To get to Mount Rogers, the highest point in the state of Virginia, you'll follow one of the most beautiful sections of the Appalachian Trail. It's known for the feral ponies that wander close to the route—and often right up to you! In addition to the ponies, expect to see lots of people on this highly popular hike. Easily accessible, the trailhead is located just outside of the Massie Gap parking area in Grayson Highlands State Park.
One of the reasons people love this hike is the wide variety of scenic terrain it packs into a relatively short distance. Unusual for a mountain hike, you'll pass from treeless areas at lower elevations into deep forests as you approach the peak. These forests include a hemlock grove and one of the last spruce-fir forests in southern Appalachia. By the time you get to the peak of Mount Rogers, you might think you've taken a wrong turn and ended up in the Pacific Northwest! On your way there, you'll hike through grassy meadows and scrubby areas peppered with boulders. In the summer, dense thickets of rhododendron come into bloom. It's equally beautiful in the fall, when the Virginia hillsides are carpeted in streaks of bold color.
The first section of the trail is called the Rhododendron Gap Trail and connects the trailhead near the parking area to the Appalachian Trail. From there, you can follow the Appalachian Trail all the way to the peak, or take the Wilburn Ridge spur trail if you'd like to have some fun scrambling over rocks with your fleet-footed pup. The spur trail eventually reconnects with the main trail. Be careful on rainy days, as the rocks can get slippery.
As you rejoin the Appalachian Trail, you'll encounter some spectacular vistas of the surrounding mountains before you enter the forest. Remember to bring your $5 for the parking and entrance fee, but if you are from out of state, it raises to $7 during peak season. Be sure to bring your camera too. Whether you catch your pup touching noses with a pony or sniffing a blooming rhododendron, you're sure to take away life-long memories from this magical hike.