Elizabeth A.S. Brooke

Crafting, traveling and everything in between.

Natural Tunnel State Park

Our final romping around the state on Memorial Day Weekend ended at Natural Tunnel State Park. You can read about our other hikes here.

The park is located near the Virginia-Tennessee border and we stopped in Kingsport, Tenn., on our way home for supper.

Next to Fairy Stone State Park, this may be one of my favorite Virginia parks for camping. We didn’t camp here, but I wish we had. The campsites were nice and the trails and views were great.

The park is also building new cabins that should be open soon. If they’re anything like a cabin we saw from the trail, they’re huge and beautiful!

On the trails we saw a woodpecker (maybe a hairy or downy) and heard many other types of birds. We hoped to see grouse, but could only hear what we thought was one. A sign in the park said grouse sound like drumming.

We also found what might be an orchid. It’s the small plant with two oval leaves in the middle:

(All photos by E.A. Seagraves or Christopher Brooke. Do not use without permission.)

Most of the trails are short and there’s one that is 2.8 miles. We walked most of the trails, walking around the valley’s ridges to get better looks at the trains and valley below:

There’s a train track that runs through the park and is still used to haul coal. Visitors frequently take photos of trains coming through the tunnel. You can either snap pictures from above or below in the valley.

You can get to the valley by walking a short (0.25 mile), steep trail or taking a chair lift. At the bottom is a boardwalk that runs along the train tracks and a creek.

Chris tried to take pictures of what might have been cave swallows, but wasn’t successful.

We also had a surprise while waiting for the swallows and another train to take pictures — a snake! It must have fallen from the rock wall above or was dropped by a bird. You can kind of see what might be gore on the snake’s head here:

All I know is the snake wasn’t there when I looked in that spot a few seconds before and I found it after hearing a thump. I felt like I was going to have a heart attack or pass out. Can you imagine what it would be like if a snake fell on you?
I know next time I’ll take an umbrella with me. : )

A friend who looked at the photo of the snake believes it was a harmless garter snake, but it was pretty angry when we found it. Another friend said she’d be angry too if she were dropped several hundred feet. Yeah, I suppose so.

Here’s some more photos:

This is called “The Carter Cabin.” It’s in the valley below and sits beside the creek on the other side from the tracks.

A shot of another, shorter tunnel trains travel through.

Here’s a sign posted on the boardwalk explaining the history and use of the Natural Tunnel.

I’m not sure what this little fella is, but he’s cute, right?

I tried to get a picture of the train coming through Natural Tunnel, but didn’t get a clear shot. So this picture of the train going through the smaller tunnel will have to do.

I think this lizard looks pregnant. On our way up the first trail we saw at least 3 of these lizards.

Chris took a picture of this pretty view of The Wilderness Road Blockhouse.

Here’s some history on the Blockhouse.

This is a garden behind the Blockhouse. Chris said it reminded him of the gardens around Colonial Williamsburg, Va.

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