5 Reasons Why You Should Explore Virginia's Grayson Highlands

Explore some of the most scenic trails in the South.

By: Jess Fischer

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With wide open mountain meadows, endless views of the surrounding Appalachian Mountains and wild ponies grazing everywhere, Grayson Highlands State Park is truly a bucket list item for hikers and backpackers alike. Here's why:

1. The Views

Due to multiple wild fires, there are endless views of the Virginia highlands and the surrounding Appalachian Mountains. Think big grassy balds, rocks jutting out of the earth, evergreens, rhododendron, wild blueberry bushes, gurgling streams, and wild ponies grazing along the hillsides. The Grayson Highlands truly have some of the most unique landscapes in the state of Virginia.

Hike and Fish Cabin Creek Trail

2. The Campgrounds Are Beautiful 

If you’re not quite ready for your first backpacking trip, staying at the campgrounds in the park is a great idea and the second best way to experience the park. With hot showers, bathrooms, electrical hookups, and fire pits at every campground, even the least experienced camper can feel a little more at ease with all the provided amenities. Your campsite can act as a home base while you spend your days hiking around the park. The campsites are all in wooded areas, so you’ll have plenty of shade and be able to throw up your favorite hammock. To reserve a campground within the park go here

Hike to Twin Pinnacles

3. It’s Perfect for All Backpacking Levels 

Whether you want to try out backpacking for the first time or you backpack every weekend, this state park should be on your list of places to backpack. First timers will be challenged by the occasional uphill, but because you can really camp anywhere you want after your first mile (once you pass the wooden gate into the heart of the Highlands), they can gauge how they feel and set up camp whenever they’re done for the day. More experienced backpackers can opt to hike out to Mount Rogers or backpack either north or south along the Appalachian Trail. Regardless of your experience level you’ll be surrounded by wide open skies, wild ponies, and amazing views wherever you decide to set up camp.  

Backpack the Mount Rogers Loop

4. There Are Diverse Hiking Options

Whether you want a short, easy hike with amazing views (Hike to Twin Pinnacles) or a longer 8 mile hike to the highest peak in Virginia (Hike Mount Rogers), there is something for everyone. Fly fishers can enjoy the rushing waters of Cabin Creek while trying their luck at a wild rainbow (Hike and Fish Cabin Creek Trail), or you can wander up into the heart of the highlands and see wild ponies grazing (Hike Rhododendron Trail). To get up into the iconic highlands and see the wild ponies, hike up Rhododendron Trail from Massie’s Gap Parking Area or from the Overnight Backpackers Lot. Once you get to the top of the 0.8 mile trail you are guaranteed to find some wild ponies whether you decide to roam north along the Appalachian Trail towards Wilburn Ridge or south to Mount Rogers. 

Hike Rhododendron Trail

5. The Park is Beautiful in Every Season 

During the spring the park is bright green from the new buds, dark green from the evergreens and Rhododendron that don’t lose their leaves in the winter and little wild flower dot the hillsides. During the summertime Rhododendrons have huge pink blooms that cover the mountainsides with the deep greens of mature summer leaves. In the fall the Highlands explode with a plethora of colors as the landscape prepares for winter. During the winter the wide open spaces are covered with snow from the storms that blow over the mountains with pines and other coniferous plants sprinkling green across the landscape. All year long you’ll see wild ponies grazing across the highlands. 

For a copy of the Grayson Highlands State Park map go here.

For a copy of the Mount Rogers National Recreational Area map go here.

Cover photo: Christin Healey

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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.