virginia hikes: Grayson Highlands loop, July 27 2019

My friends, Chris and Tori, had long talked about heading out to Grayson Highlands State Park to camp out and doing some bouldering. While my lackluster climbing skills and commitment to get better at climbing would steer me away from their bouldering activities, I said I would join them camping. One of my favorite hikes in Virginia is located in Grayson Highlands and I looked forward returning since my last trip out there was five years ago. I would go for a hike while they climbed. A sunny, but abnormally cool summer weekend at the end July finally motivated them to do the trip, so I couldn’t say no.

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New lab member Natalie also joined us at the last minute, she had also been looking to hike in Grayson Highlands as well since arriving in Virginia.

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virginia hikes: Dragon’s Tooth, February 21 2018

Dragon’s Tooth is one of the 3 peaks of the Roanoke triple crown (Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club) along with McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs. It is characterized by the outcrop “tooth” like rock just off the peak of Cove Mountain that can be scrambled upon for a 360 view. It is also known as the most technical of the 3 with a short section of scrambling on the Appalachian Trail near the peak.

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There are actually 4 ways from 3 different trailhead that you can used to access Dragon’s Tooth. The most popular and easiest is an in and out from the Dragon’s Tooth Parking Lot on the Dragon’s Tooth Trail that turns southbound on the Appalachian Trail (AT) at Lost Spectacles Gap. This is also my recommend return route for all other starts. Out of the same Dragon’s Tooth parking lot, the spur Boy Scout Trail splits shortly after the trailhead and connects with the AT quickly before continuing southbound. The other ways are starting on the AT at main trailhead parking lots (Trout Creek trailhead on Miller Cove Road VA-620 to head northbound or McAfee Knob Parking lot on Catawba Valley Drive VA-311 to head southbound).

While I hiked this on an overly warm, 78 degree Fahrenheit, February weekday recently for sunset, this is one of those local hikes that I’ve done multiple times in the past since it’s so close. My preferred route and what I hiked last time is to head up the Boy Scout Trail and returning on the Dragon’s Tooth Trail after summiting. However, I hiked down in the dark on my last trip since I was catching sunset. Rather than describing the exact hike of my most recent hike exclusively, I’ll cover the most popular and easiest way up first and then I’ll follow up with the alternatives using pictures taken across the years.

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sw virginia hikes: Dismal Creek and Sugar Mountain Loop, June 25 2017

Recently, the focus of my effort on travel2walk have been on getting the many backlogged large trip reports out. I still have the two trips from this year that I’m working on. A side effect of my focus on trip reports is that other sections of my page has been neglected, such as my local Virginia hike reports. A poor fall 2016 foliage season due to the warm weather wasn’t very motivating for me to work on the section either. A second side effect of the long trip reports is that I don’t get as much content out as quickly.

With that in mind, I’ve revamped the sw virginia hiking page and you’ll see more quick hiking reports like this. The thesis length trip reports will still come, but at a slower rate. I’m hoping I can get those out in time for you to reference while planning for the following season.

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sw virginia hikes: pilgrimage to Tinker Cliffs, October 24 2015

2020/10: The updated report of this hike is available here with standardized formatting, updated photos, and a video.

For much of my travels, I don’t mind the number of people on the trails. I understand it; everyone wants to see these most aesthetically pleasing views out there. If people are going to spend their hard earned money to fly across the world, the least we all can do is share the experience. Plus they can all be potential drinking buddies. This is why I don’t include seclusion as a criterion on my rating system. While traveling, most places we will walk are going to be popular.

I do also enjoy the aspect of getting away from it all when I am hiking, this is especially true when I’m close to home. Here in the southwest Virginia area, there are many well-known hikes and sections of the Appalachian Trail within an hour drive from my front door. It’s not uncommon that on a sunny day, you’ll see a traffic jam on the on the curves up Catawba Valley Dr and people trying to squeeze their cars anywhere they can at McAfee Knob or Dragon’s Tooth trailheads. Both are well worth the hike and I eventually write about them (see links above). However, my local favorite is Tinker Cliffs via the Andy Layne Trail and it is the only hike that I will make the yearly pilgrimage to in the fall.

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sw virginia hikes: Cold Mountain, August 22 2015

information

  • Cold Mountain (most data from Hiking Upwards, a good guide to local hikes)
  • type: loop
  • distance: 5.8 miles
  • elevation change: 1490 ft
  • time: 2.5 hours (for us, listed 3.5 on hiking upwards)
  • location: George Washington National Forest near Buena Vista, VA

Can be connected with sister hike, Mount Pleasant for a 11 mile loop Read More