MAW03: Guest River Gorge Trail
Elevation: 1975 ft., This is a 5.8-mile trail built upon an old railroad grade. The trail follows the Guest River as it meanders through 8 branches and creeks and terminates at the Guest River’s confluence with the Clinch River. The first 0.3-miles is handicap accessible, and the remainder of the trail is accessible to hikers and bicyclists. This scenic trail passes through riparian woodlands, creekside bottoms, 300-million year old cliff lines and rock outcrops (including Pennsylvanian sandstone in Lee Formation (river bottom and side slopes) and Norton Formation (bedrock)), and remnants of the railway that once ran through this region to haul locally-mined coal and saltpeter.
An abundance of wildlife is easily viewable along this trail. Migration can be phenomenal along this riparian corridor in both spring and fall. Hardwood breeders such as flycatchers, several species of warblers and tanagers can be found throughout the summer. Along the water’s edge, also look for nesting green heron and the tail-pumping Louisiana waterthrush. Waterways create a dynamic system that intensifies the local diversity of flora and fauna. This trail is embraced by lush foliage and blooming wildflowers often graced by flying insects. Butterflies such as monarch, eastern comma, painted lady, and several species of skippers flit about the trail. The dazzling ebony jewelwing line much of the trail’s woodland edges, each fiercely guarding his/her territory. Salamanders, such as northern dusky salamander, can be found in or near seepages, natural springs, and creek beds.
From the Wise Reservoir, continue southeast on Rt. 646/Darden Drive, which later becomes Coeburn Mountain Road, for 4.8 miles. Turn on Rt. 649; continue for 0.2 miles, following the signs for SR 72 South into the Town of Coeburn. Follow SR 72 South to US 58 ALT and proceed south on SR 72 /US 58 ALT for 1.1 miles to SR 72 South. Follow SR 72 South 2.0 miles to the Guest River Gorge Trail entrance on the left. Continue along this road 1.3 miles to the parking area. The trailhead is located beside the parking lot.