Mount Rogers: The Perfect Peak

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Mount Rogers claims it’s grand title as the tallest mountain in Virginia. Located in southwest Virginia (about two and a half hours away from Salem) the peak stands at 5,729 feet and receives more than one million visitors every year. The mountain was named after William Barton Rogers, the founder of MIT and a famous Virginia geologist. Some features of the surrounding area include spruce-fir forests, breathtaking overlooks, and unique rock
formations. Most people come to the park to hike but other activities include camping, biking, and even horseback riding. Perhaps the most notable attraction of Mount Rogers are the herds of roaming wild ponies.

Surprisingly, the ponies that call the mountain home are not native. The Shetland related breed was introduced to the mountain to manage the growth of native hawthorn, a shrub found around the area. Altogether, about 120 ponies live in the park. The ponies occupy the land unattended while a local group takes general care of them. This particular breed of pony was chosen to live in the park because of their tolerance to high elevation. Each pony has a unique coat pattern, complimenting the beautiful blue and green landscape they reside in. Their gentle and friendly demeanor makes them the perfect park icon.

There are a variety of hiking trails that lead up to Mount Rogers. If you leave from Grayson Highlands you can follow the popular Massie Gap (Rhododendron) Trail which is an eight mile round trip hike to the peak. The Virginia Highland Horse Trail is a great trail to hike because it is a wide and flat trail. Two other trails that run through Mount Rogers are the Virginia Creeper Trail and the Appalachian Trail (AT). AT hikers hike through the mountains and head down to Georgia or up to Maine, coming through Roanoke along the way.

Mount Rogers is well known for its abundant and beautiful spruce-fir forests. Unfortunately, the number of trees have been declining because of the balsam woolly adelgid. This insect is originally from Europe but has started plaguing Mount Rogers and the surrounding forests. Another feature of Mount Rogers is the thick rhododendron groves. When hiked at the right time, the bushes can be found blooming in vibrant shades of pink, purple, and red. At the summit, the scenery is similar to that of a rainforest. Bright green ferns and mosses reside near tall trees. The light trickles in between the leaves, giving the peak a magical effect.

Camping near Mount Rogers gives you the opportunity to see the park at night, complete extensive hiking, and experience more incredible views. The Thomas Knob shelter is an open log cabin along the trail. While AT hikers get campsite priority, it is the perfect place to stop for lunch or grab a snack. Other campsites are dotted along the trails, some nestled into the forest.

The resident ponies share their home with bears, bobcats, salamanders, and  a variety of birds. Bears can fill up on the plentiful blueberry and blackberry bushes that grow along the trails. Over 15 different species of salamanders live in the area, hiding under rocks and fallen trees.  While walking, hikers may encounter grazing long horned cattle. The cows are massive in size but have gentle personalities.

Mount Rogers is home to everything from beautiful views to friendly ponies. The beautiful area hosts such an array of landscapes and picture perfect views that make your trip complete. Going to Mount Rogers is a once in a lifetime experience, and has all the qualities of a perfect peak.

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Mount Rogers: The Perfect Peak