Grayson Highlands is my favorite state park in Virginia. I mean, just look at those views. And they have ponies!
We arrived in the rain on Thursday afternoon for a 4 night camping break over the 4th of July. Thursday night was a complete rain out as it poured all night. It was in the forecast, so we knew it was coming. Storms that day had taken out all power to the campground. Luckily it was cool, so we didn’t need AC, and AC is really the only thing we need power for. The power didn’t come back until about 9 PM Friday night. We spent Thursday night playing board games in the camper.
The forecast was for rain most of the day Friday, so we had planned to go into Damascus for lunch to kill some time. As it turned out, the rain ended by 8 AM. We still went in to Damascus and had a surprisingly good lunch at the 7 Trails Grill, right on the Virginia Creeper Trail. I’ve done the 20 odd mile downhill bike ride before. Michelle is recovering from a severely sprained ankle, so we didn’t do the trail ride this time.
When we got back to the campground, I did the Cabin Creek Trail because it features a waterfall, and it had rained a lot the previous day. I was not disappointed. It’s a pretty easy 1.5-mile hike, except for one spot right at the waterfall. I had to climb up about a 20-25 foot high, wet, slick, rock cliff. Definitely do this trail clockwise, so you are climbing up and not down at the little cliff. Down would be dangerous. Friday night featured lows near 40F, on July 2. I love the mountains.
Saturday I did the 10-mile out and back to the highest point in Virginia, Mount Rogers. This is my favorite hike in Virginia. It features wild ponies, a Longhorn Steer herd, a couple of rock scrambles, a fir tree forest that smells like Christmas, and views that just never stop. I did the hike in about 5.5 hours, including lunch with a guy and his daughter who are from New Zealand at an Appalachian Trail shelter. They were on the final day of a 4 night backpacking trip. Saturday night featured a couple of IPAs while relaxing by the fire.
On Sunday, I took Michelle to see the wild ponies. Doctor’s orders regarding her ankle were to limit any hiking to about 1 mile and easy, and luckily the ponies cooperated. We could actually see them from the Massie Gap parking area as they were way up front in the park.
After spending some money at the visitor center, we went back to camp for lunch, and then Michelle hung out reading while I did more hiking. I started with the Wilson Creek trail, which the trailhead placard completely undersells. It states that the hike features a 25-foot waterfall, but it really features about a mile creek side of continuous runs, chutes, and small waterfalls, many of which had really inviting swimming holes. Next year we’ll go back, and next year I’ll be prepared to jump in the water on that hike.
After a snack and break back at the camper I took off again, this time for the Twin Pinnacles Trail. Pro-tip, do the hike from the visitor center parking lot. I parked at Massie Gap, meaning I had to climb up to the visitor center on a steep rocky trail, then come back down it at the end. The actual loop to the overlooks is pretty flat if you start in the visitor center parking lot. Sunday night featured more IPAs by the campfire.
Monday was drive home day, and we got lucky as there were no accidents on either I-81 or I-64, so the trip home was incident free. Next up is a hastily planned trip to take advantage of a week off I’m going to have between jobs. We will spend 4 nights in Asheville, a night camping near Mayberry (Mt. Airy, NC), and a couple of night at Hungry Mother State Park. Then I’ll start a new job, and it might get quiet around here as I have no camping trips planned in August due to starting a new job. Maybe we’ll be able to go somewhere close for a weekend, though.