Grayson Highlands State Park
Updated: Nov 9, 2021
$10 per car entry fee
Hours of operation 8am - 10pm
829 Grayson Highland Lane
Mouth of Wilson, Va 24363
Mountain Vistas, Wild Ponies, Waterfalls, Hiking, Backpacking, Mountain Biking,Horse Back Riding, RV Sites, Camp sites
Free, unapologetically free, is how I would describe being perched upon one of the rocks of the Highlands overlooking vast wilderness. I was first introduced to the Highlands in 2017 when I hiked through on the Appalachian Trail. I have since then went back to the Highlands a dozen times, taking anyone that is willing to go. Whether it is camping or hiking, I've never once been disappointed. My only disappointment as a I romp around through the highlands, like one of the wild little ponies, is that I didn't discover it much sooner. It is my hope to share everything I know and to encourage you to get there and experience one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.
"It Ain't Like the Rest of Virginia"
The Highlands are unlike any portion of Virginia that I have ever seen. In fact, it's vastly different from places I've been to in the tri-state area, Va, Ky, and Tn. The Highlands, with its jagged, rocky outcrops, bold evergreens, and rolling balds, give way to lush mountains and wild ponies. It reminds me of land more out west than here in the southwest of Virginia. It's as if God Himself took His little pinky finger and poked on a map and decided to make this one area unique to all that surrounds it. I cannot stress this enough, you must GO!! I don't think you'll be disappointed.
*The Bad News*
If there is a downside to the Highlands, I would say that the crowds that gather at Massie Gap would be it. Because it is so beautiful and amazing and the wild ponies are ridiculously adorable and the Appalachian Trail cuts right through it, people flock to the area. There are also scenic horse trails and horse camping areas, which means there's a lot of foot traffic in the area, especially at Massie Gap. It should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway, of course, the further you go from the tourist locations the less crowded it is. If you go early or later in the day, you can weasel around the crowds. This is of course, not to suggest that every every single day is swamped with people. I have been numerous times and only seen a handful of people, other times there have been too many for my unsocial heart.
*The Good News*
The Ponies are the stars of the show and everyone tends to gather in what I describe as a human herd around them. However, there are loads of trails that shoot off in various directions that are fun and challenging and will reward you with picture perfect pristine views for miles. There are also three waterfalls and like the views some of them you'll have to work a little harder to get to. There is a private picnic area, also with view just passed Massie Gap. There are plenty of other locations to go out and enjoy in the park that are away from any crowds in the area. In most circumstances, if you're willing to walk on the trails just a little bit further than everyone else who is there to simply to see the ponies, you'll likely not only see ponies, but cattle and maybe a bear, and hear the whippoorwills and the hoot owls. Stay on the path but go that extra mile, it's worth it.
*Things to Do*
Back country camping
Campground camping with electric hookups
Highlands horse trails and horseback camping available
The general store is also a great place to catch a hot meal, a bed, or some supplies. Highlands General Store - 4249 Highlands Pkwy, Mouth of Wilson, VA 24363
As with any adventure, there are always some risks. Make sure you wear proper shoes. The highlands are quite rocky and the terrain can be quite rough on your feet, so proper shoes are a must. Also, good tread provides stability to help prevent falls. Always keep pets on a leash, and remember there are bears and ponies. While most people are fearful of bears, it is the ponies, however, you are more likely to encounter, and they can be rotten-tail. The last time I visited the Highlands, the rangers were everywhere because someone had just been kicked, and yes, they also bite. Due to this reason, petting ponies is discouraged, and absolutely do not stand behind the ponies! They are wild ponies! It's also important to note, the weather in the Highlands changes very rapidly, so it is wise to bring extra snacks, water, and clothes.
Now go fourth and enjoy your trip to the Highlands!
As always guys, keep it safe, keep cool, and stay curious.
(Information taken from their official page)
8 a.m. - 10 p.m.
The park is on U.S. 58, midway between Independence and Damascus and is reached from I-81 at Exit 45 in Marion; turn south on Route 16 and travel 24 miles to US 58 in the community of Volney. Turn right onto US 58. Travel eight miles to the park's entrance. Latitude, 36.628322. Longitude, -81.496889.
From I-77, take Hillsville Exit 14 to U.S. 58. Travel west on U.S. 58, 40 miles to Volney. Turn left to stay on U.S. 58 and go eight miles to the park entrance.
Its address is 829 Grayson Highland Lane, Mouth of Wilson, VA 24363; Latitude, 36.628322. Longitude, -81.496889.
Northern Va., 6.5 hours; Richmond, 5.5 hours; Tidewater, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, 7.5 hours; Roanoke, 2.5 hours; Winston-Salem, 1.5 hours; Charlotte, 1.5 hours; Raleigh, 4 hours
4,502 acres. Various elevation: Entrance - 3,698 feet; Visitor Center - 4,953 feet; Little Pinnacle - 5,089 feet.
As always, keep it safe, keep it cool, and stay curious.