Doggy duos who dig a challenge will love the Rock Castle Gorge Trail, part of Rocky Knob Recreational Area in Virginia. This nearly 11-mile loop trail will test both your limits as you climb to astounding heights through the diverse mountain terrain. The most easily accessible trailhead is off the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway. The parkway is known as "America's Favorite Drive," and for a good reason -- the scenic road trip to get to the trail is half the fun!
Frequent hikers of this path advise newbies to tackle the loop in a counterclockwise direction, so the steepest portions are downhill. To do this, you will need to park behind the Visitor Contact Station near mile marker 169, cross the road, and take a right. Heading in the counterclockwise direction, the path will plunge down to the floor of the Rock Castle Gorge. Once at the bottom, there will be a couple of miles of easy walking that give those aching paws a break.
It is in this section that you will pass through the old campground and the hundred-year-old remnants of a once-thriving mountain community. Here, you will also see the Austin House -- it is private property and not open to the public. As you paw on, there will be a sharp switchback; from there, you will ascend over 1,000 feet as you traverse over steep mountain cliffs. This section of the trail benefits from thick tree canopy that will keep you and Fido cool on what will undoubtedly be the most challenging part of your trek.
Soon, the path will open up to two cow pastures -- make sure you watch your paws going through bovine territory! As you come to the end of your walk, your pack will be "pawestruck" by the breathtaking views that this trail saves for last. The panoramic mountainscapes blanketed by the periwinkle blue mist rivals even the most exotic mountain range. This trail will be difficult for sure, but your pack will treasure the memories made here for a lifetime!