From cool, sparkling mountain creek trails to high-country scenic vistas, Scott County, Virginia and its surrounding counties offer the perfect hike to suit any adventurer’s desire or ability. All of the hikes listed below, with the exception of the Chief Benge Scout Trail, can be completed in a day and provide a variety of hiking options. Many of these trails, like Kane Gap and the Sand Cave, are also suitable for horseback riding.
Bark Camp Lake—Bark Camp Lake, Scott County
A 3.5-mile loop trail that circles Bark Camp Lake is one of the easiest and most scenic fall hikes. The colors will not disappoint, and the lake is a prime spot for anglers and kayakers. Located in the Jefferson National Forest, picnic facilities are available. Bathtub facilities are currently closed. Bark Camp is located between Dungannon and Tacoma in northern Scott County. Take Alternate 58 to Tacoma, then Route 706 to Route 822; then U.S. Forest Development Road (FDR) 993 to the lake. https://dwr.virginia.gov/waterbody/bark-camp-lake/
Chief Benge Scout Trail—High Knob Land Formation, Wise and Scott Counties
Born to a Scots-Irish trader named, John Benge, and a Cherokee woman, Chief “Bob” Benge stood out physically because of the red hair inherited from his father. In his 20s, Benge joined forces with the Shawnee band of the Chiksika. He was well-known for his raids against American settlers as far north as the Ohio River, deep into Southwestern Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina. The trail is named after him because this is the approximate area where Benge was killed by militia leader Vincent Hobbs Jr.
At almost 19 miles, this is the longest hiking trail in the region. The trail creates a tour of the High Knob high country, starting at the High Knob Lookout Tower near Norton and ending at the Hanging Rock Recreation Area just north of Dungannon. The Chief Benge trail passes everything from sweeping, 360-degree vistas of five states atop the High Knob Fire Tower to rugged mountain stream gorges, sluices and waterfalls, two high-elevation lakes, and dense hardwood forests in between. https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/gwj/recarea/?recid=79250
Devil’s Fork Trail Loop—Dungannon, Scott County
The Devil’s Fork Trail Loop is a seven-mile, round trip that accesses the famed Devil’s Bathtub. The trail can either be followed in its entirety loop-wise or broken down for easier access. Once you cross the first creek, you will come to a “T” in the trail. Here you have the option of taking the trail to the right, which is four miles with no creek crossings or the trail to the left with 13 creek crossings to access the Devil’s Bathtub.
Either way, this is technical terrain. Hikers are advised to check weather conditions before accessing the trail as water levels could be higher following significant rainfall. Hikers are advised to avoid parking in the small lot at the trailhead to the Devil’s Bathtub. The access road has become rutted and impassable except for high vehicles. Instead, please use the new parking lot located at 312 High Knob SC, Dungannon, VA 24245. https://www.traillink.com/trail/devils-fork-loop-trail/
Falls of Little Stony—Dungannon, Scott County and Coeburn, Wise County
Make sure to pack a camera for the hike to the Falls of Little Stony. The Little Stony National Recreation Trail is a 2.8-mile trail with an upper trailhead at the Falls of Little Stony Creek and a lower trailhead at Hanging Rock Picnic Area.
This trail follows Little Stony Creek through a 400’ deep and 1700’ wide gorge. Large outcrops, rock ledges and boulders form the scenic edges along Stony Creek. In some areas, hikers will need to climb around/over boulders and large rocks to remain on the trail. A scenic 27’ waterfall, along with two smaller waterfalls, gives this site its name.
With several covered shelters, Hanging Rock Picnic area is a great spot to enjoy a picnic lunch. Shelters are open: bathroom facilities are closed. https://dwr.virginia.gov/vbwt/sites/little-stony-national-recreation-trail/
Flag Rock—High Knob Land Formation, Wise County
This 1.1-mile trail climbs almost a thousand feet one-way as it travels from Legion Park to Flag Rock Recreation Area. https://www.nortonva.gov/Facilities/Facility/Details/Flag-Rock-Recreation-Area-8
Guest River Gorge—Jefferson National Forest, Wise County
A Rails-to-Trails path, this 5.8-mile gravel footpath travels along the Guest River to its confluence with the Clinch River. The trail follows the Guest River as it meanders by eight branches and creeks and terminates at the Guest River’s confluence with the Clinch River.
This scenic trail passes through riparian woodlands, creekside bottoms, 300-million-year-old cliff lines and rock outcrops. An abundance of wildlife is easily viewed along this trail, with spectacular migration along this riparian corridor in spring and fall. Keep an eye out for giant snapping turtles and various salamanders. Also great for fishing. https://dwr.virginia.gov/vbwt/sites/guest-river-gorge-trail/
Kane Gap—Duffield, Scott County
This historic footpath is the only trail today where you can walk in the actual footsteps of famed frontiersman Daniel Boone. It was up this mountain and through Kane Gap that Boone and his 30-axe men blazed the Wilderness Road Trail, opening the way for thousands of migrants to make their way west.
The Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Association has marked Boone’s historic trail, where you can still see the pioneer “hotel” that housed thousands crossing over into Wallen’s Valley and then onward to Kentucky. Once used as a mail route, the trail is fairly easy to traverse but includes a somewhat step zig-zag ascent to the top of the Gap. Most of the trail is surrounded by habitat of Appalachian mixed forests as well as remnants of old orchards. https://dwr.virginia.gov/vbwt/sites/kane-gap-trail/
Natural Tunnel State Park—Duffield, Scott County, Seven Trails
- Purchase Ridge, 2.07 miles, moderate
- Stock Creek, 1.03 miles, moderate
- Virginia Birding and Wildlife, 0.7 miles, moderate
- Tunnel Hill, 0.54 miles, moderate
- Cabin, 0.5 miles, easy
- Lover’s Leap, 0.36 miles, moderate
- Gorge Ridge, 0.27 miles, moderate
- Tunnel, 0.27, difficult
- Carter Log Cabin, 0.13, easy
This following link provides detailed description on how to link the Natural Tunnel Trails for a challenging day hike. http://mathprofhikingblog.blogspot.com/2013/06/natural-tunnel-state-park-blog-hike-377.html
Sand Cave—Ewing, VA, Lee County
Tucked away in the Cumberland Gap National Park, hikers and horseback riders will discover a ceiling of gold, red and green, eroded rock forms and photo ops to cherish. Access to this gem is through Thomas Walker Civic Park in Ewing. A 3.9-mile hike brings visitors to the entrance of this natural wonder. Continuing along this trail, leads to White Rocks (5.2 miles) where hikers and equestrians can view three states—Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. Horses are welcome and there is ample trailer parking at the trailhead. https://www.trailrunproject.com/trail/7025465/ewing-trail-sand-cave-and-white-rock
Several overnight options are available for visitors wanting to hit more than one hiking area. Depending on personal needs, you can either grab a tent and sleeping bag and “rough it” at camping accommodations within Natural Tunnel State Park or pile up along the banks of the Clinch River at either SomeThing Squatchy or Camp Clinch. All offer primitive camping and RV hook-ups. Natural Tunnel even has primitive Yurts for rent.
After a day-long hike, those who prefer a nice long soak in a Jacuzzi tub are encouraged to make Appalachian Mountain Cabins home base for their foray into the wilderness. Locally-owned and operated, Appalachian Mountain Cabins features four cabins with sleeping accommodations for two to eight persons. Cabins are fully furnished and include satellite television and free WiFi.
Scott County is home to several locally-owned iconic restaurants including the Hob Nob, Teddy’s Restaurant, Chubeez, Front Porch Store & Deli, The Redstone and Campus Drive-in. No trip to Scott County is complete without a stop at The Family Bakery in downtown Gate City. Voted “Virginia’s Best Bakery,” the bakery features amazing cupcakes and lunches that are perfect to take out for a picnic lunch.
For more information or assistance planning your hike, please call Scott County Tourism at 423-863-1667.