Guest River Gorge

  • Highlights: River views, rock formations, wildflowers, tunnel
  • Distance: 12.3 miles out and back 
  • Elevation Change 932 feet
  • Trail Surface: Gravel
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Trailhead Parking: Guest River Gorge Parking Area, Thomas Jefferson National Forest, Coeburn VA.
  • Trail Markings: mile markers, the route is obvious 
  • Website: AllTrails and US Forest Service
  • Beer Pairings: Big Cherry Brewing Co.—Scotty’s Irish Red & Midnight Crusade Pale Ale

Trail Map:

The Hike:

This was one of our favorite rails to trails hikes. The trail is a wide, packed gravel path following the route of the railroad used by coal trains. The trail slopes gradually downhill to the Clinch River. The Guest River is partially visible throughout the hike with several nice views. You will hear the river as it cascades over rocks for much of the hike. Several short spur trails lead down to the river. In mid-April the wildflowers were in abundance.

The trail passes through a 200’ tunnel and then over several bridges. Several small waterfalls on the left flow into the Guest River. Hikers get a close-up view of the rocky edge of the gorge. Benches are scattered throughout the trail and are a great place for lunch with a view. 

At 6.1 miles, a bridge crosses the Guest River at the confluence with the Clinch River. An active CSX track passes between the bridge and the Clinch River with some nice views of the gorge. The return to the trailhead is a gradual uphill. 

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing:

Big Cherry Brewing Co. in Big Stone Gap is about 35 minutes from the trailhead. This is Big Stone Gap’s first brewery. They have 20 taps including several guest breweries. When we visited, they had four beers brewed on-site using the pure, pristine water from Big Cherry Lake. They have a full bar, indoor and outdoor seating, and an extensive food menu. Pete tried Scotty’s Irish Red (4.6% ABV), an easy-drinking red ale with a balanced malt character and notes of sweet caramel. Kathy enjoyed Midnight Crusade, a tasty dry-hopped pale ale with citrus, pine, and tropical fruit aromas.

Hike and drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Stay safe, be responsible, and leave no trace.