|Ponies grazing on the Grayson Highlands|
Access: $5 Virginia state park day use fee
There is no hike in Virginia like the hike to the summit of Mt. Rogers, the state's highest peak. Few hikes can match this hike's varied nature- yet the hike itself is doable for just about everyone. The terrain crossed en route is some of the Virginia's most unique. There are the rolling meadows of the Grayson Highlands and the wild ponies that graze there in the mist, the rocky outcrops with views of endless wilderness, and the wet and mossy rain forest at the highest point in our state. Every Virginian should see Mt. Rogers. While the summit of the peak is in Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area, which is part of Jefferson National Forest, the easiest access point to the mountain and the site of some of Virginia's most beautiful meadows is Grayson Highlands State Park, surely the crown jewel of the Virginia State Park system.
The mountain is in the most remote corner of the state: it's nearly a seven-hour trip from Northern Virginia via I-81. I recommend accessing this hike by taking I-81 to Exit 45 at Marion, VA and driving VA Route 16 south to the junction with US 58. We turned right at US 58, heading west into some of the windiest Virginia roads I've encountered. Along the way, there's very little sign that you're anywhere out of the ordinary; the roads are mostly hemmed in by trees. However, after we turned into Grayson Highlands State Park and paid the admission fee and drove up two miles or so, we came to a gorgeous eastern view.
|View from Grayson Highlands Park Road|
|Bull on Wilburn Ridge|
|Foggy forest on Wilburn Ridge|
|Narrow rock crevice on the AT|
|Foggy grassland on the AT|
|Entering the Lewis Fork Wilderness, Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area|
The forest was at first quite normal, except for the firs found only in the Southern Appalachians. However, as we walked further in, the forest seemed to get progressively greener. The forest floor was populated with more ferns; the trees themselves coated with more moss. We had stumbled into a temperate rain forest at the top of Virginia's highest peak.
|Rain forest atop Mt. Rogers|
|The highest point in the state of Virginia|
|View from Rhododendron Gap of Pine Mountain|
|The ponies of Mt. Rogers|
|The summit of Wilburn Ridge|
|The fog clears: Wilburn Ridge|
|View down the Grayson Highlands|
|View from Massie Gap|
|The night sky at Grayson Highlands|