The Highlands Nature Sanctuary is the oldest of the Arc of Appalachia’s preserve regions, and at 3100 acres, is the largest. It’s central feature is the Rocky Fork Gorge, renowned for its steep canyon walls, wildflower showcases, springs, grottos, and rare botanical treasures. Click here for more preserve information.



Trail Offerings & Details:  The Sanctuary offers splendid scenery along twelve loop hiking trails  – sixteen total miles of trails that will take you into the heart of the Rocky Fork Gorge as well as preserve uplands. Before hiking at the Sanctuary, click here for hours and directions, and either download a TRAIL MAP or stop at the Appalachian Forest Museum during open hours and pick up a free map which includes trail length, difficulty and descriptions.  Sanctuary trails are back country in nature with occasional unimproved stream crossings. . They are narrow and are designed to be hiked single file. All Arc trails are well signed.

Be sure to review hiking regulations before visiting. Click here to view. You are entering a highly protected nature preserve. Regulations include staying on the trail at all times, and not collecting nor disturbing any plant including wildflowers, nor animals and minerals. Please help us keep the preserve a true Sanctuary for the plants and animals, and future visitors.

Important Safety Warning: Most of the Sanctuary trails are narrow and unlevel; traversing dangerous cliff country. It is against regulations to go off trail and extremely dangerous. Other standard outdoor perils exist, such as ticks, poison ivy and treacherous footing in the winter or after a rain. Visitors must understand that they hike at their own risk. For their well being, children must be kept close to their guardians and carefully in hand. For safety reasons, youths 18 or younger may not hike at the Highlands Nature Sanctuary without an adult guardian. Click here for information about tick and chiggers.

About our Dog Friends: Because the Sanctuary is a world-class destination for wildflowers that grow immediately bordering the trails which are vulnerable to compaction and disturbance and because of high visitation, dogs are not permitted on Sanctuary trails except for Crow Point and Ridgeview Farm, where dogs may accompany guests when kept on a six foot leash. Other nearby dog friendly destinations include Fort Hill, also managed by the Arc; and Harmony Trail located at Paint Creek Reservoir, managed by the Corps of Engineers.

Courtesy of Robert Miller