Discovering Virginia’s Lesser Known Outdoor Destinations

White Rocks Overlook

Virginia is chock-full of famous outdoor venues like the Appalachian Trail, Great Falls of the Potomac and the James River. Yet other natural locales are lesser visited, and lesser known. Virginia’s outdoor splendor can also be found in these unheralded places that you can discover and enjoy.

So read on and pluck your hidden Virginia outdoor jewel.

WHITE ROCKS OVERLOOK

Nearest Town: Ewing

Best Times to Visit: Whenever the skies are clear for best views

What You Need to Know: The trail faces south and is hot in the summer

GPS Coordinates: 36.65213, -83.43555

It is worth the 3-mile hike to the view-laden outcrop. Far from most populated places, this overlook atop Cumberland Mountain at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park delivers prolific panoramas of Southwest Virginia, Kentucky and beyond into Tennessee. The Ewing Trail is your conduit, leaving Civic Park near the town of Ewing. Start switchbacking up the face of Cumberland Mountain before reaching the mountain crest and the Virginia/Kentucky state line. From there, the hike’s denouement leads up to a wide and open stone pinnacle, atop which you can revel in the Powell River below, Kentucky’s hills behind you and across Tennessee all the way to the Great Smoky Mountains. Consider a ½-mile side trip to Sand Cave — on the Kentucky side of Cumberland Mountain — where an enormous overhang filled with yellow sand stands next to a waterfall.

CROWS NEST NATURAL AREA PRESERVE

Nearest Town: Stafford

Best Times to Visit: Summer for warm weather paddling

What You Need to Know: Access will increase over time.

GPS Trailhead Coordinates: 38.37111, -77.33236

Visit Virginia’s next rising star state natural area. Over time, the state has cobbled together almost 3,000 acres of tidal freshwater marshes divided by steep hills to create Crows Nest Natural Area Preserve. This biologically significant parcel of the Potomac River watershed is not only important to conserve, it also provides a place to paddle and hike for metro D.C. to the north, as well as adjacent communities.

Expect increased accesses and trails in the future. A total of 12 miles of trails have already been constructed and an added entrance road will enhance the visitation opportunities. For now, you can paddle the Crows Nest Water Trail from an all-access paddler platform at Boykins Landing, then head 4 miles to Potomac Creek. Or take the path along Accokeek Creek overlooking wetlands.

CHIEF BENGE SCOUT TRAIL

Nearest Town: Dungannon

Best Times to Visit: Late spring for wildflowers, summer for swimming, best camping

What You Need to Know: Trail has many creek crossings

GPS Coordinates: West Trailhead 36.89566, -82.62903; East Trailhead 36.86139, -82.44631

This 19-mile end-to-end backpacking or day hiking trail is filled with highlights from stem to stern. Multiple trailheads make day hiking viable. Located in an overlooked parcel of Jefferson National Forest, start off with a bang, soaking in 360-degree panoramas overlooking 5 states from the restored High Knob Tower. Descend to Stony Creek, passing a small lake and intimate campground at High Knob Recreation Area. Trek along Stony Creek — the valley of 10,000 ferns …read more

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