Near: Abingdon, VA
Route: North-South Road (trail)
Type: Out and Back
Distance: approx. 10 miles
Difficulty: Advanced, lots of elevation gain
Conditions: Hot, sunny day!
Impression: This was a great hike. I had never been out there so to find a fire tower at the top was a great surprise. The climb from the second parking lot off the North-South Road is extreme and continuous for a couple hours. There was also very little water opportunities coming this way, so plan on bringing all the water you'll need for the day. With that said, there are a couple of opportunities to gather water with a pump or if you have a dog, they should be fine for most of the day...
I had a very pleasant lunch underneath the tower and then played around the enormous sandstone rocks that make up "the channels". This area is awesome and even without the fire tower, makes this hike worth while. The natural rock maze offers a unique play area for visitors, with many nooks and crannies that only the smallest explorers can truly appreciate.
With plenty of great photo opportunities within this wondrous setting, The Channels Natuaral Area Preserve is a great day hike, easily accessible from Abingdon, VA and Interstate 81.
Directions to Trailhead: From Interstate 81, take exit 24 and go west on Rt. 80. Follow that to Hayters Gap and turn left onto SR 689. Continue for about 1.5 miles until the North-South Road appears on the right. There is a small "The Channels" sign and it's across from a baptist church. The first parking lot is on the right, the second lot is about a mile up the road.
Suggested Map: Unfortunately, there is no good map for this area. Click here for The Channels official government page with a link to a PDF map, which is all that there is.