Thursday, April 27, 2017

Cumberland State Forest, VA - Willis River Trail and Cumberland Multi-Use Trail Loop

Cumberland State Forest - Virginia Department of Forestry

GPS Coordinates 37.53207, 78.26729
Cumberland Multi-Use Trail Head Parking in Bear Creek Lake State Park
Car passes issued at the time of registration for cabins or camping are valid for parking at all Virginia State Parks, otherwise there is a $4 parking fee.

Bear Creek Lake State Park Trail Guide - Virginia DCR
Cumberland Trails Map - Virginia Department of Forestry
A rerouted portion of the Willis River Trail is not reflected on the forest map.  The forest map does not show the state park trails and the state park map does not show all of the forest trails so both maps are needed.
The route of this hike is highlighted in purple.  The rerouted section of the Willis River Trail follows the boundary line instead of the red dashes.
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HIKE DISTANCE:  7.25 miles

Having just returned from hiking at High Bridge Trail State Park, I turned on the A/C, we ate lunch, gave Shawnee arthritis and pain meds, closed the blinds, and waited for her to fall sound asleep (which did not take long at all).  I was good for a few hours of more challenging hiking on my own.
I drove over to the Bear Creek Lake State Park parking at the beginning of the Cumberland Multi-Use Trail.  This parking is not shown on the Cumberland Forest map but I indicated it with a "P" on the reroute map above.
Starting on the Cumberland Multi-Use Trail from the parking lot.  Lots of deforestation in this area and I was thinking this hike might not have been a good idea.
I stayed left to get to the Willis River Trail, would be returning via the Channel Cat Trail on the right.
Not pretty at all.
But it gets better.
I turned right on the white-blazed Willis River Trail and the scenery started to improve quickly.
Lots of downed trees that are easy enough to step over but definitely a more rugged trail than the state park trails.
The trail came out into a clearing with no indication of which way to turn so I went left based on the assumption that the white ribbon might serve as a trail marker.
Apparently so because the Willis River Trail clearly continued to the left leaving the clearing a short distance ahead.
Lots of blazes.
Passing the end of the Kestrel Trail which would go back into the state park.
The Willis River Trail comes to Little Bear Creek and follows along with a crossing here and there.
Very beautiful woods with a very remote feeling.
A Carolina Wren who gave me a nanosecond and one attempt and snapping his picture.
Crossing Little Bear Creek.
Another creek crossing.
The trail climbs up above the creek for a bit...
...then descends to rejoin the creek.
Coming up on Bear Creek Road which is also the Cumberland Multi-Use Trail.
A kiosk and parking area not shown on the map.
I could have returned on the CMT but I wasn't ready to head back yet.
So I decided on the next section of the Willis River Trail before hooking up with the CMT.
The WRT does not return to the park but the CMT does.
Bear Creek
To the left all along this section are PRIVATE PROPERTY signs indicating the trail was following the forest boundary, which was inconsistent with the map.  At the time I did not know why but kept following the blazes.
Throughout much of this section the trail is not very well defined but it is easy enough to follow the blazes.
The trail comes out at a clearing and goes right.
Meeting up the the CMT but not where I had expected to according to the map.
The white-blazed WRT and blue-blazed CMT together in a power cut along Route 628 - again confusing and not on the map.
The WRT went left, I continued straight on the CMT.
The last blue blaze I would see for a while but continued in the power cut for lack of an alternative.
I came out on to this dirt road.  No trail markers, no signs, nothing.  I consulted my GPS and turned right since that was the direction to take heading back towards where I parked.
Yellow-Breasted Chat
When I saw this to the right, still not knowing if I was on the CMT or not, thought I would check it out.
Hmmm, white blazes, now that's interesting.  That would be the WRT, not the CBT, if the blazes even had anything to do with the WRT.
But consulting my GPS, that was taking me in the wrong direction so back to the dirt road.
Lo and behold, suddenly blue blazes started.  I was, in fact on the CMT.  (It was later when I uploaded my track and compared to the map that I understood what was going on.  Those white blazes were on what used to be the WRT, which is where I expected to come out on the CMT but apparently with the reroute the new blazing had not been completed.)
Feeling better that I was not only going in the right direction but on the right trail!
Up ahead a horse and an Australian Cattle Dog who immediately went to heal position when they saw me approach.  If all off leash dogs were trained that well, there would be no need for leash laws.
It was at the end of this road when I turned around and saw ...
... that I had been on Booker, I knew I had been where I planned to be all along.
Now a right on the CMT, which also goes left.
Then a left...
... on the yellow-blazed Quail Ridge Trail heading back into the state park.
At the end of Quail Ridge, right on Lakeside.
Some tadpoles and frogpoles in the water before the bridge.
A left on the red-blazed Kestrel Trail.
Then a right on Channel Cat.
A left on the CMT back to the parking lot.
Uh oh.  That "You were hiking without me, weren't you?" look, apparently having completely forgotten she hiked that morning.
That evening we sat out on the porch reading ...
... and watching ...
... a Great Blue Heron in the lake below.


  1. I'm heading out there this weekend, I'm going to try and follow your path. thanks for posting!