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Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve


Elevation: 3090 ft.

Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve encircles Buffalo Mountain, a knob within the Smith Mountains whose shape resembles the head of a Buffalo. A steep but moderately graded one-mile trail leads explorers to a peak of 3971 feet. This area is unique in that it offers sub-alpine vegetation, magnesium-rich soils, and windswept balds along the summit. Surrounding woodlands along the trail are by and large maturing second-growth forests. Listen for scarlet tanager, black-throated blue and black-throated green warblers, veery and rose-breasted grosbeak. The summit and exposed areas along the ridge are unique to mountaintops within this area. The combination of magnesium-enriched soils and sub-alpine winds and temperature provide microclimates ideal for specialized and unusual vegetation. Timber rattlesnake inhabit crevices within metamorphic boulders along the mountain sandwort, plains frostweed, and mountain rattlesnake root. This is also the only site in the world where the Kosztarab’s giant mealybug can be found. Virginia’s largest population of the globally-rare large-leaved grass-of-parnassus is found at the base of the southern flanks of the mountain. The summit clearings are vegetated with blazing star, sensitive grasses such as bog bluegrass, and midwestern prairie grasses, including big bluestem. These areas can be good spots to watch hawk migration in the fall. Red cedars border the fringes of this bald, and are frequently visited by nesting eastern towhee, dark-eyed junco, and brown thrasher. Woodland butterflies, such as common wood-nymph and northern pearly-eye flit about forest edges. Red fox, black bear, white-tailed deer, and ruffed grouse are local denizens of the mountainsides.


Physical Address: 890 Moles Rd SW, Willis, VA 24380

From Roanoke, follow I-81 south towards Christiansburg. Exit onto VA 8 and head south towards Floyd. At Floyd, turn right onto US 221, and follow it about 6 miles. Turn left (south) on 727/ Union School Road and go about 4.5 miles to Conner Grove Road/ VA 799. Turn right onto 799, go about 100 feet and turn left onto Moles Road/ VA 727. Go about 1 mile, and turn right to stay on VA 727. Go 1 mile to a 3-way fork. Bear to the right and follow the gravel access road to the preserve parking area. From the “End of State Maintenance” sign, it is approximately 1.1 miles to the parking area and trail head.

Location & Directions

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Site Information

  • Site Contact: Dept. of Conservation & Recreation, Natural Heritage - Mountain Region Steward: 540-265-5234
  • Website
  • Access: Free, Daily

Birds Recently Seen at Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve (as reported to eBird)

  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Common Raven
  • Carolina Chickadee
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Canada Goose
  • American Crow
  • Northern Cardinal

Seasonal Bird Observations


  • Hiking Trails
  • Parking