Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail
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- Site Access: Daily, sunrise-sunset;
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Site MMR10: Elk Garden
Elevation: 4434 ft. Elk Garden is named after the now extinct eastern elk that once roamed throughout this area along with timber wolves, mountain lions, and bison. Today, none of these animals exist here, but black bear, white-tailed deer, and wild turkey are common throughout these woodlands. Entry to three trails can be found at Elk Garden: Elk Garden Trail, the VA Highlands Horse Trail, and the Appalachian Trail (AT). The AT to the west leads to Whitetop Mountain and to the east, Mt. Rogers. The Elk Garden Trail leads to a valley in the shadows of Whitetop Mountain. Elk Garden is a scenic area, with rocky outcroppings and expansive mountain balds surrounded by deciduous hardwood forest. Neotropical nesting birds of this area include songbirds such as Vesper's sparrow, common raven, various hawks and several species of warblers. Visitors who take the AT trail to Whitetop Mountain can see how the dynamics of elevation and habitat affect songbird diversity. This is a really intriguing area where one may find a large diversity of avian summer residents. The mountain balds are also conducive to hawk-watching in the fall. During summer, common raven, turkey vulture, red-tailed and broad-winged hawks might be seen patrolling the area.
From Whitetop Mountain, return to Rt. 600 and turn left. Follow Rt. 600 north for 1.2 miles to Elk Garden on the right.