Change of trail access policy at Mt Rogers, VA
- Hi all:
Yesterday I took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather, and a
quick trip to the in-laws, to go hiking at Grayson Highland State
Park, which includes the popular Massie Gap AT access to Mt. Rogers.
The main visitor center is closed for winter, but the small visitor
center at the entrance had a notice about a change in winter trail
access. Formerly, the Massie Gap AT access (via the Rhododendron
trail) was open year-round, regardless of weather. Starting this year
(I don't recall any such change last year), from Dec 1 to March 15, if
the temperature is forecasted to go below 15 deg, and/or wind speeds
are forecasted to be above 35 mph, the Massie Gap access will be
closed until conditions improve.
The notice gave the reason for the change as being due to the high
number of rescues required for hiking parties who were vastly
unprepared for the harsh winter conditions common in the Highlands.
In 2005 alone, there were 2 highly publicized rescues, one for a group
of 20 boy scouts from flatland North Carolina who tried to hike Rogers
in the middle of January wearing tennis shoes and lightweight jackets.
Presumably a determined winter hiker could still access Mt Rogers by
hiking the AT northbound from Elk Garden, or using the 13 mile rt Mt.
Rogers Trail which starts on SR 603, or any of a number of longer
hikes. But the Massie Gap route is by far the most scenic.
I didn't find a notice of this change on the Grayson Highlands SP
website. But if you ever find yourself in Virginia in the winter and
would like to a get winter ascent of Rogers, please call the state
park in advance if the weather is at all questionable.