Posted by Green Label Organic Team on Jan 19th 2023
At Green Label Organic (GLO), we know that a sustainable lifestyle transcends the clothing you wear. We are aware of the importance of nourishing your body with physical activity. Much of our customer base includes outdoor enthusiasts like hikers and cyclists that also know the benefits of living an active lifestyle. GLO is headquartered at the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Floyd, Virginia and our community is fortunate enough to experience some of the best hiking that North America has to offer. In the spirit of wellness, we have put together some of the top day hikes in Southwest Virginia (Figure 1) that you can take advantage of in 2023 and beyond!
Figure 1: Areas highlighted in pink indicate the Southwest region of Virginia
Source: Plant Virginia Natives
With 360° panoramic views, Buffalo Mountain Trail is a perfect hike for the entire family. The two-mile loop is easily accessible and can be completed in as little as an hour! This is a well maintained trail that is dog and child friendly. This short hike has a quick 587 foot elevation gain to get your heart rate pumping. If you’re looking for an afternoon hike with phenomenal views of the Southwestern Blue Ridge Mountains, Buffalo Mountain is a great option.
If you’re looking for something a little more strenuous than a two-mile loop but still get the stunning vistas of rolling blue mountains, the Rock Castle Gorge Trail might just be the wander that you’re looking for. While there are many starting-points to the Rock Castle Gorge Trail, the entire hike clocks in at 10.7 miles and takes about six and a half hours to complete. If you start from the parking area, be prepared for a steep 1100 foot elevation gain within the first mile. With the toughest part of the trail completed, you’ll traverse a few miles of scenic pasture and enjoy a meandering downgrade for most of the duration thereafter.
As is inherent to the region, this is a hike that’s rich with history. Indigenous Americans, including the Cherokee, lived and hunted in Rock Castle Gorge. Western families settled in the area in the 18th century, before the American Revolution, to farm the hillside. They named the region after the colorless six-sided quartz crystals that occur here. As you hike the trail, you’ll encounter some of area’s historical sites including an old Appalachian Trail shelter, chimney remnants of an early homestead, and the Austin House – the last remaining home in the gorge. Experience stepping into the past as you trek the Rock Castle Gorge Trail.
Appalachia is home to hundreds of named and unnamed waterfalls. Many don’t know that the southern Appalachians have the highest annual rainfall of the southeastern United States. Waterfalls are abundant in Southwestern Virginia, and Cascade Falls should be your choice if you’re in the mood for a hike with one heck of a destination. Located in Giles County, the Cascade Falls Trail is a four mile loop with an upper and lower trail that features a picturesque 66-foot tall waterfall. Rated as moderately difficult, the hike up to the falls is rife with stair-stepping fun as you make the 663 foot ascent to the falls. Arguably the best feature of this hike is most enjoyed in the heat of the summer when you can enjoy cooling off by jumping into the cold, clean pool beneath Cascade Falls.
One of the biggest draws to Southwestern Virginia by outdoors enthusiasts is the world-famous Appalachian Trail (AT). We would be remiss to not include one of the most photographed section hikes of the AT, McAfee Knob. Rated as a moderately difficult hike, the McAfee Knob trail entails a total ascent of 1700 feet. While that may sound daunting, the entire trek is 7.7 miles of meandering elevation gain up Catawba Mountain – there’s no steep ledges or rock scrambling. The hike can be completed in as little as four hours and is a great way to get an AT adventure in a limited timeframe.
Marked as the most difficult trail on our list, the view makes the “punishing incline” well worth the effort. As another section hike of the AT, Angel’s Rest is a scenic 5.3 mile out and back trail with a whopping 1600 foot elevation gain. Experience two ancient rockslides, a large boulder scramble, hardwood forests, and panoramic views of the New River on Angel’s Rest Trail.
Did any of these adventures make your list? We'd love to hear more about your outdoor adventures. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and tell us more about how you’re hiking Southwest Virginia! And remember, the trek is always more comfortable in a Green Label Organic certified organic cotton t-shirt. Find your next trail shirt at GreenLabelOrganic.com