A little while ago, we published a blog post entirely filled with photos of Grayson Highlands in southern Virginia. In that post, we mentioned that we’d be back with some more detailed information about this breathtaking state park. So, here it is! This post is about the most popular thing to do in Grayson Highlands—hiking. If you’re planning a trip to the park, use this selection of Grayson Highlands hiking trails as a reference.
The Best Grayson Highlands Hiking Trails
For the sake of convenience, these are all either loop or out-and-back hikes. Sometimes, they’re a combination of a few shorter trails. Grayson Highlands is home to a dense network of hiking trails, allowing you to essentially create your own hikes. Whether you like short strolls or overnight hikes, the Grayson Highlands hiking trails let you do whatever you want.
You can find a map of all the Grayson Highlands hiking trails here.
Appalachian Spur Trail + Wilburn Ridge Trail + Rhododendron Trail
The loop created by combining the Appalachian Spur, Wilburn Ridge and Rhododendron Trails is the perfect introduction to Grayson Highlands. Even though the total distance of this hike isn’t much more than two miles, it’s absolutely spectacular. Just because of the area’s beauty, it always takes much longer to finish a hike than you first expected.
Starting at the overnight hiker’s parking lot, the hike begins on the Appalachian Spur Trail. This short, 0.9-mile trail runs through thick deciduous woods and gently uphill. This is often where you can spot some of the wild ponies that live in the park. Apparently they like hanging out in the woods.
The trail ends at the Appalachian Trail. Turning left onto the Appalachian Trail, on a section known as the Wilburn Ridge Trail, you will get your first impression of what Grayson Highlands is all about. From now on, the hike runs through bushes, underneath rocky knobs and across expansive meadows.
After a short while, the trail intersects with the Rhododendron Trail and the Horse Trail North. This intersection offers spectacular views and is a great place to see the wild ponies.
Rhododendron Trail + Appalachian Trail + Mount Rogers Spur Trail
This out-and-back hike is one of the greatest day hikes on the US East Coast. It starts from the overnight hiker’s parking lot in Grayson Highlands State Park.
The first short section is on the Rhododendron Trail, after which you’ll be on the Appalachian Trail for most of the way up. The last part follows the Mount Rogers Spur Trail, leading to the summit of Mount Rogers, which is the highest mountain in Virginia.
With its wild ponies, mountain meadows, rocky hilltops and magnificent wide views, this hike is as good as it gets. One thing to be aware of before starting is that the Mount Rogers summit is completely covered with trees. There’s no view, but that’s not the point anyway. The views on the way up are unbeatable as they are.
This hike is 4.5 miles one-way, 9 miles in total. You should count on at least five hours to complete it. This includes plenty of time to enjoy the views, have lunch, take photos and give your legs some rest.
Twin Pinnacles Trail
The 1.6-mile Twin Pinnacles Trail is the highest of the Grayson Highlands hiking trails. It loops between Little and Big Pinnacle. Starting at the visitor center, the trail runs basically through a boreal forest, which is extremely out of place in Virginia. Because of this area’s high elevation, it’s home to vegetation and even animals that you would expect to see in New England or Canada.
This is an easy hike, but with big rewards. The views from both pinnacles are jaw-dropping, taking in pretty much all of Grayson Highlands State Park and the mountains beyond.
Cabin Creek Trail
This is arguably the best waterfall hike in Grayson Highlands. Only 1.8 miles long and starting at the Massie Gap parking lot, the Cabin Creek Trail runs through underneath towering trees and goes downhill for a good bit before flattening out alongside Cabin Creek.
This stream is characterized by several waterfalls, some higher than others. It’s not as spectacular as other waterfalls in Virginia, though. The beauty of this loop hike lies in its all-round scenery—forest, bubbling water and, if you’re lucky, wild ponies.
Wilsons Creek Trail
The Wilsons Creek Trail is similar to the Cabin Creek Trail. It’s also 1.8 miles long and also a loop. This beautifully lush hike starts at the Hickory Ridge Campground.
For about half its length, the trail parallels Wilsons Creek, a beautiful mountain river with the occasional cascade. This river is extremely popular for trout fishing. The section along the river is winding and runs through natural tunnels created by huge rhododendron bushes.
This is a fun, short hike to do, a fine alternative to the other mountain and meadow hikes in Grayson Highlands.
There are a number of other Grayson Highlands hiking trails you can do when you’re done with all of these. They include the Wilburn Branch Trail, the Rock House Ridge Trail, the Stamper’s Branch Trail and the Listening Rock Trail.