Overlook at Virginia's Bottom Creek Gorge.
Bottom Creek Overlook Overlook at Virginia's Bottom Creek Gorge. © Glenna Goldman / The Nature Conservancy

Places We Protect

Bottom Creek Gorge Preserve

Virginia

Enjoy spectacular scenery and views of the second highest waterfall in Virginia.

One of the headwater streams of the South Fork of the Roanoke River, Bottom Creek is a powerful mountain stream that forms a stair-step series of broad-basin waterfalls known as "The Kettles." 

It's a hotbed for rare aquatic species, providing critical habitat for four native species of fish: the orangefin madtom, the bigeye jumprock, the riverweed darter, and the Roanoke darter. It also contains approximately 10 percent of all fish species known from Virginia, including native brook trout.

Please note: fishing is not permitted in the preserve.

Additional Resources

Bottom Creek Gorge has more than five miles of moderate trails. An old road takes hikers up a hill, and then there are three branches of trail. There are no restrooms.

Winter weather can impact road conditions. Visitors should be aware of the possibility of wash outs or large holes on the road leading into the preserve and can park on the road shoulder.

What to See: Plants

A half-acre shale barren provides habitat for the globally rare chestnut lipfern. Formerly known only from north-central Mexico to the southwestern United States, this lipfern occurs in isolated patches in southwestern Virginia and eastern West Virginia.

An old-growth hemlock forest rising from the north side of the creek remained largely untouched due to its inaccessibility. A mix of forest and field covers the rest of the preserve.

Mixed hardwood stands of tulip poplar, maple, oak and hickory are complemented by several meadows and dense rhododendron thickets in ravines.

Waterfall at Bottom Creek Gorge
Bottom Creek Gorge
Enjoy spectacular scenery and views of the second highest waterfall in Virginia.

Bottom Creek Gorge Spectacular scenery and the second highest waterfall in Virginia.

Additional Resources

We invite you to experience and enjoy preserves where we provide public access, but remember that every visitor has an impact. Please follow our visitation guidelines to protect yourself and nature.

  • Preserves are open to the public during daylight hours. 
  • Passive recreation such as walking, bird watching, and photography is welcomed. 

 THE FOLLOWING ACTIVITIES ARE NOT ALLOWED:

  • Bringing dogs onto the preserve
  • Picking flowers, mushrooms, etc.
  • Removing rocks or other parts of the landscape
  • Smoking
  • Camping
  • Fires or cookouts
  • Driving motorized vehicles, including ATV’s, except on designated access roads
  • Biking, except at Brownsville Preserve
  • Fishing, trapping or hunting, except as otherwise posted
  • Horseback riding
  • Feeding wildlife
  • Releasing animals or introducing plants
  • Disposing of trash or other waste, including biodegradable materials

TO MINIMIZE YOUR IMPACT, WE ASK THAT YOU PLEASE ALSO OBSERVE THE FOLLOWING:

  • Stay on trails.
  • Avoid walking in wet, boggy areas.
  • Inspect pant legs and shoes to remove seeds before entering and when leaving the preserve. Failure to do so could introduce invasive weeds to new locations.
  • If you flush a ground nesting bird, stop and avoid walking near the nest area.
  • Observe all posted signs.
  • Please do not remove stakes, signs, flagging, tape or similar objects. These may be markers for a research project.
  • Please do not trespass on private property adjacent to preserves.

For your own comfort and enjoyment, come prepared. Wear comfortable shoes for hiking, pack rain gear, and wear long pants with socks over them to protect yourself from ticks and poison ivy. Always remember to bring water, as dehydration is a serious year-round threat.

If you observe any illegal activity on a preserve such as ATV use, do not confront the offenders yourself. However, do feel free to call local law enforcement.

A note about wildlife

While black bear populations are healthy in the western part of the state, you are unlikely to encounter a bear while visiting one of our preserves.  More often than not, a wild bear will detect you first and flee from the area. However, black bears that have become accustomed to humans and their foods may not run away. In these cases, certain precautions are offered for consideration (source: USFS):

  • Do not run. Remain calm, continue facing the bear and slowly back away.
  • Keep children and pets close at hand.
  • Make lots of noise. Yell, rattle pots and pans, whistle and break sticks.
  • Travel in groups.
  • Stand upright. Do not kneel or bend over. Wave arms, jackets or other materials.
  • Never approach or corner a bear.
  • Never offer food to a bear.
  • Be aware of the presence of cubs and never come between a bear and its cubs.
  • Fight back aggressively if a bear attacks you.

Enjoy your visit and please report any problems you encounter at a preserve to the Virginia Chapter at 434-295-6106.

Bottom Creek Gorge Enjoy more than five miles of moderate trails.