Grayson Highlands State Park is located adjacent to Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. The park lies within Jefferson National Forest. The park was established in 1965 and contains a total of 4,822 acres. The park hosts many forests like those present on nearby Mount Rogers, as well as a number of high alpine meadows or balds. These meadows provide excellent views of the surrounding area and present a striking change in scenery from the surrounding forests. The balds are dominated by large rocky outcroppings clear of vegetation excepting the occasional windswept tree and low grasses.
The park is one of the most picturesque spots you’ll find in Southwestern Virginia. You’re likely to encounter some of the wild ponies that live and roam in the park year-round. The balds are inhabited by a herd of introduced ponies allowed to run wild within the confines of the park. The ponies are very accustomed to humans and rarely halt their grazing as hikers pass close by. Many locals touch and feed the ponies though, this practice is frowned upon and against park policy. Each year, park officials round up the herd and check for health problems in addition to reducing the herd size if necessary; the excess colts are sold at auction.
Grayson Highlands was originally named Mount Rogers State Park. The community overwhelmingly supported this park, beginning with a fund-raising effort for land acquisition and continuing with the donation of items on exhibit in the visitor center. Many areas in the park are named after early settlers. Massie Gap takes its name from Lee Massey, who lived in the gap with his wife and five children in the late 1800s and early 1900s. At that time, the present park area was thinly settled by people who managed to live off the land. They made, grew or gathered most of their necessities. Wilburn Ridge is named after the famed hunter Wilburn Waters. His reputation as a bear hunter and wolf trapper made him renowned throughout the region.
Mount Rogers is the highest point in the state of Virginia with a summit elevation of 5,729 feet (1,746 m) above mean sea level. The Appalachian Trail passes within a half mile of the summit, the area is especially popular with hikers.
The Mount Rogers area contains a unique record of the geohistory of Virginia. There is evidence from the rocks that volcanoes were part of the landscape. Roughly 750 million years ago, rift-related (divergent) volcanoes erupted along the axis of what later became the Appalachians, and one remnant of that volcanic zone, with its volcanic rocks, still can be seen at Mount Rogers. Massive rhyolite lava flows erupted at the mountain during the Precambrian rifting event. Mount Rogers is also the only place in Virginia that preserves evidence of ancient Proterozoic glaciation.
Mount Rogers is the northernmost habitat of the high-altitude Southern Appalachian spruce-fir forests, which are found in only five other locations in the United States: the Great Smoky Mountains, the Black Mountains, the Great Balsam Mountains, Grandfather Mountain, and Roan Mountain. This forest type is one of the few remaining habitats of the Fraser fir, which is only found at high elevations, typically above 5,500 feet (1,700 m), in the southern Appalachian Mountains.
The Plan: After driving down (about 3 1/2 hours) on Friday morning and stopping for lunch on the way, we will hike the Mount Rogers Trail from the parking lot to the Appalachian Trail. We will turn North on the Appalachian Trail for a couple of miles before camping on the ridge around Rhododendron Gap. In case of bad weather, we will stay at the Thomas Knob Appalachian Trail Shelter. If time permits, we can hike the mile up to Mount Rogers, the highest point in the state. On Saturday, we will do an 18mi loop day hike. Hopefully, as we pass through Grayson Highlands State Park the wild ponies will come up and visit our expedition. Sunday we will take the Lewis Fork Trail back to our cars and the return trip home stopping for dinner on the way back.
Distance – 8 miles
Total Elevation Gain – 2,500 Feet
Distance – 18 miles
Total Elevation Change – 0 Feet (a loop hike with 1,000 feet gain and loss)
Distance – 9 miles
Total Elevation Gain – 2,500 Feet (overall down for the day)
Most of the hike on Saturday will be in high alpine meadows and balds exposing us to the sun for several hours. Please make sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat with brim. Also, we will be camping above 4,500 foot elevation, so it might be chilly at night.
When selecting items to bring on the trip remember to take into consideration your personal comfort factor (ie – do you sleep cold or warm), the season, the weather forecast, the distance of the trip (miles), your physical condition, the length of the trip (days) and where you are going. In packing your pack put all of your items in zip lock bags/plastic bags. This will keep the items organized, clean and dry.
What to wear: Please do your best not bring anything cotton. When cotton gets wet it has no insulation factor, in fact, it draws heat away from the body. Wool and synthetics clothing will retain some body heat even if wet. Also, most synthetic clothing will dry quickly, which is a major benefit. If possible, please dress in layers: Outer layer – wind/rain jacket and pants. Insulation layer – fleece/pile/wool/down jacket and pants – BDU or other non 100% cotton pants. Wicking Layer – Lightweight/Medium-weight polypropylene/capilene long underwear. Hiking Boots or comfortable walking shoes. Synthetic or smart wool/merino wool socks. For helpful advice, please see:
DO NOT OVERPACK
Other necessary equipment :
Whistle easily assessable
Backpack (club can provide)
Backpack rain cover optional (club can provide)
Sleeping bag – (club can provide)
Sleeping pad (club can provide)
Tent – Optional (club can provide)
Fork, spoon, cup, bowl plate (unbreakable)
Flashlight w/extra batteries
Water bottles minimum 2 quarts
Personal toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, comb, etc)
Toilet paper and ziplock bag
Medications (4 – 5 day supply)
Other thing you might want to consider bringing :
Hiking poles, Pocketknife (Multi-tool), Sandals/crocs to wear around camp, Sleeping bag liner, Raingear, Gloves, Sleepwear, Sunglasses, Lip balm, Hat with brim, Insect repellant, Sunscreen, Camera/film, Binoculars, Cellphone, Notebook/pen, Candle lantern, Hand towel, Trowel, Bandanna, Nature/field guides, Biodegradable soap, Book, Travel size baby wipes, Earplugs, GPS/compass, Radio/MP3 player, Change of clothes for the trip home (to be left in the car)
as far as gear room goes, i will have sergei egorov take care of that as i will not be in cville till thursday evening. there will be a gear room though