Elevation: 1412 ft. at lower end, This is a 5.9-mile trail built upon an old railroad grade. The trail follows the Guest River as it meanders by 8 branches and creeks and terminates at the Guest River’s confluence with the Clinch River. The first 0.3-miles is accessible to persons with disabilities, 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. A variety of salamanders, can be found in or near seepages, natural springs, and creek beds.
Location Coordinates: 36.923240, -82.451440
From Coeburn, 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.