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Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop

Blue Ridge Highlands, Virginia

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Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop

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  • Approaching the Appalachian Trail, horse and pony scat can be found in abundance! - Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
  • A marker for the Appalachian Trail.- Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
  • Views are plentiful during the first 5 miles.- Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
  • Views from the AT on the Grayson Highlands Loop.- Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
  • Views from the AT on the Grayson Highlands Loop.- Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
  • Many nice campsites can be found in addition to the shelters.- Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
  • Views from the AT on the Grayson Highlands Loop.- Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
  • A rocky section of the Appalachian Trail.- Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
  • Views from the AT on the Grayson Highlands Loop.- Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
  • Views from the AT on the Grayson Highlands Loop.- Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
  • The Appalachian Trail squeezes through a unique rock formation at this point.- Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
  • Wild ponies along the the Appalachian Trail and the Grayson Highlands Loop.- Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
  • Not a bad dinner view.- Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
  • Snow can linger into the spring.- Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
  • Summit of Mount Rogers.- Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
  • Summit of Mount Rogers.- Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
  • AT via moonlight.- Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
  • Foggy morning on the AT.- Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
  • Mount Rogers Trail.- Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
  • Open spaces along the Fairwood Valley Trail.- Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
  • Open spaces along the Fairwood Valley Trail.- Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
  • Old orchard shelter.- Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
  • Appalachian Trail.- Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
  • Appalachian Trail.- Grayson Highlands Backpacking Loop
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Great views. Wildlife. Multiple shelters.
Cons: 
Some areas are crowded with day hikers.
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Region:
Blue Ridge Highlands, VA
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes, with restrictions
Number of days: 
3
Highest point: 
5,729.00 ft (1,746.20 m)
Year round: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
Park entrance fee
Permit required: 
No
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
22.50 mi (36.21 km)
Total elevation gain: 
4,430.00 ft (1,350.26 m)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
4,600.00 ft (1,402.08 m)
Typically multi-day: 
Yes
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

The Grayson Highlands area of Virginia is a must-see. Not only are there endless panoramic views, but there are also wild ponies! Follow this itinerary for an enjoyable three day, two night backpacking loop.

Begin your hike at Massie Gap in Grayson Highlands State Park. Before doing so you’ll need to pay a parking fee (as much as $19 for non-residents) and file a trip plan with the state park’s main office. After that, drive up the road and park at the backpacker’s lot. From here the Appalachian Blue Spur Trail leads up and to the Appalachian Trail. Once at the AT, take a left and head southbound. The next few miles are the most spectacular as you wind your way up Wilburn Ridge. Enjoy the views, be on the lookout for ponies, and don’t be afraid to take one of the several short side trails. This area also has many large rock formations that make for a great place to try your hand at bouldering. 

Before you know you’ll arrive at Thomas Knob Shelter. It has a capacity of 16, and there are many great tent sites nearby. Spending a night here is highly recommended. Water is also available at this shelter (as well as the other two shelters along this route).

Continue southbound on the AT and you’ll soon come to the short spur trail to the top of Mount Rogers. After bagging the highest peak in Virginia, continue along the AT for another 2 miles until the Mount Rogers Trail. Take a right and follow this trail all the way down to Virginia State Route 603. Cross the road and take the Fairwood Valley Trail (which parallels SR 603, but is much nicer than a roadwalk). In a little over a mile you’ll see the Old Orchard Trail; follow it until you once again reach the AT. 

Continue along the AT southbound. Old Orchard Shelter is next, and it is a good option if you are looking to make this a four day, three night trip. If not, I would suggest continuing on a bit further. There are some good campsites between here and the next shelter. 

The trail climbs before leveling out and arriving at Scales, where there is a vault toilet. Continue on to Wise Shelter. Please note that Wise is the last place you can camp on this loop because you are now entering the state park. From Wise, follow the AT another 2 miles until you once again reach the AT Blue Spur Trail and follow it back to the parking lot.

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(1 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(2 within a 30 mile radius)

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