Friday, April 14, 2017



One of the most recognizable mountain peaks of southwest Virginia is Buffalo Mountain. At 3900 feet, it is Floyd County's highest peak.  It is a rocky humpbacked mountain from the top of which is a stunning 360 degree view of the surrounding countryside.  We took a hike to the peak on Good Friday.  It is only a 1.25 mile trek to the peak along a well maintained switchback trail. This is a gem of a hike that anyone can take. You aspiring hikers need to mark this one down as it would be a great way to start hiking this year!

The mountain is part of the State of Virginia's Natural Area Preserves.  The summit trail begins at a small parking lot at the end of a gravel forest road.  Getting to the preserve proved easy as my Waze App took me to the trail head.  The mountain is located to the west of the Blue Ridge Parkway about halfway between the Mabry Mill and Rocky Knob. It is only about 10 minutes from the Parkway but  be sure to look up the directions as there are a number of turns.

The trail up is a well marked and maintained trail consisting of switchbacks and rocks.  There are occasional trail windows offering teaser views of the surrounding countryside.  My compliments to the trail architect.  It makes a 525 foot climb quite manageable.  We made it to the summit in 24 minutes!

The trail is rated as moderate by most trail reviews.  While I do agree, there is a degree of steepness that makes the ticker thump.  Especially the last summit switchback. The trail at this point joins an old mountain access road which evidently served the fire tower that was once atop this mountain. It is steep but not as long as it looks!

The summit is about the size of two football fields.  To the west is a dome shaped rock upon which is the marker indicating the peak.  From this point is a wonderful view to the south, west and northwest.   On the other end of the summit is a small series of rock outcroppings providing views to the north and north east.  There are many opportunities for rock scrambling, each with a different view. 

Arrayed before us was the lush farmland of southwest Virginia, turning green under the spring sunshine.  A gentle breeze provided an aerial roller coaster for the falcon like birds that entertained us.  


Note I say "falcon-like" birds.  I can't make myself believe these birds were buzzards but they sure weren't I will call them "falcons"   They performed for us an aerial ballet during the entire time we were on the summit.
Supposedly, you can see Pilot Mountain in North Carolina from the summit.  I tried but it was overcast in the Piedmont and all I could do was make out what I thought to be the outline of Hanging Rock Mountain.

Climbing out on the outcroppings facing north, I think we had the best views.  Of course it was there I rested my dogs and ate my power bar lunch so that may have influenced me a bit.
Of course being the people watcher that I am I was drawn to three boys and their dog who were taking a break from rock scrambling on the far western summit cliff.  Great scene!

We lingered as long as we could on the top of the Buffalo hump....the views were stunning but we were hoping that the haze would burn off so we could glimpse Pilot Mountain but had to be content with the outline of Bull Mountain to the north instead.

There are no perfect hikes but this one is close. It is certainly one of the best short hikes we have trekked.  The effort to view ratio is slanted to the view only because they are so good you feel guilty to have only trudged 1.25 miles to get them.  The access is an 8+ as I think it may have been harder to find if not for Waze.  The trail is a real scenery on the trail but well designed and well maintained....the views are a the fall colors are stunning from the summit...overall a solid 9 hike.
Special thanks to Smitty and Lynette Welborn whose picture on Facebook a top this mountain made me aware of its existence....Now that we know it is here, it will be a frequent destination.

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