Mount Rogers National Recreation Area Travel Guide

  • Rhododendron Gap
    Rhododendron Gap
    by jmpncsu
  • View from the AT near Elk Garden
    View from the AT near Elk Garden
    by jmpncsu
  • Beech Mountain from Buzzard Rock
    Beech Mountain from Buzzard Rock
    by jmpncsu

Mount Rogers National Recreation Area Things to Do

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    Rhododendron Gap 4 more images

    by jmpncsu Updated Jul 1, 2013

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    About 60 miles of the 2100-mile Appalachian Trail run through Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. And this section is among the more scenic stretches of the long-distance trail, traversing open balds and alpine meadows with beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. One particularly nice section that is doable as a day hike with a shuttle or as a short backpacking trip is from SR-601 below Beech Mountain northbound to Massie Gap in Grayson Highlands State Park. This is about a 14-mile trip, but can easily be made shorter to suit your needs. From the parking area on Beech Mountain Road (SR-601) about a mile north of US-58, the trail starts up Beech Mountain. This is the steepest part of the trail, gaining about 1500 feet in elevation over about 3 miles. Near the top, the trail departs from the dense forest to a beautiful open meadow between Beech Mountain and Whitetop. Buzzard Rock, an outcrop facing south, provides fantastic views into North Carolina and Tennessee. The trail continues around Whitetop Mountain, the second highest point in Virginia, and there is a parking area to shave off about 3 miles of the trip. Past Whitetop Mountain is Elk Garden, with another parking area and restroom, and starting here would take off about 5 miles from the total trip. From Elk Garden, the AT passes through another open area, before heading back into the forest around Mount Rogers. Past Mount Rogers, the trail opens up again as it heads to Rhododendron Gap, a beautiful rocky formation among a dense forest of rhododendron. In early to mid June, when the rhododendron blooms are at their peak, the entire landscape is dotted with pink flowers and is an incredible site. Past Rhododendron Gap, the AT crosses Wilburn Ridge and heads into Grayson Highlands State Park, which makes a convenient place to end the hike.

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  • jmpncsu's Profile Photo
    Mount Rogers 4 more images

    by jmpncsu Written Jun 21, 2012

    Mount Rogers, the highest point in Virginia at 5,729 feet, is located within Lewis Fork Wilderness in Mount Rogers National Recreation Area in Jefferson National Forest. The best route to get to the summit is by starting in nearby Grayson Highlands State Park (see my page for details and directions to this park) and park at Massie Gap. Hike up the hill to the Appalachian Trail southbound and into Mount Rogers NRA at Wilburn Ridge. The terrain here is very open, partly due to the herd of wild ponies who keep the mountains from getting forested. (I have a tip on the ponies in my Grayson Highlands page.) The open terrain allows for fantastic views in all directions. There are also quite a few big rocks along the ridge, great to climb up for panoramic views and enjoy a lunch or snack. At the north end of the ridge is Rhododendron Gap, named for the forests of rhododendron that surround it. Come in early June for a beautiful show of pinks flowers and walk through the rhododendron tunnels. Continue on the AT southbound past Thomas Knob Shelter and into Lewis Fork Wilderness and a spur trail will lead to the summit of Mount Rogers. On the way up, there is an inverse tree line, where the terrain goes from alpine meadows to a dense forest of Frasier fir and red spruce. This forest is sometimes referred to as the "enchanted forest". Shortly you will reach the summit. Due to the forest, there are no views from the top - you'll know you're there when you see some rocks with the US Coast & Geodetic Survey markers.

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    • Hiking and Walking
    • National/State Park

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