Best Base Camps
Compared to elevations in the western U.S., the numbers aren't impressive: Mount Rogers—the highest point in Grayson Highlands State Park, as well as the highest point in Virginia—tops out at just 5,729 feet. But don't let that fool you. You'll get a big-mountain feel here, a rare feat in the East. The terrain is wide open, with enormous meadows and rock outcroppings that seem simply out-of-scale in an East Coast setting.
Thomas Knob Shelter is four miles from Virginia Route 600. It's an especially nice two-story shelter in the midst of an open field, and an absolutely ideal place to spend a couple of days. (Or you can, of course, choose to camp out in the open.) The area is laced with trails: the Appalachian Trail, the Virginia Creeper, Elk Garden, Mount Rogers National Recreation Trail, the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail, and a host of others (some restricted to foot traffic, others multiple use).
Highlights include rhododendrons in the spring, blueberries in the fall, and wild ponies all season. In June, do not miss Rhododendron Gap. Just 1.1 miles north of the shelter, it is surrounded by hundreds of acres of its flowering namesake. Only a tenth of a mile south of the shelter, a half-mile-long side trail takes you to the summit of Mount Rogers.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication