Virginia’s mountains are stunning. While they may not be the rugged, towering peaks you’d find out West, they are jaw-dropping in their own right. And many people don’t realize just how tall and challenging some of our mountains can be. The highest peak in the state, Mount Rogers, is an impressive 5,729 feet above sea level. It’s also the highest natural point in Virginia and provides climbers with the most stunning views imaginable. As you can imagine, summiting this peak is no easy feat. But if you are up for the physical challenge, here are a few reasons why climbing to the top should be added to your immediate to-do list.
1. Mount Rogers is a geological marvel
Mount Rogers, the furthest peak away in the first photo above, is noteworthy for several reasons. In addition to being the highest peak in Virginia, it's also the fourth-highest point east of the Mississippi. Located in southwestern Virginia within Grayson Highlands State Park, this peak is accessible through a variety of hiking trails.
2. You'll be surrounded by peaceful firs and evergreens
Another fascinating aspect of Mount Rogers is the existence of Southern Appalachian spruce-fir forests. These high altitude evergreens are found nowhere else in the state, and typically only grow about 5,500 feet in elevation.
3. There's more than one way to the top
The two most popular trails for summiting the peak are Massie Gap in Grayson Highlands State Park or the Elk Garden Trailhead. Massie Gap is an 8-mile roundtrip hike while Elk Garden is approximately nine. There's also the Mount Rogers Trail, a northern approach which provides a circuitous 12-mile roundtrip.
4. The chance to see the wild mountain ponies
The ponies you'll spot in the Grayson Highlands are not technically wild, as they were introduced into the region, but their presence is just as majestic. These animals were added to the Mount Rogers Recreation Area to keep brush from taking over the land. You can expect the ponies to be very friendly, although feeding and petting is strongly discouraged.
5. Experiencing part of the Appalachian Trail
Since this area of the state is true Appalachia territory, you'll find that some of the trails intersect or merge with the Appalachian Trail. This long-distance hike spans from Georgia all the way through Maine, and you might even catch a thru-hiker passing along the trail with you. The Appalachian Trail is marked by distinctive white blazes.
5. It's incredibly exhilarating
No matter which route you decide to take, you'll be in for a true workout. Whether it's a bit of scrambling around the peak's boulders or the gradual and steady incline of the longer routes, you'll want to be sure to pack plenty of water and snacks. But there's nothing quite like the exhilaration of hiking the state's highest peak.
6. The view
There are truly no words to describe the vistas that await for you at the top of Mount Rogers. Take your time resting at the top and soaking in the view -- you've earned it. If you do get the chance to catch sunset at the top of the peak, you can rest assured that there are nearby campgrounds in the area. Hiking in the dark is definitely not encouraged!