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Mt. Rogers Loop

 

Trip Report

Mt. Rogers Loop – Virginia

Trip report by Kayla “Clover” McKinney.

 

Date: Mid-May 2015

Conditions: Warm, sunny, breezy, mid-70sF during day, mid-50’s at night, some rain at night.

Trip Length: 3 days, 2 nights

Mileage: 18.1 miles

Highlights: Wild ponies, tallest point in Virginia, beautiful mountain vistas, Appalachian Trail, rhododendron forests.

Distance from Cincinnati: ~6 hours by vehicle

Directions: I-81 S, exit 45 in Marion, head south on VA 16, passing by the Mount Rogers National Recreational Area Visitor Center in 6.1 miles. Continue for another 11.2 miles to Troutdale, then turn right onto VA 603. The Trail Head parking is identified by a small brown sign on the right 5.7 miles down (pictured below.) This sign is easy to miss, so watch your odometer.

sign

Description: The beauty of southern Virginia cannot be easily summarized in words and on this hike, you get not only that, but views into the ridges of North Carolina as well. This hike begins with almost immediate elevation gain as you follow the Mt. Rogers Trail up to the ridge line where it meets up with the AT. Keep trucking! It will be worth it, believe me. As you crest the ridge, the world below opens up and the rest of the hike is stunning view after stunning view of the sparsely populated, rolling landscape. Summit Mt. Rogers and you’ve reached Virginia’s highest point at 5,729 feet. You will run into groups of wild ponies along the trail. Please do not feed the horses, but they are very friendly and will pose for pictures. Stay the night at the Thomas Knob Shelter about 8 miles in for an amazing sunset or keep hiking and camp at any of the great campsites off the trail further on. As you hike, your view will be the legendary Grayson Highlands before dropping down from the ridge, down through the Fairwood Valley, and finally looping back to your car.

The trails: Parking Lot -> Mt. Rogers trail -> Appalachian Trail -> Side Trail to Mt. Rogers Summit -> Appalachian Trail -> Pine Mountain Trail  -> Lewis Fork Trail -> Mt. Rogers Trail  Parking Lot.

Water: Water was somewhat scarce on this trip. I packed in about 3.5L of water: a 2.5L reservoir and a 1L Nalgene water bottle. There is a stream off the Lewis Fork Trail, approximately 1.5 miles off the Mt. Rogers Trail in case of emergencies. The next water source is at the Thomas Knobb Shelter, 7.6 miles from the Trail Head, and the location of the first night. There is also a small stream approximately 10 miles from the Trail Head along the Appalachian Trail.

summit

trail

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Overnight Loops on the Appalachian Trail (A Cincinnati Guide)

Overnight on the AT

Top 3 Hikes Less Than 8 hours from Cincinnati

By: Craig “Goatman” Buckley

 Interested in getting a taste of the iconic Appalachian Trail without the time commitment required for a long section hike? Behold! Three hikes that will get you out on the AT for an overnight backpacking trip that you can do on a long weekend. All three trails are less than an 8 hour drive from Cincinnati, are loop hikes that require only one car and no shuttles, and aim to highlight a beautiful portion of the AT. No excuses: Get out there and hike!

 

South and North Marshall Loopshenandoah

 

Where:                                 Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

From Cincy:        424 miles (about 7 hours driving)

Trail Mileage:     13.1 mile loop

Trailhead:            Jenkins Gap Parking Lot (mile marker 12.3 on Skyline Dr.)

Fee/Permit:       $15 (7 day) $30 (Annual) Permit required for overnight camping

Shenandoah National Park in Northern Virginia is a beautiful introduction to the Appalachian Trail. This 13.1 hike is easy when broken up over two days, gaining only 2100 feet of elevation throughout. You will follow the Mount Marshall Trail across three streams abundant with wildlife, from white-tail deer to black bear and up to the Bluff Trail which, as its name portends, leads along the bluffs below the summits of South and North Marshall. Along the way, take a side trail to Big Devil Stairs for an amazing vista of the rolling hills of Virginia. Camping is available around this junction (ask a ranger for details!) and, in the morning, climb up to the AT itself. Stop by Gravel Springs Hut on your way to chat with any thru-hikers taking a break and fill up your water at the spring. From there, climb up to the summits of both South (3,212 ft.) and North Marshall (3,368 ft.). Rock outcroppings and distinct cliffs afford a view of the vast Shenandoah Valley below. Continue on the AT as it weaves up and down the ridge until it pops you right back out at Jenkins Gap and your waiting car.

 

 

Mt. Cammerer Loopcammerer loop

 

Where:                 Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN/NC

From Cincy:        315 miles (about 5 hours driving)

Trail Mileage:     18 mile loop

Trailhead:            Big Creek Ranger Station, Cataloochee, NC

Fee/Permit:       $4 per night, per person for a backcountry permit

 

Talk about a hike with a little bit of everything! The Mt. Cammerer Loop is an amazing way to see the best of the Great Smoky Mountains in the vicinity of the AT. From the Big Creek Ranger Station, you’ll climb steadily up the Chestnut Branch Trail and meet up with the AT on top of the ridge after a couple of strenuous miles. Hiking southwest along the ridge will bring you to Mt. Cammerer Trail, a 0.6 blue blaze off the AT that leads to a rocky scramble to the summit where a beautiful stone fire tower lies nestled in huge boulders. From here, take in 360 degree views of the entire park, mountains as far as the eye can see. When you’re done drooling over the scenery, hike back to the AT and continue hiking. You’ll cross Rocky Face Mountain before coming to the Cosby Knob Shelter, a great halfway point at which to stay the night (don’t forget your permit!). The next morning will take you down off the ridge onto the Low Gap Trail. You’ll lose elevation here as you drop into gorgeous forest scenery. Keep an eye out for wildlife. After a few miles, you’ll begin following Big Creek, a wide, boulder-strewn stream that leads past such thing as Mouse Hole Falls and a great wooden bridge, and then back to the ranger station and your ride home.

 

 

Fairwood Valley and Mt. Rogers LoopFairwood Valley and Mt. Rogers Loop

 

Where:                 Troutdale, VA

From Cincy:        362 miles (about 6 hours driving)

Trail Mileage:     18.3 miles loop

Trailhead:            VA Rt. 603, 5.7 miles west of Troutdale

Fee/Permit:       None

 

The beauty of southern Virginia cannot be easily summarized in words and on this hike, you get not only that, but views into the ridges of North Carolina as well. The most strenuous of the three hikes, this hike begins with almost immediate elevation gain as you follow the Mt. Rogers Trail up to the ridgeline where it meets up with the AT. Keep trucking! It will be worth it, believe me. As you crest the ridge, the world below opens up and the rest of the hike is stunning view after stunning view of the sparsely populated, rolling landscape. Summit Mt. Rogers and you’ve reached Virginia’s highest point. Stay the night at the Thomas Knob Shelter about 8 miles in for an amazing sunset or keep hiking and camp at any of the great campsites off the trail further on. As you hike, your view will be the legendary Grayson Highlands before dropping down from the ridge, down through the Fairwood Valley, and finally looping back to your car.

 

Published in the 2015 Tri-State guide to the Outdoors

RRT’s Live Inventory now on Locally.com

 

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Southbound: episode 18

  January 23rd 2007
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

Our first day out of Pearisburg wasn’t too bad. We started going through the “green tunnel”, which is where the trail passes through dense rhododendron thickets. I love it when the stream flows next to the tunnel and its all misty. It makes me feel like we are in the rain forest at the zoo. The tunnel continued the following day, which led us down a side trail to Dismal Falls. They were so sweet, but we couldn’t stay there forever. We were pushing out 26 miles to meet up with my friend Marc. We only had to hike 30 minutes into the night, but we were worn out. The last mile was along the road, and as we were hiking, two hound dogs came out of the woods and stayed by our side until we met with Marc. It was fun, but we had to keep yelling at them to get out of traffic.Rhododenderan Forest

We stayed in town with Marc that night and we went over the plans for while he was here. He brought us our mail drop and some new trekking poles to try out. It was tough to switch out our sticks for the trekking poles, but they ended up working really well. The hitch out of town the next day took forever. It wasn’t until we just started walking back to the trail, when someone picked us up. The first half of the day went smooth, a good break in for “sky watcher”. It didn’t last though. We had problems crossing rivers and bush whacking back to the trail. The second half of the day was miserable. To top it off, I had a mouse run across my face that night. It was gross.

We took a lunch break on the edge of some cliffs on top of Garden Mountain. The views were great, but it was a little windy. When I started to get cold, I reached for my jacket and it had been blown off the cliff. I couldn’t believe it. Luckily, it didn’t land in a tree because I was able to find a way to climb down. The weather started to turn that afternoon and night. We stayed in a sweet fully enclosed shelter on top of Chestnut Ridge. The following morning there was snow on the ground and ice on all the grass in the fields. It was cold, but a pretty sight. That night was a long one. It got down to 15 degrees. We had to sleep with everything. It was colder than what we were expecting to get.Silhouettes on the AT

We stayed in Atkins the next night to get warm and dry out. On the way in, we watched the sunset over the fields. The shelter was the most exciting part of the following day. It sat behind the Mt. Rogers Visitors Center and we could have pizza delivered to the parking lot and buy sodas for the vending machine. It was suppose to be in the 20s overnight, but the enclosed loft of the shelter kept us above freezing. It makes such a difference. In the morning, we were sad to see sky watcher calling for a ride to get back to his car. We completely understand his reasons and know now the weather didn’t get any better.

The hike to the next shelter was nothing to scream about, but we were in for a treat. It was a stone shelter with a fireplace between the bunks and someone had stocked up the shelter with dry firewood. We hung a tarp over the front of the shelter to block the wind and built a fire. We kept it going all night and it kept us really warm. Even though it was 17 outside, it was 40 inside, perfect. We pushed 25 miles over Pine Mountain and the Highlands around Mt. Rogers. We were mostly exposed above 5000ft for most of the hike, so the views were incredible. We got to see lots of wild ponies on the Highlands. Its amazing they can withstand the winters up there. The night hike took forever, but that’s mostly because I couldn’t stop looking at the moon and stars.Pony on Mt. Rogers

We woke up to a dusting of snow and freezing rain. Within a few minutes crossing the open fields, we were covered in ice and so was the trail. Luckily, those silly trekking poles have a removable boot with a spike underneath to help in icy conditions. Once we were below tree line, the winds weren’t so bad, but the trail kept going out into open fields. For the first 8 miles we were fighting 60 mph winds, freezing rain and an icy trail. With windchill, it was below zero easy in those exposed areas. We just kept pushing for treeline and lower elevations. We finally climbed down to 3000ft and the trail improved, but ice chunks kept raining from tree branches. We were able to remove the sheets of ice from our packs and clothing. We cut the day short when we made it to the shelter.

Yesterday morning wasn’t so bad getting into town. Most of it was hiking along on old railroad bed that followed a stream all the way into town. The trail goes right through town. Subway was only a few hundred feet away. We stayed at the Lazy Fox Inn last night, and gorged on some pizza. Mrs. Adams, an 82 yr old woman takes care of the place, and she made us a humongous breakfast this morning. There was eggs, grits, hash browns, apple turnovers, pancakes, bacon, sausage, cinnamon apple slices, and fruit plate. We had to lay down for 2 hours afterwards. Now were are finishing up here at the library and in a little while, we will be crossing over into Tennessee, the 12th state. We are getting so close.

This exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post.

 

Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

Between some severe weather and blistered feet Marc had to take a break but we’ll meet up with him later on again. This section is my absolute favorite section of the southern half. I’ve been back to Mt. Rogers area now several times to hike with the ponies. Marc’s surprise gift of trekking poles was an awesome one and our wood sticks had convinced us enough of their purpose. That was the real moment when we realized the difference and appreciated how much a trekking pole helps, especially on with a handle, metal tip, sized height, and durable build.

Leaving the shelter on Mt. Rogers and backpacking some of the balds in the area was probably the closest we had come to white out conditions. as always this made things exciting for us but challenging as well. The snow covered trail and blazes meant that we really needed to have that second sense about where we were going.  There was but one mistake, and of course Joe didn’t mention it in the above post. Along one of the balds we had lost the path and it seemed nearly any direction could work.  We begin to descend and Joe pointed me down a steeper trench. He didn’t follow too close and I noticed that when I was about 20 feet down the mountain side he was staying up top. I turned back and had him help pull me back up concluding that that was for sure not the trail we were looking for. I’m not convinced that he wasn’t trying to kill me…

We revisit Damascus, one of the more notorious trail towns, often for trail days; an AT celebration. The town is fantastic and of course hiker friendly. That was to date still the largest and best breakfast ever!