Outbound Collective logo

Hike the Great Channels

Saltville, Virginia

based on 6 reviews



6 miles

Elevation Gain

1200 ft

Route Type



Added by Elyse Clark

The Great Channels of Virginia are a maze of 400 million year old large sandstone blocks with crevices 30-40 feet deep that you are able to walk through and explore. One of the most unique places in Virginia, this is a hike you don't want to miss.

Park at the parking lot at the crest of Clinch Mountain at Hayters Gap on Rt. 80, and walk along the road (Raven Ridge Road) behind the gate. The trail is fairly easy with minimum elevation gain and follows an old road bed almost the whole way. Be sure to keep to the left when the road splits and cross into "Channels State Forest".

The trail is easy and well-marked, and will soon lead you to the top of the mountain at Middle Knob. Atop the knob (4,208') is an old retired fire tower and a great view of Beartown Mountain. Continue over the boulders past the fire tower to follow the spur trail into the woods for the Great Channels.

As the main attraction of this hike, spend some time exploring the maze of sandstone rocks. Geologists think these formations occurred due to continuous freezing and thawing over time to create these large cracks in the rock.

Once finished exploring, retrace your steps back to the fire tower and down the mountain back to Hayter's Gap for a 6.0 mile round trip.

Read More

Download the Outbound mobile app

Find adventures and camping on the go, share photos, use GPX tracks, and download maps for offline use.

Get the app


Easy Parking

Hike the Great Channels Reviews

This hike is great! It is a bit long, but there are a few trailheads that you can start from. The top is amazing. There is a fire tower at the top of the hike. The stairs are removed from the first few levels. After you pass the fire tower, there is small trail leading to the rocks. There is a maze of boulders that you can walk through and explore. You can also enjoy the view from the top of the rocks. There is a small fence to stop hikers from climbing out on the rocks, but you can still enjoy the view. Be careful when exploring the maze, if you follow the rocks at the edge of the woods, you can easily loose the maze. Overall, this hike is awesome!

The parking area off Rt. 80 and the trail are well maintained. The hike is not overly difficult, and my 5 year old sister was able to walk the entire way. The top has so much to explore from the rocks to the view. I would recommend this hike to anyone. This is one of the few trails I don’t get tired of and am always down to hike again.

This hike was everything we expected. We spent over an hour at the top exploring the channels, a must if your ever in the area!

If you are in SW VA, I think this is a must-do. Hike gets steep at times but it is straight forward walking. The trail is wide and footing is easy. After a week of rain, it was muddy however. After 3 miles the trail opens up to the rocky top with the destroyed shelter and old old fire tower. Behind the fire tower is a small trail that leads into the channels. The light makes the moss granite almost glow as you check out the labyrinth of mini slot canyons. Head back out and up one of the boulders on your way out for the views from the top. Just be careful not to fall back into the crevasses!

Simple hike, great view, amazing formations

I had forgotten how far it seems to be to the top. It took my friend an I about an hour and a half to make it. It saddens me that the fire tower is inaccessible but the view is absolutely incredible from the top of the rocks. Use caution when actually exploring within the rocks though it is quite easy to get disoriented.

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


Bike the Virginia Creeper Trail

Explore Backbone Rock and Falls

Hike Molly's Knob

Hike the Lake Trail Loop at Hungry Mother SP

Explore the South Holston Dam

Little Oak Campground