The Great Channels

  • Highlights: amazing rock formations, slot-canyon rock maze, wildflowers 
  • Distance:  6 mile out and back
  • Elevation change:  1,280 feet
  • Difficulty level: Moderate
  • Trailhead Parking: Hayter’s Gap, route 80 Saltville VA. Note the parking area is very small and has spaces for just 10 vehicles. Parking on route 80 is not permitted. 
  • Website: Virginia Dept. of Forestry 
  • Beer Pairings: State Street Brewing-High Hopes IPA & After Midnight porter

The Hike:

This amazing hike is one of the most unusual and unique hiking destinations in Virginia. Parking is limited so plan to arrive early in the day. The hike to reach the channels is well marked. There is a trail information kiosk in the parking area with a trail map. Begin on a fire road, the white blazed Brumley Mountain Trail. 

At ¾ of a mile, the fire road continues to the right. Stay on the Brumley Mountain Trail which now becomes a more scenic dirt path. At about 2 miles, the trail becomes steeper including several switchbacks. You will soon reach the junction of the red blazed Great Channels Trail. Take a left on this trail and pass through a small forest of rhododendron. At just under 3 miles you will reach the old fire tower. Walk to the right of the tower and follow signs to the Great Channels. 

The Great Channels remind us of the slot-canyons in Arizona and Utah. The Great Channels are also large sandstone formations covering an area of about 20 acres. The maze winds around between and under large boulders, some the size of school bus. The maze may be a little confusing but it is not large enough to get lost. Even on a sunny day, the maze is dark and cool. Some pathways loop around and others dead end. There is only one way in and out, and you probably will have several other fellow hikers exploring with you. After exploring, retrace your steps back to your vehicle.

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing:

Bristol Virginia was our home-base for a long weekend of hiking. Bristol is best known as the birthplace of country music. It is also known for State Street which runs through the middle of town and divides Bristol Tennessee to the south and Bristol Virginia to the north. State Street Brewery on the Virginia side of Bristol serves up some good beer with live music most nights. We tried their flagship beer, High Hopes IPA, made with Cascade hops and 60 IBUs. It had citrusy undertones and a hoppy finish. Pete really liked the After Midnight porter. It was rich, dark, and complex with coffee and caramel flavors balanced with dark malty bitterness.

Hike and drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Stay safe and be responsible.