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
There are a few ways to reach The Channels as they are on a network of trails. For now the "traditional" approach will be described and other routes hopefully detailed in the future.
From Kingsport, TN
- Take I-81 north to VA Exit 24 (Meadowview).
- Follow VA-80 for about 14 miles and park at the trail head on your left where Raven Ridge Road (Private) intersects VA-80.
There is parking at the trail head for seven to twelve vehicles by Raven Ridge Road. Raven Ridge Road is an active private road. Do not block the road access in finding parking spots.
Hike the dirt Raven Ridge Road following the signs to The Channels. The trail appears to have been initially blazed with double yellow rings on trees but have been updated with white diamonds nailed to trees. Also mile markers were added to aid in (the assumed frequent) rescues.
I have a bit of a discrepancy between most agreed distances and my watch routes viewed on Google Earth.
|Miles Out||The Channels Natural Area Preserve||Miles Remaining||Elevation (ft)|
|0.0||Trail head at parking spot||3.1||3,011|
|0.05||Gate for private road access||3.05||3,040|
|0.5||Cross under power line||2.6||3,211|
|0.7||Stay straight to stay on trail, cabin on road to right||2.4||3,110|
|1.0||Private cabin seen from the trail to the right||2.10||3,204|
|1.57||Mile marker 12 on tree, rough halfway point||1.53||3,316|
|2.72||Mile marker 11 on tree||0.38||3,951|
|3.08||Diversion from Brumley Mountain Trail (stay left, trail goes right)||0.02||4,094|
|3.2||Turn left for mini-channels and views to the east, turn right towards fire tower for The Channels||4,153|
|3.25||Pass under/by fire tower at the trail high point to The Channels, follow arrows the remaining way||4,208|
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