Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail
- Site Contact: None
- Site Access: Hatchery M-F, 8am – 3pm, Fee required, Everywhere else dawn to dusk year-round
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Site MTJ06A: Montebello Area
Elevation: 2752 ft. The Montebello area has something for everyone to see. Butterflies and hummingbirds frequent the area around the recycling center, you can see trout in the raceways at the hatchery, and a variety of warblers, including some high altitude ones can be found during a hike to Spy Rock. The Montebello area is a great place to view a wide variety of wildlife. If you are into salamanders, this area is rich in salamander diversity. Please feel free to pick up rocks and logs to look, but place them back gently and enjoy the view without handling them. Remember too, this is bear country and you could see one just about anytime, especially in the spring and summer months. At the first stop, the Hatchery provides opportunities to see trout being grown in the raceways fed by a freshwater spring. You will also get the opportunity to see black vultures sitting above the raceways waiting for the occasional opportunity to grab a quick meal. Other surprises in this area include a variety of woodpeckers and flycatchers, and wood or hermit thrushes (depending on the season.) Close behind the hatchery, is the parking lot to hike up to Spy Rock. This 1.3 mile moderately strenuous hike from just behind the Hatchery up to Spy Rock is probably the best viewpoint in the central Blue Ridge. The rock outcrop, at 3,980 feet elevation, provides a 360 degree panoramic view of the entire area. It is a great place to see the “lay of the land.” Because of the large expanse of national forest and the elevation, the hike to Spy Rock is a great place to see a host of warblers such as, black-throated green, yellow, and chestnut sided warblers. This is also a good place to see rarer warblers like cerulean and golden-winged. Just down the road and to the left is “Downtown Montebello” and no visit would be complete without a visit to the Country Store. Stop in an see the local crafts and artisans, pick up some hiking supplies and then sit out on the porch for awhile. Across from the store is a public fishing lake where a great blue heron is often seen fishing without paying the fee. An osprey or a bald eagle is not out of the question here either.
From Crabtree Falls, return to SR 56 and turn left and continue west. Travel 2.5 miles to Rt. 690/Fish Hatchery Road and turn left. From here there are several places to visit: Montebello Fish Hatchery: After turning right onto Rt. 690 continue approximately 0.25 miles to the hatchery parking lot on the left. Spy Rock Trail: Pass the hatchery parking lot and follow the road along the hatchery fence to the parking lot for hikers. Across from the parking lot follow the signs past the yellow metal gate to Spy Rock, approximately a 1.0 mile hike. “Downtown” Montebello: Return down Rt. 690/Fish Hatchery Road to SR 56. Turn left onto SR 56 and continue approximately a mile to the Montebello Country Store.