Hiking Trips

Tinker Cliffs, VirginiaAt SUUSI, we understand hiking to be a more mindful than athletic activity that benefits us, whatever our physical abilities. Whether we practice an ancient spirituality or simply choose to take an observant attitude towards nature, hiking holds the possibility of enriching our inner selves and building connections with our companions.

Our trails this year are intended to offer something for everyone, with the widest range of abilities and interests possible. The Appalachian Trail is right next door to us in Radford, providing difficult all-day trails that climb to the top of peaks. There are also paved ADA-accessible greenway hikes along the banks of local waterways, trails that wander past streams and waterfalls, and through the dramatic ridges and valleys of the Allegheny Mountains that stretch south to north – and everything in between. The land is marked by substantial geologic variation, including sedimentary shales, limestones, sandstones, and igneous basalts. The Central Appalachian Forest ecoregion is traversed by the largest drainage divide in the East, between rivers of the Atlantic Slope and Mississippi Valley. Hiking in this region will provide experiences you will remember for many years.

With no exceptions, we practice safe hiking and follow the good stewardship of leaving no trace.

Hiking Difficulty Ratings

Please read the descriptions of difficulty levels carefully before signing up for a hiking trip.  We are not all the same. Especially in hiking, the choice of an appropriate level of difficulty that matches your abilities and suits your need for comfort versus your need for a challenge is important. Besides the overall difficulty rating, we have tried to provide some objective measures of distances and elevation gains in each hike description. 

Gentle: Someone in fair hiking condition. Slight elevation change.

Moderate: Someone in good hiking condition. Increased mileage; moderate elevation gain.

Strenuous: Someone in very good hiking condition. Increased mileage; significant elevation changes.

Very Strenuous: Someone in excellent hiking condition. Significant increases in mileage and elevation gain.

Extremely Strenuous: Someone in exceptional hiking condition. Trails are not always available. Significant increase in mileage and extreme elevation gain. Technical aspects of a hike for very experienced hikers. 

Required Equipment and Guidelines for Hiking Trips

Required on all trips:

  • A desire for fun, adventure, and self-discovery.
  • Canteens or water bottles: at least one quart of water for ½-day trips and at least two quarts for full-day trips.
  • Proper, secure, supportive footwear is absolutely, positively necessary. No bare feet or open-toed shoes of any kind (flip-flops, open-toe Tevas, etc.).
  • Cell phones are for emergency use only. Respectfully, we request that all cell phones be turned off while traveling and on the trail. We desire that all trip participants interact with nature and each other. Taking photographs is encouraged.

Required on some trips:

  • Trips involving wading, slogging, or swimming require sturdy, secure, slip-resistant footwear to protect against sharp rocks, glass, etc. (see Shoe Requirements), 
  • Evening trips require flashlights.
  • It is strongly suggested that you bring:
    • Rain jacket or poncho. You never know when you will need it.
    • Sunscreen.
    • Snacks if you are planning to expend a lot of energy.
    • Insect repellent.
    • A dry bag for all water stomp-type trips if you have anything you do not want to get soaked.
    • Swimsuit and towel for the water hikes (and a change of clothes for the van ride back to campus).

  • 600: Connelly's Run (Accessible, Family Friendly)Limit 14

    Connelly's Run is a stream that flows through a wooded canyon with varying microclimates, from a historic spring down to the New River, within Radford's Wildwood Park. Stroll or roll as you are able along the 6-foot wide fully-paved streamside shared-use trail. We will enter from a small parking lot above the spring, and hike in and back. A group with varying physical abilities can enjoy a nature hike together; there are some steep side-trails that are not part of our route, but remain within sight just in case your group includes some high energy young ones. There are smooth bridge crossings, benches, picnic tables, and natural/historical signage. SUUSI provides vans, but they are not ADA-compliant; personal vehicles will be required for that. Accessible restroom facilities are available midway, at the trailside. Hiking Distance: 1.5 miles round-trip, fully paved, with only a slight grade. Drive time: 10 minutes.

  • 603: War Spur OverlookLimit 14

    The War Spur Trail is a moderate loop through the Mountain Lake Wilderness area to the War Spur Overlook with outstanding views of the surrounding mountains and valleys below. A moist woodland understory blanketed with extensive ferns, a stand of virgin hemlocks, streamside rhododendron thickets and moss covered rock outcroppings are additional highlights of this hike. A stream crosses the trail several times, where the footing can be tricky when wet. Otherwise it is mostly easy walking with just a few steep sections. Parents with young children, please determine if the distance is appropriate for your family situation. Hiking Distance: 2.6 miles, with 500 feet of total climb. Drive time: 55 minutes.

  • 604: Silent Bald KnobLimit 14

    Join us for a silent version of a popular hiking route. The trail starts at the historic Mountain Lake Hotel and takes us to the highest point in the area. It's a steep, half-mile climb to the top along a rocky trail. As we hike, we will take silent pauses to observe the beauty of the fern-bordered trail as the sun filters through and listen for songbirds in the nearby bushes and trees. At the 4361-foot high knob, we will pause to contemplate the expansive views of the valleys below and mountains beyond. Feel the wind, observe hawks gliding on thermals and rest on the interesting rock formations. This is your time to meditate and observe nature around you. Hiking Distance: 1.6 miles round-trip, with 500 feet of total climb. Drive time: 50 minutes.

  • 606: Coal Mining Heritage Park Trail (Family Friendly)Limit 14

    The Coal Mining Heritage Park Loop Trail near Blacksburg is a nice short trail with interesting mining facts along the way, including factoids about the coal mine. The trail is narrow in spots and some suggest walking further on the Huckleberry Trail to see the coal car. There are no blazes, but the well-beaten trail is easy to follow. Despite rain, the trail has been described as great to hike. Conditions include rocky and root-filled terrain, necessitating appropriate footwear. The trail is kid-friendly, with cool history plaques along the way for added interest. Hiking Distance: 1.5 miles round-trip, with only 100 feet of total climb. Drive time: 25 minutes.

  • 626: Triple SlogLimit 13

    This hike is so enjoyable that some SUUSI-goers do it every year. We hike a short distance down the road to get to a point where we can enter the forest above the Cascades waterfall, bushwhack down to Little Stoney Creek, and take off into the wild. We hike in the stream and swim/wade through pools, climb around trees and rocks, and climb and play in three waterfalls. You will get wet (completely soaked if you like). Due to the climbing and scrambling on wet, slippery rocks, this is one of our most challenging hikes. Secure, slip-resistant, immersible footwear required. Wear a swimsuit/nylon shorts and bring a towel and/or dry clothes for the ride back. Backpacks and contents are likely to get soaked in the fun! Hiking distance: about 3 miles, with wet rock scrambling. Drive time: 60 minutes.

  • 627: Cascades Falls (Family Friendly)Limit 14

    We'll hike along Little Stoney Creek to the spectacular 66-foot Cascades Falls and the cold swimming hole at the bottom. The hike is a climb up a groomed, but rocky trail and easier and smoother on the descent. Wear a swimsuit underneath and bring secure, slip-resistant, immersible footwear for getting in the water (required). Trip also offered on Friday - trip #631. Hiking Distance: 3.7 miles, with 700 feet of total climb. Drive time: 50 minutes.

  • 629: Dismal Falls (Family Friendly)Limit 14

    A long-time favorite for enjoying a beautiful area with minimal effort. A good nature experience for families with young children due to the short distance. We drive over Cloyd's Mountain through scenic, pastoral countryside to a popular recreation area. We'll hike a mostly flat section of the Appalachian Trail to a scenic 10-12 foot stairstep falls with a cold basin or pool for swimming. We climb over some slippery rocks to get in the water. There will be time for walking or playing around the creek bed or just sunning on the rocks. Bring the kids and enjoy the afternoon watching them discover the great outdoors! Hiking distance: 2.0 miles. Drive time: 45 minutes.

  • 631: Last CascadesLimit 14

    Our Friday afternoon trip to Cascades Falls should be a pleasant close to the week, and has been a perennial favorite for some. We'll hike along Little Stoney Creek to the spectacular 60-foot Cascades waterfall and the cold swimming hole at the bottom. The hike is a climb up a groomed, but rocky trail and easier and smoother on the descent. Wear a swimsuit underneath and bring secure, slip-resistant immersible footwear for getting in the water (required). The pace will be slightly faster than the family friendly version of this trip offered on Wednesday - trip #627. Parents: this trip overlaps with the Youth's closing circle Friday afternoon. Hiking Distance: 3.7 miles, with 700 feet of total climb. Drive time: 50 minutes.

  • 650: Stiles Falls (Family Friendly)Limit 14

    Stiles Falls is a 45 foot waterfall located on the property of Camp Alta Mons. The hike begins with an easy walk to the trail head, then changes to steep inclines, several creek crossings, and rock hopping up to the falls and water pool. There are large boulders around the falls and water pool where you can sit and relax or scramble over to swim or play around in the shady pool of water at the falls. We’ll provide lunch and plenty of time to enjoy one of the area’s favorite destinations. You must have proper footwear, at least a quart of water per person, pack to help carry lunch. Wear swimsuit under clothes if you want to get in the water. Hiking Distance: 3.2 miles round-trip, with 300 feet of total climb. Drive time: 35 minutes.

  • 651: Rock Castle GorgeLimit 5

    Attention experienced hikers; this our longest and most strenuous all-day hike of 2024! The route begins at the Rocky Knob campground on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We will descend steeply to a low of 1,700 feet at Rock Castle Creek and eventually climb back to a high of 3,543 on Rocky Knob. There are splendid views along the ridge line. The gorge features a splashing stream, thick mountain foliage and interesting rock formations. Reminders of the hardy sawmill families who lived in this rugged area until the 1920s are still evident along the trail. Lunch will be provided. Bring plenty of water (at least 2 liters) and snacks. Plan to help carry lunch. Hiking Distance: 11.2 miles, with 2,500 feet of climb. Drive time: 45 minutes.

  • 652: Buffalo MountainLimit 14

    One of the most significant natural areas in Virginia, Buffalo Mountain (3,960') is unique in its micro-climate resulting in some unusual and rare vegetation. It's a steep, though gradual, one mile climb to the summit. Wind-exposed and treeless, there is a 360-degree view of the woods, farms and mountains below. We'll have lunch at the summit and time to explore this special environment. Hiking distance: 2.1 miles round-trip, with 550 feet of climb. Drive time: 60 minutes.

  • 653: Tinker CliffsLimit 5

    Tinker Cliffs is one of Virginia's "Triple Crown" of iconic hiking destinations. This is a long and strenuous hike, for experienced hikers, but with a big payoff. Our out-and-back route starts with the Andy Layne Trail through light woods to a sunny pasture and along a stream. We will follow the trail up some switchbacks to Scorched Earth Gap where we pick up the southbound Appalachian Trail and a final ascent to the cliffs which extend for about a half-mile along the west side of the mountain. Some tough steep stretches as the trail rises to Tinker Mountain at 2,914 feet. We will stop for lunch on the cliff tops with spectacular views in clear weather. The return is nearly pure descent. In wet weather, there may be mud on the lower elevations. You will carry a provided lunch, and be sure to bring at least 2 liters of water. Hiking distance: 7.3 miles round-trip, with almost 2,000 feet of total climb. Drive time: 60 minutes.

  • 655: Dragon's ToothLimit 14

    Dragon's Tooth is one of Virginia's "Triple Crown" of iconic hiking destinations, well-known and popular. Our out-and-back route starts on the Dragon's Tooth Trail moving steadily upward, and with stream crossings on rocks. But the trail turns more challenging after we join with the Appalachian Trail. The last half-mile has rock scrambles, even metal rungs to climb, as we approach the prominent 360 view from the end of Cove Mountain at 3,025 feet. We will stop for lunch near the sharply pointed sandstone cliffs, that jut up like dragon's teeth. The return is nearly pure descent. Watch your footing in wet weather. You will carry a provided lunch, and be sure to bring 2 liters of water, as there can be plenty of exposure to sun at the top. Hiking Distance: 4.6 miles round-trip, with 1,250 feet of total climb. Drive time: 50 minutes.

  • 675: Sunset on Bald KnobLimit 14

    The trail starts at the historic Mountain Lake Hotel. A steep, half-mile climb up a fern-bordered trail brings us to the 4361-foot high knob. It's the highest point in the area, with extensive views in several directions and some interesting cliffs and rock formations. We'll pause to enjoy this beautiful time of day at the top of the mountain as we wait for the sun to set. The descent is easier following a jeep road, but will be after sunset. A flashjlight is required. This is a moderate hike for adults, but may be challenging for children. Hiking distance: 1.6 miles round-trip, with 500 feet of total climb. Drive time: 50 minutes.

  • 699: Nature Conservancy Service ProjectLimit 5

    We will be helping The Nature Conservancy(TNC) by cleaning and repairing trails in the Falls Ridge area. There are approximately 5 miles of trails in this area, giving participants an opportunity for hands-on work while learning about the work being done by TNC to preserve various parcels of land in their natural state and help maintain, and in some instances save, various species native to a particular area. This is a wonderful opportunity for SUUSI folks to give back to the community and enjoy some camaraderie midweek during SUUSI. Lunch is provided. The Falls Ridge preserve is close to Radford!