Best of the Blue Ridge: Grayson Highlands and Mt. Rogers

Posted: June 9, 2011 in Uncategorized
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The second half of a couple day road trip in the mountains. The first half is here.

After finishing up the ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway around 10, I drove south on I-81 for a few hours. I stopped in Roanoke briefly to wander around downtown, but otherwise headed directly to the final activity I wanted to accomplish on the trip: hiking Mt. Rogers.

I planned on hiking the next morning (Sunday), but since I arrived in the national forest at the base of the mountain around 4 pm, I opted to do a little hiking before dark. I was just planning to go out for an hour or so (I wasn’t looking to summit), however once I got going it was hard to turn around, as I was quickly above treeline and there was lots to see.

I didn’t try to hit the summit, but I got in a good 3.5 hour hike/run (the latter because I was kind of racing darkness toward the end), and summited a peak nearby to Mt. Rogers.

The next morning, Sunday, was a bit of a rude awakening, as I was incredibly sore from doing 50 miles of cycling on the parkway and over three hours of fairly rigorous hiking in one day. I opted to drive around to the other side of Mt. Rogers for the climb, since I didn’t really want to hike the same trail I had done the day before. This brought me to Grayson Highlands State Park, and I had the place pretty much to myself at 7 am when I arrived.

Although the scenery the day before had been gorgeous, coming from the state park is undoubtedly the best way up Mt. Rogers. The scenery is incredible. Unlike the rocky, lifeless peaks of New Hampshire, exposed areas in southwestern Virginia are more likely to appear as endless grassy fields.

Complete with wild ponies.

Yes, while organisms struggle to survive above 4000 feet in New Hampshire, there is a band of wild ponies that lives in the Grayson Highlands area. It’s pretty awesome to be hiking along and come across wild ponies that hardly seem to notice you exist.

The route for the day was pretty much just the Appalachian Trail, though you take a spur trail to the summit at the end, as the AT doesn’t go over it. Mt. Rogers is the highest point in the state of Virginia at 5729 feet, and is the highest state highpoint east of South Dakota without a road to its summit.

Obviously, a summit shot was obligatory.

As you can see, the summit is in the trees, so the best views of the day were on the way up and down. But there were ltos of good ones. All in all, it was about a three-hour hike round trip.

The familiar white blaze of the Appalachian Trail

A shelter along the trail

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