Birding and Wildlife Loop Trails

Appalachian Wonders Loop: A Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail Located within the Cumberland Plateau, the Appalachian Wonders Loop is a haven for naturalists, and in particular, birders. With 24 species of breeding warblers, Wise County can be a phenomenal venue for bird-watching. It's not just the warblers that make this area a birding treasure; there are many other nesting bird species that make this region their summering home. Places like High Knob Lake can offer an evening serenade of four species of thrushes! Maturing forests juxtaposed to early succession growth of reclaimed strip mines at high elevations are likely to attract a large number of habitat-specific breeding migrants. Look for unusual species or rarities, such as Kirtland's warbler at Wise Reservoir, during spring migration. In addition to a rich bird life, these areas are home to a diversity of flora, salamanders, insects, and mammals, including foxes and even black bear. The Appalachian Wonders Loop will lead you to discover an area rich with history, cultural expression and outdoor recreation. Link:


Big Stone Gap Loop: The quaint Town of Big Stone Gap offers a glimpse into the rich culture and heritage of early life in western Virginia. It is home to the "Trail of the Lonesome Pine," the official state outdoor drama, and the Harry Meador Coal Museum. All of the sites within this loop are in close proximity. Visitors are also encouraged to take the Walking Tour of Big Stone Gap, which includes some of the sites on this loop, as well as additional museums and historic sites. A short walk around Fraley Park or a tour of the Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park is sure to be pleasant and fruitful. For those with more nature-exploring time on their hands, Roaring Branch is known among local birders as a secret birding treasure. With its spectacular rhododendron thickets, cascading waters, and moss-covered rocks, expect to experience a treasure at this site. Visit Lake Keokee to view dragonflies in summer or waterfowl during winter months. LINK:



Lonesome Pine Loop: The Pound River decorates this region made famous by John Fox, Jr., in his 1908 novel "Trail of the Lonesome Pine" that mentions several of the places in this area of Virginia. Many of the sites on this loop are situated directly on the Pound River or along one of the waterways that join the Pound River. The majority of sites are located within the valleys or surrounding mountains, with some sites, such as Cranes Nest River Trail, offering views from berms overlooking the river. In addition to being destinations themselves, these venues are excellent for visitors in transit to West Virginia or Kentucky. Breaks Interstate Park, for example, is nestled in the Cumberland Mountain Overthrust Block, along the Kentucky/Virginia state border. Climb to the peak of Birch Knob, and on a clear day, be rewarded with views of Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina! The Pound River and other waterways, as well as surrounding mountains offer a great diversity of habitat for a variety of endemic wildlife.  LINK:




























Saint Paul Loop: The Saint Paul Loop offers six excellent sites in proximity to the Town of Saint Paul. Included in this mix are state and city lands likely to be productive for wildlife watching. The loop variety includes both extensive areas and relatively small venues. Wetlands, montane and woodland habitats can be found on this loop. Elevation ranges vary, with Sugar Hill Loop Trail climbing above and providing a stunning view of the Clinch River Valley. The Pinnacle towers above Big Cedar Creek and is surrounded by a fragile ecosystem. There are several species of rare and endangered species resident here, including the magnificent but elusive hellbender. LINK:

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