Overnight Camping Closure - Mt. Rogers High Country
(Revised 8/30/2018) Due to increased bear activity, approximately 17 miles of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, Grayson Highlands State Park, and surrounding National Forest lands are closed to overnight camping until further notice. This closure order affects the A.T. between Elk Garden/VA-600 and Fox Creek/VA-603, including the three A.T. shelters in those 17 miles: Thomas Knob Shelter, Wise Shelter and Old Orchard Shelter.
This closure order only affects overnight camping, the high country is still open for day use. Dispersed camping is allowed on USFS lands south of Elk Garden/VA-600 and north of Fox Creek/VA-603. Hikers wishing to camp near the southern end of the closure area should look for user-created campsites about 2.5 miles south of Elk Garden, near the summit of Whitetop Mountain. For hikers wishing to camp near the northern end of the closure area, the best option is Hurricane Mountain Shelter and nearby campsites, 3 miles north of Fox Creek.
ATC and the Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club recommend these alternatives for A.T. hikers in the Mt. Rogers area:
Shorten the route by hiking the Pine Mountain Trail.
Many years ago, the Pine Mountain Trail was the official route of the A.T. This 2-mile blue-blazed trail intersects the A.T. at Rhododendron Gap (1 mile north of Thomas Knob Shelter) and again 1.7 miles south of Old Orchard Shelter. Following the Pine Mountain Trail instead of the A.T. makes the total distance from Elk Garden to Fox Creek 10.6 miles.
Camp at Hickory Ridge Campground in Grayson Highlands State Park
During the camping closure, Grayson Highlands State Park will allow backpackers to camp at the Hickory Ridge Campground even if the traditional drive-in campsites are full. Hickory Ridge Campground is 1.4 miles from the A.T. near Wise Shelter via the Seed Orchard Trail. Look for the trail junction just north of Wise Shelter, near where Scales Trail and Wilson Creek Trail also join the A.T. The Seed Orchard Trail is as wide as a gravel road, and marked with red blazes.
Arrange for a shuttle.
There are many transportation and lodging services in Damascus and Troutdale which can assist hikers in skipping the closed section, or provide transportation from Massie Gap to alternative lodging options. Refer to the Thru Hikers Companion or other guides for more information.
The Place Hostel -- contact info change
(5/13/18) The Place Hostel contact number has changed. The new number is (276) 608-7283.
Trail has re-opened near Bland/Bastian area; cautions remain
(5/7/18) A 7.3-mile section of the Appalachian Trail that had been closed due to fire between Suiter Rd (VA 615) north to I-77 (near the towns of Bastian and Bland,VA) has re-opened. This is between mile 584.3 and 591.6 from Springer Mountain, Georgia.
Approximately three quarters of a mile of Trail was burned, and the tread-way is unaffected despite being burned over in places. Crews will likely return to the site Monday to monitor. Hikers are advised to stay on the trail and to use caution as trees may be weakened by the fire.
Mt. Rogers – Vehicle break-ins and thefts
(unknown date - Present) The Trail between Damascus and VA Rt. 16 at Mt. Rogers NRA Headquarters has a long history of vehicle break-ins and thefts.