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Channels State Forest

Channels State Forest is a 4836-acre forest managed by the Virginia Department of Forestry in Washington and Russel Counties.  Within the forest is the 721-acre Channels Natural Area preserve.  The forest is located on the southern slopes of Clinch Mountain.  At the crest of Middle Knob are the Great Channels of Virginia, a 400-million year old sandstone outcrop.  Likely due to permafrost and ice during the last Ice Age, narrow crevasses have been worn in the sandstone creating a labyrinth of channels.  There is also a lookout tower at Middle Knob, but it is unsafe and climbing is prohibited.  The property was originally protected by The Nature Conservancy and sold to the Virginia Department of Forestry in 2008.


GPS: 36.86454, -81.94698

From Abingdon, head north on I-81 for 7.5 miles to exit 24 for VA-80 towards Meadowview.  Turn left on VA-80 west and go just over 14 miles to the Brumley Mountain Trailhead on the left.



A number of trails, old roads, and paths run through the forest.  In addition to the main trails listed below, there are a number of forest paths that criss-cross the forest.

Brumely Mountain Trail:

Brumley Mountain Trail is a 14.6 mile trail the runs through Channels State Forest and nearby Hidden Valley Wildlife Management Area.  I've only hiked the eastern portion from the eastern trailhead on VA-80 to the intersection with Channels Trail just west of the Great Channels.

Channels Trail:

Channels Trail is a 5.5 mile trail that runs from Route 689 up to the Channels.  I've only hiked the section from the Channels down to Clinch Mountain Road.

The Great Channels of Virginia:

The Great Channels of Virginia are chasms and crevasses through a sandstone outcrop at Middle Knob on the southern slope of Clinch Mountain.

The crevasses are conveniently just wide enough for an adult human to fit through.  They form somewhat of a labyrinth, but it would be hard to get lost in here as it's like a grid.


Flowering Trees & Shrubs:

A number of flowering trees and shrubs are found at the higher elevations in Channels State Forest.  Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) is found near the Great Channels.

Flame azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum) has bright orange flowers.


Fire pink (Silene virginica) have deep red flowers that attract hummingbirds, one of their main pollinators.

I'm not sure what these are, but they were blooming along Channels Trail.


Black snakes (Pantherophis obsoletus) are common in Channels State Forest.  These non-venomous snakes help control the rodent population.

We found this baby box turtle (Terrapene carolina) crossing Clinch Mountain Road.


Channels State Forest is home to a large number of invertebrates, but most are too small to see.  This wolf spider, however, was quite large.

Blog Entries:

2017-06-17 - The Great Channels of Virginia

External Links:

Virginia Department of Forestry website: http://dof.virginia.gov/stateforest/list/channels.htm

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation website: http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural-heritage/natural-area-preserves/thechannels