Elevation: 1620 ft. to 2213 ft.
“Sweet Road”–the name and the location conjure up images of amazing wildlife sightings. Appropriately named, the road cruises through dense forest free of human intervention. Around almost every corner, wildlife lovers can spy some denizen such as a wild turkey or white-tailed deer standing in the road. Additionally, no one knows when he or she might catch a glimpse of a fox, ruffed grouse or even a black bear. In early spring or summer, the forest along the roadside supports a variety of warblers. American redstarts inhabit the canopies of the tallest maples and poplars, while ovenbirds prefer understory clearings and thick leaf litter piles. From deep within the forest you can hear the calls of the wild eastern woodlands such as the harsh cackling of the pileated woodpecker and the quizzical ticking and tocking of the common raven.
After approximately eight miles, the southern edge of the forest opens up into scrubby clearings where indigo buntings and eastern towhees appear. The open skies of the Potts Creek Valley also hold red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures that appear to almost remain motionless as they soar at eye-level. Butterflies favor the more open areas along the road with red-spotted purples often resting in the middle of the road. Although dragon- and damselflies in dense forest are less common, common whitetails can be found perched in sunspots along the road while imposing dragonhunters flash through the woods in search of prey.
From the Paint Bank General Store, continue north on SR 311 for 0.3 miles to the intersection of SR 311 and SR 18 north of Paint Bank. Head east on SR 18 for 6.1 miles to Sweet Rd. Turn left and follow Sweet Rd. 10.6 miles to its intersection with Rt. 613. Turn right and go 2.1 miles back to SR 18.
To return to the interstate, follow SR 18 back to SR 311. Follow SR 311 East to I-81 to begin the Star City Loop. Alternatively, continue east on SR 18 for approximately 22 miles and connect with I-64 in Covington to begin the Alleghany Highlands Loop.