Overlook view of a wide forested valley. The afternoon sun creates shadows across the mix of green and gold leaves. Blue tinged mountains rise in the distance.
Endless Mountains Bear Loop overlook at Warm Springs Mountain, Virginia. © Jennifer Dalke / TNC

Places We Protect

Warm Springs Mountain Preserve

Virginia

Three public trails offer an introduction to one of the most ecologically significant forests in the Central Appalachians.

COVID-19 UPDATE (September 25, 2020)

TNC’s public preserves in Virginia remain open. We ask all visitors to observe our preserve access guidelines and to follow current health and safety precautions, including guidance from the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), including maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from others (social distancing).

Thank you for helping us in our efforts to protect our visitors’ health and well-being.


Warm Springs Mountain Preserve helps stitch together thousands of acres of forest and conservation lands in western Virginia’s Allegheny Highlands. The preserve anchors our efforts to protect and restore a key wildlife corridor and habitat for an amazing diversity of natural communities, plants and animals.

Situated within a 77,000-acre unfragmented, largely roadless forest block, the preserve helps maintain healthy, breeding populations of interior-forest-dwelling songbirds, provides key habitat for wide-ranging mammals, and protects headwater tributaries of both the Jackson and Cowpasture rivers.

The preserve features Virginia’s only substantial montane pine barren, a globally rare, arid, fire-dependent landscape. The mountain harbors at least two other rare natural communities, three rare plants and eight rare invertebrates.

Get Involved: Preserve Volunteer Program

Virginia's Preserve Volunteer Community Program provides a vital service to help us maintain and monitor our public preserves across the state.

How can you get involved?

  • Community Members—become involved with a preserve without committing time to stewardship work. Receive periodic updates about the preserve and special events.
  • Preserve Stewards—visit Warm Springs Mountain at least 4 times a year to assess trail and preserve conditions and perform basic trail maintenance by removing fallen branches and overgrown vegetation.
  • Preserve Leaders—demonstrated commitment to the preserve and willingness to take on additional responsibilities like managing communication & scheduling, leading workdays and guiding naturalist hikes.

Please contact Jen Dalke, volunteer coordinator, at 434-951-0572 or jdalke@tnc.org to receive further information.

Download the Warm Springs Mountain Preserve Volunteer Program handbook to learn more.

What to see

Spring is prime time for wildflowers and bird watching. Summer is peak season for wildlife sightings, especially during morning and evening walks. And autumn offers beautiful displays of forest foliage.

Access

The Ingalls Overlook, Sandy Gap and Bear Loop hiking trails are open daily. These three trails offer distinct experiences, from expansive mountain views to a close-up look at a globally rare pine barren, along with opportunities to extend your hike on adjoining public lands.

Scroll to the bottom of this page to find a preserve guide and trail maps for download.

Bear Loop Trail - From the village of Hot Springs, travel US 220 South for 7.7 miles, turn left on State Route 606 and travel 2.6 miles to the crest of Warm Springs Mountain. Turn left onto State Route 703 (Airport Road) and travel 6.2 miles to the trailhead, just left of the entrance to Ingalls Field Airport.  This 3-mile loop trail is relatively flat and with several overlooks offering stunning panoramic views.  Interpretive signs highlight the mountain’s diversity of wildlife species and habitats in addition to the Conservancy’s efforts to restore the region’s fire-adapted oak and pine forests.

Ingalls Overlook Trail — At the northern end of the preserve, park at the Dan Ingalls Overlook, located on Route 39 just outside the village of Warm Springs. Here you will find the trailhead for the 2.4-mile (round trip) Ingalls Overlook Trail. Interpretive signs along the first mile provide an excellent introduction to Warm Springs Mountain and the region’s natural history. The trail then climbs among a series of scenic rock formations with views of Shenandoah Mountain and the Cowpasture River valley before looping back to the main trail and returning to the overlook.

Sandy Gap Trail — At the southern end of the preserve, park at the small gravel lot on Route 703 (Airport Road) just past the south entrance to Bald Knob. Cross the paved road to the gravel Bald Knob service road and you will find the trailhead for the Sandy Gap Trail.  Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, this 3.2-mile trail (one-way trip) features tranquil vistas and unique stone work, travels through the George Washington National Forest, and connects to the Douthat State Park trail system. This trail can be accessed directly from State Route 703 or from Forest Road 125, in which case the views of the Falling Springs valley from the trailhead overlook make this a truly rewarding climb.

Overlook view of a wide forested valley.
Warm Springs Mountain
Explore this 10,000 acre preserve in the heart of the Allegheny Highlands.

Warm Springs Mountain Preserve The preserve anchors our efforts to protect and restore a key wildlife corridor and habitat for an amazing diversity of natural communities.

Geocaching is a fast-growing hobby that provides an exciting way to explore the landscape and share special places with other outdoor enthusiasts. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using a smartphone or GPS, and can then share their experiences online.

A geocache can be found at Warm Springs Mountain Preserve, part of the geocaching trail along the Appalachian Waters Scenic Byway.  Log on to www.geocaching.com to set up a free account.

Please review our preserve guidelines before your visit, and keep these tips in mind during your outing:

  • Caches are only accessible during normal hours of operation.
  • Stay on marked trails at all times.
  • Dogs on the trail must be leashed at all times.
  • Do not litter; used marked receptacles to dispose of any trash.
  • Please respect the land; do not remove plants, animals, artifacts, or rocks.

New geocaches are not permitted on Conservancy preserves. These sites were carefully selected for their accessibility and low impact to the environment. 

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