Hike Report – Roaring Branch Trail

Tim Schaefer Reporting
Hike date: 12/19/2015
“It will be a tough hike with all of the downed trees and overgrown brush.” As said by Vic Hasler, or something close to that. He wasn’t too far off. Roaring Branch Trail is an in-and-out 8mi hike and a mostly uphill climb from the road to the overlook. Not having any takers to join me, possibly partly due to the below-freezing morning that was forecast, I decided to bring the dogs with me. They’re two Great Danes often mentioned in trip reports, Zoinks! and Beetle. The wiki was right. The parking area is not much more than a narrow gravel shoulder on a curve of Business 23/Roaring Branch Rd. It made for some nervous dog wrangling as trucks and cars zipped by us. The light snow cover and brisk morning, to me, was perfect for a weekend hike. Several sections of trail as warned by Vic have some significant downed tree sections. Some were simple hop overs, others could be walked around, several required climbing over and under patches of downed logs. I didn’t have too many problems, but my four legged companions had some more difficulty. A few times I thought we would have to turn back, but we eventually found a way through the mess. Also difficult were the stream crossings. Roaring Branch was flowing quite well. This was the dogs’ chance to show off an easy passing while I struggled to find a rock hopping path but managed to keep my feet dry. We made it to the High Butte overlook and enjoyed lunch. I noticed that the yellow blazed trail does continue past the overlook on the right. I thought about exploring it, but with a family out home and two tired dogs that normally spend the day napping on their bed I saved that for another day.

Falls at the trail head
Falls at the trail head
Zoinks! inspects a massive blowdown
Zoinks! inspects a massive blowdown
Who would pass up a chance to hike on a morning like this!
Who would pass up a chance to hike on a morning like this!
Beetle admires her believed kingdom
Beetle admires her believed kingdom
View south from High Butte overlook
View south from High Butte overlook
The repercussions of eight miles of hiking for our beasts of comfort.
The repercussions of eight miles of hiking for our beasts of comfort.

Roaring Branch Trail up to High Butte, March 19th, 2011

Vic Hasler reporting

Located north of Big Stone Gap, VA, the Roaring Branch Trail is within the Jefferson National Forest. This hike ended up being 8 miles round trip with ~1400 ft elevation change requiring six and half hours to complete. The trail starts at the cascades (see photo), proceeds up the lush valley to the ridgeline, which is followed to the High Butte overlook. There are multiple stream crossings – mostly rock hopping, but one did end up needing to be waded. Blowdowns from the winter 2009 storms in the first 1.5 miles have been cleared by volunteers (per Forest Service ranger). The mid section, still along the creek, had not yet been maintained to remove several small tree falls plus trim back the rhododendron growth, thus required a few detours and lots of hand clipping. The upper section, emerging onto the ridge crest, changed to more open forest. At the overlook, lunch and the sunny day were enjoyed while peering down into Powell Valley. The return trip, downhill and with a more open path, was quick. Not much active wildlife was seen, except for several species of birds and a small snake on a rock in the trail. Out for the nearly spring day were Vic, Clark, and Ben Hasler. For more details, visit the TEHCC Trail Wiki’s entry for Roaring Branch Trail.