Hiking the Great Channels of Virginia

You know you’ve found something amazing when nobody you know has ever heard of the place. This is one of the many reasons I love Pinterest! You can find some pretty amazing, but not-so-well-known places. This was one of those random gems I came across while looking for new travel destinations (see all my Pinterest boards here).

The Great Channels of Virginia is a must-see! Just be prepared for quite a hike to get there.

While my husband and I were doing some recon for this spur-of-the-moment day trip, we came across a few different blogs/reviews regarding directions and details about the hike. They all had different hiking distances, the shortest being 6 miles roundtrip and described as “gently sloped”. 6 miles is a long hike for occasional, casual hikers like us. At least it didn’t sound like a rough hike, just a tad lengthy. We can do this. I studied the trail map and pinpointed the closest parking area to the Channels so we could take the shorter hike.

6 miles? Yeah, I’d say it was more like 7 or 8 miles. And we obviously have differing ideas of what “gently sloped” means. The first half straight uphill, then the second half straight downhill going back. No rugged terrain necessarily, just really steep. My legs were the equivalent of over-cooked spaghetti by the end of it. But oh man, it was worth it!

{This end of the trail starts out as a gravel driveway on a gradual incline. Not too bad, right? Yeah, keep telling yourself that. It’s very misleading.}
{A warning that bears have been seen in the area. Duly noted.}
{At this point we said, “Only two and a half more miles! Easy!” We were mistaken. This is where things get a little exhausting for those of us that don’t hike often enough. Get ready to feel those legs burning.}
{“Are we there yet?” No. No, we’re not. But we’re well over halfway!}
{You’ll know that you’re almost there when the trail narrows and starts to get really sandy.}
{The Channels themselves are actually kind of easy to miss. There is a sign pointing the way, but it’s small and if you’re not looking for it you might walk right past it. Once you come across this little shack and the old lookout tower – pictured below – you have arrived at the entrance to the Channels.}
{Old Lookout Tower}
{On your way down to the base of the Channels, don’t miss the opportunity to also take in the amazing view from the tops of the rocks. There is an opening in the vegetation on the lefthand side as you are walking down the path to get to the base of the rocks. You will have to climb a boulder to get through the opening, and then step/leap over some of the crevices as you make your way along the top of the rocks. *Use extreme caution when walking along the tops of the rock formations.*}
{View from the top of the Channels.}
{View from the top of the Channels.}
{Now THIS is what we came for! These 400-million-year-old sandstone outcroppings are nothing short of awe-inspiring. Just imagine all the things these rocks have seen through the millennia!}


{The crevices in the rocks create a natural maze.}
{Exploring through this maze will bring out the kid in everyone.}
{The base of the Channels doesn’t get a ton of constant sunlight so the rocks stay relatively cool. Then the air and wind is funneled through the crevices to create a steady, cool breeze. It’s like nature’s air conditioning. After a long hike in the warmer months, this spot offers some sweet relief.}
{This place is a dream come true for Geology lovers and Indiana Jones enthusiasts alike.}
{Looking up from the base of the Channels.}
{I really liked this place.}
{It’s like something straight out of a fairytale!}
{The trees down here really have to work hard for that spot of sunlight.}

After some extensive exploring through the Channels, we headed back down the trail toward the car. We didn’t get too far before we ran into some company. This young buck decided he was going to walk the trail with us for awhile! We followed him for about 10 minutes before he finally detoured off the trail and disappeared into the forest.

{Getting up close and personal with some of the wildlife.}

Well, that was cool! We were both going on about the deer and almost didn’t notice the black flash running down the trail in front of us.

Holy crap… that was a bear. And a cub, no less. We immediately start scanning the surrounding area for mama bear (because you KNOW she’s nearby). Everything I ever heard, read, or knew about bear safety went straight out of my head. And every horror story came rushing in.

What do we do? Keep going? Turn back and wait for more people to walk with?

Get a grip. Don’t panic.

Noise. Make lots of noise.

“We see you, bear!”

“Hey, bear! Get on out of here, bear!”

We proceeded to walk very cautiously down the trail, all the while talking as loudly as possible without outright screaming. Below are some tips on what to do (and not do) if you encounter, or get charged by, a black bear.



Check out the video of this trip below!

Or you can check it out on my YouTube channel (along with a bunch of other awesome adventures)!

{The Channels via Google Maps. Third photo shows the parking area we started from. After parking, follow the gravel drive – Raven Ridge. There will be signs for the trail. This is the end of the Brumley Mountain Trail, so trail markers start at 13.5 miles and go backwards.}


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