Matthews State Forest

Overview

The 566-acre Matthews State Forest is located in Grayson County, just west of Galax. The mixed hardwood and white pine stands are managed for multiple uses of recreation, wildlife, timber, water quality. The forest serves as an education, demonstration, and research site.

Lying at the heart of the natural range of eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), the soils, topography, and climate of the Matthews State Forest make it ideally suited to producing white pine. Here, this native species achieves rapid growth and produces incredible timber volume per acre. Roughly 130 acres of the forest are dedicated to sustainable white pine growth and management.

Clear Fork Creek runs through the forest, and there are three small ponds. Two American chestnut research orchards and an heirloom apple orchard are unique features here. Nuckolls Cemetery is also located on the property.

×To ensure your safety and enjoyment, please read Before You Visit when planning your trip to a state forest.

At a Glance

Access Status: Open to the Public
Hours: Open daily from dawn until dusk

Physical Address:
Latitude/Longitude:
36° 38’ 13”, 80° 57’ 43”
Office: 106 Forestry Lane Galax VA 24333

Parking/Access: Access for the mountain bike trail and hunting is from Route 617 (White Pine Road). Other access points include Route 911 (Jacks Orchard Road) or Forestry Lane off US Route 58. Parking available at all of these access points.

Restroom Facilities: Restrooms near the picnic shelter are open seasonally

Visitors are asked to adopt a “leave-no-trace” ethic when visiting the forest, as there are no restrooms or trash cans on the forest itself. ​ ​

Other Facilities: 1 picnic shelter is available to rent for events and is open for public use when not rented. Please pack out all trash.
A conference center and lodging for up to 10 people. Contact the Matthews State Forest Office at (276) 236-2322 to reserve facilities.

Seasonal Closures: All trails south of Route 58 are closed for hunting every day but Sunday, from the first Saturday in October through the first Saturday in January.

Forest History

Judge Jack Matthews and his wife, Clare, donated the first parcel that would become the Matthews State Forest in 1993. Additional donations in 1994 and 2006 brought the forest to its current 566 acres.

The land was originally settled by the Nuckolls family in the late 1700s. The structure on the state forest that is now known as “The Alice House” was built by Captain Robert Nuckolls in 1805. Judge Jack Matthews purchased the property from a Nuckolls heir in 1946 and lived on the property and farmed the land until his passing in 2002. Judge Matthews enjoyed all types of wildlife, gardening, raising what he referred to as “old time apples”, and planting trees of any kind. He was passionate about the American chestnut and had a strong desire to see it return to the local landscape. He could remember the chestnut before it was devastated by the blight fungus and how important it had been ecologically, economically, and socially to the region. The judge specified that this state forest would “provide for the scientific, educational, recreational, and research needs of Southwest Virginia’s children and the public, and to continue the work to enhance and bring back native species, such as the American chestnut.”

Forest Management

The Matthews State Forest is managed for multiple uses. Forestland is managed for sustainable timber production, with an overriding goal to continually improve the forest. Other management goals include protecting and improving water quality, protecting and developing wildlife habitat, and promoting native biological diversity. Management activities demonstrate sound forestry and conservation practices.

Eastern white pine and mixed upland hardwoods make up the two dominant forest types found on the forest. White pine is a management and research focus here because the site is particularly well-suited to its growth. The forest is also used for American chestnut research. VDOF has selected this forest as an educational center to teach children about natural resources, and to conduct workshops and demonstrations for landowners, loggers, and industry professionals.

Recreational Opportunities

Recreational uses of the Matthews State Forest include hiking, biking, limited hunting, and wildlife watching. Hiking is the most common recreational use with many visitors.

Visitors are asked to adopt a “leave-no-trace” ethic when visiting the forest, as there are no restrooms or trash cans on the forest itself.

ATV/ORV use, camping, and swimming are prohibited on all State Forests.

A State Forest Use Permit* is required for individuals aged 16 and older to hunt, fish, trap, horseback ride, or mountain bike on state forest lands. The permit can be purchased online at or where hunting licenses are sold.

Trails and Roads

  • 11.1 miles of forest trails – no vehicles (2 miles of walking trails, 9.1 miles of biking trails)
  • 0.5 mile of forest roads (vehicles allowed)
  • 2 miles of gated forest roads – no vehicles

Hiking

Hiking is permitted on all forest roads and trails, 1.1-mile interpretive trail off Forestry Lane, 0.9-mile birding trail accessible from Jacks Orchard Road.

Mountain Biking

Biking is permitted on all forest roads and more than 8 miles of single-track mountain bike trails.

Horseback Riding

Horseback riding is permitted on all forest roads, fields, and the interpretive trail.

State law requires that visitors carry a copy of a negative Coggins test report with each horse on state lands.

Fishing and Boating

None

Hunting and Trapping

Archery hunting is only permitted with a valid State Forest Use Permit and valid hunting license in accordance with state regulations. Note that some regulations may be different than on private land, so check Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources Hunting Regulations for specific state forest details.

Hunting is only allowed on those portions of the forest south of Route 58. Refer to the Hunter’s Map before hunting to locate “No Hunting Safety Zones.” Hunting access is only from the White Pine Road parking area. Bucks must have at least four antler points on at least one side. No permanent tree stands or screw-in steps may be placed on the forest.

Other Recreational Opportunities

One picnic shelter is located at 300 Jacks Orchard Road. While the shelter is open to public usage, scheduled events have priority use of shelter.

Other passive recreational opportunities, such as wildlife watching and nature photography, are available.

Educational Opportunities
  • Self-learning opportunities are available.
  • Self-guided educational opportunities.
  • Formal education programs are available upon request.

Teachers and group leaders are welcome to schedule educational trips to the state forest. Trips can be “on your own” with the teacher conducting their own class using our 566-acre outdoor classroom, or specific SOL-correlated lessons can be taught by VDOF staff on several topics. These topics can be adapted to suit any age group, and Project Learning Tree (www.plt.org) activities can be taught in an outdoor setting where students can learn by doing, feeling, seeing, hearing, and smelling. To coordinate a formal educational program, e-mail us.

Educational Themes

  • Educational programs are available to any group from pre-kindergarten to adult
  • Teachers can request lessons covering specific topics or standards of learning (SOLs).
  • Participants in educational experiences at the Matthews State Forest will increase their knowledge of one or more of the following topics:
  • Basic tree biology, physiology, and taxonomy
    • Tree identification
    • Physical and growth features
    • Needs of trees
  • Basic forest ecology and forest types
    • Appalachian ecosystems
    • Succession and competition
    • Characteristics of pine, upland hardwood, and bottomland/riparian hardwood forest types
    • Other forest components (plants, soils, animals, etc.)
  • Virginia’s forest wildlife
    • Common species of wildlife in Southwest Virginia
    • Food webs and other interactions
    • Habitat requirements
    • Focus on specific species
  • Forests as renewable resources that produce many products and benefits
    • Forest products
    • Other benefits. See # 3, 5, 6
  • Forest roles in maintaining the quality of water, air, and other environmental aspects
    • Watershed / water quality /flood control
    • Biodiversity of plants and animals
    • Soil conservation / quality
    • Air quality / carbon sequestration
    • Climate (local to global)
    • Pollination
  • Water
    • Water quality testing
    • Aquatic life/ macro-invertebrates
    • Watersheds
  • Reasons and methods for managing forests
    • Timber, paper, and other consumer goods
    • Pine silviculture
    • Hardwood silviculture
    • Harvest systems (even and uneven-aged)
    • Forestry Best Management Practices
    • Intermediate prescriptions (prescribed fire, release, thinning, etc.)
    • Site preparation and planting
  • Historical uses of forest resources in Virginia
    • Traditional uses and products
    • Other topics
  • Issues and factors that affect Virginia’s forests
    • Invasive species
    • Wildfire
    • Pollution
    • Land use changes
    • Climate change
    • Current issues of local or global importance (subject to change)
  • Forestry and Natural Resource Career Skills
    • Scientific methodology (observation, inquiry, data collection, etc.)
    • Forestry skills (tree measurement, ID, stand assessment, etc.)
  • Specific topics unique to the Matthews property
    • Efforts to restore diminished species (e.g. American chestnut, shortleaf pine, bobwhite quail)

The above topic areas are broad and can be broken down into many, specific lessons covering different disciplines and age/grade levels. Lessons can be correlated to Science, Math, Social Studies, or English SOLs.

Contact Us

For more information or questions, e-mail us or use our contact form.

State Forest Main Office
Located at Cumberland State Forest
751 Oak Hill Road, Cumberland, VA 23040-2511
E-mail | (804) 492-4121

Local Contact
Matthews State Forest
Zach Olinger, Forest Management and Education Specialist
106 Forestry Lane, Galax, VA 24333
E-mail | (276) 236-2322

Maps and Additional Resources
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