Camp Near the Crest Trail in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area

Rate this Adventure Grayson Highlands State Park Overnight Backpacking Lot

Situated in the heart of the Virginia Highlands, this camp spot is secluded, close to water and has phenomenal views of the Mount Rogers Recreation Area. The easy rolling hills and gradual elevation gains make it the perfect hike for a first-time backpacker. There are also herds of wild ponies that scatter the hillsides and will graze around your tent.

We started by parking in the overnight backpacking lot within Grayson Highlands State Park. 

From here you have two options to get to the Appalachian Trail. We personally followed the spur trail to the Rhododendron Trail from the parking lot. To do this, take the trail to your LEFT out of the parking lot, you'll follow a narrow trail to the beginning of Rhododendron Trail marked by a gate. Cross through the gate and start up the hill when you get to the top of the hill you'll see a sign that tells you to take a right to go do the overnight parking lot or take a left  to continue towards the Appalachian Trail, take a left. I recommend this option if you have never been to the highlands because the views from the trail are phenomenal. The second option is to take the Appalachian Spur Trail out of the overnight backpackers parking lot. When you get to the end of this trail take a LEFT onto the Appalachian Trail. This second option is how we came back to the parking lot since we took the Rhododendron Trail up.

When we got to the top of the hill the directions were a bit confusing. However, stay left to follow the Appalachian Trail. Follow this trail for about .6 miles until you hike up a slight uphill and come to a huge bulletin-style sign. The sign has a map of the Grayson Highlands/Mount Rogers Recreation Area. There will also be another sign that says Wilburn Ridge. At this point you will see another gate in a wooden fence, go through the gate and follow the Appalachian Trail straight ahead of you. Hike the Appalachian Trail for two miles past this point. When you get to Rhododendron Gap you will take a left onto the Crest Trail. Make sure to read each and every sign post as you come across them in order not to miss the Crest Trail. There are tons of trails in the highlands that shoot off in all directions. After turning left onto the crest trail, hike until you see a sign that says "water" (if you get to a metal gate you have gone too far). When you see the sign for water take a left and follow this a couple hundred feet. You will see some big old mossy pine trees and some grassy clearings. That is where we camped! For a full map of the Mount Rogers Recreation Area go here.

We stopped at this location because a thunderstorm pushed us off the trail. The views ended up being phenomenal but we were still two miles away from Mount Rogers. After the rain subsided there were two little streams full of the recent rain water gurgling past our tent and over the course of the evening, herds of wild ponies grazed their way around our tent. 

Pack List

  • Backpack
  • Sleeping pad, sleeping bag, camp blanket, pillow
  • Extra layers (you're high in the mountains so even in the summer it can be chilly at night)
  • Camp stove, fuel & food
  • Water filtration system
  • Optional: camp shoes/extra pair of dry socks
  • Head lamp and/or lantern
  • Mess gear (utensils, cups, plates, etc.)
  • Camera & tripod (great spot for milky way shots)
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RT Distance 6 Miles
Elevation Gain 1000 Feet
Activities Camping, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Easy Parking


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