Carvins Cove Natural Reserve

Parks with Trails Parks
9744 Reservoir Road, Roanoke, VA 24019, United States

Carvins Cove Natural Reserve


Located just seven miles from the north side of Roanoke, Carvins Cove Natural Reserve contains more than 12,000 acres of both hardwood and mixed pine forests, a 630-acre reservoir and 60 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. More than 11,200 acres of Carvins Cove Natural Reserve is protected by the largest conservation easement in Virginia’s history. Roanoke’s Carvins Cove is a vital piece of Virginia’s green infrastructure and also a source of fresh water. Rainfall drains from the natural reserve into the beautiful Carvins Cove reservoir. The reservoir’s water is treated and 10-million gallons of water is filtered each day for customers of the Western Virginia Water Authority, who manages the Cove’s boat dock and reservoir access.

Park Hours

Park Hours:

Carvins Cove Natural Reserve is open from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., seven days a week, however, the boat dock parking lot closes at dark and is locked overnight. Please do not park your car in the boat dock parking lot if you plan to stay in Carvins Cove after dark. For more information about certain restrictions concerning reservoir use and hours of operation, please contact the Western Virginia Water Authority at 540-362-1757.

Directions & Parking


Carvins Cove Natural Reserve has three parking lot entrances: the Boat Dock, Bennett Springs, and Timberview. Each parking lot is conveniently located within a 10-15 minute drive of downtown Roanoke. Once you arrive at the parking lot, you can purchase either a $3.00 Day Pass or $25.00 Annual Parking Pass. Passes are required for anyone over the age of 16. Visitors who are age 15 or under must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Passes are easily obtained by the trail lock-box and pass self-service system. Cash or check only accepted at the self-serve kiosks. 



Head to the Boat Dock Parking Lot if you want to access the water and trails on the Hollins side of Carvins Cove. The boat dock parking lot closes at dark and is locked overnight, so please do not park your car here if you plan to stay in the park after dark. For more information about certain restrictions concerning reservoir use and hours, please contact the Western Virginia Water Authority at 540-362-1757. Amenities include: Picnic Tables, Restrooms, Boat Rentals, Security Personnel and Parking. Address: 9744 Reservoir Road, Roanoke, VA 24019




If you’re looking for Carvins Cove’s extensive mountain biking, hiking or equestrian trails, then the Bennett Springs Parking Lot is the right access point for you! Travel along Route 311 to find the Bennett Springs Parking Lot. You’ll have access to nearly 60 miles of trails. Amenities include: Parking, Trail Conditions Signs, Bike Fix Station, Restrooms. Address: Carvins Cove Road, Salem 24153




This parking lot is tucked at the junction of Horsepens Trail and Trough Trail at Carvins Cove. Access Timberview Road Parking Lot via Dutch Oven Road. Address: 3097 Timberview Road, Roanoke VA 24019.



Carvins Cove RULES:

  • Swimming and camping are not permitted in the Carvins Cove Natural Reserve
  • Dogs are welcome, however, they must remain leashed at all times and are not allowed in the water
  • Dog owners must pick up after their pet. The Cove’s watershed drains directly into the reservoir, our region’s primary drinking water source
  • Alcohol is prohibited at Carvins Cove
  • Youth under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian
  • To prevent environmental damage and soil erosion, all trail users must stay on the trails and fire roads at all times
  • Horseback riders must not leave any manure, hay or other debris in any part of the reserve
  • All park visitors over the age of 16 must pay a land use fee, which is $3.00 per person per day or $25.00 per person for an annual permit
History of Carvins Cove

Picture of Carvins Cove from the Western Virginia Water AuthorityIn 1746, a Welsh man named William Carver received a land grant of 150 acres just outside of Roanoke. His homestead would later become the City of Roanoke’s primary water source and the nation’s second largest municipal park, offering a wide range of recreational activities. After Carvin passed, the region later became known as the Happy Valley community.

In 1926, Roanoke Water Works started plans to construct a $700,000 dam at Carvins Creek’s water falls. The dam would impound six billion gallons of water and become a source of fresh water for the growing urban population in Roanoke. Twelve years later, the City of Roanoke paid $4.5 million for all of the lands held by Roanoke Water Works, which included Carvins Cove. By 1944, the City voted to approve a $2.4 million bond issued to finish the Carvins Cove project. By 1947, the reservoir was completed and the filtration plant was put into operation, treating up to six million gallons of water daily. That treatment facility has since been updated and expanded, increasing the capacity to 28 million gallons per day. 

In 2004, the Western Virginia Water Authority was formed and designated as the region’s water and wastewater service provider. As a result, the Water Authority gained ownership over the Carvins Cove Reservoir and land up to its 1,200-foot contour. The City of Roanoke retained ownership of the land, making Carvins Cove the second largest municipally-owned park in the United States. The remaining multi-use trails and land is managed by the City of Roanoke’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation. 

In 2009, the City of Roanoke donated a two-part conservation easement in Roanoke County and Botetourt County. This easement permanently protects 11,363 acres of open space in Carvins Cove Natural Reserve.

Photo source: Western Virginia Water Authority

New Carvins Cove Trail Map

Download PDF

Trails at Carvins Cove

Carvins Cove Natural Reserve is one of the main reasons why Roanoke, Virginia has been deemed the Mountain Bike Capital of the East. There are roughly 60 miles of mountain biking, hiking and equestrian trails, including cross country single track, free ride downhill trails, and extensive gravel fire roads.

Easy: Green Circle Trails
Easy Trails: Green circle

These trails are appropriate for novice through advanced users. The trails generally follow obvious, well-marked trails and roads. Grades are gentle and only minor obstacles will be encountered. 

  • Happy Valley Trail: 6.71 Miles, Multi-Use, 559 ft of Elevation Change
  • Brushy Mountain Trail: 9.81 Miles, Multi-Use, 1668 ft of Elevation Change
  • Horse Pen Trail: 1.24 Miles, Multi-Use, 88 ft of Elevation Change
  • Tunnel Trail: 0.43 Miles, Multi-Use, 177 ft of Elevation Change
  • Riley Circle: 0.34 miles, Multi-Use, 26 ft of Elevation Change
  • Bennett Springs Loop: 0.83 Miles, Multi-Use, 117 ft of Elevation Change
More Difficult: Blue Square Trails

More Difficult Trails: Blue Square

These routes are appropriate for intermediate through advanced users. Terrain will be steeper. Trails will be narrower. Obstacles such as rocks and loose stone will be encountered. 

  • Lower Comet: 0.72 Miles, Multi-Use, 51 ft of Elevation Change
  • Kerncliff: 2.47 Miles, Multi-Use, 601 ft of Elevation Change
  • Araminta: 0.71 Miles, Multi-Use, 69 ft of Elevation Change
  • Songbird: 1.88 Miles, Multi-Use, 206 ft of Elevation Change
  • Arrowhead: 1.53 Miles, Multi-Use, 192 ft of Elevation Change
  • Enchanted Forest: 0.66 Miles, Multi-Use, 40 ft of Elevation Change
  • Little Bell: 0.29 Miles, Multi-Use, 42 ft of Elevation Change
  • Hotel: 1.14 Miles, Multi-Use, 196 ft of Elevation Change
  • Tuck-A-Way: 0.97 Miles, Multi-Use, 260 ft of Elevation Change
  • Schoolhouse: 1.62 Miles, Multi-Use, 133 ft of Elevation Change
  • Sawmill Branch: 1.17 Miles, Hiker Only, 690 ft of Elevation Change
  • Four Gorge: 2.13 Miles, Multi-Use, 275 ft of Elevation Change
  • Four Gorge Extension: 0.69 Miles, Multi-Use, 75 ft of Elevation Change
  • First Deck: 0.92 Miles, Multi-Use, 147 ft of Elevation Change
  • Lakeside: 3.7 Miles, Multi-Use, 524 ft of Elevation Change
  • Tinker Creek: 2.24 Miles, Multi-Use, 524 ft of Elevation Change
Very Difficult: Black Diamond Trails

Very Difficult Trails: Black Diamond

These routes are recommended for physically fit users with technical skill. The terrain is steep and difficult obstacles will be encountered. 

  • Upper Comet: 1.44 Miles, Multi-Use, 441 ft of Elevation Change
  • Jacob’s Drop: 0.52 Miles, Multi-Use, 395 ft of Elevation Change
  • The Trough: 1.08 Miles, Multi-Use, 636 ft of Elevation Change
  • Buck: 1.5 Miles, Multi-Use, 513 ft of Elevation Change
  • Hi-Dee-Hoe: 1.52 Miles, Multi-Use, 804 ft of Elevation Change
  • OG: 0.55 Miles, Bikes Only, 339 ft of Elevation Change
  • Old Hi-Dee-Hoe: 0.13 Miles, Multi-Use, 40 ft of Elevation Change
Extremely Difficult: Double Black Diamond Trails

EXTREMELY Difficult Trails: DOUBLE Black Diamond

These routes are recommended only for physically fit users with technical skill. Users need to control speed, watch for surface hazards, and be familiar with trail locations. The terrain is steep and technical obstacles will be encountered. 

  • Hemlock Tunnel: 1.87 Miles, Multi-Use, 713 ft of Elevation Change
  • Gauntlet: 2.05 Miles, Multi-Use, 1,092 ft of Elevation Change
  • Rattlin’ Run: 2.28 Miles, No Horses, 364 ft of Elevation Change
  • Royalty: 0.8 Miles, No Horses, 666 ft of Elevation Change
  • Trough Expert: 0.12 Miles, No Horses, 63 ft of Elevation Change
Trail Maps

PDF Map: 

Carvins Cove Trail Map

Digital Map:

Welcome To

The Mountain Bike Capital of the East!
Watch Bike Pro Jeff Lenosky Tackle Rattlin' Run Trail


Owned by the City of Roanoke, all of Carvins Cove’s trails are planned and managed by Roanoke Parks and Recreation, but predominantly built and maintained by volunteers. Local non-profit volunteer groups that offer continuous help and support on Roanoke’s trails include Pathfinders for Greenways, RIMBA, and Blue Ridge Gravity. Want to help out? Learn more about upcoming Trail Maintenance Work Days.


Although Carvins Cove Natural Reserve is a public recreational resource, it is also home to the region's primary water source. To help maintain clean drinking water, please abide by the rules enforced by the Western Virginia Water Authority when enjoying the Cove's reservoir and trails. Here you'll find more information about water-related activities at Carvins Cove Natural Reserve:

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