The Channels Natural Area Preserve
The Great Channels are an unusual geological maze of large sandstone boulders and eroded crevices.
Per a park brochure: "At the crest of the mountain, within the Natural Area Preserve, are the Great Channels of Virginia, impressive formations of 400-million-year old sandstone outcroppings. Geologists conclude that the Channels were likely formed while the high elevation sandstone cap was under the influence of permafrost and ice wedging during the last ice age. These forces shattered and enlarged joints in the sandstone caprock."
How to get there
From Kingsport, TN
- Take I-81 north to VA Exit 24 (Meadowview).
- Follow VA-80 for around 8 miles as it winds through Meadowview and towards the mountain.
There are two trailhead options: Shorter hiking distance is to head right continuing on Hayter's Gap Road up the mountain for 6 miles. Parking for seven vehicles by Raven Ridge Road or pullout just over summit for another five. Note that the travel time for the 14 miles on VA-80 will be roughly 45 minutes due to the narrow winding road. A longer trail is reached by heading left onto Brumley Gap Road for 2 miles to the state forest parking lot.
From the first trailhead, which became one end of the Brumley Mountain Trail in June 2012: 3 mile hike following gravel, then dirt Raven Ridge Road to the locked yellow forest service gate And then onto the Channels Road East forest service road which steadily winds up to the top.
From the second trailhead: 5.5 mile hike up the dirt "North-South" forest service road, then onto Channel Trail. There are two seasonally open parking lots, requiring a high clearance vehicle, which can shorten the hike distance by 0.5 and 2 miles.
The Hayter Knob lookout tower can give you a visual guide towards your destination. The Channels are located roughly 100 feet SWW of the Hayter firetower through a rhododendron thicket on Middle Knob.
Wide dirt roads narrowing to a hiking trail. Very muddy in spots after rain and due to drainage across roadbed. Not accessible or recommended in winter. The deep Channels can be full of snow into spring.
Fees, Permits, etc.
No fee or permit required for hiking; however, mountain biking does require a $4 day use fee. Hunting is allowed in the state forest, thus avoid during those official seasons.
After the Hike
Channels State Forest Map - Older as it does not show access available from VA-80