Length: 5.3 miles, round-trip
Part of the Roanoke Valley Horse Trail, the Chestnut Ridge Trail basically encircles the Roanoke Mountain campground. Leave the BRP at mile 120.5 and follow Mill Mountain Spur Road for 1.1 miles to the Chestnut Ridge Overlook to reach the trailhead. (The campground is about .2 mile past the overlook.) The pathway, lined with galax, mountain laurel, and rhododendron is wide and well graded for most of the way.
The trail crosses Mill Mountain Spur Road twice and passes by quite a number of short side trails to the campground, so this walk can be made about as long or short as you wish. The last 1.5 miles are not as well maintained or quite as scenic as the rest of the hike. Also, you may be sharing the path with horseback riders--be careful where you step.
This is a recommended early-morning or -evening hike for those who wish to escape the hustle, bustle, and noise of a crowded campground.
.0 Begin at the Chestnut Ridge Overlook. Immediately come to a trail junction. One-tenth mile to the left is the Roanoke Mountain campground. Bear right and descend slightly through dogwood and maple. In less than 200 feet come to the red blazed Chestnut Ridge Trail and turn left onto a wide pathway with little change in elevation. You'll find good wintertime views of the small community of Gum Spring here.
.15 Round a spur ridge and begin a series of small ascents and descents.
.6 With Mill Mountain Spur Road less than 100 yards to the left, switch back to the right and descend.
.8 Switch back to the left and continue to descend.
1 Cross a culvert and begin an almost unnoticeable rise in elevation.
1.4 Round another spur ridge and descend.
1.5 Just before reaching VA RT 669 there is a short side trail leading to Mill Mountain Spur Road. From there it is .4 mile left to the Roanoke Mountain campground and .6 mile to the Chestnut Ridge Overlook. To continue on the Chestnut Ridge Trail, walk on VA RT 669, cross under Mill Mountain Spur Road, and reenter the woods on a pathway to the left. Bear right, descend slightly, and begin a gradual rise.
1.6 Cross under a small utility line. Continue the gradual ascent on a forest floor that is conspicuously free of much undergrowth.
1.9 Cross under and parallel the utility line for 100 feet. The pungent smell of galax permeates the air.
2.1 To the left is a campsite, picnic table, and water fountain. The trail now begins a long loop around the campground. In a few hundred feet cross a trail which, to the left, leads to the campground. Soon, cross a spur ridge and another short trail to the campground. Begin a descent and, at the switchback, veer away from the campground.
2.3 Avoid the unauthorized trail to the right; switch back to the left on a more gradual descent.
2.5 Descend steeply to cross a gully. You may be close to the campground, but this spot offers quiet solitude.
2.7 Make a hard left and follow the trail into a narrow gully between two small ridge lines. Rise gradually.
2.9 Switch back to the right (straight ahead leads to the campground amphitheater.) Ascend and follow an old roadbed.
3.1 Switch back to the left (there is another side trail to the campground.)
3.2 Reach the top of a spur ridge. Campsites are immediately to the left.
3.5 Note the many mine diggings next to the trail. The pathway here is making use of an old narrow gauge railroad bed. These railroads used to lace the Blue Ridge Mountains, bringing the area's rich natural resources out to mills and processing plants.
3.6 A signed trail to the left leads .2 mile to the RV section of the campground.
3.8 Begin to ascend with many dogwood trees lining the trail. Soon there are open views across a trailer park to the Rockydale Quarry and surrounding mountains. The character of the trail changes markedly. It becomes narrower and sometimes overgrown with thorns, briers, and poison ivy. Descend.
4.1 Descend steeply.
4.3 Cross under some large utility lines. The trail may be indistinct, but continue straight and reenter the woods.
4.4 Cross the utility lines and then parallel them for 200 feet before descending to the left into the woods.
4.5 Come to VA RT 672. Directly across the road is a short spur trail to a main portion of the Roanoke Valley Horse Trail [BRP 33]. To continue on the Chestnut Ridge Trail turn left onto VA RT 672, cross under Mill Mountain Spur Road, and reenter the woods to the left. The trail is almost in the backyards of some Gum Spring homes.
4.6 Pass under utility lines as the pathway becomes wider and finally regains a sense of isolation. Begin to climb as you enter the deeper woods.
5.3 Return to the starting point of the trail; the Chestnut Ridge Overlook is 150 feet to the left.