virginia hikes: Mount Pleasant loop, October 24 2019

Again I was making the good ole I-81 drive, so time for another update on the fall foliage here in Southwest Virginia. In comparison to my report last week in the Northern Park of the Shenandoah, the regions here in Southwest Virginia is reported to change earlier. For my hike, I saw plenty of yellow leaves in the process of changing while others have already fallen. There weren’t too many red and orange yet. This lead to a generally muted, but still good foliage. I would guess the peak is still to come, but soon.

For weekly reports, you can also check out Virginia.org,  Virginia Department of Forestry reports, or Shenandoah National Park.

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information

  • name: Mount Pleasant loop (gps track – alltrails wikiloc)
  • type: loop
  • distance:  6.3 miles
  • elevation change:  1348 ft ascent and descent
  • time:  2:40 hours (2:20 hours without breaks)
  • location: Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area in the George Washington National Forest near Buena Vista & Lexington, VA (google map directions)

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report

To reach the trailhead for this hike, approach the hike from the west side on the dirt Wiggins Spring Road (SR 755) as recommended by Hiking Upwards and indication in the waypoints in linked google map directions unless you have a high clearance car. From personal experience, I bottomed out my car several years ago coming from the other direction to hike Cold/Cole mountain loop leading to a dent gas tank.

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best take this direction with a typical sedan

I was the only one at the parking lot at 4:30pm on a weekday afternoon.

I hiked the trail counterclockwise down the Henry Lanum Memorial trail FT#702 (USDA FS), but I would wish I did it clockwise based on the sunlight I had left and the sections I found most interesting on this hike.

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The initial 1.27 miles was on what appeared to be an old fire road winding slowly around the mountain and rounding a couple of stream drainages. This allowed more open views of the trees making for a pleasant walk.

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Near the bottom of the descent, the old fire trails split in several directions. However, there is good signage pointing you to the right direction.

Once the trail crosses the North Fork Buffalo River, it’s more of a stream and barely running at this time of the year, the trail starts to work up toward the gap underneath Mount Pleasant for the next 0.86 miles at an incline about 10.8%.

There was one open upon a slab giving you a glimpse of Cole/Cold and Floyds mountains.

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The other cool part about this section was several large boulders along the trail.

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About 2.17 miles from the trailhead and about 2.5 miles going the other direction, I came to the junction to head up Mount Pleasant on the Mount Pleasant trail FT#704.

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There are some campsites in this area with fire pits, they are slightly past the junction on the Henry Lanum Memorial Trail going the other direction.

The water source available here is on the Mount Pleasant trail.

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It was another half mile up the Mount Pleasant trail and about a 11.6% incline hoping on some large rocks

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and then switchbacks for the final push to reach the junction separating the 2 summits.

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I went over to the east summit first for a sweeping 180 view of the south.

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There are a couple campsites just behind the summit with a fire ring.

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Then I returned to the junction to head up to the west summit. Along the way, I saw 3 seperate fire rings and camp spots, though they were directly on the trail.

The trail ends with a sign here

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and the vista is see by scrambling up the outcrop boulder to the left. The view here is almost 270 degrees. From the right, I could see Pompey Mountain, the Federal Aviation Towers in the distance, the open saddle under Cole/Cold Mountain, Floyds Mountain, Bold Knob, Little Rocky Mountain in the foreground, Fletcher Mountain, Fork Mountain, Panther Mountain, and many others in the distance layered to form the typical Southwest Virginia vista.

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I was tempted to stay for what would have been a perfect sunset, but I wanted to see the Pompey Mountain summit in the light and didn’t want to do too much night hiking since I was still in the middle of my drive.

Once I was back at the junction of the Henry Lanum Memorial Trail junction, I turned right to continue heading counterclockwise. The trail ascends at about a 8.4% grade over the next 0.6 miles before a small fattening out at the summit of Pompey Mountain.

Hiking Upwards specified a viewpoint here, but the side trail out to it was overgrown so it was more of a bushwack. The boulders themselves were starting to be overtaken by the surrounding trees, but I did catch a glimpse of the north east sky opposite the setting sun behind the Pompey Mountain.

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The summit of Pompey is mostly covered by trees, but I did see a little summit that you can bushwack to that might have provided enough opening that I might have seen the sunset, but it was too late by the time I checked it out. Either way, the summit of Pompey isn’t much of a view.

I had 20 minutes of sunlight left as I continued down the other side of Pompey mountain and the trail was steepest here at a grade of -18.9% over 0.37 miles. I found the foliage the prettiest starting from this section with the the light I had left, though the soft golden hour light might have skewed my views. Again, this is why I wish I had hiked it clockwise instead.

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Once at the gap below Pompey mountain, the trail continues on the ridge over another unnamed mountain with an incline of 8.4% grade over 0.45 miles

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before the final 0.7 mile descent at a -9.8% grade to the parking lot. I did this last part pretty much in the dark so I can’t tell you much about it other than it was on a wide former fire road.

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ratings (1-5; click link for detailed breakdown)

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  • views: 2. The summits of Mount Pleasant are indeed pleasant with vistas of layered mountains to the north and west and the flat farmland out toward Lynchburg and Charlottesville to the south and east. I was very much tempted to stay for sunset, since the summit would provide for a good one, possibly sunrise as well. Otherwise, I enjoyed the ridge between Pompey Mountain to the trailhead, especially with the foliage. Typically in the summer, this would have been a tunnel of green. For this reason, I would actually recommend to hike it clockwise rather than counterclockwise like I did. The outlook on Pompey Mountain as specified by Hiking Upwards was overgrown and starting to be overtaken by the trees, so it isn’t much of a view.
  • difficulty: 1. Much of this trail, especially the Henry Lanum Memorial loop is on old fire roads making for some easy walking. The most difficult sections are north of Pompe Mountain with loose rocks and elevation gain, another reason to hike this clockwise. The elevation gain was pretty minor overall and never too steep.
  • technical: 1. The trail is well marked with blue blazes and sign posts and there is no technical sections.

back to virginia hikes

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Written by John

I'm a graduate student that likes to hike and travel.

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