The peak of Haw Orchard, also known as Big Pinnacle, is easy to reach. From the visitor's center at Grayson Highlands State Park, it's just a short stroll to the summit. Or you can hike to the top from Massie Gap, which is a half mile climb up a fairly steep slope. During the winter, when the road to the visitor center is closed and snow covered, the trail from Massie Gap is the best way to access the peak.
The northern slope of Haw Orchard is quite steep and would offer at least some class three climbing, but I'm not sure if the park allows such. Views from the summit are nothing short of stunning, with 360 degrees of the high country of southern Virginia, and northern NC and TN. The ridges that make up Haw Orchard, Wilburn Ridge, and Mount Rogers are among highest in Virginia.
The weather along these peaks and ridges can be quite severe in winter, and I almost always encounter snow and/or ice when I visit the Grayson Highlands every December.
Getting ThereMy favorite trail is the one that leads from Massie Gap to the summit. Called the Big Pinnacle Trail, it's only about a half mile. Fairly steep, yellow blazed, it travels through rhododendron, mountain ash, and birches to the exposed summit.
You can also access the peak from the trail that starts behind the Grayson Highlands State Park visitor's center.
The park is located on Highway 58, about midway between Damascus and Independence. From 58, just take the park road to Massie Gap.
Red TapeNo fees to climb. Camping is allowed in the national forest along the Appalachian Trail. Camping in the state park is allowed, but only at designated sites for a small fee, (primitive sites are $11). There is a $2 parking fee for entering the park. There is ample parking at several points in the park, most notably at Massie Gap.
When To ClimbYear round. I've climbed Haw Orchard a number of times. Summer is just a pleasant stroll, but winter provides some challenges if the snow is very deep.
CampingCamping is allowed near Haw Orchard. As mentioned in the red tape section. The Mount Rogers AT shelter is not too far away.
Mountain ConditionsCheck weather for Sparta NC. Should be roughly the same,but subtract about ten degrees for temperatures.
- Grayson Highlands State Park.
Official site for Grayson Highlands State Park.