Summary: This circuit hike will guide you through some of the most beautiful scenery to be found along the Appalachian Trail. The hike begins at a remote campsite within the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. From here you will use the Appalachian Trail to climb into the balds, kept that way by the natural foraging of the wild Virginia Highlands horses. Pine Mountain trail provides the cross trail back to the AT to complete the circuit. Here or within the Grayson Highlands State Park boundaries you are bound to encounter the magnificent horses.
The enterire area is abundant in Rhodedendron, and the aptly named Rhodendron Gap is a particularly wonderful sight in mid June. For the latecomer there will be blueberries by the pound.
To get a real feel for the area plan on backpacking into Camp site 1 for some additional exploration and bag Mount Rogers (tallest peak in VA) while you are at it. Wise Shelter provides another opportunity for an overnight.
Trailhead: Located in Grayson County in the far southwest corner of Virginia, just a short distance from the North Carolina border. It can be reached by traveling on I-81 South to Marion, VA. At Marion take VA 16 South (Buchanon Highway) to Trout Dale. From there head west on VA 603. In 2 miles make left onto USFS 613. After about 2.5 miles go through gate and park within fenced camping/parking area. Trailhead is marked as Appalachian Trail, just beside camp host trailer.
Note, USFS 613 is a very rough road, not really intended for passenger cars. Though I did make the trip in a minivan, something with a more reasonable clearance is definately recommended. (Lat:36.69263 Lon:-81.51274)
Trail Guides for AT and Pine Mountain Loop Trail:
Hikes in the Virginias (Exploring the Appalachian Trail)
by David Lillard and Gwyn Hicks (Stackpole Books)
Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Summer,
User Groups: Hikers, Dogs,
Ranger Contact: Mount Rogers NRA (800-628-7202) and Grayson Highlands State Park (800-933-PARK)
Localhikes Reporter: This hike was submitted by Brian Talbert, who has posted 20 other hikes on this site. To visit this reporters web site, click here.
Trail Reviews Submit your own review
Reviewed by NJW on 9/21/2009
Just wanted to add some info. The weather was great all the times I have been there. But it can change on you very quickly. Went one time with some boy scouts. Started warm in the day and got down to 15 degrees that night. So be prepared for the worse. Came across lots of people on the trail all very friendly. The views are just amazing!! Has to be one of my favorite places to camp in this area. I have been here one time where the lower gate was locked. No real big deal. Just parked on the side of the trail and hiked the rest of the way in. Only about 3 to 4 hundred meters from the start of the trail where we ended up parking. Lots of people use this for Horse back riding so stay aware and alert for them. All riders were friendly.
Reviewed by NJW on 9/21/2009
I loved this trail! I would recommend this trail to anyone. I would highly recommend that you have a 4X4. Although I have seen someone do it in a Honda Civic. Not sure how they did it but they did. Took my 4 year old on this hike with me. He had no problem with it. He loved seeing the horses and there are a lot of places to stop and camp for the night.
Reviewed by CS on 8/24/2008
Absolutely beautiful hike! Making it an overnight and waking up for the sunrise is a must. Observing the wild ponies, picking berries and the 360 views are a cleansing experience. Lots of people but everyone is nice and you still have your serenity. SOME POINTERS: If you follow 613 you are going to Scales, this was not identified above. Massie Gap at Grayson State Park is a good starting point off US 58 for easier access. At Rhododendron Gap the Pine Mtn. Trail sign is either non-existent or in a horrible spot. You can follow Crest Trail till you see Pine Mtn. Trail.
Reviewed by Chuck and Silyb on 8/17/2008
We just return home from this hike. If you are looking for some of the most beautiful vistas, long range views and spectacular scenery of the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mtns, then this is your hike. Hiked about 5 miles in on Saturday night and camped on top of the world. Don't be fooled by the "don't harass the ponies" warnings. We were woke from a deep sleep by 2 ponies in our campsite about 1:30 Sunday morning and they were unimpressed by our efforts to move them along. They are the most gentle beautiful creatures and were everywhere. Be warned the Pine Mtn. trail is narrow and rocky and a little difficult to navigate at times. The AT is also a bit rocky on the east side of the overnight parking from Grayson Highlands. A must do!
Reviewed by Bobby T on 12/30/2007
Wow, what a great hike. The wild ponies truely something to see and the open trail of the AT offers many views. This is a once a year hike for sure.
Reviewed by jt on 10/23/2007
this is one of my husband and I's favorite "quick get-away" overnight areas. There are countless options in the area utilizing the AT, Iron Mtn Trail, VA Highlands Horse trail, and the state park and nat'l forest trails to make your own itinerary. Get the AT map for the area. Plan to bring water (can get very hot on the highland balds in the summer), plan for storms, plan for spectacular vistas. "Wild" ponies are plentiful in the area near the intersection of Pine Mt and AT - don't feed or harrass the ponies, but they are quite friendly and curious. Highly recommend making a loop from overnight parking area in Grayson Highlands state park. Ascend either the spur trail or up to Massie Gap. No camping in the state park boundaries.
Notice: Traveling in the backcountry can be hazardous. You are responsible for informing yourself about these hazards and taking necessary precautions. Information on this web site comes from volunteer reporters and may contain errors or omissions. A current guidebook and proper equipment are essential for safe enjoyment of the hikes posted on this site.
Keys: Virginia Hiking, Virginia Trails, Virginia Hikes, Grayson County Hiking, Grayson County Trails, Grayson County Hikes