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 head-water 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." 

Conditions

There are 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.

Download a trail map (pdf)

View Preserve Guidelines (pdf)

Why TNC Selected this Site

Bottom Creek Gorge is a hotbed for rare aquatic species, providing critical habitat for four species of fish native to the headwaters of the Roanoke River: 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.

Flanking Bottom Creek are forests of mixed hardwoods (tulip poplar, maple, oak, hickory) and upland meadows. Bottom Creek Gorge also contains virgin hemlocks and hundreds of wildflowers.

Plan Your Visit

Download a trail map (pdf)

View Preserve Guidelines (pdf) 

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.

For more information, contact the Virginia program office at  (434) 295-6106.

Waterfall at Bottom Creek Gorge
Bottom Creek Gorge
Bottom Creek Gorge is a hotbed for rare aquatic species. It contains three rare fish and one globally rare plant. Bottom Creek is critical habitat for four species of fish native to the headwaters of the Roanoke River, and it also contains approximately 10 percent of all fish species known from Virginia.

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

Know before you go: A note about bears

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