Overlook Trail - Hiking

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About

Summary

Over millions of years, the Russell Fork River cut a long gorge through the Pine Mountains of Appalachia, creating a little known natural wonder spanning parts of Eastern Kentucky and Southwestern Virginia.

Written by

Lisa Collard

Distance

0.75 miles

Many hikers enjoy linking the Overlook Trail (.75 miles) with the Prospectors Ridge Trail (1.5 miles) to make for a nice 3 hour loop hike which will take visitors around much of the park and along the side and top of the ridge line for great views and a nice exploration of the landscape.

Destination Distance From Downtown

129.4 miles

Difficulty

3 of 5 diamonds

Providing almost continuous views of the canyon, this trail is characterized by frequent grade changes which give it its difficult rating. Care must be taken along the open areas along the rock face, particularly in wet conditions.

Time To Complete

1 hours

Seasonality

All Seasons

The park is open year-round to visitors, but it’s particularly spectacular from late May to July when the mountain laurel, magnolias and other native plants bloom profusely throughout the park. Fall is another great time to visit when the gorge is awash with color.

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Fees Permits

Yes

A $2 day-use fee per car for admittance; $10 per bus (15-passenger or more). Season gate passes may be purchased at the Park Visitor Center for $26.

Land Website

Breaks Interstate Park

Review

Intro

Black seams of coal can still be seen in the cliffs as the road twists its way up to Breaks Interstate Park. These rugged mountains of Appalachia lay undeveloped until after World War II when the coal industry boomed, and there are still only about a half a dozen roads that snake across Pine mountain. Home to one of the deepest gorges east of the Mississippi River with depths reaching about 1,300 feet, visitors will find breathtaking views and more than 13 miles of hiking trails weaving across the park over varying terrain.

For some of the most spectacular canyon vistas, the Overlook Trail is the way to go and is considered by many an absolute-must while visiting the park. During the busier summer months outdoor enthusiasts can also enjoy camping, fishing, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, mountain biking, climbing, and a variety park sponsored activities.

What Makes It Great

The hectic sounds of the Russell Fork River reverberate off the canyon walls, song birds trill and hearts race while traversing along the canyon edge. That’s a lot of action for less than a mile of trail—perhaps why it’s a park favorite. No other trail at Break’s offers the same level of continuous bird’s eye views and accessibility as the Overlook Trail.

Those brave enough to step out onto one of the unprotected overlooks could be left a little weak in the knees. Extra care should be taken along the exposed cliff edges. However, the trail follows along close to the road, so if the terrain becomes too much it’s easy enough to step out on the road and take a break. Surfaces are hard packed dirt and rock, and are well maintained with steps, handrails, and benches along the way.

Surrounded by red and white oak, hickory trees, yellow poplar, magnolias and mountain laurel, this trail is a botanical explosion. In early summer, Rosebay rhododendron give the park a festive air with their large blossoming heads of lavender, pink, and white flowers. It might be worth the investment to get a wildflower and tree identification book for the area and track down some of the 60 species of trees that are in the park.

Who is Going to Love It

This trail is perfect for people who love nature and long for spectacular views but aren’t interested, or don’t have time, to put in a full day of hiking. Particularly for wildflower lovers in the spring and leaf peepers in the fall. The Overlook Trail offers the views, foliage, and challenge of a longer hike in one short, perfect package.

It is also a hit for longer distance hikers who want to increase milage and link up with some of the other trails in the area such as the Prospector’s Ridge Trail for a hike through a grove of mountain ivy before intersecting with Laurel Branch Trail where a small stream snakes through giant rock formations known as “The Notches.”

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The park is located in northern Dickenson County, where Dickenson/Buchanan County, VA, and Pike County, KY, converge. From Haysi in northern Dickenson County, Take VA 80 eight miles north to the park entrance on the left.

All the trails in the park are color coded. Follow the green blazes for the Overlook Trail.

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Location

Overlook Trail

37.285817, -82.294573

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