Looking down Grayson Highlands
On January 21st, 2002, I hiked Mt. Rogers via the Appalachian Trail, which was still packed with snow, despite the weather slowly rising near 50 degrees in Southwest Virginia. In about an hour and 20 minutes I made it up to the top, where there is no view. However, before you get to the top, there is beautiful scenery all around. This is once you get past Wilburn Ridge and the trees clear out on the trail, about half a mile from the summit. You can also find some nice views on Wilburn Ridge, which is about a mile and a half from the summit.
To get to Mt. Rogers, I took I-81 all the way down to Exit 35. There I went South until I reached rt. 600. Once I got on 600 and traveled a few miles, there was a left turn to go to rt. 603. I drove past that left, and made the next left, 50 yards down the road. On that road, I drove about 5 miles until I got to a small parking lot which indicated the Appalachian Trail. Across the road from the rustic parking lot, was a gate. I opened the gate and walked towards a sign which said, 4.5 miles to Mt. Rogers.
I know this is only one way to reach Mt. Rogers, but it is a very enjoyable way. The trail up goes over one mountain trail until you see Mount Rogers through the trees. After a 2 or 3 miles you reach Wilburn Ridge and the treeless part of the Grayson Highlands area. You do not get on the treeless area, rather you follow the trail up to the summit. You can go off trail and walk around the ridge a little bit. It is very pretty.
As you continue on the trail, you start another major ascent uphill. It is almost 4 miles from the trailhead when you get to a clearing above the meadows. This is a very pretty spot to sit and relax, and enjoy a splendid view. When I got there, I saw a sign that said, "Mt. Rogers summit, 1/2 mile." There were 3 or 4 whitetail deer just standing there looking at me, so I shot them. Just kidding, I didn't have a gun. I continued up the trail to the top until I got to a big rock, covered in snow. This was the summit. The trail to the top is in the middle of dense woods, without any view. Mt. Rogers is a nice hiking experience. In early January, my friend and I camped out about 1/2 mile in the trail. It was quite cold and frosty. Conclusion, camping out in the Virginia high Appalachians in the dead of winter, not the best idea. However, I enjoy the southern Appalachians far more in winter than the summer. It is not crowded in the winter. Enjoy the climb.