“On a clear day, you can see forever.” My thoughts exactly as I looked all around me from the top of Cock’s Comb Trail. The view from the top is amazing as you take in the 180 degree vista. To the left, you see into Rockbridge County and to the right, into Allegheny County all the way to the state line. The actual hike is quite short, but these views are truly the drawing card.
Cock’s Comb Trail runs nearly parallel to the county line of Rockbridge and Allegheny. Though only a .21 mile trail, it is rated “Difficult” due to the steep incline. However, it was not as difficult as I had anticipated. For some reason, I envisioned a rock climb the entire distance and indeed, the last part is a scramble up boulders and some agility is required to accomplish that part of the hike. If you don’t get to the top of the rocks, you miss the view.
The trail is smooth and otherwise easily navigated. Late spring flowers were in bloom such as the pink wild azaleas, Lilly of the Valley and waves of deep purple widow’s tears. Black swallowtail butterflies enjoyed the floral sweetness and warmth of the sunlight filtering through the trees and a little bit mountain tea was growing along the trail. After a little bouldering to the top of the rocks, it is easy to see where the name “Cock’s Comb” comes from. Even the buzzards’ were enjoying sunning themselves on the lower set of rock outcroppings.
From the top looking toward the Rockbridge side of the mountain, you can see Lake Robertson in the valley. After we came down from the trail, we decided to explore the area around the lake. The lake is a 31 acre body of clear mountain water offering great fishing and boating. Also available is a large picnic area, tennis courts, a swimming pool, hiking trails, boat rentals, and a 56 site camping area which accommodates both RV’s and tents – another great option for a weekend outing of camping and canoeing on the lake.
To access the Cock’s Comb Trail from I-64 East, exit #35 at Longdale Furnace. Turn right onto Rt. 269 and travel .34 miles to SR 770 (Collierstown Road) which is to the left. Travel 4.1 miles to the top of the mountain, then take a left and continue 2.39 miles to the parking area which is on the left. Please note that signage is nonexistent and the trailhead is only minimally marked, but very visible. There is a post with a “5” on in and a National Forest flier attached to it. To continue on to Lake Robertson, after coming from the Cock’s Comb Trail, return out the 2.39 miles to the point that reconnects to SR770 and go left and this will take you down the other side of the mountain to SR652. Turn left and after a few miles, signage for Lake Robertson is on the left.
Published June 2014 – Day Tripper a tabloid insert to the Mountain Messenger published in Lewisburg, West Virginia
Social media sites like Facebook and Flickr have become wonderful resources for the weekend adventurer in all of us. Many photographers are anxious to post images of their outdoor adventures, scenic panoramas, and nature close-ups, putting the temptation out there for us to go and visit those places as soon as we have an opportunity. Really, a lot of these places are not that far away and how did we not know about them? A very striking, painterly image was recently discovered on Flickr of Glenn Falls, Virginia and a convincing voice suggested, “Someone should go and explore this waterfall and some around the I-81 area.”
”I will go”, I said, “but Glenn Falls is not indicated in my gazetteer for some reason.” It was on Google maps however, so we decided to just wing it. Since there are several others waterfalls in the area, we certainly have other options!
Being that my weekends are relegated to work, a midweek day was selected and as you can imagine, rain began as soon as I hit I-64 headed east. Really? Who would have believed it – right? This has been the summer of endless rains and if you have an adventurer’s heart, you just have to go with it, or sit in the recliner watching the grass grow.
After picking up my partner in adventure in Buchanan, Virginia, off we headed to Lexington to knock around and wait out the rain. Weather .com indicated that the rain would stop during the afternoon. By late morning, we headed out of Lexington on Route 11 – North Lee Highway. It was still trying to rain a little, but we pulled into Vesuvius and turned onto Route 56 east. Shortly after we started down this route, I caught a glimpse of a little hand painted sign that said, Glenn Falls. I said “there it is” to which Mark replied, “That’s all it is?” Well, it became obvious that this was not what we expected to find, so we decided to head on through the Vesuvius area and connect with the Blue Ridge Parkway heading toward the White Rock Falls area. It looked like a possibility in the gazetteer.
The rain and wind were still threatening and when we found the trail head, it indicated that it was a 2.5 mile hike both ways and with the on and off rain, we were not prepared to hike that distance-who would have thought to bring raingear? So we headed back into Vesuvius and stopped by Gerties’ General Store which appeared to be the (only) hotspot for some lunch in the area. Food aroma’s met us at the door and we also saw an opportunity to ask some locals about the Glenn Falls situation. Come to find out, it is on private property and it was questionable as to whether the owners allowed visitors into see the falls. As we were heading out of Vesuvius, it became obvious that this is the best view of the falls – No wonder we were not impressed heading in. After a nice lunch, we decided to take another route and head to Panther Falls on the Pedlar River which is located outside of Buena Vista in Amherst County.
As you go out of Buena Vista on Route 60 east, cross under the Blue Ridge Parkway and almost immediately, you come upon a Forest Service Road (dirt) marked Panther Falls Road which turns to the right. A very short distance down this road you will find yourself at the trail head located on the left.
By this time, the rain had stopped and there was a slight overcast, but this is desirable for photographing waterfalls! Plus, we had the entire place to ourselves. We slogged down the muddy trail a short distance to the falls and plotted out our best angle. Panther Falls is a split falls. It cascades in two different places which makes it a challenge to photograph. There was a significant cool breeze and mist rising from the water of this upper side. There are huge rocks on each side and on the left side, large “drilled out” places in the rock. At some point in the past, the powerful force of the water has made a perfect circular hollow in the rock as the water ran much higher and faster. As you look at the second section of the fall, watching the water, you can come to understand how that had happened. If the water were not as deep and forceful, you would probably also see a circular cutout in those rocks as well.
Swallow tail butterflies were flitting all around and the sound of the water along with the mist coming off of the falls made for a very relaxing time at Panther Falls. We headed out on the muddy trail as the sun began breaking through the cloud cover. A perfect day of chasing water falls had come to a close and it was time to head home to West Virginia.
Published on September 7, 2013 in Day Tripper a publication of Mountain Messenger in Lewisburg, West Virginia