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Wildflowers in Rock Castle Gorge

posted Apr 21, 2018, 3:41 PM by Justin P   [ updated Apr 22, 2018, 3:27 PM ]
Being the middle of April, it's getting to be peak wildflower time.  So on Saturday, Alex and I headed up to Virginia to hike at Rocky Knob on the Rock Castle Gorge Trail, one of the best wildflower hikes in the region.  We arrived around 9 and parked at the Fire Road Gate off CC Camp Road.  By starting here, we could do the steep part of the hike first and then have a more relaxing hike back down.  Right across the bridge over Rock Castle Creek, we turned right and started heading up along Little Rock Castle Creek.  The trail wasn't too steep at first and we were already seeing some trillium and start chickweed along the trail.


But Alex didn't want to stop long enough for a picture, so we kept climbing.  As the trail got away from the creek, it started to get really steep.  We crossed several small tributaries and finally came to a bench and took a little break.  From this point, it was still uphill, but not nearly so steep.  Eventually, the trail opened up as we got to the Blue Ridge Parkway and hiked through an open area.  We made a quick stop at the Saddle Overlook.


In the opposite direction was the conspicuous Buffalo Mountain, the highest point in Floyd County.


Continuing on, we climb up towards the summit of Rocky Knob.  At the old shelter, we stopped for another break to enjoy the views of Rock Castle Gorge down below.


It really put the climb up here in perspective.  The trail then switchbacked down the mountain and passed Rock Castle Gorge Overlook with more views down in the gorge.


Past Rocky Knob, there was just a little uphill to the summit of Grassy Knoll, and then the trail began to descend steeply down into the gorge.  After crossing a tributary, the wildflowers were really starting to pop.


I saw some pretty bloodroot with big white flowers.


And the trilliums were plentiful, white trillium in particular were just blanketing the hillsides here.


One had a small spider on its flower.


After passing the big rock outcrop, we crossed Rock Castle Creek on a bridge.


From here, the hike back was all following the old fire road.  And there were lots more trillium along the road here too.


I passed by Rock Castle Cascades, a small waterfall, but the lighting was really poor.  There were some small white flowers growing in big patches, but not sure what they are.


Further on past the Austin House, I found a big patch of Virginia bluebells right along the trail.


And right near the end, there were a lot of dwarf crested irises in bloom.


It was a great wildflower hike, though Alex was a little impatient with the stops.  He really enjoyed his hike, but was happy to get back to the car and rest.