10 Stunningly Gorgeous Hikes in Southwest Virginia

Living in Northern Virginia, it’s no surprise to encounter more than a few people who don’t realize that Virginia – Southwest Virginia, in particular – continues past Blacksburg.

It’s true. Technically, the region is called Heart of Appalachia, and let me tell you, it’s the real Southwest Virginia. If you get a chance to go, drop everything and go.

Little Stony Falls

I explored the area in September, and even wrote about it for The Washington Post. I am beyond eager to go back. The hiking trails are first-rate, and the views. Woah.

Here are seven of my favorite hiking trails in Virginia’s Heart of Appalachia region. Plus, three more that are close enough and merit a visit (#2, #8 and #9).

#1: Sand Cave (Ewing)

Sand Cave in Ewing, Virginia

Sand Cave had simple beginnings. Once a massive rock in Southwest Virginia, wind eroded the sandstone over many years to create 250-foot-wide half-dome Sand Cave.

Inside, an acre of soft, beach-like sand awaits the driven few that choose to hike 4.0-miles along the Ewing Trail and Ridge Trail to reach the awe-inspiring natural cave.

The hiking trail is almost entirely in Virginia, but Sand Cave is barely (like inches) over the Kentucky border. So, both states claim this geological wonder as their own.

#2: Molly’s Knob (Marion)

Molly's Knob Summit

Hiking to Molly’s Knob deserves a spot on your hiking bucket list, but it’s not for the faint of heart thanks to an elevation increase of 200+ feet in the last .2-mile.

This hike really makes you earn the payoff views. When you reach Molly’s Knob, two wooden benches welcome worthy hikers who have made it to the top.

The mountain views to the south and west are outstanding. Plan to sit awhile to re-hydrate and re-fuel before the relatively easy descent back to the parking lot.

#3: Tri-State Peak (Cumberland Gap)

The hike to Tri-State Peak at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park guides visitors to the 1,990-foot-tall peak at the tripoint where Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee meet.

In the first steps, you will see an Iron Furnace along Gap Creek that was used from the 1820’s to the 1880’s to create iron, which was then sold to area blacksmiths.

Placards along the way educate on westward travels through the Cumberland Gap. A pyramid-shaped stone marker celebrates the work of early pioneer, Daniel Boone.

#4: Breaks Interstate Loop (Haysi)

Home to the “Grand Canyon of the South,” a five-mile gorge that’s more than 1,650 feet deep, it’s not hard to comprehend why Breaks Interstate Park is a must-go.

There are many short trails at this stately park, but cobbling together four or five different hiking trails creates a wondrous 3.6-mile loop hike that’s a real winner.

Along the way, you’ll be awed by scenic overlooks, rock scrambles, hidden springs, small caves, cliff overhangs and majestic forest, even a 40-foot mini-canyon.

#5: Devil’s Bathtub (Fort Blackmore)

Crystal clear Devil's Bathtub swimming hole in Southwest Virginia

The Devil’s Bathtub hike is well-known, even beyond state lines. With a name like Devil’s Bathtub, it’s hard not to inspire genuine curiosity.

A gorgeous waterfall and a crystal-clear basin lure hikers in for a swim. You’ll even find two rope swings, as well as the bathtub itself. At least, a bathtub-shaped basin.

Curious about the name? According to Explore Scott County, it’s allegedly called Devil’s Bathtub because it’s the “only water cold enough to squelch the fires of hell.”

#6: Flag Rock (Norton)

Flag Rock Overlook-Downtown Norton Views

In search of the Woodbooger? Of course, right. A 2.9-mile out-and-back hike to Flag Rock Overlook leads you to this Bigfoot-like creature that lurks high above Norton.

Said to roam the wooded forests of Southwest Virginia, the Woodbooger is apparently partial to Norton’s Flag Rock Recreation Area. His statue is steps from the overlook.

The west-facing views from Flag Rock Overlook are fantastic, making this rock an especially popular spot for watching colorful sunsets. With the Woodbooger, of course.

#7: Little Stony Falls (Dungannon)

Little Stony Falls

A peaceful 4.8-mile out-and-back hike rewards with burbling Little Stony Creek alongside the trail as you make your way to the swimming hole at Little Stony Falls.

The trail follows Little Stony Creek through a 400-foot-deep and 1700-foot-wide gorge along an old railroad bed in Scott County, Virginia.

Allegedly, the falls you reach at the turn-around point of this hike is Middle Falls. You cannot continue hiking on to Upper Falls. However, this basin is plenty beautiful.

#8: The Great Channels (Rosedale)

Great Channels of Virginia

The 6.6-mile round-trip hike to the Great Channels along the Brumley Mountain Trail in Russell County is a popular one, leading to a breathtaking maze of sandstone slot canyons.

Plan to duck, squeeze, climb and crawl with child-like curiosity as you explore this 20-acre labyrinth set atop Clinch Mountain within Channels Natural Area Preserve.

This other-worldly sandstone maze was purportedly created by ice wedging and permafrost 10,000 years ago, much to the delight of present-day visitors.

#9: Wilburn Ridge (Mouth of Wilson)

You can’t go to Grayson Highlands State Park and not hike to see the free-roaming wild ponies, at least not on your first visit to this state park in Southwest Virginia.

Plan to park at Massie Gap. Your first steps will be on the Rhododendron Trail on your way to Wilburn Ridge, a gorgeous landscape of grassy balds and alpine meadows.

From here, you can hike north on the Appalachian Trail to Wilburn Ridge or south to Lower Wilburn Ridge. You’ll see plenty of wild ponies on both scenic routes.

#10: Big Cedar Creek Falls (Lebanon)

Big Cedar Creek Falls-Big Falls

At Pinnacle Natural Area Preserve in Russell County, a delightful hike leads to Big Cedar Creek Falls (aka Big Falls). Three different styles of falls are ready to impress.

Set your towel down on the stone-covered beach before you rush into the basin for a splash sure to be an adrenaline rush on this 3.1-mile out-and-back hike.

Stroll the Pinnacle View Trail to see the park’s namesake, The Pinnacle. This massive geological formation of dolomite and sandstone towers 600 feet over Big Cedar Creek.