Guest River Gorge Trail

Trail Map

Description Suggest an Edit

The Guest River Gorge Trail meanders along ancient sandstone cliffs that plunges 400 feet to the pristine waters below. The deep gorge was created as the Guest River, now designated as a state scenic river, tunneled through Stone Mountain on its way toward the Clinch River. The gentle grade of this trail and its gravel surface make it ideal for a comfortable walk or bike ride. Benches along the route offer more than a place to rest, they yield stunning views of crystal-clear currents that, when interrupted sporadically by boulders, turn into impressive rapids.

In addition to spectacular Guest River views to the south, the trail offers a trip through the Swede Tunnel, built in 1922. The trail also crosses three bridges that were built over small creeks to replace the trestles once traveled by rail cars hauling coal mined nearby. Be sure to look for Devil's walking stick, a plant native to the southeast and a member of the ginseng family. This tall and spindly plant produces white blooms during July and August.

Near the end, the trail slopes downhill toward a working rail line across the Guest River. Just before this point, you will see a connection to the Heart of Appalachia Bike Route, which stretches another 125 miles to Burke's Garden in Tazewell County, Virginia. Legend has it that Burke's Garden is so beautiful, it was originally sought after as the location for George Washington Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate, but the people of Burke's Garden refused to sell him any land and thus he built his estate in Ashville, North Carolina, instead.

Parking and Trail Access

The Guest River Gorge Trail is an out-and-back trail, so there is only one endpoint. From US Alternative Hwy. 58, head south on State Route 72 near Coeburn. Travel for 2.3 miles on this curvy, two-lane road. You will pass the Flatwoods Picnic Area on your right, and very soon afterward, you will reach a sign for the Guest River Gorge on your left. Turn left onto this paved road, which is Forest Road 2477, and drive for 1.4 miles until you reach the parking lot. The trailhead is marked with a kiosk at the edge of the parking area.

Reviews

Wonderful Trail

   May, 2013 by youker

I did this trail on a lovely May day at 9 am in the still cool morning. The directions to the trail head are excellent. The tunnel and the bridge come up quickly. I did not have to pedal at all for the 5.8 miles down. At the end there is a bridge leading ...read more

great trail in SW VA

   July, 2010 by ajw

Well off the beaten path, but once you get there, a beautiful day in the woods. Start at the well marked parking lot off VA72 near Coeburn, and head down the trail. You will be coasting or lightly pedaling most of the 5 miles down the gorge. Go slow and ...read more

Ghost of the Interstate Railroad

   October, 2006 by viaductman

"Decided to explore the Guest River Gorge Trail in the Jefferson National Forest and was thrilled! This trail has pristine natural beauty, rugged high rock cliffs, neat railroad bridges (one tunnel) and virtually no sign of civilization. Railfans will ...read more