Backpack the Mount Rogers Loop

15.6 miles 1079 ft gain  - Loop Trail

Added by John Sides

Known for its grassy balds that offer sweeping views of the Virginia highlands, wild ponies that roam the area, and being the highest point in Virginia, Mount Rogers is one of the most uniquely beautiful sections of the AT. Numerous trails allow for a variety of multi-day backpacking options.

For an awesome 2-3 day trip, start hiking at the Massie Gap trailhead, which can be reached from Grayson Highlands State Park. Take the Rhododendron Trail up the ridge to connect with the AT, keeping an eye out for wild ponies in the Massie Gap area as they like to hang out here. Some of these ponies may approach close enough to get a great photo, but please help keep them wild by resisting the urge to touch or feed them. Follow the AT up Wilburn Ridge, which includes a section of trail where you get to scramble up several rocky outcroppings. At the highest point of Wilburn Ridge, you’ll be rewarded with impressive 360-degree views of the entire area.

To reach the summit of Mount Rogers, continue on the AT past the Thomas Knob shelter and hike about half a mile through a dense forest covered in moss and evergreens. At 5,729 ft the summit is the highest point in Virginia. Head back down the mountain, claim a campsite with a view near Thomas Knob shelter (the shelter is available on a first come first served basis but priority goes to thru hikers) and watch the sunset across the valley. There’s a water source just off the ridge from the shelter.

On the next day, backtrack for a mile on the AT and then continue straight onto Pine Mountain trail until you leave the Lewis Fork Wilderness and reconnect with the AT southbound. Pine Mountain trail keeps you on the ridge and passes through loads of rhododendron and a combination of fields and forest. Stay straight on the AT through Scales (intersection of 5 different trails so make sure you take the one you’re intending to!), and hike up and across wide open balds with great views back towards Wilburn Ridge and Mount Rogers. Because it’s so exposed this section of trail can get very windy. For a long day, follow the AT all the way back towards Wilburn Ridge and descend to Massie Gap via Appalachian Spur Trail or the Rhododendron Trail. For a more leisurely second day, stop and camp near Wise shelter (water source nearby) and leave the remaining section for the next morning.

TRIP PLANNING:

Because it’s the highest mountain around, Mount Rogers can experience dramatic weather changes quickly year round, including harsh winter conditions from late Fall to early Spring. Know the forecast for the peak and surrounding areas before your trip and be prepared for changing weather.

Read More

Tags

Camping
Photography
Backpacking
Hiking
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Forest
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

🥇Top Contributor

3 months ago

Gradual climb

This is an easygoing loop that has pretty consistent views throughout the hike. The abundance of animals/wildlife also make it a trip to remember. We had a few ponies stumble by our tent in the early morning hours... better than a bear!

Explorer

🥇Top Contributor

over 1 year ago

Great weekender backpacking trip!

I backpacked this loop over 4th of July weekend. There was a lot of people but we found a nice campsite near Thomas Knob shelter that provided some space from the trail and hikers. The views are beautiful and the wildlife is awesome!!! We had wild ponies walk through our camp munchin' on grass and saying hi! About every single day a small pack of ponies would come by. There were bulls as well along the trail. Plenty of beautiful birds as well. Although it was stormy one night while we were up there, the rest of the time was beautiful weather in the 60s - which is amazing for July compared to Georgia weather. I definitely recommend. I also definitely recommend NOT to feed the wild animals or leave food or food trash to where they could consume it. But overall, definitely recommend. Also recommend going during the fall. The colors are amazing!

Explorer

🥇Top Contributor

almost 3 years ago

Beautiful, but can be crowded

This is a wonderful backpacking trip espeically if you're with people who are backpacking for the first time! Easy route with endless views and the wild ponies make it an especially unique experience. However, if you hike out late on a weekend, be prepare for crowded parking lots and not finding a great campsite. I advise leaving early!

🥇Top Contributor

about 4 years ago

My Yearly Outdoor Tradition

Backpacking Grayson Highlands and Mt Rogers was the first backpacking trip I ever went on, and I've made it a yearly tradition to return there to backpack it. Its a phenomenal place to take beginner backpackers in terms of its moderate difficulty of terrain, easy to follow trails, breathtaking scenery, and of course, the ponies. Don't expect a view from the top however, Mt. Rogers is completely forested at the peak. Camping atop Rhododendron Gap's mountain balds is an amazing experience, and probably one of my favorite all-time outdoor memories.

Stay Nearby

1946 Laurel Valley Road

Grindstone

Overview Grindstone Campground is tucked in the Fairwood Valley among pastures and wooded hillsides. The surrounding Mount Rogers National Recreation Area provides endless opportunities for fun and...

Troutdale, Virginia

Fox Creek Horse Camp

Overview Fox Creek Horse Camp is a premiere destination for riding enthusiasts who are looking for the rare opportunity to ride from their campsite onto hundreds of miles of trails in the spectacul...

Mouth of Wilson, Virginia

Old Virginia Group Horse Camp

Overview Old Virginia Group Horse Camp provides group equestrian camping just minutes from a large network of horse trails in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. Old Virginia is a secluded,...

Sugar Grove, Virginia

Hurricane Campground

Overview Hurricane Campground is one of the best kept secrets in southwest Virginia. Located along a rushing mountain stream under the shade of hemlock and rhododendron, this campground offers a pe...

Nearby Adventures

  • Hike Wilburn Ridge

    To reach the trail head, park in the Massie Gap Parking Lot.  This is the parking lot for most of the trails in the park, so it can fill up very quickly, but you are able to park along the side of the road.  Massie Gap as two parking areas: one in...

    2 miles 650 ft gain

  • Hike Twin Pinnacles Via Big Pinnacles Trail

    To reach the Big Pinnacle Trail Head, park at the Massie Gap Day Parking area, and then follow the road west (away from Massie Gap) until you reach the trail head located on the left side of the road.  Follow the Big Pinnacles Trail for 0.4 miles ...

    2.4 miles 700 ft gain

  • Hike and Fish Cabin Creek Trail

    Starting at the Massie Gap Parking Area follow the paved road down towards the woods. You will see a gravel dirt path off the side of the road to your right that heads back towards the woods. A couple steps down the trail you will see a metal pole...

    1.8 miles 400 ft gain

  • Hike Rhododendron Trail

    In order to go when the Rhododendron are blooming you'll need to aim for the first three weeks of June. Starting from the Massies Gap parking area in the Grayson Highlands State Park, follow the trail through the field and towards the base of a la...

    2.5 miles 1020 ft gain