Taking on the Locher Tract

A mere stones’ throw (with a vigorous arm) from the better known Natural Bridge is a hidden gem for light hiking called the Locher Tract.

With more than 370 acres, this accessible spot along the James River in the town of Glasgow, offers three shortish trails in a quiet area that abounds with local wildlife such as beavers, deer and other small critters. On a recent outing, ambitious woodpeckers made the only sounds to interrupt our very enjoyable walk along trails that had also been recently visited by horseback riders, as was evident in the tracks (and plops) left along the way.

Horse? Bear?

Visitors will find ample parking at the trailhead, along with restroom facilities (closed this early in the year).

“The Locher Tract is a 378 acre area that was once the Locher family’s farm and where they mined shale to sell to the brick-making plant across the river in Glasgow.”

USDA Forest Service

We stumbled upon Locher Tract as a backup plan, since our first choice, nearby Cave Mountain State Park was still gated during the off-season. Driving to these parks on the backroads of Virginia, you’ll cut through the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. Pass by quaint landmarks such as Tpee’s grocery, and the very commercial Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park campground with its rows and rows of golf carts and cartoonish-looking waterpark sitting empty before what is sure to be a busy summer season.

Once you walk through the old farm gates at the entrance, you can choose the Belfast Trail at 2.8 miles, Sulphur Spring Trail at 6.6 ,miles, or the Wildcat Mountain Loop which is 4 miles long and offers elevations that overlook the James River and has tougher hiking terrain. Don’t be fooled by the Balcony Falls trailhead: there are no falls. However, you may meander along a tinkling brook, and a large pond at the trailhead make for rich photo opportunities.

The Pond at Locher Tract

If you do plan to take in the Tract, make sure to tack on the short circular loop that abuts the James River. There are paths down to the waterside, but they are very steep (one even had a pull rope for those climbing back up from the riverbank). This wide and lovely body of water is 348 miles long, culminating with a flourish into the Chesapeake Bay.

The Appalachian Trail also intersects this area for the more ambitious hiker. Although we did get a bit turned around on the Balcony Falls trail, the paths are well-maintained and marked (if you know what the markers designate!) and so we soon found our way back to our cars.

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