Can you feel the change in the air? The trails beckon with technicolored foliage against bright blue skies of autumn in the New River Valley. Are you in need of hike ideas? Read on for the top 10 hiking recommendations (in no specific order) from the Visit NRV team and then hit the trail!
# 1 The New River Trail
Hike or bike from the Dora Trail in the Town of Pulaski to The Draper Village along the New River Trail where 32 miles of trail parallels the New River, which is actually INCREDIBLY old! Look for the Ghost Train Art along the way! Stop at The Village Coffee Shoppe, located within The Draper Village, to find infused smoothies and coffees, or shop The Marketplace for local beer and wine.
#2 Gatewood Park is 400 acres of forest; a nature lover’s paradise with miles of wooded hiking and biking trails around a lake shoreline. Camping, paddleboards, kayaking and some great fishing awaits. A short trip down the mountain leads to the Town of Pulaski where you will find Jackson Park Inn, a repurposed warehouse transformed into a stately boutique hotel. Enjoy signature dishes and refreshing beverages at Al’s On First located inside Jackson Park Inn.
#3 Bisset Park, a 52-acre park bordering the New River (again, one of the oldest rivers in the world) offers stunning sights and sounds. Several multi-purpose trails connect the City of Radford, Radford University and the river. Free parking, shelters, restrooms, playgrounds and boat launches make this a must-do while in Radford. Stop by Sharkey’s Wing & Rib Joint on Main Street for a cold draft or a hearty rack of ribs. For a lighter option, Rise & Shine Botanicals is nearby and has delicious smoothies and other wellness goodies.
#4 Wildwood Park, a city greenway for recreation and nature study, is in the heart of Radford. A paved trail safely connects Bisset Park to Wildwood Park by travel under Main Street and into a 50-acre wooded valley with a stream, Connelly’s Run, woodland habitat, marshy areas, meadows and limestone cliffs with tufa formations. After the hike, head to Radford Coffee Company for coffee and snacks. Sit in a new pocket park directly across the street where outside tables and outdoor gear are welcome. Nearby Brick House Pizza is a favorite evening watering hole for locals.
#5 Rocky Knob/Rock Castle Gorge Trail starts at the entrance to Rocky Knob campground on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The strenuous and rugged nature of the trail reveals part of the reason this pathway was given National Recreational Trail status. A few small historic structures are visible along the trail, including a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. Pull off at Tuggle’s Gap Restaurant at milepost 165 for favorite local fare.
#6 Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve encircles Buffalo Mountain, a knob within the Smith Mountains whose shape resembles the head of a buffalo. A steep but moderately graded one-mile trail leads explorers to a peak of 3,971 feet. Do not judge the trail by its length of one mere mile. The climb will raise your heart rate, and the view is spectacular! Head back into town for diverse and tasty dining options sprinkled throughout the Town of Floyd.
#7 The Huckleberry Trail is a popular multipurpose trail that runs from Blacksburg to Christiansburg passing through neighborhoods, farmland and forests. Numerous side trails along the route connect to parks and other trail systems, including the Coal Mining Heritage Park, Jefferson National Forest, and the campus of Virginia Tech. No matter which end of the trail you are on, there are food and beverage options galore. Treat yourself to a gourmet shake at Sugar Magnolia in downtown Blacksburg and later a brew and smoked BBQ brisket at Bull and Bones Brewpub in Uptown Christiansburg.
#8 Pandapas Pond and the Poverty Creek Trail sit on the eastern continental divide and are part of the Jefferson National Forest. Immerse yourself in nature as this is a spectacular spot for leisure hiking, picnicking and fishing. Afterwards, head 10 minutes down the road to Blacksburg. Look for Hollow Moon Brewing Company, Blacksburg’s newest brewery which is part of a revitalization project in a former elementary school. If you would rather be on the farm, head out to Rising Silo Brewery which uses fresh ingredients from Glade Road Growing, a farm adjacent to the Tap Barn. Di
#9 Angel’s Rest Overlook rewards hikers with a breathtaking view of the New River (which is as you guessed it, not new!) as it winds its way through the valley below. This stretch of the Appalachian Trail climbs Pearis Mountain to a rocky overlook of the expansive valley. Be forewarned, this hike is a bit of a steep one, but so worth it! Stop in at the Palisades Restaurant in Eggleston for contemporary cuisine and cold beverages and wine served up in a unique atmosphere created from the former Pyne’s General Store.
And last, but not least, the NRV’s own “Niagara Falls” …
# 10 The Cascades in Giles County is a popular scenic destination in the George Washington National Forest. A loop trail follows the creek through a forested valley, leading to an overlook with spectacular views of the 70-foot high Cascades waterfall. Stop by Tangent Outdoors and Cascade Café in Pembroke to say “howdy, I’d like one of those cat head biscuits with eggs and gravy please!” If you have a taste for BBQ, DO NOT miss Bluegrass BBQ also in Pembroke.