Elevation: 2,000 – over 4,000 feet.
Along Clinch Mountain, Channels State Forest offers over 4,800 acres of varied habitat where a great diversity of flora and fauna abound. Within the State Forest, at the crest of Clinch Mountain, is The Channels Natural Area Preserve an area of high elevation forest, cliff communities, and a 400 million year old sandstone rock outcropping (known as the Great Channels of Virginia). Here, visitors may explore the maze-like Great Channels of Virginia and experience incredible 360 degree views.
The range of elevation change in the State Forest (from around 2000 to over 4000 feet above sea level) offers a great diversity of habitat types. Within this area, nature explorers will observe wildlife denizens of eastern and northern hardwood forests, rhododendron thickets, spring-fed woodland streams, and grassy, open clearings. There are two intersecting trails available in this area, which include the red-blazed 5.5 mile Channels Trail, originating at the parking area off of Rt 689 (Brumley Gap Road), and the Eastern portion of the 14 mile Brumley Mountain Trail, originating at Route 80 near the Washington and Russell County Line.
Avian diversity is probably at its highest during spring or fall migration. Still, a number of high-elevation migrants take residence in these woods during the summer. Visitors should look for the local assortment of wood warblers, as well as scarlet tanager, and veery. An early morning walk might flush a resting whip-poor-will. Ruffed grouse, and wild turkey are here year-round, but are most easily visible in the summer when traveling in large family groups, with fledged young closely following the adults. Migration of hawks or kettles of turkey or black vultures riding on thermals can be a spectacular site from one of the higher points. Bald eagles have roosted in trees at high points along this mountain ridge in the fall.
Other wildlife abounds. Visitors may be lucky enough to see black bear, red fox, white-tailed deer, eastern chipmunk, and bobcat. Naturalists young and old can find green frog, newt, and other amphibians in spring-fed streams and seepages, while wood frog and red eft (the land form of the red-spotted newt) tend to remain in moist wooded areas. Turning over a few logs in search of northern slimy or mountain dusky salamanders can be productive and fun.
- See Channels Recreation Map and Brumley Mountain Trail Map
- The 3.5 mile trail to the Channels is rated as moderate in difficulty. It is uphill most of the way and steep in some areas. Parts of the trail are rocky and uneven. This trail is marked with silver and black arrows.
- The 5.5 mile Channels Trail is steep with a lot of elevation gain. Parts of the trail are rocky and uneven terrain. This trail is marked with red paint blazes on trees.
- Both trails will lead to the Great Channels of Virginia rock outcropping.
- Wear blaze orange or blaze pink during hunting seasons. Hunting is permitted on the Channels State Forest with a valid hunting license and a State Forest use Permit.
- Climbing of the Channels Fire Tower is prohibited and will be considered criminal trespass.
- The parking area at Channels Natural Area Preserve is limited to 10 vehicles. If the parking area is full when you arrive, please go back another time. Parking along Highway 80 is not permitted, and violators will be ticketed.
- Caution is advised when driving on Brumley Gap Road, especially for vehicles without 4-wheel drive.
- Brumley Mountain Trail trailhead – 4250 Hayters Gap Road, Saltville, VA 24370 (The easiest and most commonly preferred hike to the Channels, which is 3.5 miles from this trailhead).
- Channels Trail parking area – 23197 Brumley Gap Road, Abingdon VA, 24210 (seasonally, parking may be available higher on the mountain)
To the Brumley Mountain Trail trailhead:
- From Interstate 81, take exit 24, and follow Route 80 West for approximately 13 miles. The trailhead is at a small gravel parking area on the left at the Russell/Washington County line.
To the Channels Trail Parking Area:
- From Interstate 81, take exit 24, then turn left onto Hillman Hwy. Take the second right onto Lindell Road and continue for approximately 5 miles. Turn left onto Rich Valley Road, then keep right onto Hayters Gap road. After 3 miles, turn left onto Brumley Gap road. The parking area will be 2 miles ahead on the right.