When I started broadening my backpacking destinations, I was surprised to realize that the Mt. Rogers area is only a six hour drive from my home in Central Ohio. Given that it is the highest point in Virginia, along the Appalachian Trail and provides excellent vistas, it was a no-brainer to hit it in the fall of 2011.
Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area is a pretty large area in the southwestern corner of Virginia near the Tennessee border. I concentrated this trip on the section of the Appalachian Trail near Mt. Rogers itself, Grayson Highlands and further northbound. One of the attractive aspects of the Mt. Rogers NRA is there is a large trail network which offers the opportunity for many configurations of loops.
There are several miles near Mt. Rogers where the tops of the mountains/ridges are “balds”, which expose excellent views. Numerous other attractions exist, including the ponies that live on the balds (to keep them “bald”) and large swaths of rhodedendrums (a tip was to visit around Father’s Day to experience the blooms). The AT also offers numerous shelters, for those interested. There are a large network of trails for horseback riders, as well.
I packed enough for a 4-day hike, but ended up doing a 3-day. You can get the details by starting with my Day 1 report that includes summiting Mt. Rogers. A complete collection of pictures can be found in this photo album.
After taking the trip, I would have liked to experience more than the five miles of vistas. Perhaps utilizing the Lewis Fork Trail to start on Pine Mountain, hit the Wilburn Ridge, head down the AT past Whitetop Mountain, and eventually head back to the campground via the Iron Mountain Trail. It would be a much longer trip.
Another option would be to utilize a shuttle out of Damascus and start further up the AT (near the Mt. Rogers NRA Headquarters?) and do a SOBO section hike exclusively on the AT to Damascus. Or start at Grayson Highlands for a shorter section. My hike consisted of only about 16 miles on the AT.