Adventures in the Southern Appalachians & Beyond!  





GRAYSON HIGHLANDS - Elk Garden to Fox Creek (via Pine Mountain)

March 7th & 8th, 2009 - Shannon and I made our second trip to the Grayson Highlands this year with our good friends Bruce and Kelly Mullins, and Erick and Amy McMurray.


We parked one car at Route 603 near Fox Creek, and shuttled up to Elk Garden where we began our hike on the Appalachian Trail (north).  We stopped at Deep Gap for lunch, and then again at Briar Ridge, enjoying the views before our final climb up to Virginia's highest mountain... Mount Rogers.  


Once at the Mt. Rogers spur trail, we hid our packs in the trees and made the final ascent.  The trail was completely ice covered and very slippery near the summit, but we all made it safely to the 5279' benchmark.  Click here and here for my other Mt. Rogers summits.


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On the Climb Up to Elk Garden Ridge

  Pretty Vista from Briar Ridge 
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Taking a Break Before Our Final Climb to Mt. Rogers   On the Summit of Virginia's Highest Peak

After our summit, we decided to set up camp a couple tenths of a mile past the shelter at Thomas Knob.  We found a nice little grove of trees protecting us from the wind, and the spot also gave us wonderful views with a short walk to the ridgeline.  It was here that we were visited by a couple of wild ponies seen in the photos below.         

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Views Coming Down from Mt. Rogers   Shannon, Kelly, and a Wild Pony on Thomas Knob
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More of Thomas Knob   More...
We built a nice fire, replenished our water supply, and had a great dinner.  We talked around the fire for quite a while before hitting our tents.  The night was very windy, but I think everyone stayed warm.  

We hiked 5.4 miles on day-one.        

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Wild Pony

  Our Campsite (photo compliments of Amy McMurray)
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Around the Camp Fire (photo by Erick McMurray)

We woke up not long after sunrise, packed up, and got back on the trail.  By mid-morning we were at Rhododendron Gap where we took the photos from the big rock (seen below).  It was here that we left the Appalachian Trail, and got on the blue-blazed Pine Mountain Trail, where we followed it for 1.9 miles before reconnecting again to the A.T. on Pine Mountain.   

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Deer in the Distance  

Erick at Rhododendron Gap

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Bill on the Big Rock (photo by Erick McMurray)   Bruce on the Big Rock at Rhodo Gap
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Shannon on the Pine Mountain Trail

Once we got back on the A.T. at Pine Mountain (still heading north), we hiked the remaining 3.4 miles to our car at Fox Creek.  This final section was all downhill, descending over 1500 feet in elevation in those 3.4 miles.  

On day-two we hiked 5.9 miles, for a total trip of 11.3 miles.      


Total Miles Hiked:  11.3

Getting There:  


Driving - From I-81 in Virginia, take exit 35 (Chilhowie).  Take a right at the bottom of the ramp onto state route 762/600.  I'm not sure of the exact mileage but stay on 600, and in approximately 11.5 miles you come to state route 603 on your left.  Take this road for 4.5 miles to get to the A.T. crossing at Fox Creek, which is where we ended our hike.  


To get to Elk Garden (where we started our hike), return to SR600 from SR603.  Take a left at the intersection, and then take another immediate left back onto SR600.  In approximately 3 miles you'll see the Elk Garden parking area on your right, along with the sign for Mount Rogers.  


Trails - From the Elk Garden parking lot, cross the road and go through the fence to head north on the A.T.  Follow the white blazes for approximately 3.8 miles and you'll come to the Mount Rogers Spur trail.  Take this trail to the left for 0.5 miles to summit Mt. Rogers.  Return, and continue on the A.T. for another 0.4 miles to get to the Thomas Knob shelter and a good water source.  We camped soon after this shelter.  Continue another 0.8 miles to Rhododendron Gap where there's a junction of trails.  Llook for blue-blazes for the Pine Mountain Trail.  Take the Pine Mtn Trail for 1.9 miles, until it re-connects with the A.T. on Pine Mountain.  Take a left here on the A.T. to continue north, and to make the final 3.4 mile descent to Fox Creek.      


Hike Rating -


Bill's Overall Rating:

Distance:  11.3 miles

Difficulty:  DIFFICULT

Type: Continuous

Vista Rating: 

Waterfall Rating:  NONE

Water Crossings:  numerous EASY

Scrambling/Climbing:  numerous EASY - few MODERATE

Hazards:  possible ice, slippery slopes

Significance:  State Highpoint, Appalachian Trail, Wild Ponies, Wildlife,, A.T. shelters (2), rare fir and spruce forests

Recommendation:  average backpack


Click here for hike rating reference guide.




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