View Full Version : Mt. Rogers Section Loop in June

06-01-2015, 16:39
I need a vacation!! So, we (me, boyfriend, 2 dogs) are running away from our offices and planning a 4-5 day loop starting and ending in Damasus. (June 12-16, 2015)
We are looking at connecting the Iron Mountain Trail, AT SOBO, and the VA Creeper trail to finish out. Any advice out there about this section? We will be hammock camping, so any suggestion on campsites would be welcome ( I hear we should definitely camp on top of Whitetop). We haven't quite finalized our estimated daily mileage. We are experienced backpackers but don't want to push one of the dogs tooo hard (hips aren't what they used to be). Again, would welcome any input on this section (water, campsites, weather, fishing, what not to miss, etc). Also, anyone that has traveled on the Iron Mountain trail, would love to know thoughts about including this as part of the loop (versus just taking a shuttle and walking SOBO). I have the Nat Geo map and have ordered to AT section map, but am trying to estimate mileage to the best of my ability.
Thanks for any/all input!

The Cleaner
06-01-2015, 21:23
I was up there 2 times this spring and the Nat Geo map has all the trails you'll need.You may have to up your mileage to take in all the points you have mentioned.Also if it it doesn't rain a little more you may find some dry springs on Iron Mtn. There is a great piped spring at the road crossing near the summit of Whitetop that should be running even if others are dry.Also it's nice to stop in Taylor's Valley for a great meal at the Creeper Cafe if you can.

Mr. Bumpy
06-01-2015, 22:17
It has been four years since I've don't the IMT/AT loop. I've done it once out of Damascus and once from Beartree Campground. I backpack in the VA highlands 4-5 nights each year. A loop from Damascus would in that timeframe would be very ambitious - you'd be walking all day in a place that is so beautiful it screams for you to take your time and hang out here and there. The IMT is awesome - mostly tree covered ridge hiking and very little use, and enough can't be said about the highlands.

Personally I'd never do it from Damascus again. The loop from Beartree is about 45 miles, parking is easy, secure, and cheap and there is a lake with a beach and are showers in the bathhouse. Hiking along the Creeper can be maddening -- bicycle traffic is heavy on weekends -- so if you intend to hike into Damascus on the Creeper at least make sure you hit it on a weekday. If you wanted to get more miles in you can loop around in the Little Wilson area and maximize your time in the highlands.

I have done the loop both clockwise and counter clockwise. Clockwise seemed easier -- at least in my mind.

06-02-2015, 07:34
Yeah, the longest loop out of Damascus might be a bit much if you are limiting your pace for the one dog.

I also like the Beartree loop idea -- you use the Iron Mountain Trail, the AT, and the Beartree Trail, all of which are on the map. It cuts out a lot of not-so-great trail in favor of the real high country.

The other suggestion I would have is to park in Damascus and get a shuttle to Fox Creek (42 miles), Dickey Gap (~50 miles), or maybe Partnership Shelter (~62 miles) and walk back on the AT. While there are a couple of sections of the IMT that are nice, overall the AT is a better hike in my humble opinion.

+1 on not being on the Creeper Trail on a summer weekend. Try to finish on a weekday if possible :)

06-02-2015, 14:26
Thanks! All of this is great information and the Beartree idea does seem to be more in line with what we are trying to accomplish. Plus, I absolutely love the idea of finishing at a lake. The dip in the lake the last night of the 100 Mile Wilderness last summer was the most incredibly refreshing dip I have ever taken! Definitely not looking for overly crowded trails, so avoiding the VA Creeper would be ok with us. We might do the tourist thing and "coast" down it the day after coming off the trail or something.
Other than the potential issue with water on the IMT, any other water issues we might run into? Any shelter's or campsites that are worth looking for?

Mr. Bumpy
06-03-2015, 07:59
I don't remember water being a problem or even a concern. You are on a ridge, of course, but there are water sources. The shelter at Cherry Gap is open and with a boxed spring. There is a creek that is big enough to splash around in when you cross 603. Scales is a great place to camp if you hit it on a clear and windless night but there is not protected place to camp if the wind or rain picks up. You can dogleg down to the state park campground if you want to get a campstore treat or need electrons, but there isn't anything in the way of real food. You don't camp on Whitetop but just below it is Buzzard Rocks - which like Scales it is an exposed place.
That is such a great loop and it is a sure thing.