• Activities:

    Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Spring

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    2.5 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    1020 Feet

Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Picnic Area
Romantic
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

With endless views in all directions this short hike is perfect for a little late afternoon exploring in the heart of the Grayson Highlands.

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 large hill. You will see a fence that runs along the base of the hill with a gate right in the center. Go through this gate and follow the winding trail up the hill. Be sure to stop every once and awhile to enjoy the amazing views! Once you get to the top of the hill the Highlands are yours to explore. To your right you will see a massive outcropping of rocks you can climb onto, or, you could take a left and continue to follow the Appalachian Trail up to Massies Gap. During the evenings hundreds of bunnies come out to run around and ponies are often seen grazing along the hillsides. After you're done, throw on a headlamp or use the last remaining bits of light to make your way back down the hillside and to the parking lot. 

Pack List

  • Backpack
  • Food
  • Water
  • Headlamp
  • Jacket/extra layer (the Highlands get chilly at night)
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

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. Learn More

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Reviews

Overall rating: 

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I wasn't expecting much but I ended up loving this place. It leads you to a field/valley area that connects with several other trails, including the AT. The wild ponies are super friendly, actually. One of them walked right up to me while I was on the trail. It was pretty rad but also questionable, honestly. I also really love exploring and getting lost on side trails. The rhododendron gives it a maze vibe sometimes. I went during the fall so I can't imagine how beautiful this place is in the spring. I'm definitely going back some day.

4 months ago
4 months ago

I've done this hike twice as part of multi-day backpacking trips around Mt. Rogers, and several ponies were right beside the trail both times. I'm sure planning it just right to be here when the Rhododendron are blooming would be spectacular, but I've also heard that it gets really crowded during that time for that reason. If you're looking to hike with less crowds, I'd suggest shoulder season, like November or March, when temps will be colder and you may even see some snow!

10 months ago
10 months ago

I went up on a misty, foggy morning and thoroughly enjoyed the vibe. I had my heart set on seeing the wild ponies so I watched closely as I hiked to ensure that I wouldn't miss them. The hike was very manageable and presented some cool terrain. There are plenty of rocks to play on if you enjoy bouldering as I do. Before long I spotted the ponies and drew near enough to touch them. As a side note, the parks service advises against touching them. They don't want the "wild pony" to become a "tame pony"! To be this close to those majestic creatures in a misty setting seemed like a spiritual moment to me. Expect sudden weather changes. It cleared up and was sunny and when I reached the rocky summit the rains poured down. This is a nice weekend excursion. Take a backpack with tent and bag and you'll have a blast.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

The Rhododendron Trail is an excellent day hike at Grayson Highlands: Relatively level incline, well marked trail, and amazing views make it an awesome hike. If you're looking for an easy hour long day hike, this is a great choice.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Jess Fischer Explorer

A little adventurer with a big love for the great outdoors.

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