On my most recent exploration of Southwest Virginia, I spent some time hiking the trails at the 1,657-acre Bottom Creek Gorge Preserve in Montgomery County.
There are three trails, and like nearby Falls Ridge Preserve, they each have two names. The trails are Blue (DuVal), Red (Johnston) and Yellow (Knight).
You’ll also find a .6-mile Black Trail that’s known simply as the Entrance Road. It’s a wide, dirt and rock trail that leads to the primary trailheads.
Given the longest trail is just 1.5-miles (one-way), you could plausibly hike every trail at this nature preserve in one go. I hiked all but one on a very cold morning.
As a side note, there is no Bottom Creek Gorge Trail as AllTrails will lead you to believe. HikingUpward simply refers to this hike as the Bent Mountain Falls Hike.
|Elevation Gain||843 feet|
|Terrain||dirt and rock trails, some gravel trail|
|Driving Directions||Click Here|
Arriving at the Trailhead
When you first arrive, you’ll quickly realize there is no parking lot. The gravelly road just kind of dead-ends at the trail kiosk. It’s easy to park parallel on the road sides.
From here, walk around the iron gate to the trail kiosk. Note that no dogs, and presumably no horses, are allowed at the nature preserve.
Bottom Creek Gorge Preserve is one of multiple parks, natural areas, gorges, caves and preserves across the country that are protected by The Nature Conservancy.
The First Steps
From the large trail kiosk, walk along the dirt and gravel path (Black Trail). Cross over a small bridge at the .1-mile mark.
At the .5-mile mark, you’ll see another large trail kiosk on the left. Continue past this sign until you reach a fork at the .6-mile mark. Turn left for the Yellow Trail.
From here, the trail is much more narrow. You’ll see lots of downed trees, some with large holes in them, purportedly from woodpeckers.
As you come around your corner, you’ll walk alongside a serene pond at the .7-mile mark. Continue on to hear the sounds of rushing waters down below.
What you’re hearing is Bottom Creek, a powerful headwater stream of the South Fork of the Roanoke River. It forms a stair-step series of waterfalls known as “The Kettles.”
In fall, when all the leaves have dropped from the trees, you can see all the way down to the rushing waters of Bottom Creek. It’s quite lovely and dramatic.
At the 1.6-mile mark, look for a short spur trail on your left that will take you down to water’s edge. You’ll find nice flat rocks to settle down on for a snack by the water.
Continue on until the 2.1-mile mark. Here you’ll veer left to pick up the Red Trail bound for the Malcolm and Jimmie Black Overlook, which overlooks a waterfall.
This waterfall overlook was named after Malcolm and Jimmie Black in 2010 for their long-time volunteer contributions to The Nature Conservancy. Both retired at age 90.
From the overlook, you can see 200-foot-tall Bent Mountain Falls. You can’t get up close to the falls, but it’s still quite a nice view of one of the tallest waterfalls in Virginia.
The falls are east of the overlook. I was there at 8:30 in the morning and was looking directly into the sun. So you may have better views (and photos) in the afternoon.
From here, re-trace your steps. Walk past the Blue Trail, then turn left onto the Red Trail where it meets the Yellow Trail (at the 2.7-mile mark).
At the 3.5-mile mark, you’ll re-connect with the Black Trail. Turn left and walk the last .5-mile to your vehicle.
From my car, this hike took me 1 hour, 40 minutes to complete, including time spent at water’s edge and at the waterfall overlook.
Note that due to the pandemic, The Nature Conservancy has temporarily made each hiking trail a one-way trail. This is to limit hikers from passing on the narrow trails.
I will sheepishly fess up that I did not always follow the one-way trail system. As I was leaving the waterfall overlook, the one-way trail to my car was Blue, not Red.
Because the Blue Trail (1.4-miles) was nearly twice as long as the Red Trail (.8-mile), I opted for the shorter return, and prayed I would not see anyone else on the trail.
Thankfully, I was at Bottom Creek Gorge Preserve early on a Thursday morning. I did not see a soul on that 28 degree morning in November.