Mill Mountain Star Trail

Submitted by: Mark, Brenda, and Gavin Futrell

A few years ago, we started a Futrell family tradition: on Thanksgiving morning, we hike from our house in Old Southwest Roanoke to the Mill Mountain Star. It’s a great way to spend some quality time together, and it gives us a chance to get a little exercise before we start stuffing our faces!

We’ve come to enjoy this tradition so much that we wanted to share it with you in the hopes that your family might also make it, or something similar, part of your holiday celebrations. We’re so fortunate to live in an area where outdoor recreation is so accessible. For our family, it’s practically in our back yard. But for anyone who lives in the Roanoke or Lynchburg area, there are opportunities to explore the outdoors everywhere you look. So this holiday season, take a break from the hustle and bustle and traffic and shopping and stress and GET OUT THERE to appreciate the outdoor amenities that surround us. And be thankful for the opportunity to enjoy them with your family and friends!

This particular hike is great for this time of year for a few reasons. It’s an easy hike that can be done in just about any weather. It’s kid- and pet-friendly, so it’s a great way to get the whole family out there. And it’s convenient; you don’t have to drive out to the middle of nowhere and take tons of supplies.


There are several ways to get to the Mill Mountain Star. Here’s our route:

From Washington Ave. SW, turn right onto Franklin Rd. Turn left onto Walnut Ave. Follow Walnut Ave. over the bridge and up the hill. Turn right onto Sylvan Rd. From here, just follow the road up to the star. Eventually you’ll see signs like “End State Maintenance” and “Road Closed to Through Traffic.” Just keep going—foot and bike traffic is allowed. The road will wind back and forth past several large homes. Avoid the private driveways, and follow the road itself. After about 1.5 miles, you’ll reach a clearing, where the path will narrow and curve around to the left—you’ve arrived at the Mill Mountain Star!


The Route:

Our route is roughly 5 miles round trip and two hours worth of walking. When determining how much time to allow for this hike, be sure to factor in how long you plan to hang out at the top. In addition to the Mill Mountain Star itself and the Mill Mountain Zoo, when you reach the top, you’ll find picnic tables, new restroom facilities, an adorable little playground, and additional hiking trails. So be sure to allow plenty of time to explore, relax, and enjoy!

What You’ll Need:

Because this hike isn’t especially long or strenuous, you really don’t need much. As with any hike, you’ll want to make sure that you dress appropriately for the weather. Because there isn’t a significant altitude change during this hike, whatever feels comfortable at the bottom should also be comfortable at the top. You’ll want to dress in several layers just to be safe. Comfortable shoes are a must. And make sure that you bring plenty of water as well as a snack to enjoy when you’ve reached the top.

Most importantly, don’t forget the camera! You’ll want to be able to capture the memory of this time with your family or friends!

Skill Level:

This hike should be manageable by anyone in good physical shape. With paved sidewalks and roads the whole way, the skill level is easy. And while the incline is gradual, it’s constant, which can be physically challenging. If you’re traveling with a large group or with children, just take it slow and stop for breaks as needed.