A Guide to Hiking the Grand Canals of Virginia’s Slot Canyon

Virginia’s cities are full of fun, and while some residents may say they know the best of Virginia, there’s a hidden treasure in the state that few know about. One of the most interesting geological regions in the state of Virginia is the Great Channels Nature Preserve. The location is in a breathtaking setting that gives visitors the opportunity to enjoy some time hiking amidst nature. Visitors can walk around and examine these massive 400 million year old sandstone boulders, including fissures thirty to forty feet below the surface. This hike will take visitors to one of the most fascinating places in Virginia. Let’s explore what individuals need to know if they intend to hike in this serene location.

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Hike The Grands Canals

One of the most recent treks in the region is the one to the Grands Canals. It has two starting points, giving tourists the chance to experience the area via two alternative routes that include steep ridges, scaled sandstone structures, and narrow passageways. Those planning to visit the place can check out the details below.

The specifics of the hike

  • Distance – 6.6 miles
  • Difficulty – Moderately difficult
  • Time taken – 4-5 hours
  • Type – Hiking
  • Free access for all
  • Hike suitable for dogs

The trail almost entirely follows an old road channel and is moderately straightforward with little elevation. Visitors can easily continue the hike thanks to the easy-to-follow route and clear signposting. Tourists should take their time navigating the sandstone rock maze, which is the key element of the hike. Permafrost and the wedging of glaciers from the last ice age, which created wide cracks in the soft rock, are thought to be the source of the geological creation. Unmatched anywhere else in the state and reminiscent of the gorges and valleys of the American Southwest, the Great Ranges offer a surreal experience.


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The Brumley Mountain Trail

The flat dirt surface of the Brumley Mountain Route, crossing private land, is the starting point for the hike. The path winds through the Channels Wilderness Area, Brumley Bay Baptist Campground and Hidden Canyon Wildlife Conservation Area starting at Hayters Pass. From the Route 80 parking lot, hikers should hike 3 miles on the east side of the local trail before attempting the Great Channels. Travelers hike out and back with an elevation of approximately 1,219 feet from Highway 80. After approximately three miles of travel, hikers arrive at the entrance to the beautiful Great Channels.


The Grandes Canals Trail

The Channels Trek, an out-and-back hike with about 2,600 feet of elevation gain that begins right off the bat on Route 689, is the more historic of the two entries into the Great Channels. Hikers are rewarded with a long journey through a lush section of the Channels Wilderness Area, frequented by white-tailed deer and black bears, all along the 5.5-mile route to the Great Channels. Both paths conclude the summit of Middle Knob and offer panoramic views of nearby ridges and valley-defined terrain from all angles. From there they both plunge into the complex system of sandstone cliffs following the same route.


The Brumley Mountain Route and the Channels Path combine at the top of the Middle Knob under the canopy of a tall lookout tower to form a trail that leads to the Great Channels of Virginia. If the conditions are right, views from Middle Knob can encompass the North Carolina Highlands as well as nearby peaks such as the Clinch Mountain Range, including Beartown Peak.

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Tips for having the best time

  • Visitors should plan to spend the whole day on the expedition and make time. People should allow plenty of time to explore the sandstone maze surrounded by mountains thoroughly and enjoy the views from Middle Knob, as well as the extra travel time needed to drive on gravel roads.
  • Visitors should be sure to stock up on final hiking supplies in the local town, as the entrances to both routes are on very isolated stretches of road.
  • Consider wearing shoes with good traction and ankle support, and be sure to carry all the hiking essentials you should always have.


  • The trail descends steeply into the canals from the top of the Middle Knob. Those who frequently use trekking poles might benefit from the added balance when hiking downhill.
  • Before entering the maze of sandstone known as the Great Channels, hikers must acquire their coordinates and learn their way. Even though the mountain maze is quite compact and spaced out, some might get lost when retracing their steps towards the approach route as some formations look similar to others.
  • Visitors should be aware that Clinch Peak Wildlife Conservation Area and Hidden Canyon Wildlife Management Site are paid locations that require a $4 pass.
  • Camping is not permitted in the Channels Wilderness Area, Channels Conservation Area Reserve or anywhere else on the Brumley Mountain Road.

The state of Virginia has some of the best places to explore and hike. For locals and visitors alike, the Great Channels are among the top destinations to visit and offer the best hikes in Virginia. Visitors will undoubtedly enjoy hiking nearby and exploring this natural gem. So if you’re planning on visiting Virginia anytime soon, be sure to add The Great Channels Of Virginia’s Slot Canyon to your travel itinerary.