Rock Castle Gorge

Near Floyd Virginia

Brandi and I

Saturday March 27, 2020

The rain cancelled our scheduled hike. We scrambled to find another we headed towards Pilot Mountain then to Hanging Rock when Brandi saw an invite to an upcoming hike in the Rock Castle Gorge in Virginia. It was another hour but it’s better to drive farther than hike where you’ve already been so……

I was driving so I told her to research it. She didn’t other than it was 10.8 miles. It was on the Blue Ridge parkway near Floyd Virginia.

We started at the visitors center on the parkway at Twelve O’clock Knob Overlook. It was nearly 12 pm. Good thing it doesnt get dark early! It’s a loop. Go left or right? We picked left. It went through the trees past 2 more overlooks then makes a right uphill towards Rocky Knob. It was a steep climb at 3572 feet. We met a man and his dog coming in the other direction who said most people start at the base camp on Rock Creek Road then hike from there clockwise. Hmmmm what?! To late now. We continued up the trail.

There was an old AT shelter at a beautiful overlook. I read they rerouted the AT a long time ago.

Old AT Shelter
The view and obligatory selfie

We continue to Saddle Overlook. It was a grassy area above a campground with awesome views. Right here the sky darkened and we saw lightning to the left. The trail went right and Brandi had no intention of turning around. 😳

It continued down for a bit went past a campground and we started to decent into the gorge. It was a hardwood forest. Sometimes easy downward trail, sometimes steep and rocky and walking along the edge of a significant drop off.

This down to the base camp was a long part of the trail. We only passed two other people going up the whole time. After we got lower it followed Little Rock Castle Creek. There are 4 metal bridges along this creek. We were walking the bottom of the gorge or the basement as I called it.

The man we saw at the top said if we wanted a ride back up to the parkway he was parked at the base camp. When we got to the base camp he had just gotten there. We waved at him and kept walking. We had no intention of stopping 6 miles to go! We are now at 1700 ft. Just around the bend we sat at the creek and had lunch. Right across from us we saw our first chimney from an old home place. After lunch we followed the creek past the primitive campground. It’s free to camp here you just need to register. It was an old CCC camp but is now back country sites.

The trail is now Rock Castle road and goes about 2.5 miles. The road continues but the trail turns right. The only homestead left in the gorge is about a mile from the camp. It is called the Austin/Carver house. Austin built it in 1916 and Carver aquired it through marriage. It’s the only one still privately owned. There were 30 or so families that lived here. They had a gristmill, store, churches. They were all bought out by the National Park Service around 1920’s as people left the gorge for electricity and work.

This is where the rain came down. It was cold and windy and rained about 30 minutes. We put on our rain gear and kept going. That ride is looking pretty good about now! Lots of thunder a little lightning. It quit just before the trail started to climb again. When the trail turned off the road we were at 2800 ft.

The trail went down to a bridge then started to climb. I think this part of the trail was about 1000 ft.

Going up

Up a bit is another stone fireplace it’s completely in tact. I was amazed. There was no sign of the rest of the house.

The trail continues upward to a huge crop of rocks. The trail goes up and over them. They seam out of place here but are really cool and covered with moss.

Then we continue up through Rhododendruns and the trail gets steeper until we come to a pasture. This is the 3rd ladder we crossed to get in and out of the areas that were fenced. Lots of signs of cows on the ground but we didn’t see any actual cows.

It has great views. It a long walk through this area. At least it feel like it cause I’m tired as we near 11 miles. At the top we can see my car at the overlook but we’re still about a mile to go! We climb over another ladder and head back into the woods. The trail gets close to the road and we both gladly take it the rest of the way! When we get to the car it’s 11.6 miles! It’s also 6:30 ish. All we’ve talked about for the last 30 minutes is Outback Steakhouse. We are headed there!

This was a great hike that had a bit of everything. It’s strenuous but doable if hiking 11 miles is your thing that is. Turning around isn’t much of an option cause what goes down must come up! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

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