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Flag Rock Trail

Approx. 1.5-mile (one-way) trail from Legion Park to Flag Rock overlook near Norton, Virginia.
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length: 1.4 miles
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly

Overview :  Trail linking Legion Park in Norton, Virginia to Flag Rock, a high sandstone outcrop overlooking Norton and the Wise Plateau. Hike... more »

Tips:  The gravel parking area at Legion Park is gated during winter months. A small gravel pull-out provides parking during these months... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Trailhead and Parking

Parking is available in the gravel lot at Legion Park (gate closed during winter months). The trail is blazed yellow and begins at the far end of the parking lot beside the pavilion.

2. Informational Kiosk

Provides interpretive information on local wildlife and human history.

3. Birch Tree

The birch trees located along this stretch of trail are common across much of the southern Appalachians. In southwest Virginia, birches are most common at higher elevations or in moist, shaded, north-facing coves.

Looking around the narrow cove surrounding the trail, do you see any other birch trees scattered across the area? These trees are... More

4. Stream Access

Located below bridge; provides up-close view of Robinet Branch cascading off of High Knob.

5. Muscadine and Road Crossing

Just before crossing the paved road, the trail passes beneath a series of thick, overhanging vines. These are muscadines, a regional wild grape that is historically a favorite food item for folks in the southern mountains. This species often grows high into trees and even between individual trees across the canopy, forming a jungle-like network of... More

6. North-Facing Coves

As you climb alongside the stream above the roadway, take a look at the forest around you. Do you find yourself in the shade or in direct sunlight?

Coves (or hollows) such as this one, which faces almost directly north, are special places in the southern mountains. Because they tilt away from direct sunlight - which angles from the south in the... More

7. Abandoned Roadbed

Most trails in the southern Appalachians follow the paths of old, abandoned roadbeds, such as the one joining the trail from the left near this spot.

These roads were most often constructed for getting access to and removing timber during the logging booms of the later 19th and early 20th centuries. After timber was harvested and the logging... More

8. Rock Outcrop

To the left of the trail along this section, a large sandstone boulder dominates your view. Examine the top of this boulder - do you notice anything unusual?

The tree that appears to be growing out of this rock is actually taking advantage of soil and other organic ("carbon-containing") matter that has accumulated in cracks and crevices in the... More

9. Trail Junction

If heading downhill (towards Legion Park), be aware that the trail turns off of the roadbed at this point. Do not continue straight ahead and instead look for the right turn onto the yellow-blazed path.

10. Forest Ecology

As you move steeply uphill in this section of trail, away from the rushing water of the stream, do you notice a change in the forest around you?

This change in forest cover - a drop in the number of evergreens such as rhododendron and hemlock - occurs as you leave the riparian buffer along the stream itself. Riparian buffers are unique habitats... More

11. Seepage Area

Do you notice anything unusual about the soil along the trail as it follows the powerline clearing for a short distance? The upper portion of this area actually follows an upland seep, or area where groundwater slowly becomes exposed at the soil surface. If you look closely during wet weather, moisture from this seep actually flows downhill to the... More

12. Ridgetop Vegetation

As you climb this hill, notice the thorns and briars to your right. These plants thrive on the sunnier, drier slopes of the mountainside in this vicinity. At this point, in fact, you have completed the transition from a moist riparian forest along the streambed to the more open slopes near Flag Rock.

13. Flag Rock Park

The trail arrives in Flag Rock Park at a small clearing beside the park road. To reach the overlooks at Flag Rock if hiking from Legion Park, turn left onto the park road and follow it to the main overlook parking area.

14. Trail Junction

The roadbed tracking uphill and to the right of this point forms the start of the Reservoir Trail, which travels to and around the pair of lakes forming the Norton Reservoir.

To reach Flag Rock, continue following the park road

15. Flag Rock Overlook

The large sandstone outcrops here provide a fantastic viewpoint of Flag Rock, which lies directly down and in front of you. The flag itself was originally placed at this spot by a German immigrant in the 1920s..

The vista from the outcrop provides a view of downtown Norton, as well as most of the upper headwaters of the Powell and Guest Rivers.... More