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Get away from it all in the Great Smoky Blue Ridge Mountains!
Recommended Area Links: Surrounded by Six National Forests
Pisgah National Forest
Great Smoky Mountains National Forest
Nantahala National Forest
Table Rock State Park
Caesars Head State park
Chattahoochee National Forest
Minutes from the Blue Ridge Parkway
White Water Rafting
Skiing, Fishing, Hiking, Sightseeing
Enjoy the Mountains of North Carolina

Relax and stay in our cabin, recharge...let the Appalachian's sink in
Line Runner Ridge Cabin
Tuck your family into the Two Bedroom Cabin. Sip a drink on the deck and watch the sun set before dinner and settle down with the glow of the wood stove...
Relax, you are in the mountains now....

Mountain Lake Wilderness
This 11,113-acre wilderness area, which lies in three counties and two states, is the largest roadless area on the Blacksburg Ranger District of the Jefferson National Forest. Roadless, however, does not mean inaccessible. Unlike some wilderness areas, this one has ample Hiking opportunities, including a stretch of the Appalachian Trail (AT) which crosses the area, and a loop hike through an old- growth forest. Motorized travel and bicycles on the wilderness area are prohibited. Access is limited to foot and horseback.

No question that Mountain Lake Wilderness is remote. It's located north of Blacksburg on the West Virginia border. The southwestern side is on a high plateau, which makes for easy walking, atop Salt Pond Mountain and Big Mountain in eastern Giles County. On the southeastern side, the terrain drops steeply down Salt Pond Mountain. The northeast border of the wilderness catches the northwest corner of Craig County and a piece of Potts Mountain. The northern section spills over into Monroe County, West Virginia. This area of splendid natural diversity is just a half hour's drive north of the college town of Blacksburg. Visitors who like their wilderness mixed with comfort and good food can stay at a retreat on Mountain Lake, for which both the wilderness and resort are named.

Incredible though it may seem, this deep, cold lake sitting on a mountain plateau is the only natural lake in Virginia's mountains and one of only two lakes in the state that aren't man-made. (Lake Drummond, in the Great Dismal Swamp in southeastern Virginia, is the other.) Most of the world's natural lakes were formed by the scouring action of glaciers. However, in the last Ice Age, glaciers did not reach as far south as Virginia. Instead, a rock slide, perhaps several thousand years ago, dammed a narrow valley to form Mountain Lake. Debris gradually plugged holes in the slide as cold mountain springs filled the lake to the current depth of 100 feet. Water temperatures rarely exceed 72 degrees. Records show fluctuations in the depth over the past 200 years that could be caused by drought or by underground leaks through the talus forming the dam. Resort guests tell of beautiful stocked trout caught from the lake's waters.

Mountain Lake is not part of the Jefferson National Forest or Mountain Lake Wilderness, but the resort conducts hikes and bike rides onto the surrounding national forest. If the cabins and lake look familiar, it's because the movie Dirty Dancing, starring Patrick Swayze, was filmed at Mountain Lake Resort. The wilderness lies squarely on the Eastern Continental Divide. Rain or snow falling on the western edge seeks out streams that carry runoff to the New River, then the Ohio River, then the Mississippi River, and eventually the Gulf of Mexico. Precipitation falling on the eastern slope rushes away in the opposite direction to join water in the James River headed for the Chesapeake Bay.

Because of its position on mountaintops, Mountain Lake Wilderness provides an unpolluted beginning for several streams, including White Rock Branch of Stony Creek, Little Stony Creek, and several branches of Johns Creek and Potts Creek. Elevations at Mountain Lake Wilderness range from 2,200 to 4,100 feet. The variation encourages diverse flora and fauna.

For example, a wetland called Manns Bog produces sphagnum moss. Sphagnum moss is used by gardeners for packing and planting, and was once sought by physicians who used it to dress wounds. A tiny summer flower with five white petals, on a stem rising above a rosette of reddish, sticky basal leaves is also found here. It's the round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifolia)—a carnivorous plant that supplements its diet with an occasional insect. Sundew thrive in nutrient-poor soils and acidic bogs.

Patches of bluets (Houstonia caerulea) grow at overlooks, in the open woods, and on streamsides. Other flora to look for along the Trails and streams include wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia), galax (Galax aphylla), jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), and fire pink (Silene virginica). Stands of virgin red spruce, fir, and hemlock—all high-country trees—coexist with moss-covered boulders and carpets of fern in a moist hollow where War Spur Branch drops off the plateau and heads down to Johns Creek. The hemlocks in particular are massive in comparison to other trees in the surrounding oak-hickory climax forest. This stand is an easy walk along the War Spur and Chestnut Trails.

In this and other stands of old-growth forest, many varieties of ferns grow. A pocket guide will help visitors identify which ferns they've found. Here at Mountain Lake Wilderness, slanting rays of sunlight sift through the thick canopy and catch the lacy fronds of cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), and hay-scented fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula).

Perhaps because they were in so remote a location, the ancient trees somehow missed the scorched-earth logging practices of the early 1900s. To sit for awhile on a fallen log and soak up the immense peace among some of the largest and oldest trees in the East is well worth the walk along a 2.5-mile loop trail that begins and ends in the wilderness parking lot. Come in spring or early summer to catch the understory of rhododendron, mountain laurel, azalea, and blueberry in bloom. Or come to experience the near silence of an old-growth forest during a winter snowfall. During such a snowfall, a large, white rabbit with big feet may hop across the path. Snowshoe hares, creatures of Canadian provinces and Alaska, survive in high pockets of the Appalachians as far south as North Carolina. Snows that are only a couple of inches deep in the valley below can accumulate quickly on the plateau.

White Rocks is a remote campground on the northwest border of the wilderness in Giles County, near the West Virginia line. A 1.5-mile, easy, nature trail loop, called Virginia's Walk, begins and ends in the campground, offering an excellent place to see area wildlife, including white-tailed deer, gray fox, raccoon, opossum, wild turkey, ruffed grouse, and woodcock. Black bear and bobcat, though rarely seen, also live here.

* Directions: West side of wilderness: from the junction of US 460 and US 460 bypass on the west side of Blacksburg, go west 6.6 miles and turn right on VA 700. Go 6.9 miles to Mountain Lake Resort where VA 700 ends and VA 613 comes in from the left and heads north. Continue north on VA 613, which becomes a dirt road. In 3 miles, you'll see wilderness boundary signs on your right, and in another half mile you'll find the parking area for the War Spur and Chestnut Trails. VA 613 traces the left flank of the wilderness for about the next 3.5 miles. The AT crosses this stretch of road.
* East side of wilderness: from the junction of US 460 and US 460 bypass on the west side of Blacksburg, go west 5 miles and turn right on VA 42. Go .1 mile and turn left on VA 601. After about 1 mile, bear right at Y intersection and go 7.2 miles. Go left on VA 632. Parking area for AT, which leads into wilderness, is .7 mile on left.

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