Guest River Gorge, Coeburn/Dungannon, VA

The Guest River Gorge is a walking/running/biking trail located within the guest 1Jefferson National Forest in between Coeburn and Dungannon, Virginia.

Pros: The Gorge is easily one of the most beautiful trails I have ever tried to run. There is a paved access road and large parking area that never seems close to full. The trail itself is an old railroad track that has been repurposed and is a gravel/dirt surface. Unlike other such trails in the area like the Creeper Trail that in many places are deep and soft and at others narrow and rough the gorge is harder packed and wide. I have even seen wheelchairs used on it and it’s great to walk, run or bike on.  There is a tunnel that it goes through close to the entrance and a trestle that offers unreal views of the river making it great for casual users as well as ones looking for a more challenging adventure. There are spectacular views of the river, plants, cliffs and even animals all along the way. The full length of the trail is listed as 55.8 miles but Garmin recorded it at between 5.4 and 5.6 and it is lined with benches throughout.

Cons: The Gorge is best described as deceptively downhill and decidedly uphill. After you cross the trestle/bridge near the entrance the trail turns downward for the next 5 miles. There is no other official way onto the trail except the entrance so make sure that you take water and snacks as needed ( there is an unofficial way onto the bottom of the trail but it requires parking on a dirt road and walking a mile on an active railroad line). Enjoy the scenery on the way down, for me the way up is an exercise in determination on what my Garmin recorded as about 1,500 feet of climb that was almost constant. After the first two miles cell service becomes really spotty and finally drops so there is no communication. Finally, although it has excellent access from Virginia Rt. 72, it is a long drive for most people from the Tri-Cities.