Grayson Highlands State Park lies among the highest peaks in Virginia surrounded by the vast wilderness of Jefferson National Forest.
This scenic Virginia State Park, located just 2 hours south of Roanoke, is also the gateway to the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.
Guests visit this area for year round access to the Appalachian Trail with its hiking and horse paths throughout hardwood forest and past cave like boulders.
Backpacking, climbing, wildlife viewing and camping are highlights within this picturesque park.
While visiting Grayson Highlands you’ll not only discover scenic views of alpine-like peaks but also boulders, wild ponies and a pioneer homestead.
The park’s Visitor Center showcases exhibits and educational resources on the history of the area. You can also purchase crafts and other gifts made by local artisans inside the Mountain Crafts Shop.
Here are some of the many activities that you can do during your visit to Grayson Highlands State Park:
Trails at Grayson Highlands State Park
The park’s 13 trails lead to waterfalls, scenic overlooks and a 200 year old pioneer cabin.
While hiking inside Grayson Highlands State Park you’ll also have access to many more trails inside the surrounding Jefferson National Forest.
The most popular trails climb to 4,000 feet in elevation and offer spectacular views.
Keep in mind that weather can be as much as 15 to 20 degrees cooler the higher you climb and dress appropriately.
The park offers backpacking, map and compass skills programs to help you prepare and stay safe while you explore the vast wilderness inside of the park.
Here are a few of the more popular hiking trails:
- Grayson Highlands and Mount Rogers Loop – This 13.8 mile trail is rated hard because of its steep incline and boulders. You’ll see many wild ponies and breathtaking views on this trail.
- Listening Rock Trail – This easy 1.4 mile sloping wooded hillside trail passes Buzzard Rock Overlook and a chance to see a 180-degree view of the mountain range, Christmas tree farms and the farming community of Rugby.
- Twin Pinnacles Trail – Another easy 1.3 mile trail with overlooks and a stunning view of Massie Gap.
The park also has 9 miles of bridle trails that are open year round and offer access to the Appalachian Trail and the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail.
Unfortunately, no horse rentals are available at this time.
Fishing at Grayson Highlands State Park
Grayson Highlands State Park has nearly 10 miles of wild trout streams. All of these streams are Special Regulation Wildlife Trout Streams, which
means that you can only use single hooks and artificial lures. And any trout that is less than 9 inches long must be released unharmed.
In addition to a Virginia state fishing license you will also need a National Forest Permit. Purchase one online here.
To purchase a Virginia fishing license visit their website.
Fly fishing programs are also available at the park, inquire at the Visitor Center.
Bouldering at Grayson Highlands State Park
Discover the best bouldering in Virginia at Grayson Highlands State Park. The steep slopes and unique geology of the mountains that surround the park offer ideal opportunities for climbing.
There are four main boulder fields and three smaller fields with more than 700 climbing routes and elevations up to 4,900 feet.
Summer is the best time to climb since the weather is cooler the higher up you get. Make sure you climb safely Leave No Trace.
You can purchase chalk and guide books and rent a crash pad at the Visitor Center. And for more information about the bouldering opportunities at Grayson Highlands, visit the Mountain Project.
Winter Sports at Grayson Highlands State Park
The high elevations and cooler temps also create ideal conditions for winter sports such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Rentals for both are available at Grayson Highlands General Store & Inn.
These trails are open for cross-country skiers:
- The Rhododendron Trail (1 mile)
- Old Upchurch Road (3.3 miles)
- Seed Orchard Road (1.2 miles)
- Horse Trail East (3.2 miles)
- Horse Trail North (2.0 miles)
Wildlife Viewing at Grayson Highlands State Park
The vast wilderness and mountains that surround Grayson Highlands protects the natural habitats of many animals, birds and other wildlife. During the summer you’ll hear songbirds and see signs of wildlife all around.
While exploring the trails you’re likely to see deer, squirrels, chipmunks and other small creatures. And you’ll also encounter a few of the wild ponies that live inside of the park.
These ponies help prevent reforestation of the highland balds and have run wild here since 1974. If you see one, do not approach it or feed it. They may bite or kick you if they feel threatened.
Lodging at Grayson Highlands State Park
Grayson Highlands State Park has 2 campgrounds, one specially for equestrian campers, plus a Bunkhouse and 4 Yurts.
The Hickory Ridge Campground, open between May and October, has 36 campsites with electricity and water connections plus another 28 standard campsites.
Each site has a picnic table and fire ring. A modern bathhouse and country store are located nearby.
Group camping is also available in this area, with space for up to 35. These sites are tent-only and do not have electricity or water.
The nearby Bunkhouse sleeps up to 14 in a 2 room trailer with outside deck area. It has 7 bunk beds, a refrigerator, microwave, coffeepot, electric outlets and is climate controlled.
The bunkhouse doesn’t have a bathroom and no linens are provided. It does have 2 picnic tables and a grill outside.
The 4 yurts are also located in this main camping area. Each yurt has a bunk bed that sleeps 3 plus a dining table, chairs, sofa, large wooden deck, 2 picnic tables, a grill and a fire ring.
The yurts do not allow pets, smoking or cooking inside and also do not have electricity, water, heat, air conditioning or linens.
On the other side of the park is the equestrian camping area, Chestnut Hollow Campground.
This campground is close to the horse trails and has stables and parking for trailers and access to pit toilets. These 23 campsites have electricity and water between May and October.
Primitive camping is allowed in this area in March, April and November but there is no water available during these months. When bringing your horse into the park be sure to also carry a negative Coggins Report.
Pets at Grayson Highlands State Park
Pets are allowed inside the park but must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet or in an enclosed area. Please clean up after your pet and do not leave them unattended at any time.
Festivals at Grayson Highlands State Park
There are many local festivals held throughout the year in the neighboring communities. Here are three that take place within the park in the picnic area:
- Wayne Henderson Festival – Third Saturday in June.
- Albert Hash Memorial Festival – Saturday of Labor Day weekend
- Grayson Highlands Fall Festival – Last full weekend in September
Attractions Near Grayson Highlands State Park
If you are visiting Grayson Highlands, consider taking time to check out these nearby attractions:
- Jefferson National Forest
- The Virginia Creeper Trail – A 33.4 mile multi-use trail that begins in Whitetop, about 10 miles from the park, and ends in Abingdon.
- Grayson Highlands General Store & Inn – A general store, gas station, inn, ice cream parlor and restaurant serving southern cooking.
Grayson Highlands State Park
829 Grayson Highland Ln
Mouth of Wilson, VA 24363
Open Daily 8am–10pm
* The Backpackers Lot is open for overnight parking. Reservations are required
* Parking at Massie Gap is limited to 150 vehicles in designated areas only, all others are subject to a fine.
Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Grayson Highlands State Park: