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Hiker Comments for the Mt Rogers/Wilburn Ridge Hike - 1 to 15 of 15   
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By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, July 26, 2019
Did this loop backwards, starting from Fox Creek trailhead at 7am, as a one day loop. Moving time was 6hr 45minutes, but I had a light pack, didn't stop, and jogged on some of the easy downhills. It was quite a day but really worth it!

Took the high water route on the horse trail, walked through about 1000 spiderwebs on the Mt Rogers trail, and saw quite a few people out on the AT. I never needed to check my map as everything was really well marked! I did miss the Wilburn Ridge Trail turn off initially, but saw the blue blazes from across a field and managed to hop on it for the 2nd half. Really cool seeing the wild horses out there! Water sources were pretty plentiful and with a filter, I didn't need to carry more than a liter.

10/10 would recommend as a day hike if your fitness is there -- it was a fun day!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, July 4, 2019
We did the 2 night backpacking trip starting at the Grindstone Campground. The trek was difficult, but the views made the trip worthwhile. For a holiday weekend, the loop was not crowded at all. There are several very nice camping spots just prior to the Thomas Knob shelter on the second day. There is a spring down over the hill from the bear box. Despite the constant threat of thunderstorms, it was a great weekend in the backcountry. I highly recommend this trek. IT WAS AWESOME!!!

By: TessaK Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 26, 2019
I drove down Memorial Day weekend and started hiking Sunday late morning. Note: if you plan to park at Grindstone Campground, take cash as they cannot accommodate credit cards (but they are very friendly and there are water spigots to fill up your bottles). Once I got to the first trail marker, there were warnings about widespread bear activity, and admonitions to only camp with a bear canister OR store food at the bear boxes provided near shelters. That limited my camping options quite a bit. Once I got to Old Orchard, the register was full of reports of bear activity at the shelter for the past few weeks. As it was early, I decided to hike on to Wise Shelter. I didn't see a bear all weekend, but I did see scat in several spots.

The best part of the hike is the area between Wise shelter and Mt. Rogers, which has sweeping views and most of the ponies. I did the alternate .7 Wilburn trail with rock scrambles, which I highly recommend. I saw ponies (including 3 foals) in at least 4 or 5 different spots (5 of them were trying to eat the picnic table at Thomas Knob shelter). The spur trail to the summit of Mt. Rogers is also worth the time, despite the lack of a view at the top. I also thought that Fat Man Squeeze and that area would be on this hike, but it was not. Still lots of enjoyable trail though. Aside from that central section of this hike, the AT is its usual green tunnel a lot of the time, but still enjoyable for all that. If you do the hike exactly as described above, it's a pretty relaxed schedule. I did it in two days and got back to my car around 3:30 pm on Monday.

As to be expected, there were a lot of people in the parks Sunday and Monday, but I did not get a sense of overcrowding.

By: Caroline Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 3, 2018
This was a truly spectacular backpacking trip! My friend and I did it over the course of two days, starting from that second parking lot - which was considerably full at a start time of 11am. The area had gotten snow the night before - just a dusting at the Old Orchard Shelter but accumulating the more elevation we gained it made for some spectacular views as well as chilly temperatures. We chose to camp overnight in a clearing less than a quarter mile before the chosen shelter because it became clear VERY QUICKLY that all the closer campsites were full. The trail club maintaining the area has set up an electric fence for bear bags in said clearing which was a beautiful sight considering the trees aren't the best for bear bags and the significant number of signs all along the trail warning about bear activity. Stick around and let the mountains wow you with a sunset/sunrise AND THE GODDAMN MILKY WAY!!! We did Mt Rogers in the morning and don't regret it, the area may not have views but it was an easy addition, the trees were beautiful, and it smelt like Christmas all along the trail!! I can't stop raving about the ponies - we kept thinking it was over and SEEING SO MANY MORE - and the wonderful time we had despite the cold and several knee-killing climbs. Definitely looking forward to doing this again.

By: Dan and Aaron Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, July 26, 2018
We did this hike backwards and took care of most of the elevation on the first day. We originally were going to do three days and two nights but ended up doing it in two days. The hike up the Mount Rogers trail was not as difficult as we anticipated and made it to Thomas Knob shelter in about 5 hours. There are many good campsites before and after the shelter, but the water source behind it is difficult to get to. After setting up our tents we backtracked and hiked to the top of Mount Rogers. It was worth taking the side trip. Day two was as enjoyable as the first day and we continued to marvel at the incredible views, scenery, and topography. We particularly enjoyed hiking in the wide open spaces and did get excited when we saw the ponies and cattle wandering on the trails. If you’re going to spend a second night you’ll find many good tent sites around Wise shelter and Old Orchard shelter. This was the best backpacking trip we’ve been on and we plan on going there again.

By: Nicholas Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, June 4, 2018
We began our week long backpacking adventure with great anticipation. We stopped at the ranger station and were told of some bear activity around Rodo Gap Trail and Thomas Knob Shelter. The Nation Forest Service has placed an electric fence with a bear proof metal box inside the fence at the Thomas Knob Shelter and just north of the shelter they placed an electric fence but without the bear proof box. We camped north of the shelter and placed our BV450 Bear Vault inside the fence. One other couple placed their BV450 in the fence along with another individual placing a Bear Bag. Awaking Tuesday morning to our surprise out Vault was outside the fence and all our food eaten except for the coffee and the lid bitten and clawed open. The other couples BV450 was opened in the exact same manner and their food eaten. So, nothing to do but hike out with one nutrition bar between us and return home to re-supply. We reported this to the ranger station and they took pictures telling us they would make a report to the NFS. Grayson Highlands and the surrounding territory will always be favorite but be aware a bear or bears can open the BV450 Bear Vault.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, November 23, 2017
This is probably my favorite hike on the east coast (in the states anyway). The wild ponies were definitely the highlight. Be careful and pay attention to the route - we ended up getting lost more than once. I reviewed the trail in more detail here:

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 5, 2017
So I just want to start out saying that me and my friend ended up doing this hike in reverse which I believe was probably easier than what is directed here. With that being said, this would be a very difficult hike for a beginner or for anyone with good backpacking experience. Besides the physical nature of this hike, I rated it as a 5 five because of the views! The entire hike is wandering through old growth forest and hiking along ridgeline through high mountain open balds. It reminded me a lot of Dolly Sods. There are quite a few people on the AT once you get closer to the entrance of Grayson Highlands State Park but the majority of the hike is pretty private. There are some of best campsites I have ever seen near the Thomas Knob shelter. Can't wait to come back out here and do the 40 mile sister hike.

By: Curt Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 27, 2017
I agree with the last reviewer (Ken). This hike is not for new backpackers. This was our troops last training backpack before Philmont. We arrived late and parked in the Fox Creek AT trail head which saved us ~ 2 miles. Followed the HU plan from there. Day two is a beast with almost 3000' of elevation gain over 10-12 miles (the AT map and the markers seem to be in disagreement). The 1.5 miles leading up to the Thomas Shelter has great camping sites. Hint if you are passing lots of tents way before the shelter assume it will be full and the sites around it taken. So you may want to grab a tent site. As mentioned in the HU trail guide there are lots of ways to cut this hike up and make it easier with many trails and cut offs. Scenery is great. Having hiked a lot of the AT from Peaks of Otter to Reeds Gap this beats those sections by far.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 23, 2016
The hike was great, but the one thing I would say, is that this loop is not an easy hike. We took a group of 21 scouts and adults, ranging from 13 to 53 and ranging at all levels of fitness and experience. The majority of the second day of the hike is uphill, with lot's of "stairs", along with a fair amount of very tricky terrain. It turned out to be almost beyond my capabilities, which granted, are on the lower side of most hikers that are out there.

The positives were the camping areas were good. Access to water was good at Old Orchard, a rather full creek made a great spot for lunch and refills on day 2. the water access at Thomas Knob was a bit more challenging, as it involved going about 20 years down a rather steep hill. Thomas Knob, however, had a privy. The hike down to Grindstone was, for me at least, the easiest of the three days, even though I was sore and tired, as the last half was mostly smooth trails in a gradual decline.

Best parts were the views, being in nature and unplugged, and the ponies. The scouts loved this hike, as did most of the adults. A couple of the less fit among us were suffering by the third day. But that is why we do this, to grow and learn.

By: Red Fox Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, May 27, 2016
Quick update. I have hiked this trail many times and will be going back this weekend. Just wanted to let everyone know that the trail from Grindstone campground to the Mt. Rogers trail is back up and the price to park per day has increased from $3 to $5.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 26, 2016
Overall, a really nice hike, and it would have been better if the weather had cooperated as we hiked through the Wilburn Ridge. We ended up doing this hike as an overnight due to potential weather on the planned 3rd day.

My son and I did this hike the opposite direction...starting with Mt Rogers (parked in the Mt Rogers trail head parking). We started our hike at around 8:30 AM and reached the Thomas Knob Shelter around 1:15 PM, to include a 30 minute lunch in the clearing past the Mt Rogers/ AT trail junction and a packless excursion (left packs at the junction) up to the Mt Rogers marker. I had not expected to make the shelter until around 3:00 PM, so we had a little too much extra time on our hands. We stayed in the shelter loft, which was comfortable and saved me from having to put up the tent. There were alot of backpackers in the area, and by 5 PM almost all the campsites around the area were full, although there were just 5 of us that stayed in the shelter. Lots of ponies around, including one that walked right up to the shelter. Composting toilet was relatively clean and convenient and the spring was running well.

The 2nd day started off very foggy, and only cleared occasionally, providing glimpses of great views while walking Wilburn Ridge. We again started on the trail at 8:30 AM, and were surprised to see that almost everyone else in the area was already on the trail. The first few miles along Wilburn Ridge quite nice, even with the fog. It did start clearing towards the end of this stretch, providing some great views of the valley below. After descending the ridge, the rest of the hike was a mix of woods and highland areas, interrupted by an occasionally pony. We decided to push on to the car and make this an overnight hike after reaching the Old Orchard Shelter at around 2:30 PM because the weather looked like rain. This made for a long day (14 miles), although we were at the car before 4 PM.

Some thoughts:

- Trail is very well marked and easy to follow. Which ever way you go you are on the AT trail most of the way except for the 5 miles or so on the Mt Rogers trail. For us, we started out following the blue blazes of the Mt Rogers Trail, and after it intersected with the AT it was white blazes all the way. Follow white blazes to blue blazes, or blue blazes to white blazes is really all the directions you need.

- Because we decided to pack out the 2nd day instead of stay at the Old Orchard shelter, we jumped on the Lewis Fork Trail to make the final trek from the shelter to the car a little shorter. If you follow the spring markers to the right of the shelter (when facing it), traverse across the moss covered boulders just past the spring, and then proceed down grade for about 100 yards you will run into this trail. This trail would probably be very pretty when the Rhododendrons are in bloom, as they line the lower part of it. This trail runs into 603, and then you are about 1 mile from the Mt Rogers trail parking lot.

By: John Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 25, 2015
The hike was great! Beautiful and scenic. The directions on here were a joke!it's really the only reason this only got two stars. Really needs to be rewritten.

By: Dham Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Overall this was a great loop for 3 days including driving!! This route and map directions need to be updated! We got lost right away from grindstone parking lot, because the directions were so poor. Also, the Mount Rogers Tie Trail is closed to the public because of a tornado. S just turn right on 603, to get to the trail. The directions failed to say that and we tried getting on the tie trail before getting stopped by the ignorant Grindstone campground manager. We told her we were trying to get to old orchard, and she said the she doesn't know where that is.... Bring a topographical map. The directions give so many vague details that it is super unhelpful. All that being said, the route was awesome!! It has very diverse terrain, and the ponies are super cool as well. There are a couple intersection on the AT, where its hard to find the trail. The directions should be way better if you are relying on them. We had great weather, but it was super cold at night. I would recommend this hike!!

By: Adam R. Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, March 6, 2015
This was a great hike.  My brther and I did this as a two night adventure.  We fallowed the directions and the first day was a easy hike with a little uphill action.  The shelter is great with a near by fire pit, or there is a grass area to fit a few tents with another fire pit.  The second day 10.5 miles is a solid day of hiking.  The second day starts out uphill for alomst two miles, and a beautiful view emerges.  the end of the day has an intense uphill section for a few miles with some incredible views and hand over hand climbing. (the hand over hand climbing can be avoided if you stay on the AT).  This is a hard day of hiking.  I am used to hiking, but if you are not used to backpacking, leave early to be able to take all day.  The second waterfall you pass is a great lunch area.  The Second shelter Thomas Knob is great.  It was about 30 outside and wind was blowing like crazy.  The upstairs of the shelter kept us totaly protected.  You can not have a fire in this area, and expect the shelter to be full / a fun party!  The last day is mainly down hill so a nice hike.  The path was about 40% ice when we went.  you can find ways around it, but be ready for it.  Best part was the wild horses! we saw about 4 different groups of them. 

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