Situated in the middle of the Roanoke Valley sits Carvins Cove Natural Reserve (locally know as Carvins Cove), the second largest municipally owned and managed park in the United States. Carvins Cove is situated almost on the border between Roanoke and Botetourt County, and has more than 12,000 acres of forests, a 630 acre reservoir, and over 60 miles of mix-use trails. Whether you want to hike, bike, horseback or paddle, you can have the pleasure of wandering around the Cove and doing just that.
Carvins Cove is only minutes from I-81 and less than 8 miles from downtown Roanoke, making it a perfect place for a quick hike or somewhere you can spend the entire day wandering the miles of trails. The Cove is open 7 days a week from 6am until 11pm and has 3 entrances – Timberview Parking Lot, Carvins Cove/Bennett Springs, and Hollins/Boat Dock Parking Area.
The Appalachian Trail follows one of the Cove’s ridgelines and you actually have a great view of the Cove from the Hay Rock overlook on the AT. As this is where Roanoke gets its drinking water from, there is no camping or swimming allowed in the Cove. Sorry folks! But you can choose one of the many activities that is popular at the Cove like kayaking, SUP, fishing, boating, and so much more.
Horse Pen Trail
As summer is coming to a close, I wanted to enjoy one last nice humid and extremely hot summer hike. Can you sense the sarcasm? Carvins Cove is one of the best places around for hiking as the trails are shady, relatively easy and there tends to be a breeze which comes off the water along the trail path. I myself had never been to the Cove and was excited to see what the hype was all about.
I packed up my boyfriend and my dog and headed for the Timberview parking lot. We purchased a day pass, which was only $2, but you can buy a yearly pass relatively cheap for $20. We decided to keep it easy (at my request) since it was 91 degrees plus humidity, and took the Horse Pen Trail.
The Horse Pen trail winds its way along the cove shoreline and intersects a few double black diamond trails. Needless to say, I elected to keep on walking and ignore the double black diamond…which come to think of it, might have been just for mountain bikers. I’ll have to check on that one.
The trail was a mix of rocks and what appeared to be crushed gravel in some parts. There are a few dips and inclines here and there, a couple of foot bridges to cross, but nothing more strenuous than an intermediate level hiker would be able to handle. There was a plank board at one of the dips where you could cross to avoid the mud from previous days rains. My 15 pound dog did great and even outlasted me on the trail.
I think overall, we walked close to 5 miles at Carvins Cove, before we headed back to the parking lot. The best thing about the Cove is that you are literally in the middle of civilization, but you don’t even realize it because of the lush forests that help block out noise. It would be very easy to spend the day purposefully getting lost here.
- Even though it was rated intermediate, I think this would be a fine trail to take kids and dogs.
- Carvins Cove is great park to go for longer hikes, as the trails easily connect to one another.
- I recommend wearing hiking boots, as there was quite a bit of loose rocks.
- Bring plenty of bug spray – I forgot mine and left with a nice collection of mosquito bites.
- There are no restroom facilities at the Timberview parking lot…just keep that in mind.
- Make sure to bring cash for your $2 day fee or mail in a $20 check for an annual pass.
- Bring LOTS of water. It was hot, humid, and I consumed a lot of my water.
- Be vigilant of mountain bikers and horseback riders, as some of the trails are mix-use.
- Overall, this was a great trail that I can’t wait to try out again in the fall!