Ecological Guides

Southwest Virginia CSI: Ecological Guides

A major goal of Southwest Virginia CSI is to get citizens out and experiencing regional wildlife – not simply reading about it on a website. To aid in this goal, we are developing a series of online guides which feature important ecological characteristics and representative wildlife of local trails and public lands. These maps are available as linked websites in the map above (zoom out to see full extent of trail guides or, alternatively, click the magnifying glass and search the town nearest you).

In addition, smartphone users can download these guides directly to their mobile device via the Google Earth and EveryTrail smartphone apps (instructions at the bottom of this page). These apps – along with each guide’s Google Maps page – allow smartphone users to track their movements in real-time on a trail, relative to representative wildlife or other important ecological features. These apps also allow visitors to get directions to a trailhead from their current location. Current trail guides are listed below.

We strongly encourage guide users to follow Leave No Trace outdoor ethics when in the woods.

Current guides

Hike Name Appalachian Trail (Elk Garden to Mount Rogers)
Location Mount Rogers NRA (Nearest town: Whitetop, VA)
Distance ~8.5 miles roundtrip
Difficulty Level Moderate (Distance)
Features High-elevation grassy balds, Spruce-Fir Ecosystem, Highest point in VA
Viewing Options Google Maps; Google Earth; EveryTrail

 

Hike Name Appalachian Trail (Elk Garden to Whitetop)
Location Mount Rogers NRA (Nearest town: Whitetop, VA)
Distance ~9 miles roundtrip
Difficulty Level Moderate (Distance)
Features High-elevation grassy balds, Spruce-Fir Ecosystem, Option to shorten hike
Viewing Options Google Maps; Google Earth; EveryTrail

 

Hike Name Guest River Gorge Trail        
Location Jefferson National Forest (Nearest town: Coeburn, VA)
Distance 5.8 miles one-way
Difficulty Level Moderate (Distance)
Features Incredibly scenic river gorge, high cliffs, waterfalls, abandoned tunnel
Viewing Options Google Maps; Google Earth; EveryTrail

 

Hike Name Kitchen Rock Loop Trail
Location Bark Camp Lake, Jefferson NF (Nearest town: Coeburn, VA)
Distance ~0.5 miles roundtrip
Difficulty Level Easy (short distance, low grades)
Features Rock formations, hardwood forest, local geology
Viewing Options Google Maps; Google Earth; EveryTrail

 

Hike Name Legion Park/Flag Rock Trail
Location Wise County, VA (Nearest town: Norton, VA)
Distance ~1.25 miles one-way
Difficulty Level Strenuous (rated from trailhead to Flag Rock summit; first 1/4 mile easy)
Features Appalachian cove forest, Local wildlife, Outstanding views from Flag Rock
Viewing Options Google Maps; Google Earth; EveryTrail

 

Hike Name Little Stony National Recreation Trail
Location Little Stony Gorge, Jefferson NF (Nearest town: Dungannon, VA)
Distance 2.7 miles one-way
Difficulty Level Moderate (easy grades, rated for distance)
Features Local geology, scenic waterfalls, biodiversity
Viewing Options Google Maps; Google Earth; EveryTrail

 

Hike Name Riverside Trail (Sugar Hill Trail System)
Location Sugar Hill Trail System (Nearest town: St. Paul, VA)
Distance ~2.25 miles one-way
Difficulty Level Easy
Features Clinch River, riparian zone ecology, wildlife, connects to multiple area trails
Viewing Options Google Maps; Google Earth

 

Hike Name Roaring Branch Trail (Stone Mountain Trail)
Location Roaring Branch Cove, Jefferson NF (Nearest town: Big Stone Gap, VA)
Distance 3.5 miles one-way
Difficulty Level Moderate (Some steep sections, stream crossings)
Features Old-growth hemlocks, scenic stream hike, forest ecology, cliff overlook
Viewing Options Google Maps; Google Earth; EveryTrail

 

Hike Name Sugar Hill Loop Trail
Location Sugar Hill Trail System (Nearest town: St. Paul, VA)
Distance 3.25 miles roundtrip
Difficulty Level Easy
Features Clinch River, Oxbow Lake, scenic ridgetop views, forest ecology
Viewing Options Google Maps; Google Earth

 

Hike Name UVa-Wise Wetlands Interpretive Trail
Location The University of Virginia’s College at Wise (Nearest town: Wise, VA)
Distance ~0.25 miles roundtrip
Difficulty Level Easy (short distance, low grades)
Features Wetland ecology, wildlife watching, local coal mining history
Viewing Options Google Maps; Google Earth; EveryTrail

Note: All guides listed on this website are for educational purposes only and are not intended to be used for backcountry navigation or trip planning. Users should travel at their own risk and use proper preparation and judgment when planning an outdoor excursion. Additionally, all written content on this website is the work UVa-Wise students only, and therefore guide content on this site does not represent the formal endorsement of any other organization, institution, or group.

How to access online guides

View basic guide in Google Maps (recommended for home computers)

– Click the name of a trail in the list above

– The resulting page will open the trail guide in Google Maps

View in Google Earth or EveryTrail (recommended for smartphone devices)

– To view in Google Earth, click the Google Earth link beside a trail in the list above

– On the following page, click “download” and then “open in Google Earth.” (Requires the free Google Earth app to already be downloaded to your Android or iPhone/iPad device)

– The guide will then open on your device in Google Earth with a 3D tour of the trail itself

– To view using the EveryTrail smartphone app, click on the EveryTrail link beside a trail in the list above. (Requires the free EveryTrail app to already be downloaded to your mobile device)