Hike to the Summit of Mt Rogers, the Highest Point in Virginia
Mt. Rogers in Grayson Highlands State park is one of the best hikes on the east coast. The hike is in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains and on a portion of the famous Appalachian Trail. The trail is also very remote and free of paved roads, which is rare for the larger peaks on the east coast. The trail leading to the summit offers amazing views and encounters with the rare Grayson Highlands pony. The ponies are related to the wild horses that roam the west and flourish above 4500 feet. The shortest direct route is an 8 mile round trip that will take 4-6 hours, depending on how much you walk around at the top or if you decide to camp along the Appalachian trail. The hike starts at 4,720 feet and you gain 1510 feet on your way to the 5,729 foot summit.
Your journey to Mt. Rogers starts at the Massive Gap parking area. Look for the gate at the start of the Rhododendron Trailhead. The trail is well marked with signs as well as light blue paint blaze marks. Follow the Rhododendron Trail until it joins the Appalachian Trail after about a half mile. The Appalachian trail is marked by white paint blaze marks. Follow the Appalachia /Rhodoendron Trail nearly the rest of the way to the summit. One mile from the parking lot you will reach the Grayson Highlands State Park boundary, which is marked by a split rail fence and a step ladder for crossing. The next trail junction will be the Wilburn Ridge which leads off to the left, although you can take this trail, stay to the right on the Appalachian Trail for the easier route.
The Appalachian Trail climbs uphill until you reach the Rhododendron Gap with some of the best views on the trail. The trail continues past two more step ladders and the Thomas knob Shelter on your left. This area is the best location to see the wild Grayson Highlands Ponies. We were lucky enough to visit during the summer while there were still baby ponies running around. The next trail intersection, after the shelter, is the Mt. Rogers trail which leads off to the right into the thick spruce fir forest. The muddy trail climbs up through this unique, moss covered forest to the rocky high point. Although the high point views are blocked by the thick trees, the views along the trail are very rewarding.
Directions to Mt. Rogers From the West:
Take exit 19 from I-81 onto US 58 in the town of Abingdon, VA. Take US 58 East for through Damascus, VA for 40 miles to the Grayson Highlands State Park entrance. Take SR 362 for 3.7 miles to the Massive Gap parking lot.
Directions to Mt. Rogers From the East:
Take US 58 from the intersection of US 21 in Independence, VA. Take US 58 for 17 miles to the State park entrance.