virginia hikes: Buzzard Rock at Read Mountain Preserve, March 19 2020

The same trails in Virginia has a tendency to have completely different feel to them through the seasons. In the winter and spring, you can catch the trees barren revealing more than the tunnel of green typical of late spring and summer. This is why summer is my least favorite hiking season here. To that end, I may have a tendency to penalize a hike during summer. So I gave a local hike another shot and subsequently found it slightly more enjoyable a second time around.


  • name: Buzzard Rock at Read Mountain Preserve (gps track – alltrails wikiloc)
  • type: in & out
  • distance:  3.7 miles
  • elevation change:  889 ft
  • time:  1:40 hours (1:30 hours without breaks)
  • location: Read Mountain Preserve near Roanoke, VA (google map directions)


There is a loop option for the hike that includes the Rocky Way Trail and the CCC Trail to provide some additional variance (alltrails). We only had short time in the evening, so we didn’t explore this option on this hike. Perhaps in the future.

Annotation 2020-03-22 165920


The trailhead to access Read Mountain Preserve is in the back of a subdivision, which may seem odd. There is spots for about 10-20 cars at the trailhead depending whether parking on the grassy open is ok. The sign post indicating the rules are quiet faded.


The hike is pretty much a straightforward up and down hike with an average grade of 9.5% grade. The gain is a bit uneven with the steepest grade of 25.7%

The trail follows the blue blazed Buzzard Rock Trail heading upwards for the first 0.4 miles over a dried streambed, at the time of our hike.


The trail heads away from the drainage around the mountain for next quarter of a mile before coming to the junction with the yellow blazed Rocky Way Trail.


We continued straight and crossed another stream drainage. This one was running during our hike.


The trail continues around the mountain, through the woods. Pay attention to the blue blazes here as there are several worn trails that may mislead you off the actual trail. Overall, the trail continues before switchbacking back toward the west (or the direction you came).

The trail continues around the mountain back toward the direction you started but at a higher elevation. We crossed the trickle of the stream we crossed earlier before coming to the junction with the Crossover Trail, a connector trail to the Rock Way Trail we saw earlier.


There is a “view” before and after the junction but there are plenty of tree limbs in the way. In the summertime, the green tunnel of Virginia would block any view from here.

The trail continued around the mountain until reaching the ridge, where the Buzzards Rock Trail junctions with the CCC Trail. With the trees still barren, we could see the outlines of the ridges in the distances making it more interesting hike.

We turned right to hike along the ridge and following the Buzzards Rock Trail.


The trail curves to the left here and we come upon Buzzard Rock



with its view of Hollins, VA. From here we can see Carvins Cove, McAfee, the Roanoke airport, and the I-81 corridor. The view was much more open here than I remember from my initial hike, which was really no views as the leaves from the trees covered the entire area.


The bench that is here now is dedicated to Buck and Bobbie Baker.


There are some trails that continue around the mountain, but they don’t seem to lead to any additional viewpoints based on our brief exploration.

From here, we retraced our steps back to the car for a brief evening hike. It was an nice option for a quick workout.

ratings (1-5; click link for detailed breakdown)


  • views: 2. Hiking here again when the trees are barren allow for more views of the ridges around. However, the culmination of the hike is a viewpoint at the end at Buzzard rock where there is a bench for you to relax upon. If you are lucky, the stream will be running making for a more interesting hike. This is still the lower end of the 2 rating for me, still that is an upgrade from the 1 rating impression I had the first time I hiked it.
  • difficulty: 1. The total elevation gain was under 1000 feet spread out through the entirety of the hike. During the summer time, the hike would be completely in the cover of a green tunnel so the difficulty of the hike would be minor.
  • technical: 1. The trail is well signed and there is no scrambling. The only difficulty is about 1 mile into the hike where plenty of side trails have been worn into the mountain that it may be easy to go off trail. Following the blazes carefully will inform you of the best and easiest way.

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