Smyth County Highpoint Trip Report
Mt Rogers (5,729 ft)
Date: May 14, 2005
Author: Ron Tagliapietra
The first decision concerns route choice. Last time (July 28, 1989), I went on
the AT from the west at Elk Gardens to avoid having to pay the parking fee.
Dumb decision. This time we went from the east at Grayson Highlands State Park
in spite of the fee. The distances and gain are about the same both ways but
the views and wildlife from the east are far better. We saw perhaps 30 wild
ponies this time plus two deer and a hawk. Last time, I saw nothing.
While some of the ponies were distant, others came right up to us (hoping for food
hand-outs I think but these are prohibited).
Massies Gap trailhead at Grayson Highlands SP is at about 4700 feet. While this
may seem like a slight savings over the elevation at Elk Garden of 4500 feet,
the up and downs on the route from Grayson Highlands SP easily compensates for
the 200 feet of savings. Thus, neither route has a significant savings here.
The distance from the Massies Gap trailhead is 4.3 miles; the distance from Elk
Gardens is about 4 miles. Although Elk Gardens is a quarter mile shorter,
all of the things to see on the Grayson Highlands route make it seem shorter.
From Massies Gap, follow the blue-blazed Rhododendron Trail for 1 mile through
the state park to the white-blazed Appalachian Trail at the far edge of the park.
Cross the ladder over the fence and continue on the AT for 2.8 miles to
the sign for the Mount Rogers spur trail. Turn right and follow the spur trail
for a half mile to the rock with the Rogers benchmark. Although the first half
of the spur trail has limited views and the last half has no views, the entire
rest of the trail has great views!