Celebrate National Trails Day in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains – June 1, 2019

Celebrate National Trails Day in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains – June 1, 2019

One of these stunning parks is the perfect destination for National Trails Day this Saturday, June 1, 2019!

Grayson Highlands State Park

Located near Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, Virginia’s two highest mountains, Grayson Highlands offers scenic views of alpine-like peaks more than 5,000 feet high. Facilities include a visitor center, campgrounds, and hiking trails leading to waterfalls and overlooks. 

 

The inhabitants of Grayson Highlands–a herd of wild ponies that roam freely.

The following guided hikes are planned throughout this year’s National Trails Day. 

9 a.m. to 3 p.m. – Hike on the Appalachian Trail to Mt. Rogers, meet at Massie Gap

10 a.m. to 12 p.m. – Trail maintenance on Rhododendron Trail, meet at Massie Gap

4 p.m. to 5 p.m. – Trick Your Stick at the Campground Amphitheater

8 p.m. to 9 p.m. – Salamander Meander at the Visitor Center

https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/grayson-highlands

New River Trail State Park

New River Trail is a 57-mile linear park that follows an abandoned railroad right-of-way. The park parallels the historic New River for 39 miles and the scenery is magnificient. The trail is relatively flat and appropriate for all skill levels. A trail entrance is located in Fries, VA at 323 Firehouse Drive.  From Route 94, go south to town.  Parking is available near the town park.

Untamed beauty along the trail.

https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/new-river-trail

Virginia Creeper Trail

The Virginia Creeper trail is a 34.3-mile rail-to-recreation trail, traversing through two counties from Abingdon, Virginia, through Damascus, and ending just past Whitetop Station in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, at the Virginia-North Carolina border.  Cycling the Creeper Trail is perfect for riders of varying ages and fitness levels due to it’s slight decline.  

To get to the Whitetop Station trailhead, follow US 58 east from Abingdon into Grayson County. Turn right on State Route 726 and head south toward the North Carolina border. You will see the parking area off of 726.

To get to the Abingdon trailhead, head south on Main Street/US 11 in Abingdon and turn left onto Pecan Street. There is a large locomotive engine on display by the trailhead, which you can see to the left of the parking lot.

https://www.vacreepertrail.org/

 

 

Summer Camps in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

Summer Camps in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

If you’re searching for the perfect summer camp for your child that will inspire their curiosity while they’re immersed in a beautiful nature setting, you’ll want to check out the Blue Ridge Discovery Center. Founded in 2008, BRDC, is a non-profit organization dedicated to exploring, discovering and sharing the natural history of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  BRDC currently operates out of Southwest Virginia and Northwest North Carolina. Summer camps are led by highly skilled guides who focus on teaching skills through river expeditions, fly fishing, wilderness discoveries, and ornithology. Please visit their website: http://blueridgediscoverycenter.org/ for a complete list of the 2019 summer camps.

Check out their 2018 New River Expedition here:  https://youtu.be/Pzlnwy4rVNM

The Top 5 Things to Do in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

The Top 5 Things to Do in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

1) Explore the New River

Flowing 160 miles through Virginia, the New River is a true recreation destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The New River is recognized as the second oldest river in the world, (the Nile in Egypt is the first). Its headwaters begin near Blowing Rock, NC and is one of the few rivers in North America that flows northerly. If you’re looking for a peaceful float trip on the water, plan a trip to the New River to venture into some of Virginia’s most beautiful waterfront acreage. The warm waters of the New River offers resourceful anglers the opportunity to catch the smallmouth bass of a lifetime. Fast water and large rock outcroppings are a feature of the New River, creating the perfect habitat for big smallmouth bass and flathead catfish. Several lazy, slow stretches also abound, where you can fish for rock bass near grass beds. The slow waters near the dams along the river will yield big flathead and channel catfish, as well as walleye and smallmouth bass.

2) Go for a Bike Ride

Biking On The New River Trail

The New River Trail parallels 39 miles of the New River. Bikers will experience miles of beautiful scenery along the trail.  The trail contains two tunnels:  135 feet and 193 feet long, and three major bridges, Hiawasee-951 feet, Ivanhoe-670 feet, and Fries Junction-1,089 feet.  The trail is relatively flat and appropriate for all skill levels. Visit New River Trail State Park for additional information.

3) Climb a Mountain

Mount Rogers is the highest natural point in Virginia, with a summit elevation of 5,729 feet above mean sea level.  The Appalachian Trail passes within a half mile of the summit, making it especially popular with hikers.  You may come upon the residents of Mt. Rogers, a herd of more than 100 wild ponies that roam free.

4) Take in a Show

Grayson County VA is rich in musical history and the legacy continues today.  Fries is a proud affiliate of The Crooked Road, a 330 mile driving trail through the mountains of Southwest Virginia that connects nine major venues and over 60 affiliated venues and festivals that visitors can enjoy every day of the year.  Jam sessions can be enjoyed at The Fries Community Center every Thursday night from 6:30 to 9:00 PM.  The world’s oldest and largest Old Fiddler’s Convention is held in Galax, VA the second week of August annually.  Numerous other towns and communities also have music festivals throughout the year.

5) Savor the Local Cuisine

Award winning barbecue can be enjoyed at The Galax Smokehouse, a local institution in Galax VA. See if you can guess the secret ingredient in their delicious banana pudding.  The Smoke On The Mountain Barbecue Championship is held in July each year.

First Day Hike in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

First Day Hike in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

Start 2019 off on a healthy track with a hike on New Year’s Day. An interpretive ranger will be your guide on the Rhododendron Trail as it meanders along the rocks and mountain meadows, or balds, of Wilburn Ridge. The views along the trail are breath taking with snowcapped mountains, and you may even see the local residents, the wild ponies, of Grayson Highlands. This moderate hike will be a total of 2 miles, so be sure to dress warmly, as the highlands experience particularly cold, windy, and sometimes snowy weather during the winter months. You may want to bring a water bottle, snacks, binoculars, a camera, your family, and/or your dog. Parking fees are waived for the day. The first 100 visitors will receive a First Day Hikes bumper sticker. As an added enticement, you can participate in the “New Year Challenge” contest. For additional information please see: http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/blog/virginia-state-parks-first-day-hikes-2019

Date: 01/01/19

Time: 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Parking: Massie Gap Parking Area

About Grayson Highlands

Located near Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, Virginia’s two highest mountains, Grayson Highlands offers scenic views of alpine-like peaks more than 5,000 feet high. Facilities include a visitor center, campgrounds, and hiking trails leading to waterfalls and overlooks. The park hosts a number of outdoor activities including hiking, camping, mountain biking, horseback riding, and backpacking. Scenic horse trails and a horse camping area with electric and water hookups, stables and parking for trailers are available. The park provides year-round access to the Appalachian Trail and the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail.

Park Hours

8 a.m. – 10 p.m

Location

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, 26.628322. 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.

The address of the park is 829 Grayson Highland Lane, Mouth of Wilson, VA 24363; Latitude, 36.628322. Longitude, -81.496889.

Drive time: Northern VA, 6.5 hours; Richmond, 5.5 hours; Tidewater, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, 7.5 hours; Roanoke, 2.5 hours; Winston-Salem, NC, 1.5 hours; Charlotte, 1.5 hours; Raleigh, 4 hours

Park Size

4,502 acres. Various elevation: Entrance – 3,698 feet; Visitor Center – 4,953 feet; Little Pinacle – 5,089 feet.

Summer Concerts at The Blue Ridge Music Center in Galax, VA

Summer Concerts at The Blue Ridge Music Center in Galax, VA

Located at milepost 213 on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Galax, Virginia, The Blue Ridge Music Center is a music venue, museum, and visitor center. The center honors the music and musicians of the Blue Ridge Mountains through concerts, exhibits, and programs that highlight the musical heritage of the Blue Ridge Mountains region. The center was planned when the town of Galax donated 1,000 acres for its development. The center has a state-of-the-art amphitheater and a 17,000-square-foot museum. It was officially established by Congress in 1985. The site is operated through a partnership between the National Park Service and Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.

The Blue Ridge Music Center hosts concerts each summer on Saturdays at its outdoor amphitheater from May through October. The concerts include old-time, bluegrass, folk, Americana, gospel, and country blues performances. Free Midday Mountain Music acoustic sessions featuring local musicians are offered from noon to 4 p.m. daily. The 2018 summer schedule can be viewed here.  http://www.blueridgemusiccenter.org/concerts.htm

The Steep Canyon Rangers, performing on July 14th, is an American bluegrass band from Brevard, North Carolina which formed in 2000. The band has become widely popular since 2009 for collaborating with actor/banjoist Steve Martin. In 2013, the Steep Canyon Rangers’ solo album Nobody Knows You won the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album.

The Roots of American Music exhibit tells the compelling story of the region’s rich music heritage. Visitors can listen to and enjoy music while learning about the development and national significance of this part of Blue Ridge Mountain cultural heritage. This is a state of the art museum exhibit and brings visitors from around the world.  Admission to the museum is free.

If you would like to stretch your legs during your visit to the Music Center, two trails are located on the property. The 1.35 mile High Meadow Trail, an easy stroll, takes you through a hayfield and a wetland with an abundance of wildflowers and birds. It also winds through a forest with a rich display of rhododendron, ferns and rock outcrops. The Fisher Peak Loop is a 2.24 moderate loop. Begin this trail at one of its junctions with the High Meadow Trail. The trail winds up the side of Fisher Peak through a variety of vegetation. At the lower elevation the trail follows a stream through mixed pine and hardwoods. Higher up, the blooms of azaleas, mountain laurel and Catawba rhododendron provide a spectacular display in May. They give way to a diverse second growth forest of oak, poplar, maple and sourwood trees. Look for abundant signs of animal life—woodpecker holes, deer tracks, and turkey dust baths.

Trailhead parking is located on Foothills Road (State Route 612). Follow signs to the Music Center, then turn right onto Foothills Road just before passing through the Music Center gates. Continue 0.5 miles to the parking area. The gates to the Music Center are locked at 5 p.m. so you’re not allowed to leave vehicles in the visitor center parking area later than 5 p.m. It is recommended that hikers park at the trailhead parking area on Foothills Road. The trails are for hiking only. Bicycles, horses and motorized vehicles are prohibited.

Please visit http://blueridgemusiccenter.org/index.htm for additional information.

 

3 Great Places You Must Take Your Camera in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains

 

Blue Ridge Parkway

Winding its way through the heart of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, The Blue Ridge Parkway offers visitors breathtaking views. The Blue Ridge Mountains, famous for their bluish color when seen from a distance, are a nature photographer’s paradise. Mabry Mill, located at mile 176.1, is one of the most photographed spots on the parkway.

Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains

Grayson Highlands State Park

Located in the Jefferson National Forest and near the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, Grayson Highlands State Park offers stunning mountain views and many hiking trails to explore. The park’s most popular residents, a heard of wild ponies, provide plenty of photo opportunities.

Grayson Highlands State Park

New River

The New River, which is actually an ancient river, flows generally northeastward across the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Whether you choose to bike or hike the New River Trail or spend a lazy day boating on the New, you’ll find yourself surrounded by magnificent scenery. During a float trip a few years ago, I was lucky enough to capture a photo of a black bear club splashing in the river.  The historic dam in Fries, Virginia, built in 1901, provides a beautiful backdrop when the red buds are in bloom in the early spring.

New River

New River

Fries Dam