Hike settings vary from developed county parks to the back of beyond.
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Scenery: 4 stars
Trail Condition: 4 stars
Children: 2 stars
Difficulty: 3 stars
Solitude: 3 stars
GPS Trailhead Coordinates: N37° 19.757' W80° 45.063'
Distance & Configuration: 5.0-mile out-and-back
Hiking Time: 3 hours
Outstanding Features: Multiple vistas, challenging climb
Elevation: 2,005 feet at trailhead, 3,680 feet at high point
Access: No fees or permits required
Maps: National Geographic #787, Blacksburg/New River Valley; USGS Narrows
Wheelchair Access: None
Info: George Washington National Forest, Eastern Divide Ranger District, 110 Southpark Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24060; 540-552-4641, www.fs.usda.gov/gwj
This trek on the Appalachian Trail climbs the northeast shoulder of Pearis Mountain to three vistas. Start near Pearisburg, then trace a series of switchbacks up a thickly wooded ridge. Once on the crest, enter a boulder garden to emerge at Angels Rest and its view of the New River Valley. From there, head south along Pearis Mountain, passing a lesser view before reaching Wilburn Valley Overlook, which presents bucolic Virginia countryside set between long ridges.
This is a classic mountain climb to a viewor three views in this case. You will earn your reward as the hike ascends nearly 1,700 feet from the trailhead. However, bear in mind that the trail is well maintained and well graded and does not have any insanely steep segments, making it doable by your average hiker at a leisurely pace.
From Cross Avenue, join the AT southbound as it quests for the crest of Pearis Mountain. Switchback on a steep slope cloaked in hardwoods. The trail curves in and out of drainages cutting down the north slope of Pearis Mountain. Mossy boulders are scattered in the woods. Cross a trickling branch at 0.5 mile, still ascending. Briefly join an old logging road at 0.7 mile. Stay with the white blazes, avoiding the erosive paths created by hikers who shortcut the switchbacks.
At 1.1 miles, the path crosses a rocky wet-weather drainage, then passes by an impressive oak on the right at 1.2 miles. Break the 3,000-foot barrier by 1.4 miles. You have climbed 1,000 feet with less than 700 to go. At 1.5 miles, the trail leads you across a rock garden, but at least it is on a level stretch. At 1.7 miles, tunnel into a rhododendron thicket.
Upon reaching a cluster of truck-sized boulders at 1.8 miles, you have made the crest of Pearis Mountain. While amid the gray giants, watch for the spur trail leading right to Angels Rest. It leads to an outcrop and a view. The scene is a mix of land and water, civilization and wilderness. Here, you can look down on the New River, as well as the towns of Narrows and Pearisburg. Sturdy Peters Mountain guards the rear. It’s amazing how the New Rivera truly big waterway at this pointlooks so small from such a perch.
Funny thing about the New River, purportedly the second-oldest river on the planet: How did it get that name? While Virginia was still an English colony, a man named Abraham Wood sent two men west to what was then terra incognita. The two explorersThomas Batts and Robert Fallamcame upon this large, previously unknown waterway. When drawing a map of the newly explored territory, they wrote “new river” on the map that they had drawn, then promptly forgot about it. Later, Batts and Fallam turned in their map to a cartographer and the “new river” became the “New River,” an accident of history. That is fodder for an AT hiker looking out from Angels Rest.
After soaking in the vista, even resting perhaps, backtrack to the AT, and resume your southbound course. The trail slices between more boulders then levels off. Enjoy your well-earned walk, from here a nearly level course winding through oaks and mountain laurel. Parallel the southeast edge of the ridge, getting glimpses of lands below. At 2.2 miles, a short path leads left to an outcrop and a warm-up view of the Wilburn Valley. Beyond here, the walking remains glorious. At 2.4 miles, a blue-blazed spur trail leads right to a spring. However, this spring is known to dry up in late summer and early fall. A little more walking brings you to the rocky brow of Pearis Mountain. At 2.5 miles, a short spur leads left to a flat, open rock and an easterly panorama of Wilburn Valley, part of the great Walker Creek watershed that you see below. This scene is decidedly more agricultural than the view from Angels Rest. Patterns of farm fields dot the lowlands, while Wooded Walker Mountain rises as a backdrop. Relax and enjoy the panorama that was well worth the climb.
The New River offers paddling and angling opportunities galore. Multiple launch points and outfitters make a float trip on the river a breeze. Historic downtown Pearisburg, very near the trailhead, is also worth exploring.
From Exit 117 on I-81 near Christiansburg, take US 460 West to the second exit for Pearisburg (VA 100/US 460 Business East). Follow this exit as it heads into Pearisburg. After traveling 0.2 mile, turn right on Johnston Avenue, a residential street, just past the right turn to VA 100 North. Follow Johnston Avenue just a short distance, then veer right onto Morris Avenue. Morris Avenue turns into Cross Avenue. Drive 0.7 mile to the AT crossing from US 460 Business East. Do not park at the exact trail crossing, which is on a curve. Rather, park on the left about 150 feet after the AT trail crossing. Space is limited, so be courteous.
Table of Contents
Overview Map inside front cover
Overview Map Key i
Recommended Hikes xiii
New River Valley 23
1 Sentinel Point and Falls of Mill Creek 24
2 Angels Rest 30
3 Cascade Falls 35
4 Bald Knob and Bear Cliffs 40
5 Pandapas Pond Walk 46
6 Kelly Knob 51
7 Mountain Lake Wilderness 56
8 Flat Peter Loop 61
9 Potts Valley Rail Trail 67
10 Hanging Rock 72
Lower Craig Creek Valley 79
11 Roaring Run Falls and Furnace 80
12 Upper Hoop Hole Hike 85
13 Lower Hoop Hole Hike 90
14 Craig Creek Loop Trail 95
15 Fenwick Mines Walk 100
16 Sulphur Ridge Circuit 105
17 Lick Branch Loop 110
18 Tinker Cliffs 118
19 Hay Rock and Beyond 123
20 McAfee Knob 128
21 North Mountain Loop 133
22 Dragons Tooth 138
23 Audie Murphy Monument 143
Peaks of Otter 151
24 Apple Orchard Falls Loop 152
25 Fallingwater Cascades 157
26 Flat Top 162
27 Johnson Farm via Harkening Hill 167
Roanoke and Smith Mountain Lake 173
28 Read Mountain Preserve 174
29 Explore Park Hike 179
30 Lake View Walk 184
31 Turtle Island Hike 189
32 Mill Mountain Park Loop 194
33 Chestnut Ridge Loop 199
34 Poor Mountain Natural Area Preserve 205
The South 213
35 Falls Ridge Preserve 214
36 Bottom Creek Gorge 219
37 Grassy Hill Natural Area Preserve 224
38 Waid Park 229
39 Smart View 234
40 Rock Castle Gorge 239
Appendix A Area Outdoor Retailers 245
Appendix B Hiking Clubs 246
About the Author 254
Map Legend Inside back cover