dogs on leash
The half mile spur to the summit through the dense moss-covered pine trees is quite a contrast to the dramatic mostly open terrain you pass to get there. Though slightly anti-climatic despite being at the highest point in Virginia (5729 feet), it is the journey that matters most...and what a journey it is! I am glad I know about the second marker at the summit now...thank you Bill! I will be sure to find it on the next visit.
I hiked from Massie Gap in Grayson Highlands State Park to the Mount Rogers summit (November 2015) on a beautiful and unseasonably warm day. The many open views are spectacular. I particularly enjoyed crossing Wilburn Ridge. I took the more direct and rocky route on the way out and the somewhat less challenging 'bypass' on the way back. The trail also takes you through Rhododendron Gap and by the Thomas Knob Shelter (shortly before the Summit Spur). I wish I had known about the second marker at the summit...I will be sure to find it on a return trip! After descending from the summit, I followed the Mount Rogers Trail a little further before heading back to the park. I will probably hike in from the Elk Garden section next time.
I wouldn't consider this trail "hard." I think moderate would be the maximum difficulty level this trail deserves. I went on Black Friday and I only saw 9 other people who had the same plan to avoid shopping at all costs.
I went with my 9 year old husky and a 25 lb pack and we finished right at 5 hours, with stops for breaks and pictures. There were pony droppings on the trail, but we didn't see any.
It was really cool passing through different ecosystems along the trail. One side of the mountain features a more dry climate and the other is very moist with differences in vegetation.
I'll definitely be going back in the spring/summer
Hiked from Massie Gap and Grayson Highlands State Park. Wind chill at times was as low as 7F degrees. Paid $7 out of state parking fee [year round], and parked right across the field from the Rhododendron Trail. Spent 6 hours on the trail [you can do it in 4 hours], used Rhododendron and AT trails, past Thomas Knob shelter and took AT Spur to the top - make sure you locate the second geodetic marker at the top as there are two - met many people along the way, visited with the wild ponies, took Wilburn Ridge [blue blaze] on the way back ... some steep places but a great view from the top. After our trek had a great barbecue sandwich... everything tastes good after 9 miles and 1500' of elevation gain. This is a great day trip for anyone who can drive up to 4 hours each way. Highly recommend hiking this area to the densely wooded top of Mt. Rogers [note the exposed areas along the way offer fantastic views].
Mt. Rogers Spur proper is a blue blazed trail leaving the AT near the Thomas Knob Shelter along the AT that climbs to Virginia's high point at 5729 feet. We hiked on a partly cloudy cold day with a wind chill of 7 degrees in the open areas. It got much warmer out of the wind on the tree covered top of Mt. Rogers. The Spur travels up though first fields of grass and then dense pines at the top much like what you encounter along the Black Mountain Crest Trail and Mt. Mitchell in NC. I'd also compare it to the dense moss covered pine forests of British Columbia. The top is not very spectacular except for the change in climate zone and the cool forest. There are two geodetic markers, the true top is the second one which is only 100 feet or so from the first across the area at the top. This hike, combined with the lower trails from Massie Gap that you have to take to get there is a not to miss adventure! Enjoy!
VA Explore Park is located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 115. It includes 1200 acres and lots of trail options with very nice facilities and a Parkway Visitor Center. I completed a section of the Old Salem Turnpike Trail, which loops around an historic area and follows along the Roanoke River for a short distance. I enjoyed exploring the old buildings.
It is basically just a loop from one end of the parking area to the other (milepost 74.7). But the view from the pretty stone lookout deserves four stars. Be sure to look north for the huge boulder field at Devil's Marbleyard (a future destination for me). The Appalachian Trail passes through here, and affords the opportunity for some great hiking...maybe a trek south to Apple Orchard Mountain (the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia).
As for finding this trail, there are two approaches. The one described above utilizes the paved road from PULASKI to Gatewood Reservoir and so could be coupled with really beautiful and peaceful camping, canoeing or kayaking. Know, however, that the last two roads mentioned are dirt & gravel Forest Service roads and the upper trail-heads for Tract Fork and Polecat are *unmarked* on your right - utilize milages from the turn-off to find them. The trails are not blazed, but having been jeep trails previously, they're not difficult to follow.
The access I always use at the bottom of the mountain is easier to find, but your vehicle must me able to ford 2 shallow creeks. Start in PULASKI (why does this say Wytheville?) and follow Robinson Tract Road (Route 99) out of town for about 4 miles. Turn left on Cox's Hollow road (also paved) 0.1mile after you pass Wesley Chapel on roadside left. Follow Cox's Hollow 3 miles until it becomes unpaved and runs through the creek. After another 2-ish miles, the road ends at a turnaround off of which Tract Fork Trail begins at 12:00. Polecat branches off of TFT itself.
The local mountain biking community generally keeps the trails clear. Neither trail is good for distance views but both start along a lovely mountain stream, which we and our kids played in multiple times, and then through peaceful, restorative woods. I'd recommend both the hiking or biking. The Polecat spur is a lot more vertical and difficult to bike. I think I remember the trail length is 4.5 miles. If you're from out of town and wanting to bike, definitely call Mike @ Pulaski Bikes - he's the guru and chief trail-maintainer.
A good hike with elevation gain to present a challenge and wonderful views to provide a nice reward.
Approaching Pearisburg form the east the mountain, on which Angel's Rest is perched, looms over the town and the river. The north slope to the top stands in clear relief form the center of town - so you you have a pretty good idea of where you're headed and what you're getting into before setting out. Of course, as always, perspective is tricky and it's tough to judge scale of something so massive.
We set out from where the AT traverses Cross St (as per the directions) - there's roadside parking for 3-5 vehicles. We left one cars at the nearby grocery (where we grabbed some snacks and used the facilities).
Heading up the north slope about 10am on an early November day, we were in the shade for a good part of the hike. It was a crisp 32-degrees and clear with little wind, but the quick and steady elevation gain warmed us up quite quickly. The AT is well marked and well laid out with swithcbacks - so though you gain 1,600' in ~2 miles it never feels as if climbing straight up. The mature hardwood forest and boulder fields provide a great setting and the occasional groves of Rhododendron covering the trail in spots provides some variety. (I imagine they put on a nice show when in bloom.). The only downside from the pastoral setting was the road noise -audible at the lower elevations at the beginning of the hike - lifting up the slope from route 460 in the valley. About a third of the way up, we were surprise to see an abandoned high voltage transmission tower amongst the trees - which we nearly missed.
We made the Angel's Rest Summit in a bit over an hour - passing through the two huge boulders which act as a gate to the top. Following the sign to the right (west) for a short path we arrived at the Angel's Rest boulder. On our cloudless day we had a wonderful prospect of the NEw River Valley, all the way form Narrows (and beyond) through Pearisburg and on towards Newport. The town of Pearisburg and the courthouse are all laid out nicely before you, as is the busy Celanese Plant. We enjoyed watching several trains (which looked HO scale from our vantage point) make their way through the valley down the valley along the river. The view to Mountain Lake and beyond, to the east was amazing.
We continued on the Wilburn Valley overlook and we're glad we did! The view to the east extended all the way to Buffalo Mtn. The immediate prospect of the Wilburn Valley provided a wonderful view of the green fields and farmland along the valley. Even though it was past 'peak color' it's a great scene to behold. And the rock ledge along the eastern wall of the mountain makes for a nice spot for lingering for a snack.
We returned down the trail at about the same pace as our ascent, the whole outing taking about 3.5 hours.
We'll be back.