Mount Rogers Loop
Basics — Distance: Around 15 miles; Difficulty: Strenuous; Carpool: Roanoke Valley hikers meet at the Exit 140 Park & Ride ready to depart at 7:30 AM, New River Valley hikers meet at the Christiansburg Park & Ride at 8:00 AM; Carpool Fee: $12.50 per rider; What to Bring: Basic hiking gear and lunch. Trekking poles are recommended if you have trouble with rocks and uneven terrain.
Detailed Description — This is a bit of a cobbled-together loop through Mount Rogers but it hits a lot of the highlights of the area. We will park at a small parking area near the Mt. Rogers Trail and start out on the Mt. Rogers Trail with a gradual climb uphill. After about 4.25 miles we join the AT which we will follow for 2 miles.
At the top of the mountain there will be an opportunity to take about an optional 1-mile long side trail up to the summit for anyone interested. While there are no views at the summit, it is the tallest point in VA and the forest leading up to it is amazing.
After the summit we will continue along the AT for another mile before splitting off onto the Crest Trail. The Crest Trail itself will come within a few hundred feet of the Cliffside Trail. We will hop over to the Cliffside trail for a few hundred feet before it leads to the woods. We will follow the Cliffside trail down the mountain across about a mile of cobble. While downhill, this is probably the most frustrating part of the trip.
After the cobble we hit an old rail grade portion of the trail and join the Fairwood Valley Trail. This is a rather nice trail with few hikers though it can get flooded in wet spells. This trail leads us back to the road where, if we continue on the trail, we cross a pasture and walk the final miles down a gravel road back to the back of the parking area.
I have always seen ponies on this hike and have frequently seen cattle. For me, the views of the forest, valley and the diverse environments make the trip worthwhile. There are no extremely steep points on the trip but there is a constant climb to get to the top and the cobble slope back down can be a bit rough on the knees.