Helton Trail and Elk Garden Trail Loop via Appalachian Trail

MODERATE 2 reviews
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Helton Trail and Elk Garden Trail Loop via Appalachian Trail is a 8.6 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Trout Dale, Virginia that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and nature trips and is best used from April until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

8.6 miles
1,584 feet

dogs on leash


nature trips






over grown

Parking lot at Elk Garden on Whitetop Rd. Cross over road to start uphill on the AT through to Deep Gap. At Deep Gap continue on the AT until you reach a junction with the Mt Rogers trail coming in from the left. Turn right to continue on the AT. When you have almost skirted around the mountain, there will be a clearing to the right. Turn right on the blue blazed trail by a step ladder. Continue straight across the plain following the blue blazes. This descends down towards a gate on what is a rough stony trail. Continue on the trail which is a horse trail (Elk Garden aka VA horse trail) until you reach a sign for Heron Creek trail. A sharp left turn downhill follows. The terrain is boggy in places with some blowdown and clearly rarely used. Continue until reaching a sign for Sugar Maple trail. Turn right here to continue along Heron Creek. Turning left would start a different loop. Continue on Heron Creek until the trail reaches Heron Creek Spur trail. This crosses over Heron Creek itself which is quite deep. Continue up the spur trail which is a steady climb and boggy in parts. Eventually the trail reaches a gate and soon after intersects with Elk Garden trail once more quite close to the end of the hike. Continue along Elk Garden until the loop is completed.

10 months ago

First part of this hike was delightful. Great views, open plain and easy uphill to Deep Gap. The continuing section on the AT was also fine and the right turn onto Elk Garden was pleasant. Saw several wild ponies roaming. The going underfoot changed to stony rocky trail commensurate with the fact that this was also a horse trail. We decided to add an extra loop by turning left onto Heron Creek. What a mistake that was! The trail was overgrown and boggy in places. There was also some blowdown. Literally there was nothing redeeming in the trail. We cut our losses by turning right at the junction with Sugar Maple trail rather than adding to the torture. The going improved and there was a whoop of relief to reach the Spur trail that would intersect back with Elk Garden. However that meant crossing over the creek. No small feat. Have gaiters or prepare to wade in bare feet. There was no easy place to cross. The going after was uphill though a gentle climb. Parts were v boggy with lots more blowdown. Eventually you reach a gate and just a little further a sign denoting the Spur which well and truly notifies you that you are back at last on Elk Garden. I had wondered by the absence of any trail markings that this might have been a hidden gem, sadly the added loop offered nothing then sodden boots! I have posted the hike more as a buyer beware...the rest of this shortish loop is pleasant enough but you won't be missing out if you miss out Heron Creek trail.

10 months ago