Jefferson National Forest Overview
The Jefferson National Forest is prize Appalachia country: tumbling waterfalls, rare wildflowers, vividly colored hills, and Virginia's highest peak. Jefferson spreads 690,000 acres of hardwood and conifer forest across west-central Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky, including the Ridge Province of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Jefferson has several top-notch areas to explore. The Mount Rogers National Recreation is a real hub of activity. It encircles Virginia's highest peak, rocky Mount Rogers. The area was developed as a recreation hub. You'll find more than 400 miles of maintained trails, including 60 miles of the Appalachian Trail, 18 miles of the Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail, and 67 miles of the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail. And Mount Rogers NRA has more than 10,000 acres of wilderness. Quite a package.
The Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area is perhaps best known for its prominent mountains, including Mount Pleasant, Pompey Mountain, and Cole Mountain. Other features include the small virgin groves of hardwood forest in Little Cove Creek, and wild trout streams. The majority of the Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area is steep, rugged terrain with numerous springs and steep cascading streams, surface boulders, massive rock outcrops, cliffs, and pinnacles.
The forest has 11 wilderness areas. The best known is the Lewis Fork, through which the Appalachian Trail weaves for about five miles. Less famous treasures include St. Marys Wilderness, where you'll find vast quartzite rock slides, a double waterfall, and miniature canyons of angular rocks along heavily forested river banks.
Hike the Virginia Creeper
The Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail has seen Native Americans, Daniel Boone, European pioneers and even a railroad. This history-rich path makes its way for 33.4 miles from Abingdon to the North Carolina border across trestles, sharp curves, steep inclines and through South Holston Lake and Whitetop Community.
Bike the Dragon's Back
This difficult yet exhilarating path is used for annual races in the area. Located in the New Castle Ranger District, rocky protrusions litter the trail, creating physical challenges and surprises. Views of nearby and distant peaks scatter the horizons while you navigate through North Mountain. Also in the Castle Ranger District is an invigorating loop that circles Barbours Creek Wilderness.
Scenic shores and great fishing distinguish the Blacksburg Ranger District. Both native and stocked rainbow, brook and brown trout roam its rivers and streams. Four major streams are currently stocked—Poverty, Craig, Big Stony and Dismal Creeks. The Pandapas Pond provides bass, bluegill, crappie and catfish. The New River features a supply of Muskie.
Ski Johns Creek Mountain Trail
This 16-mile cross-country ski trail begins near the Appalachian Trail and climbs steadily for a bit. Once it reaches the Johns Creek Mountain Trail, it veers over ridges and peaks and past some curious wildlife. Along the way, scenic views of the Jefferson's mountain dish out a wintertime treat.
Bird High Knob
Within the Clinch Ranger District is a designated Watchable Wildlife Area. Here, many types of Eastern American birds can be heard, seen and identified. This includes a collection of broad-winged hawks, especially during the fall migration. During the winter, the tufted titmouse, Carolina chickadee and golden-crowned kinglet stay in the forest. And depending on when you're in the Jefferson, look around for the-rising warbler, Louisiana waterthrush, American redstart, solitary vireo, rose-breasted grosbeak, scarlet tenager and oven-bird.
Chipmunk Circle and Beaver Flat Loops constitute Beartree Campground in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. These rhododendron grove sites are centered near some of Jefferson's most famous attractions. Scenic roads and stocked trout streams are located along US Route 58, not far from the campgrounds. Also accessible from Beartree are the famous Appalachian and Virginia Creeper Trails.
Ride the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail
The Mount Rogers Ranger District offers 150 miles of horseback riding trails. One trail, however, stands out as well loved. The 68 miles of Virginia Highlands Horse Trail traverses picturesque creeks and ponds, as well as horse camps, campgrounds, and Iron Mountain.
Drive Big Walker Mountain
Through Civil War battlefields, green pastures and rolling timber-topped mountains, the Big Walker Mountain Road displays some of the finest scenery in Bland and Wythe Counties. It passes 16.2 miles of national forest, many hiking trails and even the Big Walker Lookout, where you can view several states from its top.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication