County:Alleghany and Wilkes
Key Birds: Summer: Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Black-throated Blue, Canada , Black-and-white, and Worm-eating Warblers, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Vesper Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow. Winter: White-throated Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Red Crossbill. Year Round: Wild Turkey, Common Raven, Ruffed Grouse, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Downy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker.
Best Times to Bird: Migration seasons and breeding season are especially productive. Early May is the peak of spring migration and fall raptor migration is excellent.
Description: Doughton Park is a 6000 acre park situated along the top of the Blue Ridge escarpment and along the Blue Ridge Parkway from Milepost 246 to 238. The bulk of the park lies on the slope of the escarpment from an elevation of 3800 feet to 1425 feet. Several drainages, cove forests, and dry xeric slopes add to the diversity of the park.
Directions: Trails and facilities are best accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Overlooks from MP 244.5 (Basin Cove Overlook) to 238.5 (Brinegar Cabin) include trail access. The lower reaches of the park may be reached by parking at the Basin Creek access on NC SR 1730 (Longbottom Road).
Birding Highlights: Doughton Park provides access to a wide variety of habitats including open grassy fields, xeric slopes, cove hardwoods, and mixed forest. These habitats support a wide variety of breeding birds and many that are found throughout the region. Along the Fodderstack and Bluff Mountain Trail, birds of the upper escarpment and Blue Ridge region are found in good numbers including Black-and-white Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Blue-headed Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and a variety of other forest species. The grassy area just north of the picnic area and Bluff's Lodge normally hosts Field, Grasshopper, and Savannah Sparrows, Horned Lark, American Robin and Indigo Bunting.
More strenuous trails will be productive for low elevation species by following any of the trails that lead down from the escarpment. An alternative access to the lower reaches of the park is from Longbottom Road. In the summer look in the lower elevation region for Worm-eating and Swainson's Warblers, Blue Grosbeak, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo. The Grassy Gap Fire Road includes cove forests with Acadian Flycatcher and Louisiana Waterthrush, and other forest birds. The other two strenuous trails, Cedar Ridge and Flat Rock Ridge Trails, offer more xeric slope and dry oak forest birds like Worm-eating, Black and White, Kentucky and Pine Warblers.
General Information: Doughton Park is one of only a few parks along the Blue Ridge Parkway with lodging facilities. The Bluffs Lodge, a restaurant, gift shop, as well as picnic and restroom facilities make Doughton Park an excellent area for birders and non-birders as well. Seasonal staff give fireside programs throughout the summer months. Trails range from easy, accessible areas like the Lodge and picnic area parking lots and sidewalks to strenuous hikes on the escarpment.
DeLorme map grid: page 14, B-3
North Carolina Travel Map grid: E1
For more information: Doughton Park, National Park Service 336-372-8877; http://www.nps.gov/blri/