Matthews State Forest

Use Permit | Parking/Hours | Recreation | Map | Regulations

Matthews State Forest Features

  • Gated vehicle roads: 4.5 miles
  • Nature Trail with signs: 1.25 miles
  • Mountain Bike Trails: 8 miles. Trails are closed from the first Saturday in October through the first Saturday in January.
  • Ponds: 3
  • Fishing: No
  • Hunting: Yes, archery only
  • American chestnut seed orchard/li>
  • Heritage apple orchard
  • Cabin with Judge Matthews' wildlife displays open by request.
  • Read and download our brochure on the Matthews State Forest and all of the Virginia State Forests.

Forest History

The 566 acres that now comprise the Matthews State Forest was originally settled by the Nuckolls family in the late 1700s. The Nuckolls family cemetery sits on a ridge overlooking the homestead. Judge Jack Matthews purchased the property from a Nuckolls heir in 1946. The Judge enjoyed all types of wildlife, gardening, what he called “old-time apples” and planting trees of any kind. One of his passions was for the American chestnut, and he had a strong desire to see its return. He could remember the chestnut before it was devastated by the blight and how important it had been ecologically, economically, and socially to the region. When Judge Matthews conveyed his land to the DOF, he also conveyed his vision to create a state forest “.to provide for the scientific, educational, and research needs for Southwest Virginia's children and the public, and to continue the work to bring back indigenous species such as the American chestnut.” Parcels that make up the Matthews State Forest were deeded to the Department of Forestry in 1993, 1994, and 2006.

Forest Management

The Matthews State Forest (MSF) is managed for multiple uses. Forestland is managed for sustainable timber production, with an over riding 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.

Located in the central Appalachian Mountains of southwest Virginia, the Matthews State Forest lies within the native range of eastern white pine. This species, along with mixed upland hardwoods, make up the two dominant forest types found on the state forest. White pine thrives here and is able to achieve rapid growth, large size, and attain phenomenal volumes per acre. For these reasons, white pine is a selected species on many sites in management planning.

The MSF is also used for white pine and American chestnut research, and as an educational center to teach children about our natural resources, and to conduct workshops and demonstrations for landowners, loggers, and industry professionals.

Education Programs

The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) invites all educators to make use of this unique and valuable resource. Teachers and group leaders are welcome to schedule educational trips to the state forest. Trips could be "on your own" with the teacher conducting their own class using our 566 acre outdoor classroom or, specific, SOL-correlated lessons could be could be taught by VDOF staff on several topics. These topics can be adapted to suit any age group, and Project Learning Tree activities can be taught in an outdoor setting where students can learn by doing, feeling, seeing, hearing, and smelling. The citizens of Virginia are very fortunate to have the Matthews State Forest - please make the most of this resource. Email the forest personnel.

Learn more about the educational themes that can be taught at the MSF.

State Forest Use Permit

A State Forest Use Permit may be required for visitors to the state forests.

Parking/Hours of Operation

  • Open daily from dawn to dusk.
  • No restroom facilities
  • No trash cans - all visitors are asked to adopt a “Leave No Trace” ethic.
  • Email the forest personnel.

Trail Closure - Seasonal

Due to the potential danger during hunting season, all trails south of US 58 will be closed for all recreational uses other than hunting Mondays through Saturdays from the first Saturday in October through the first Sunday of January. Trails are open Sundays during this period for the benefit of bikers and recreational users only. Trails are open Sundays during this period for the benefit of bikers and recreational users only.

Recreation Opportunities

All visitors are asked to adopt a “Leave No Trace” ethic when on the state forest as there are no restrooms or trash cans.

All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)

Motorized vehicles of any type are prohibited on all of the state forests.


There are nearly 8 miles of challenging mountain bike trails that are open to hiking as well as biking.


The Matthews State Forest is open during daylight hours for hiking and wildlife watching.

Horseback Riding

Horseback riding is limited to roads and open fields.


Hunting is permitted on the Matthews State Forest. All persons, except those legally exempt under Virginia law, must carry a valid Virginia hunting license AND a State Forest Use Permit to hunt or trap on the forest

Hunting access only from White Pine Road Parking area.  No hunting access from the north end of the state forest off of U.S. Route 58 at the education center.

Hunting on the Matthews State Forest is archery only and is only allowed on those portions of the state forest that are south of U.S. 58. See the hunting map to locate “No Hunting Safety Zones.”

State Forest hunting regulations and seasons follow those of the county in which the State Forest is located. Check the Virginia Department Of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) Hunting & Trapping Regulations and Information for special restrictions on State Forest lands, such as Either-Sex Deer Hunting Days.

Map and Directions

Use these directions to find 106 Forestry Lane, Galax, VA 24333.

GPS: Lat: 36 38 31. Long: 80 57 23

From I-81:

  • Take I-77 south to exit 14(Galax/Hillsville)
  • Merge onto US 58 West towards Galax for approx 12 miles.
  • After passing all the way through the City of Galax, you will come to a blinking yellow caution light.
  • Matthews State Forest Office is the 2nd Right after the caution light. (about 1/2 mile after the “Welcome to Grayson County” sign) Large wooden building and cabin on hill.
  • If you pass the intersection with Rt 94, you have gone too far.

View Larger Map

State Forest Regulations

To ensure your safety, read our complete state forest regulations before visiting a forest.

  • No removal of any tree, plant or mineral.
  • Remove all trash.
  • Motorized vehicles of any type are prohibited
  • No camping or public display of alcohol.
  • No fireworks, campfires or open air fires of any type.
  • Lawful firearms are permitted.
  • Hunting is permitted with a valid State Forest Use Permit and valid hunting license in accordance with state hunting regulations.
  • Fishing in designated areas only in accordance with state fishing regulations.
  • Gasoline motorized boats are not permitted.
  • Vehicular traffic on established roads only; not permitted on gated roads.


Last modified: Monday, 26-Feb-2018 12:40:25 EST