Adventure Us: Bottom Creek Gorge Preserve
Looking for a cool getaway in these sweltering days of summer? Bottom Creek Gorge Preserve provides a respite from the torrid Roanoke valley, offering woodland hiking, mountain streams, tasty foraging, fascinating history, and views of a spectacular, albeit distant, waterfall.
Only a 30 to 40 minute drive from downtown Roanoke, Bottom Creek Gorge Preserve occupies 1600 acres of mountainside near Bottom Creek, one of the headwaters of the south fork of the Roanoke River. The gorge creates the setting for one of the most spectacular waterfalls of the state, Bent Mountain Falls, which takes a 200 foot sheer drop down the face of the gorge into the creek below. The falls overlook can be accessed most directly using the Johnston Trail. At the overlook, you get a clear view across the gorge at the waterfall, which is
the second highest in terms of vertical drop in all of Virginia.
But there’s more to the preserve than this one breathtaking view. If you’re willing to do a little more exploring, choose the Knight Trail, which follows the creek along the gorge. Take the path down to the water and enjoy the view of the rapids and the mountains from the rocks. Bottom Creek is home to several extremely rare native species of fish, which enjoy the shade provided by the surrounding forest. The Knight Trail also passes by a small picturesque pond where you can stop to look for aquatic life.
On the return journey, follow the Duval Trail to experience even more facets of the preserve. First, depending on the season, you may find yourself treated to a snack along the way; wineberries and blackberries grow thick along the trail. Second, if you look carefully, you’ll enjoy several detours back in time to the early settlers of this mountain. Not far from the trail you’ll find several old abandoned buildings and landmarks – some dating back as far as the 18th century. Peer (carefully) into these old structures and imagine what it must have been like to carve out a rough life on the side of this mountain 200 years ago. Don’t miss the old graveyard!
A couple of notes. First, depending on the time of year and the recent rainfall, the water flow may be reduced. Second, during the current COVID crisis, the trails are all one way, so follow the posted signs. You’ll have to return via the Duval Trail, which makes the shortest round trip hike 3.8 miles rather than 3.2 miles, so plan accordingly. Third, Bottom Creek is a unique ecosystem with rare flora and fauna, so respect it by not bringing your dog. Finally, there are no restrooms on the preserve.
Name: Bottom Creek Gorge Preserve, 10198-10144 State Rte 669, Copper Hill, VA 24079
Time from Roanoke: 40 minutes
Activity Options: hiking, waterfall, historic ruins
Nearby Food: Bent Mountain Bistro
Nearby Attractions: Blue Ridge Parkway