Elevation: 1721 ft.
The Lower Rock Castle Creek Trail forms a 4.5-mile leg of the 10.8-mile loop called Rock Castle Gorge Trail. This trail follows a gated fire road alongside Rock Castle Creek. The term “Rock Castle” comes from the hexagonal shape of quartzite crystals found in the hollows, resembling castle towers. Surrounding the creek bottom is mixed deciduous forest, which house many nesting neotropical migrants. Listen and look for hooded, Kentucky, chestnut-sided, black-throated blue, black-throated green, and worm-eating warblers, as well as scarlet tanager, wood thrush, ovenbird, American redstart, and Acadian and great crested flycatchers. Louisiana waterthrush breed along the creek. Broad-winged hawk are known to nest within these woods, while wild turkey roam throughout this area. Creek beds are good places to spy on native brook trout (the lure for local anglers), but also a good place to hunt for salamanders. Northern dusky salamander is abundant, but several other species are likely to be present as well. Red fox, coyote, black bear, and bobcat make themselves at home in this area, but are usually elusive to visitors.
Note: Camping is available at this site only with a backcountry permit.
Location: Rt. 605/C.C. Camp Lane, Smith River, Virginia
From Floyd, head south on VA-8 south for 9.5 miles, turn right on Rt. 605/C.C. Camp Lane, and follow it 0.7 miles to parking area and trailhead. Low cars use caution when approaching the end of state maintained roads.