“A pleasant loop where you can learn a little more about Virginia's trees.”
— Helen White
This is an educational trail, and certain trees along the way are marked with a plaque identifying its species and some defining characteristics.
Open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. This section of trail is free-access.
Need to Know
While this trail is bike-free, it has an intersection with some of the (awesome) mountain biking trails further south. At that point, it might be hard to see a couple of the blazes for this trail. DON'T follow the yellow blazes - those are the biking trail.
First, you'll reach a sign indicating "no bikes" in the direction you came from - that is to say, you've left the "no bikes" section and will cross about fifty feet of shared trail before you reach a second "no bikes" sign in the direction you're going. At the time of this writing, they had a couple blue blazes on the trees in the CORRECT direction before you see another one of the green blazes you've been following. If you pass one "no bikes" sign but don't pass a second very soon, you're on the wrong trail. Once you're across this stretch it is easy to follow again.
This is a fun little trail that is fairly well-marked and very easy to get to! You can see the trailhead from the parking lot (Lot B). It makes a great short hike, or a quick warm-up to start your day. You're going to be following green blazes on the trees (most of them are shaped like little trees, because it's just delightful like that).
True to the name, this trail was sponsored by the Blue Ridge chapter of the Society of American Foresters, and so there's a large sign immediately at the mouth of the trail off the parking lot. There's also a mailbox right there with trail maps if you'd like one, and if it's empty, you can find maps in the explore center just across the road near the other parking lot (the explore center has a couple drinking fountains if you need water and clean restrooms as well).
There will be a fork very near the opening where you can choose to go to the 1994 clearing or around on the self-guided trail. This track follows the self-guided trail. It's called self-guided because, shortly after you begin, you'll start seeing the little plaques on some of the larger, more representative trees along the trail. Enjoy reading about the trees on the path as you go!
While the majority of the trail is relatively level, there are some areas with a steeper grade. You'll cross roots on the path along the way. Be aware of your footing, don't feel the need to rush, and it should be no trouble as a fun outing in the woods. The trail is well-kept and wide enough to be comfortable.
You're also going to be far enough away from the road that it's quiet. I took it on a sunny, humid, late-May day, and the shade from trees and greenery kept it cool. Do remember bug spray if gnats bother you, but I forgot it and didn't have an issue.
And when you've finished this trail, Explore Park has not just a handful of other neat trails to hike or bike as you prefer, but access to the Roanoke River on the head of the River Walk Trail
, a historic walking area, and multiple scenic outlooks nearby on the Roanoke River Parkway and nearby Blue Ridge Parkway.
For more information, Explore Park's website is here
, with a link to their trail maps.
Flora & Fauna
If you're heading out in the right season, be on the lookout for some slow-going millipedes crossing the trail with you! They're harmless, they can get to be about as long as an adult's thumb, and they're mesmerizing to watch glide along on their undulating waves of legs.
As always, watch and listen for squirrels careening madly through the trees. On the day I took this trail, I saw a female wild turkey on the nearby Old Salem Turnpike trail, so keep an eye out for turkeys, deer, and all the usual wildlife you'd expect in the woods of Virginia.