Mountain Hike Vacation in Tennessee
Located in southwest Virginia, the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area (NRA), part of the Jefferson National Forest, is comprised of approximately 200,000 acres of National Forest, comprised of four designated wilderness areas; the Virginia Creeper Trail; the Mount Rogers Scenic Byway; the Crest Zone (featuring elevations over 4,000 feet, a mixture of mountain balds and a herd of wild ponies); and Whitetop Mountain. There are over 500 miles of trails in the area, including 60 miles of the Appalachian Trail, as well as Mount Rogers, the highest mountain in the State of Virginia. Mount Rogers is accessible from the north (as per the write-up below), or the south-east from Grayson Highlands State Park.
The Mountain Hiker Rating: 7 out of 10 (pleasant hike but limited views)
- Contributor: George Naxera (Kildeer, IL)
- Time required: 2 – 4 hours round trip
- Degree of Difficulty: 7 out of 10
- Height: 5,729 feet (1,746 meters) / Absolute change in vertical is approximately 1,950 feet (595m), as the trailhead begins around 3,800 feet (1,160m), however total change in vertical, considering all ups and downs of this trail, is approximately 2,500 feet (760m)
- Distance: Just over 12 miles (20 km) round trip
- Guide Required: No – The trailhead and trail are well marked
The Mount Rogers Trail is a very scenic, if not circuitous, route to the summit of Mount Rogers. While the straight line distance from trailhead to summit is only 2.2 miles, the actual trail mileage is a little over 6 miles. It’s a beautiful hike through a dense Spruce-fir forest the whole way.
The Class 1 trail starts at VA-603, almost directly north of the summit and it circumnavigates the peak as it ascends the mountain, much like a spiral staircase. I do not recommend trail cutting. Apart from the environmental impact, the terrain is not very friendly for bushwhacking, with thick brush and a considerable number of fallen trees in some areas.
Experienced hikers will consider the route to be very easy. Less experienced hikers who come to climb the state highpoint should not have any difficulty either, provided that you are fit enough to hike the distance. The lower half of the trail is very gentle. The upper half gets a lot rockier and may be slippery if wet. The trail is well maintained and well marked though.
The trailhead is located on VA-603 between Konnarock and Troutdale, VA, almost due north of Mount Rogers. There is a small trailhead sign on the south side of the road. There is also a green sign right there that marks the boundary of Smyth and Grayson Counties. Parking for 7-8 cars is available on the north side of the road.
The trail is very well marked the entire way and begins with 100ft of boardwalk, presumably to protect the grounds at the start. The trail heads in a southwesterly direction on a very moderate incline before cutting back to the east. There are 4 gentle switchbacks total.
At approx 2 miles you will reach the apex of Elk Ridge, where you’ll cross the Lewis Fork spur trail. Continue straight on the Mount Rogers Trail in a southwesterly direction as it circles around the west side of the summit in a counter clockwise direction.
At approx 4 miles (at Deep Gap), the Mount Rogers Trail joins the Appalachian Trail (AT). Follow the AT south (to the left), then east, and then finally northeast until the AT splits off from the Mount Rogers Trail near the Thomas Knob shelter. Follow the Mount Rogers spur trail west towards the summit for another 1/2 mile.
Blazes and Trail Signs: Trees are marked with blue blazes along the Mount Rogers Trail until it joins the AT, at which point the blazes turn white. The blazes become blue again after the Mount Rogers spur trail splits from the AT and turns towards the summit. Be sure to follow the blue blazes at the trail split.
Camping along the Mount Rogers Trail:
- Near Trailhead: Grindstone Campground, on VA-603, 0.25 mile west of the trailhead (fee camping)
- 2 miles: Lewis Fork campsite, intersection of the Mount Rogers Trail and the Lewis Fork spur trail (free)
- 5 miles: Campsite at 4900′ elevation along the Mount Rogers Trail, before Deep Gap (free)
- 6 miles: Thomas Knob shelter, west of the summit along the Appalachian Trail, just off of the Mount Rogers Trail (free but give priority to AT hikers)