This might just be my favorite hiking spot ever. Grayson Highlands has it all: spectacular views, wild ponies, the Appalachian trail and all the fascinating people you find on it, wild blueberries growing by the path, waterfalls, and those scary warning signs about abrupt weather changes.
You can expect the drive in to be beautiful, irregardless of which direction you’re coming from. Expect to pay $6 per car for the day.
From the parking area, the best options are to take the 1.8 mile Cabin Creek Trail through the woods or the .5 mile Rhododendron Trail which will connect you to the horse trails and the Appalachian trail. Personally I prefer taking the Rhododendron Trail and then exploring because it provides opportunities to spot ponies and incredible views, but the Cabin Creek Trail does have a waterfall.
I’ve been probably half a dozen times and I’ve always been lucky enough to see at least one pony. On a particularly lucky day you might encounter an entire herd and if you time it just right you might be able to get a good picture without all the people in it! There are signs stating that the ponies are wild and should not be approached, but there are always a fair number of people ignoring that.
If you’re up for a good long hike, you can easily out walk the crowds, but if you stay within a mile of the parking lot you can expect to see a lot of people, especially when the ponies are out.
The park is full of balds and rocks just begging to be climbed. Sometimes the trails go right over them and you have no choice but to get on your hands and knees and crawl!
The first time I visited Grayson Highlands I was backpacking with my Dad and we were dropped off here with the intention of taking the AT back to Damascus. We took a shortcut when we reached the Virginia Creeper Trail and we ate more wild blueberries and black raspberries then you can imagine. I really need to get into backpacking more, but I’m not sure how doable it is with kids. Any input?
These overcast pictures really don’t do this beautiful park justice, so I’ll update them in a couple weeks after I’m down there again. This one of HJ in sunglasses in front of the pony is definitely a keeper though!