MORE INFORMATION: George Washington & Jefferson National Forests 5162 Valleypointe Parkway Roanoke, VA 24019 888-265-0019 540-265-5100
HIGHLIGHTS: At Rhododendron Gap, the Appalachian Trail makes a hard turn to the right for the northbound hiker and heads into Grayson Highlands State Park. The park is adjacent to the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, a part of the Jefferson National Forest.
Grayson Highlands, originally named Mount Rogers State Park, was established in 1965. The community overwhelmingly supported this park, beginning with a fund-raising effort for land acquisition and continuing with the donation of items on exhibit in the visitor center. Many areas in the park are named after early settlers. Massie Gap takes its name from Lee Massey, who lived in the gap with his wife and five children in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Wilburn Ridge is named after the famed hunter Wilburn Waters. His reputation as a bear hunter and wolf trapper made him renowned throughout the region.
Grayson Highland State Park is more akin to the grasslands of Montana than the typical meadows of Southwestern Virginia. There are magnificent views from the wide open areas in the park and from the numerous rock outcroppings along the trail. Herds of wild ponies roam these lands and are often seen not far from the trail.
Slawdog and I combined the Appalachian Trail with some side trails in the Grayson Highlands State Park and the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area to complete a fifteen mile overnight hike in the area. We also climbed a short 0.4 mile side trail to the 5,729 feet summit of Mount Rogers which is the highest mountain in Virginia and is home to the northernmost Fraser Firs on the Appalachian Trail.