The Easiest Way
Backpacking may not appeal to you or maybe it's something you need to work up to. The good news is we have an option for you to day hike up Mount Rogers! Mount Rogers is Virginia's highest point and I've seen a wide variety of ages make the trip. With some proper planning you can too.
***This trip has over 1,300 feet of elevation gain and is 8.4 miles round-trip. While this day hike may be the "Easiest Way" it shouldn't be taken lightly. If you haven't done a trip of this length before you should practice with smaller trips first.
When you're done with your trip be sure to visit Mount Rogers Challenge and get the challenge patch for completing this trip!
Mount Rogers is located in southwest Virginia. While there are multiple starting points to hike to the top, the most popular day hike is to begin in Grayson Highlands State Park.
The address for Grayson Highlands State Park is:
829 Grayson Highland Ln.
Mouth of Wilson, VA 24363
For most, driving there, doing a day hike, and driving back in the same day is unlikely.
So, where to stay? You're already starting your hike at Grayson Highlands State Park. Why not stay there as well? Options include tent and RV camping, yurts, and a bunkhouse for up to 14 people. The campground is open seasonally because of the winter weather at higher elevation so plan your trip accordingly. For details on each option visit Grayson Highlands camping.
Starting Your Hike
Park at Massie Gap (map below)
Whether you're staying at the campground or visiting for the day, the starting point for your day hike is Massie Gap within Grayson Highlands State Park. This parking area fills up quickly during peak seasons so getting there early is important. That plus the fact you want to allow yourself enough time to get to the peak and back before daylight ends.
Look at the picture above and spot the cars. This is where you'll be parking. Head toward the gate (also shown in the picture). You'll begin your ascent up a moderate switchback. As you get to the top of this hill you'll eventually hit a junction with the Appalachian Trail (AT) around 0.58 miles. Head south along the AT which will continue to gradually climb.
This area is prime wild pony viewing area. Please be respectful of the herd. Enjoy their company but do not pet or feed them.
Arrive at the gate that marks the border between Grayson Highlands State Park and Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. Pass through the gate and continue uphill along the AT. The AT is marked with white blazes (rectangular paint mark found on trees and rocks) so keep an eye out! After this section you'll have a short flat area to hike before the AT continues up another climb. Continue along the white blazed AT. Around 2.00 miles you'll come across a small cave. If you're feeling adventurous you can climb through and come out on the other side or avoid it by taking the trail to the right.
Around 2.55 miles you'll arrive at an intersection of multiple trails. The area is easily identified by what I call Pride Rock. Think of Lion King and holding Simba in your arms as you gaze at the large rock cropping in front of you. This is a great area to take an extended break, drink some water, and eat a lunch or snack. People do venture to the top of Pride Rock but if you choose to do so please be very careful. There is a significant drop off at the top.
***This section can be tricky given the sharp turn in the AT along with all the other trails that pass through here.***
The AT will take a 90 degree turn to the left. Stick to your left when the trail splits. Again, keep an eye out for the white blazes to make sure you're on the AT. You'll pass through a couple of longer sections of forest with intermittent open views to your left. Eventually the trail will open up and you'll be able to see mountain peaks to the south over the North Carolina border. At the 3.5 mile mark you'll see Thomas Knob shelter. Just past the shelter on the right is a side trail to a privy in case mother nature is calling you.
At 3.70 miles you'll reach the Mount Rogers Spur Trail. Time to leave the comfort of the white blazed AT and begin your last section of uphill climbing. A half mile later you'll be at the top of Mount Rogers. The view at the top is blocked by tress all around you but I hope you would agree that the views to get this point were amazing. While at the top revel in the glory of being higher up in elevation than any other person in Virginia. There are two rock croppings at the top, each with a circular marker signifying the top of Mount Rogers. One is right in front of you as the trail ends and the other is off to the right about 15 yards.
When you've had your fill head back down and retrace your steps all the way back to the Massie Gap parking area.
Mileage: 8.40 miles round trip
Elevation Gain Going Up: +1,378 feet
Elevation Loss Going Up: - 344 feet
Key Mileage Points
0.00 - Massie Gap Parking Lot
0.58 - Junction with Appalachian Trail
1.14 - Gate (Border between Grayson Highlands State Park and Mount Rogers National Recreation Area)
2.00 - Cave
2.55 - Pride Rock
3.50 - Thomas Knob Shelter (Privy)
3.70 - Mount Rogers Spur Trail
4.20 - Mount Rogers Peak
8.40 - Back at Massie Gap Parking Lot