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Suzzz
08-10-2017, 16:11
Just a few questions about the Grayson Highlands section of the AT :

Best points of entry/exit for a 4-5 day hike?
Best place to park a car for a few days? (Would prefer to leave my car at the exit point)
Good shuttle service? (To get to entry point)
What's the weather like in that area in July and August? (Hot? Very hot? Killer hot?)

Thanks !!!

Dan Roper
08-10-2017, 18:13
1. Best points of entry for a 4-5 day hike: If you prefer a linear hike on the AT (rather than a loop hike consisting of AT and other trails), consider starting in Damascus. The hiking the first day will not, in all honesty, be spectacular, but it sets the table for what's to follow, which is spectacular. If you start in Damascus, you'll hike the shared AT/Virginia Creeper Trail (rails to trail) out of town; that's fun. Then you climb a mountain (Feathercamp Ridge, I think) that's moderately tough. You can spend the first night at Saunders Shelter (very nice) or there's a little pond about two miles further up the trail with some decent tent sites. The next day, you'll drop back down to the shared AT/Virginia Creeper Trail for a stretch. Then you begin a fairly long climb that leads to Mount Rogers. The scenery gets better and better as you approach Mount Rogers, eventually becoming spectacular and setting you up for day three.
2. Park at Mount Rogers Outfitters in downtown Damascus.
3. Mt. Rogers runs a reliable shuttle service. They like it if you make arrangements a few days ahead of time. There are also a number of private shuttles in the area, most listed on the App. Trail Conservancy website.
4. July and August can range from hot to mild. It can be very wet or very dry. It'll usually be humid but sometimes you'll catch an early cool front that makes it seem wonderful. If the sun's out, use sunscreen in the Grayson Highlands section - you'll be walking in open fields or rocky terrain for most or all of day three.

You might end the hike at Fox Creek Road (that would be a 43 mile hike from Damascus) or, if you prefer something longer, you could even go as far as Partnership Shelter/Mt. Rogers Visitor Center (mile 63 or so).

If you prefer not to depart from Damascus, you'll probably want to do some kind of loops using the AT and side trails in the Grayson Highlands State Park/Mount Rogers areas.

Highlights of the trip: several farm fields north of Lost Mountain Shelter; Buzzard Rock; "bald-like" area past Buzzard Rock; increasingly open areas leading to Mount Rogers on the Brier Ridge section; Grayson Highlands - 10+ miles of gorgeous terrain and wild horses and some cattle.

Most hikers won't have any trouble following the white blazes in the Grayson Highlands area, but the trail make a tremendous horseshoe with all kinds of connecting trails in between. Half the time, these trails say "Appalachian Trail" with an arrow pointing the way. The only problem is you may assume that means you're on the AT and it's telling you in which direction to walk when actually you aren't on the trail an it's telling you which way to walk to reach the trail. So be a little extra aware in this area.

Suzzz
08-10-2017, 18:35
Thanks Dan Roper!

That's exactly the kind of info I was looking for. I want to stay on the At as this hike will be part of my AT-sections so I'll keep an eye out for the connecting trails. I just ordered the trail guide and maps for the area, can't wait to get them!

tdoczi
08-10-2017, 18:37
i did damascus to mt rogers headquarters (partnership shelter) last august over the course of 4 days (2 full, 2 short as bookends)

climbing out of damascus was hot and humid but once at elevation, no sweat.

i left my car at mt rogers, the outfitter in damascus came and picked me up and i hiked back.

saltysack
08-10-2017, 20:42
i did damascus to mt rogers headquarters (partnership shelter) last august over the course of 4 days (2 full, 2 short as bookends)

climbing out of damascus was hot and humid but once at elevation, no sweat.

i left my car at mt rogers, the outfitter in damascus came and picked me up and i hiked back.

Perfect....I did the 40m from fox creek south to Damascus few years back...love that section. Plan to take my wife early to mid oct section...think I'll try your route for change and lil more miles. How was terrain from fox creek(603) to MR headquarters? Views etc?


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bigcranky
08-10-2017, 20:59
I would end in Damascus. It has easy access from I-81, easy parking, and good food when you are done. Shuttle with Lone Wolf, Gypsy Dave, or Mt Rogers Outfitters.

For a starting location, I'd choose the Mt Rogers HQ building, 65 trail miles north. For a slightly shorter hike, start at the bridge over the South Fork of the Holston River, about 56 miles, or at Fox Creek, about 43 miles. All depends on how long you can or want to hike per day, and how many days.

The open high country is about a 15-20 mile stretch of this hike. You'll come up from the Fox Creek road crossing to the top of Pine Mountain, see a great view, then head back into the woods :) . Then come back into the open at Scales, followed by a long traverse of Stone Mountain with great views, then past Wise Shelter (good campsites right before the shelter *before* you cross the creek into the state park), then climb to Massey Gap and back into the open up Wilburn Ridge. That's a nice climb in the open to Rhododendron Gap, then it mostly stays in the open past Thomas Knob Shelter until you get around Mt Rogers (do take the side trail to the summit, it's not open but it's pretty). You'll get a little more open area at Elk Garden, then climb Whitetop in the woods, coming out in the open for a lovely walk across the side of the mountain to Buzzard Rocks for a terrific view. Then the very long descent to US 58 and you'll be in the woods and in the creek gorge the rest of the way to Damascus. Consider taking the Virginia Creeper Trail (an old railroad bed trail) all the way to town once you cross the Hassinger Bridge at Creek Junction. It's a more pleasant walk. Or take it once you come down from Straight Mountain and the Saunders Shelter. (Also, too, you should stop at the Creeper Trail Cafe in Taylor's Valley along this stretch, they are only open 11-5 but worth the stop for a burger and some ice cream if you time it right.) There are good campsites in several places along the Creeper Trail.

Summer weather is generally pleasant, especially up high, with highs in the 80s (F) and lows most likely in the 60s but it can get chilly sometimes. You'll get afternoon thunderstorms most days, though they won't always hit right where you are. It's not like summers up north -- there's plenty of humidity and it'll be hot in comparison -- but it's much better than down in the flat lands.

My wife and I are the section editors for this stretch for the ALDHA Companion, so we're kind of partial to it. :) You can PM me with any specific questions. Hope you enjoy it.

saltysack
08-10-2017, 23:21
I would end in Damascus. It has easy access from I-81, easy parking, and good food when you are done. Shuttle with Lone Wolf, Gypsy Dave, or Mt Rogers Outfitters.

For a starting location, I'd choose the Mt Rogers HQ building, 65 trail miles north. For a slightly shorter hike, start at the bridge over the South Fork of the Holston River, about 56 miles, or at Fox Creek, about 43 miles. All depends on how long you can or want to hike per day, and how many days.

The open high country is about a 15-20 mile stretch of this hike. You'll come up from the Fox Creek road crossing to the top of Pine Mountain, see a great view, then head back into the woods :) . Then come back into the open at Scales, followed by a long traverse of Stone Mountain with great views, then past Wise Shelter (good campsites right before the shelter *before* you cross the creek into the state park), then climb to Massey Gap and back into the open up Wilburn Ridge. That's a nice climb in the open to Rhododendron Gap, then it mostly stays in the open past Thomas Knob Shelter until you get around Mt Rogers (do take the side trail to the summit, it's not open but it's pretty). You'll get a little more open area at Elk Garden, then climb Whitetop in the woods, coming out in the open for a lovely walk across the side of the mountain to Buzzard Rocks for a terrific view. Then the very long descent to US 58 and you'll be in the woods and in the creek gorge the rest of the way to Damascus. Consider taking the Virginia Creeper Trail (an old railroad bed trail) all the way to town once you cross the Hassinger Bridge at Creek Junction. It's a more pleasant walk. Or take it once you come down from Straight Mountain and the Saunders Shelter. (Also, too, you should stop at the Creeper Trail Cafe in Taylor's Valley along this stretch, they are only open 11-5 but worth the stop for a burger and some ice cream if you time it right.) There are good campsites in several places along the Creeper Trail.

Summer weather is generally pleasant, especially up high, with highs in the 80s (F) and lows most likely in the 60s but it can get chilly sometimes. You'll get afternoon thunderstorms most days, though they won't always hit right where you are. It's not like summers up north -- there's plenty of humidity and it'll be hot in comparison -- but it's much better than down in the flat lands.

My wife and I are the section editors for this stretch for the ALDHA Companion, so we're kind of partial to it. :) You can PM me with any specific questions. Hope you enjoy it.

WOW! Loads of great info! One scenario is having my wife fly up and I'll spend few prior days working in SC/NC(Charleston,Raleigh,Charlotte). I'm assuming Raleigh likely closest cheapest airport? Last time I did fox creek to Damascus in lil over 2 days...first night tent camped at lil before elk garden and second night Saunders shelter....assume if I stay on creeper it bypasses that steep uphill to Saunders and simply take creeper all the way into Damascus? There is stealth/ tent spots along creeper? How far out of Damascus is the cafe? If you had to pick between mid September vs mid October which? I assume the leaf peepers will be out in full force...again thx for the info....such a beautiful section of trail?


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tdoczi
08-11-2017, 02:00
Perfect....I did the 40m from fox creek south to Damascus few years back...love that section. Plan to take my wife early to mid oct section...think I'll try your route for change and lil more miles. How was terrain from fox creek(603) to MR headquarters? Views etc?


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i dont recall where exactly fox creek was at the moment, but north of about hurricane mountain shelter the hike started to loose it's luster. not that it was bad by any means, but you're out of holy heck this is amazing and back into just an average to maybe slightly above average pleasant stroll through the woods.
were i to hike the highlands again.... i'd do a loop. but were i to hike them linearly again i'd end my hike at whatever road crossing is just north of hurricane. actually right near there would be a good turn around of a loop too

gdmercad
08-11-2017, 09:32
Any information on water sources on this hike?

Suzzz
08-11-2017, 10:36
I would end in Damascus. It has easy access from I-81, easy parking, and good food when you are done. Shuttle with Lone Wolf, Gypsy Dave, or Mt Rogers Outfitters.
My wife and I are the section editors for this stretch for the ALDHA Companion, so we're kind of partial to it. :) You can PM me with any specific questions. Hope you enjoy it.
Thanks for all the info! I'll probably start at Fox Creek and finish at Damascus since I plan on bringing my daughters along and don't want to push them unnecessarily. I'll PM you when the time comes. Thanks again!

MuddyWaters
08-11-2017, 10:53
Thanks for all the info! I'll probably start at Fox Creek and finish at Damascus since I plan on bringing my daughters along and don't want to push them unnecessarily. I'll PM you when the time comes. Thanks again!
Thats easy thing to do.

Only the first 2 days will be in grayson. Drag it out and spend tme with ponies. You can choose to walk into damascus on AT or VA Creeper too. Creeper is more scenic.

bigcranky
08-11-2017, 11:01
Thanks for all the info! I'll probably start at Fox Creek and finish at Damascus since I plan on bringing my daughters along and don't want to push them unnecessarily. I'll PM you when the time comes. Thanks again!

This would be very reasonable, and means you can spend more time in the open high country. I can recommend some specific places to camp, etc., when the time comes.


I'm assuming Raleigh likely closest cheapest airport? Last time I did fox creek to Damascus in lil over 2 days...first night tent camped at lil before elk garden and second night Saunders shelter....assume if I stay on creeper it bypasses that steep uphill to Saunders and simply take creeper all the way into Damascus? There is stealth/ tent spots along creeper? How far out of Damascus is the cafe? If you had to pick between mid September vs mid October which? I assume the leaf peepers will be out in full force...again thx for the info....such a beautiful section of trail?

Raleigh or Charlotte for major airports, Charlotte is probably closer. If you can get to Tri-Cities airport (Bristol, TN) that's a lot closer.

If you stay on VCT it does bypass Straight Mountain and the Saunders Shelter. It's a pleasant flat walk on a rail trail that is very popular with cyclists and families -- so might want to avoid on summer holiday weekends :) There are many campsites along the VCT, look especially near every bridge crossing. Be mindful of the places where it crosses private property, which are generally marked.

Cafe is in Taylors Valley, on the VCT, very close to where the AT comes down from Saunders Shelter if you are headed sobo. As you come down the AT you'll see the VCT below you, there is a side trail to it, and you'd need to walk back east (the way you came) on the VCT for about half a mile. If you are already on the Creeper you'll walk right by it.

I'd go in October if it were me, because I like the cooler weather. But any time of year is great.

Uncle Joe
09-19-2017, 08:12
climbing out of damascus was hot and humid but once at elevation, no sweat.

Ha! Well done!

AllDownhillFromHere
09-19-2017, 08:38
Don't feed the ponies!

blue indian
09-19-2017, 12:04
Does anyone have any info or a link about the other trails in the area??

Im trying to make a 60-80 mile loop, leaving my car in Damascus and going thru the Grayson highlands

bigcranky
09-22-2017, 22:05
You can make a loop with the Iron Mountain Trail and the AT north of Damascus. I've not done the whole loop, though I've hiked several IMT sections. The IMT is the original AT route, but it's more remote, less maintained, and allows mountain bikes on at least some parts. The IMT is on one long ridge line, the AT on the next one parallel to the south. The AT crosses the IMT just south of Hurricane Shelter; also there are a few trails that cut over. The big Nat Geo map will show you what you need to know.

beaudetious
10-12-2017, 14:35
Thanks for the great info y'all. I am hiking from Dickey Gap to D-town in late October and appreciate the deets.

Tipi Walter
10-12-2017, 14:59
So, did Suzzz pull her trip and get back???

Lately I've been starting all my Mt Rogers trips by parking at the NRA headquarters---a gated parking lot and they let me leave my car there for 21+ days---and then I take the 30 mile trek South on the AT until reaching Grayson Highlands and the Crest Zone. I spend the next 15 or 16 days pulling all the trails in the area---Lewis Fork wilderness, Little Wilson Creek wilderness, Wilbrun Ridge, Stone Mt, Three Peaks trail, Mt Rogers trail to Grindstone campground etc etc. And then returning to the NRA.

bigcranky
10-12-2017, 20:39
For those just joining us, TW's "NRA" is the Mt Rogers National Recreation Area, the headquarters building on VA 16 south of Marion, VA. It does happen to be a good spot to leave a vehicle, but call first because the gates are closed nights and some weekends.

(The National Rifle Association probably won't let you park in their headquarters lot for 21 days. :) )

Suzzz
10-12-2017, 21:50
So, did Suzzz pull her trip and get back???

I haven't been yet, I was asking for summer 2018. I was looking for an easier section of the trail where I could bring my kids. Hoping to be able to do this stretch in July.

Greenlight
10-13-2017, 11:56
I hiked this section in May, and it was a great time. You'll love Grayson Highlands. Two most suprising things on that section of the trail: First, the ponies are NOT confined to GH, you'll start seeing them well before. Second was the grazing bands of longhorns. I'm from Indiana, and when you see a bull, the hair sort of stands up on the back of your neck. I was unafraid of the ponies, but when I got to the cattle, I stood there for a couple minutes thinking "I'm gonna get gored!" but then reality set in and I thought "how many hikers walk right through here every day? I've never heard of anyone getting gored. So I started down the path, and the cattle just parted for me like the Red Sea. Fun memory.

Tipi Walter
10-13-2017, 12:29
Yes, ponies and horseback riders and hikers and long horn cattle---the Mt Rogers backcountry is what I call a Mammal Effluvia Zone. Puked my guts out repeatedly all night by my tent near Elk Garden in 1984 after drinking some bad water w/o treating. Always treat your water in the crest zone!!