Amherst County High Point Trip Report

Dates: March 7, 1999 and May 7, 2000
Author: Fred Lobdell

There are three possibilities for Amherst County's highest point, as listed by Andy Martin in his compilation. Rocky Mountain, shown on the topographic map with a spot elevation of 4,072 feet, may well be the highest and is also the high point of Rockbridge County. Mt Pleasant is shown on the map only as being higher than 4,040 feet. But Allen de Hart, in The Hiking Trails of Virginia, gives an elevation of 4,071 for this summit. The third point, Bald Peak, is also shown as being above 4,040 feet, but the Appalachian Trail Conference's guidebook to Central Virginia gives an elevation of 4,059 for this peak. Thus, if these elevations are correct (and they are from three different sources) it would seem that Rocky Mountain is Amherst County's high point. But it would be prudent to at least climb Mt Pleasant also, as a one foot difference in elevation might easily be reversed in the next survey.

Rocky Mountain: For directions to Rocky Mountain, see the trip report for Rockbridge County. Descriptions for the other two peaks are given here.

Mt Pleasant & Bald Peak: From where US 60 passes under the Blue Ridge Parkway, drive east on 60 about 4 miles to Coffeytown Road (county 634). Turn left (northeast) on Coffeytown Rd. After 1.7 miles, turn right (east) on Wiggins Spring Road (county 755). Follow this road for 2.7 miles as it turns into Forest Service Road 48 until you reach the parking area at Hog Camp Gap. (The road beyond may well be gated.)

Mt Pleasant: (March 17, 1999) Walk up FS 48 past the gate for 0.3 miles, then turn right into FS 51. Another 0.1 miles will bring you to the trailhead for the Henry Lanum Trail, a loop trail that passes near the summit of Mt. Pleasant and almost over the summit of Pompey Mountain (4,032 ft.). You may hike clockwise or counter-clockwise on the Henry Lanum Trail. We did the counter-clockwise loop.

The trail begins by descending a couple of hundred feet along an old logging railroad grade. As it bends around to the left, you need to be alert and follow the blue blazes, because the trail branches off to the right from the old road. At 2.5 miles the 0.5 mile spur trail to the summit of Mt. Pleasant is reached. Follow this to the summit, which is marked by three large rock outcrops but no bench mark that we could find. The two outcrops on either side of the trail appear to be the highest. We had a good view of Rocky Mountain, but could not determine which was the higher using either a hand level or a clinometer.

After returning to the Henry Lanum Trail, you may return the way you came or continue counter- clockwise as the trail climbs over Pompey Mountain, descends, climbs another unnamed knob, and descends to the trailhead. This completion of the loop trail is only slightly longer than going back the way you came, 2.7 vs. 2.5 miles. If you want to be able to claim Pompey Mountain, you will need to make a short bushwhack as the trail doesn't pass directly over the summit. At the trailhead, walk back up the road to Hog Camp Gap and your car. You are now ready to begin the climb of Bald Peak.

Bald Peak: (May 17, 2000) From Hog Camp Gap, follow the white blazes of the Appalachian Trail south as it climbs 540 feet in 1.2 miles to the summit of Cole Mountain (4,022 ft.). (This is the name used on the topographic map; the Appalachian Trail guidebook gives Cold Mountain) Continue south as the trail drops about 600 feet into Cow Camp Gap, at 2.1 miles, then climbs about 640 feet to the summit of Bald Knob at 3.1 miles. The trail passes over some bare granite and some nearby outcrops and boulders appear to contain the highest point. This climb may also be done from the trailhead on US 60. This is a shorter hike (2.8 miles vs. 3.1 miles) but a longer, steeper climb, with an elevation gain of almost 2,000 feet. Besides, doing it the way it's described here enables you to bag two of Virginia's 4,000-foot peaks on the same hike!