Big Elevation = Big Fun!
OK, this page is for all of you that love a good climb. Over the year’s Gina and I have trained for quite a few high elevation races that have a lot of elevation gain. Getting ready for those races has had us looking for some big climbs with the lowest amount of mileage. I want to have this page be filled with the best options from around the Roanoke Valley.
- Needs to be a route of 10+ miles – If you have a good route that is less, send it my way and I may create a second page.
- Trails are preferable to roads, gravel or grassy Forest Service Roads are preferable to asphalt.
- You’ll need to send me the Garmin Connect or Strava link for the details.
- Must be a loop or out and back option.
- You can’t do the same trail twice unless it is in the opposite direction.
- The route should be within an hours drive time from Roanoke.
Routes (the bigger the number the greater the fun);
343 – 3569ft/10.4 Miles – Peaks of Otter – This is part of group of trails that are a favorite of mine. You’ll find a route with more miles below. You can park at multiple locations to get to the Flat top trail. Once to Flat Top, you are in for some serious climbing in a short distance. This route consists of going over Flat Top, a loop of the Fallingwater Cascades and then back over Flat Top – https://www.strava.com/activities/678077055
339 – 5265ft/15.5 Miles – An Out and back starting at Middle Creek, Heading North on the AT to around mile 7.75 miles,. This is the top of the climb. Just beyond here is Floyd’s Field, which is a great place to stage a car if you don’t want to do an out and back and want to emphasize climbing over descending – see MAP
331 – 3495/10.5 Miles – Haven’s Wildlife Management Area – This is from the trailhead off of Wildwood Road in Salem but you can go from Bradshaw too for the reverse of this out and back – Up Asylum (Strava) or Rocky Top as it is called by others, right at the top, down Elevator Shaft and then retrace your steps – https://www.strava.com/activities/2120380518
331 – 3448ft/11 Miles – Haven’s Wildlife Management Area – Bradshaw Road – trailhead is, on the left, 5 miles from route 311 – Up Elevator Shaft, across the ridge to Big Bad Wolf, down to Mason’s Creek and then back – https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1289418601
318 – 6345ft/19.9 Miles – Andy Layne Trailhead – 779/Catawba Road – You will cross the street and head up the Catawba Valley Trail to the ridge of North Mountain. Once to the ridge you will head right and take N. Mtn to Stone Coal Gap (fireroad), cross this road and head up on the Ferrier Trail to Lick Branch Trail. Take Lick Branch Trail to it’s end at a gated fire road. Once there you will retrace your steps back to 779 – https://www.strava.com/activities/1029881516
309 – 5559ft/18 Miles – At at Caldwell Fields – This is an AT spur trail, Sarver hollow, and AT route. Take Sarver hollow to the AT then travel South to Kelly Knob. Once there enjoy the view and then head back the way you came. For extra climbing, you can park at Caldwell Fields and take the FR up to the start of the Sarver Hollow Trail. Find Route 621, Craig Creek Road, off of route 311. Go 12 miles to west on Rt. 621. then turn right onto the FR across from Caldwell Fields. Drive to power line crossing. There is parking on the right – https://www.strava.com/activities/487500779
296 – 2968ft/10 Miles – Haven’s Wildlife Management Area – This is from the trailhead off of Wildwood Road in Salem but you can go from Bradshaw too for the reverse of this out and back – Up Asylum (Strava) or Rocky Top as it is called by others, left at the top, down Big Bad Wolf to the Creek and then retrace your steps — https://www.strava.com/activities/2089887105
294 – 5883ft/20 Miles – An Out and back starting at Middle Creek, Heading North on the AT to 10 miles, which is just past the connector trail that links the AT to the Cornelius Creek Trail. Turnaround and head back – https://www.strava.com/activities/4083266462 also, see MAP
281 – 2959ft / 10.5 Miles – North Mountain – Parked at Dragon’s Tooth – This is a lollipop route and the famous RVTR North Mountain Challenge; going up North Mountain to Grouse, Down Grouse, left on Wildlife Road, Up Deer, then take a right and retrace your steps back to Dragon’s Tooth – https://www.strava.com/activities/1842907482
278 – 2968ft/10.65 Miles – Price Mountain trailhead off of 606 at the top and county line – This is an out and back of Price Mountain Trail, turning around at the end, returning back to the Sulphur Ridge Trail, heading down that and ending back where you parked. Wanna feel like you’ve done something? Do anything in the Price Mountain Area. This is a true backcountry trail system. Be prepared for a tough day – https://www.strava.com/activities/3968695276
277 – 6270ft/22.65 Miles – North Mountain – Parked at Dragon’s Tooth – This run was done for this very purpose. Get the most elevation in the least amount of miles – Up North Mtn to Turkey Trail, down and then back up Turkey, backtrack to Grouse Trail – down and then back up Grouse, backtrack to Deer Trail, down and then back up Deer, backtrack back to 311 – https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1282193593
271 – 4697ft/17.35 Miles – Peaks of Otter – This is a favorite of mine. You can park your car and hit these 4 different areas while using your car to restock and refuel a couple times. The loop consists of Fallingwater Cascades, Flat Top, Harkening Hill and Sharp Top. You pick the order for all the fun you want – https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/851595606
270 – 7467ft/30.4 Miles – Catawba Run Around – This is a loop of the AT and North Mtn that includes Tinker Cliffs and McAfee’s Knob, and I usually choose to skip Dragon’s Tooth by taking the Boy Scout Trail, but you could get more elevation and miles by including the tooth – https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1246929578
270 – 2904ft/10.75 Miles – Rock Castle Gorge Loop – Outside of Floyd on the Blue Ridge Parkway – This is a loop trail that you can start from multiple spots – https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/625355306
236 – 5729ft/24.23 Miles – Troutville AT – Similar to the one below, from the AT parking lot in Troutville, take the AT north to Black Horse Gap and then retrace your steps back – https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/417728841
228 – 2363ft/11.2 Miles – AT from Trout Creek to Dragon’s Tooth and back. Want to feel like you are on a rock stair climber and then need some technical descending practice? This is the route for you https://www.strava.com/activities/3651519553
223 – 6309ft/28.33 Miles – Daleville AT – Park at the 220 Park and Ride and take the AT north to Black Horse Gap and then retrace your steps back. This is one of my yearly November long runs – https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/637189654
214 – 2804ft/13.1 Miles – Glenwood Horse Trail – From the Day Creek day use area – Up to Black Horse Gap, N. on the AT, backtrack from the 2nd overlook to Spec. Mines Trail, down Spec. Mines to the Gravel road, left on the gravel road to the 4-way, up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Black Horse Gap, down to the parking area –https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/797337919
212 – 2726ft/12.85 Miles – this is a backcountry loop on the Wilson Mountain and Pine Ridge Trails. It is a great and challenging loop with a mix of trail and gravel road. Finding the trails may be difficult from the top, so have company or know how to read a map. Either direction is a challenge, and a whole different experience, but I recommend using the 1.3 miles on Solitude Road as a warmup, because it starts out with some vertical, quickly.
The parking area for the Pine Ridge trail can hold 2-4 cars. It is a small pull off that has a Forest Service Road gated off, on the right.
Wilson Mtn – Pine Ridge Loop – https://www.strava.com/activities/6289523738 and MAP
Suggested starting spot
Pine Ridge – Wilson Mtn Loop – https://www.strava.com/activities/5230395931 and MAP
Suggested starting spot
211 – 2579ft/12.2 Miles – Carvins Cove – From Timberview – Up Trough, down buck, Hotel, Up Hi Dee Ho, down Gauntlet, up Horse Pen, Up Royalty, down Trough – https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1291034444
Now you can add Midway Cruise trail to this for another option and more miles than Hotel.
208 – 2340/11.25 Miles – This is an out and back on the AT from Black Horse Gap off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Take the AT south to Salt Pond Road and then retrace your steps back. This one has a couple good strava segment climbs on the way out that make for good intervals, and then the mainly gradual climb back to where you started – https://www.strava.com/activities/3734666770
208 – 2919ft/14 Miles – Carvins Cove – From Bennett Springs – Rattlin’ Run to the powerline, from here, head straight up the mtn for around .35 miles to the AT, take the AT north over Tinker Cliffs and down to Sawmill Branch Trail, down Sawmill Branch to Arrowhead, take a right on Arrowhead to a right on Happy Valley, right on Songbird, right on Rattlin’ Run and back to the parking lot – https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/658697469
Honorable Mentions from beyond the Noke;
339 – 7636ft/22.5 Miles – Tyro VA – Three Ridges and the Priest – This is a common Ultra trail run. Take the AT north over 3 Ridges to the Mau-har Trail, take the Mau-har, back to the AT and where you started. Then go up and down the Priest – https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/600266422
271 – 7367ft/27.15 Miles – Swoope VA – The Wild Oak Trail Loop – This is a great training loop if you are looking from some serious climbing. Part of the loop is on the Grindstone 100 course – https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/838193296
247 – 2372/9.6 Miles – Hoop Hole figure 8. I don’t have a preference how to run the upper loop but the lower loop is nice to run in the CCW direction. I love coming in to those Rhodos from above. This place is tough. Don’t expect any PRs out here but it is a cool place to visit. I’d suggest coming in the non growing months as it is a bit overgrown and has stinging nettle in the late spring and summer – https://www.strava.com/activities/6419980552
194 – 4114ft/21.2 Miles – Just under the required 200+ per mile, this loop is a favorite of mine. It has the same start as one above; Glenwood Horse Trail – From the Day Creek day use area – Up to Black Horse Gap, N. on the AT, backtrack from the 2nd overlook to Spec. Mines Trail, down Spec. Mines to the Gravel road, right on the gravel road to the Hammond Hollow Trail, Up HH to the AT, north on the AT to the dirt road at Bobblett’s Gap, take a right, going under the BRP and continue another 3ish miles to a right onto the Glenwood Horse Trail back to the parking area – https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/675820335