Outdoor lovers have endless options to explore in Southwest Virginia – you could visit Smyth County every year and find new things to do on every trip. Southwest Virginia’s state parks, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, national forest, boulders, and iconic trails will keep you and your family busy with thrilling adventures.
The Best Hiking in Virginia
Smyth County is your gateway to the best hiking opportunities in Virginia. Explore over 500 miles of trails in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. With more than 60 miles of the Appalachian Trail, and 67 miles of the Virginia Highland Horse Trail, a million visitors come to Mount Rogers every year to experience the majesty of Virginia’s biodiversity and incredible scenery.
Nature lovers are immersed in the great outdoors at Grayson Highlands State Park, with easy access from Smyth County Virginia. Many visitors come to get a glimpse of the state park’s wild ponies, but stay for the sweeping alpine vistas and incredible diversity of scenery. Hiking here ranges from easy to difficult, with plenty of moderate trails for families. Boulders and rhododendron tunnels create a natural playground on these trails to your kids’ delight.
While Southwest Virginia’s most popular hiking destinations are not to be missed, we have plenty of places off the beaten path that will take your breath away. For the less traveled trail hikes, we suggest accessing the Iron Mountain Trail from Skull’s Gap Overlook. This trail was once a portion of the famous Appalachian Trail before it was re-routed to the south, and offers greens in every hue in an enchanted forest landscape, as well as creek-crossings and plenty of side trails to explore.
Rock Climbing in Southwest Virginia
With clusters of exposed boulders, Grayson Highlands is unlike many other bouldering experiences in the Southeast. With over 1,000 listed boulder problems in Grayson Highlands, many of them are heavily shaded, which makes this rock climbing adventure accessible through the summer without worrying about muggy weather…and sweaty palms! Every bouldering location is different, offering rock climbers a nice selection of highball problems and variation.
An easy drive to the north from Smyth County, Hidden Valley Lake is home to world-class rock climbing adventures. Renowned for the rope-climbing ascents, the climbing at Hidden Valley also includes bouldering problems – so pack your climbing pads and give those rock-climbing fingers a work out!
If you’re visiting Smyth County for a few days or longer, schedule a day trip to Breaks Interstate Park for bouldering, sport climbing and trad climbing adventures. Climbing access here is fairly newly established, which means you’re likely to have the crag to yourself on your visit. Before climbing here, you must apply for a permit and sign an online waiver.
Horse Adventures in Smyth County Virginia
Horse lovers won’t want to miss the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail. This 68-mile trail features valley views, mountainous terrain and primitive camping for those who trailer horses. Additional camping options with horse stalls are available at Grayson Highlands State Park. Chase new adventures and majestic scenery from horseback on this fabulous trail, accessible from Elk Garden, just a short drive from Exit 35 in Chilhowie.
If you love horses, but don’t travel with your own, schedule a trail ride with Appalachian Horseback Adventures in nearby Troutdale, VA.
The Best Spots for Water Sports in Virginia
Rocks and trails aren’t the only options for outdoor lovers. On the water, take a leisurely kayak trip around Laurel Bed Lake, one of the most remote lakes in Virginia. This 330-acre lake rests on the top of Clinch Mountain at 3600 feet of elevation. Surrounded by second growth hemlock and mixed hardwoods, Laurel Bed Lake has scenery rivaling that typically found further north at an Adirondack or Canadian natural lake.
Paddling adventures in Smyth County are fun for the whole family! Visit Hungry Mother Lake, where you can rent kayaks, stand up paddleboards and paddle boats. After a hot day in the sun, a refreshing ice cream at the Outpost is a great ending to a summer vacation, and will make memories that last forever.
Anglers have the option to explore the world-class fly fishing opportunities in Smyth County Virginia. Tumbling mountain streams nearby, surrounded by blooming rhododendron and thousands of acres of national forest are the ideal backdrop for fishing. Boat fishing is also available for fishing enthusiasts who are looking to net a trophy smallmouth bass.