Mount Rogers, Virginia- 12/3/2016
About a month ago, myself and my two best hiking buddies, Riley and Chad, made plans to drive down to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee to hike the TN high point, Clingmans Dome, plus some other places. Long story short, the wildfires there and in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge thwarted those plans
. Back to square one. I suddenly remembered Mt. Rogers, the 5,729 ft.Virginia high point. I had read that the trail from Massie Gap was open with excellent views, and that a herd of wild ponies lived on the upper slopes of the mountain. So, it was decided. We met up in Manchester, NH around 2 AM on 12/2, and hit the road for our hotel in Marion, Virginia. It was a long drive- not quite as long as my solo trip to Mt. Mitchell last spring, but music, jokes, and good times made it fly by. Eventually, we made it to the hotel a little over 13 hours after leaving ManchVegas. Settled in, re-supplied, ordered pizza, then crashed for 11 hours before heading to the Mt. Rogers trailhead.
There are a few trailheads for Mt. Rogers. We were originally going to take the longest route, from VA route 603, but when I made mention of wild ponies, which can only be seen if you hike from Massie Gap in Grayson Highlands State Park. This route was only 8 miles with about 1,300 ft. of elevation gain. With little convincing, we decided to hike from GHSP. After about an hour drive on some steep, gnarly, and winding mountain roads (including one that had a 55 MPH speed limit
), we arrived at Massie Gap, which was at 4,650 ft. in elevation. Felt a little like cheating starting that high up, but it was all good. Geared up, locked up, and we started the hike.
Trailhead at Massie Gap
From the trailhead, we took a path over to a gate, hopped the gate, then took the Rhododendron Gap Trail around the mountainside to the junction with the Appalachian Trail. Leading up to the AT, as well as after it, we saw the many wild ponies that call Mt. Rogers home. They were majestic, and also really cute. Took some pics and then continued up the AT, hopping another gate, and then wove up and around several rocky knobs and outcroppings.
Open country on the AT
Misty mountain view from the AT
Really loving the mist effect...
At the 2 mile mark, we entered the first real section of woods on the hike. After passing by and visiting the Thomas Knob shelter, we were out in the open again. Shortly after, we veered onto the Mt. Rogers side trail and took it 0.5 mi to the wooded summit. It was on this section that we saw the first notable sections of snow and ice.
State high point #10!
Benchmark on the summit of Mt. Rogers
Time to kick back and enjoy a cold one
Once on the top, we hung out for a bit, took some video and pics, celebrated with food and Bud Light, then headed back down the way we came. Once back, we dropped the packs, made a quick run to Big Pinnacle (elev. 5,069'), then drove back to the hotel in Marion.
View from Big Pinnacle
Misty view from Big Pinnacle
Once back in town, we got some victory food at Wendy's, then went back to our base of operations to plan out the next day's adventure. We were thinking about the Kentucky high point, 4,139 ft. Black Mountain, which was about a two hour drive each way from our hotel. Seeing how crappy the weather was supposed to be, how meh the mountain was, how far away from NH it was, and the fact that it was a state high point none of us had done before, it was settled. Black Mountain it was! That trip report will be posted later.
Here's the video recap from Mt. Rogers:https://youtu.be/iJuhFjkBW8Y