Mill Creek Nature Park – Hiking
Mill Creek Nature Park attracts lots of mountain bikers and fishermen to this remote and scenic region of Southwest Virginia, but the best way to explore the cascading waterfalls of Mill Creek is to hike up Pearis Mountain. The trails are mostly steep and rocky, passing by historic sites like an old dam, an engineered structure that served as the Giles County reservoir. At the top, hikers can access the Appalachian Trail, which offers panoramic views of the New River Valley and the option to proceed to two breathtaking overlooks, Sentinel Point on Wolf Creek Mountain and Pearis Mountain’s majestic Angels Rock. Mill Creek is a native trout stream, and fishermen come for the fly-fishing and bank fishing. Mill Creek Nature Park was voted the Best of the Blue Ridge in 2013, and the park is well maintained by the tiny town of Narrows, which is frequented by A.T. hikers looking for supplies or rest.
What Makes It Great
Despite its proximity and access to the A.T., Mill Creek Nature Park remains a lesser-known hiking destination. It’s never overrun with visitors, and you’ll often have a trail to yourself. To get to the A.T. or the two scenic overlooks, you’ll need to hike up a steep and narrow gorge that parallels fast-moving Mill Creek. This leads to a collection of waterfalls pouring down layers of rock framed by massive rhododendrons. There are five cascades in all. Views from the upper elevations are of The Narrows, a rock formation created when Peters Mountain and East River Mountain forced the powerful New River to condense to its narrowest width. From the ridge, you’ll see for miles—West Virginia’s Allegheny Plateau to the north and to the east Butt Mountain. Just below is the tiny town of Narrows, the people who look after this park, keeping it clear and installing helpful signage.
Who is Going to Love It
With multiple trails that run the gamut, Mill Creek Nature Park satisfies a range of hikers, although the initial ascent is rated difficult. The easy hikes are on the ridge at the top, but you still have to get there. Families with children can scramble part way up the Waterfall Trail to get to the historic dam and picnic area. Serious hikers can scale Pearis Mountain and proceed to either one of the two breathtaking summits, Angels Rest and Sentinel Point. Rock climbers will enjoy scaling the freestanding pillar of rock around Sentinel Point.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Butternut Trail begins at the parking lot and turns into the Waterfall Trail as it parallels Mill Creek. Next, join the rocky Catwalk Trail along 1.25 miles of cascading waterfalls. At the intersection, follow the Old Rhodie Trail through acres of rhododendron tunnels, keeping an eye out for the spur trail that leads to the Appalachian Trail. From the A.T. hikers can access two peaks—Angels Rest and Sentinel Point—this will add time and distance to the hike but the views are worth the effort. Return by Old Rhodie Trail until it intersects Butternut and then follow Butternut’s switchbacks down, past the campground to the parking area.
Featured image provided by Fred Wolfe