Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail
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Site MAH13: Top Drive/North Mountain
Elevation: 3139 ft. Touted as "Skyline Drive without the crowds," the Top Drive Scenic Route takes the wildlife watcher along the ridge of North Mountain, providing spectacular views of the Allegheny Mountains to the west and the Blue Ridge to the east. The drive's remoteness leads to some amazing sightings of white-tailed deer and wild turkey crossing the road around almost every turn. The ridgeline leads to higher elevation habitat that holds numerous birds. Species to look for include eastern wood-pewee, white-breasted nuthatch, gray catbird, red-eyed and yellow-throated vireos, scarlet tanager, black-throated green and black-and-white warblers, American redstart and eastern towhee. Keep a careful watch on the sky for the occasional broad-winged or red-tailed hawk soaring overhead. Butterflies decorate the driving scenery with red-spotted purple, pipevine, spicebush and eastern tiger swallowtails being especially numerous. Top Drive is not maintained for winter travel. This section of the tour should be avoided in winter and early spring due to snow and ice. Enjoy the scenery as you travel and please drive carefully.
From Lake Robertson, return west on Rt. 770 for 4.3 miles to FR 447 at the top of the ridge. Turn right on FR 447 and follow it 6.7 miles to Rt. 780; continue 0.4 miles under I-64 to Rt. 850/Top Drive. Turn left on Rt. 850 and follow it 7.8 miles southwest to I-64. To return to the interstate, return to I-64 at the end of Rt. 850. Take I-64 west to Exit #14 (Covington) and begin the Iron Ore Loop, or take I-64 east and begin the Rockbridge River and Ridge Loop at Lexington.