It’s been called one of the Best State Parks in the South by Southern Living. With its alpine-like peaks, scenic vistas, and herd of photogenic wild ponies, Grayson Highlands State Park is perennially popular with visitors.
Camp overnight or take a short stroll from the Welcome Center, and see why Grayson Highlands State Park is one of the most popular in Virginia.
If you’re looking to satisfy your craving for wilderness and adventure, Grayson Highlands State Park has views, trails, wild ponies, bouldering, fly fishing and the Appalachian Trail to scratch that itch. At elevations of 5,000 ft, Grayson Highlands offers stunning views above the tree line that make you feel like you’re on top of the world. Hiking options range in difficulty, offering the thrill of the summit for enthusiastic and less experienced hikers alike.
Getting to Grayson Highlands State Park
Smyth County is your gateway to Grayson Highlands, with a direct route through Chilhowie at Exit 35. This scenic drive passes by overlooks and unique rock formations, with delightful views before you even enter the park! Once you arrive, remember to stop at the Ranger’s Station, where there is a $10 fee per car, as well as maps and hiking guides. Remember to check the weather and prepare for temperatures 15-20 degrees colder than at the base of the mountain and gusty winds at times.
Where to Hike at Grayson Highlands State Park
There are dozens of trails located in the park, each with their own character and hidden adventure. For an easy hike with stunning views, consider hiking the Twin Pinnacles trail, located just behind the Visitor’s Center. An easy 1.6 mile loop, you’ll have the chance to stop at both pinnacles to enjoy the view that overlooks Massie Gap and the summit of the tallest peak in Virginia: Mount Rogers. At 5,729 feet above sea level, Mount Rogers is believed to have once been an active volcano millions of years ago. But don’t let the names fool you, the Little Pinnacle is actually higher in elevation than the Big Pinnacle.
While hiking up to Little Pinnacle, keep your eye out for the ‘Magic Tree’. The massive tree – with roots wrapped around and through a boulder – looks like an image from a fairy tale. The Big Pinnacle is especially lovely to watch a sunset from. This hike is family friendly, and provides great photo opportunities. After you finish this short hike, stop into the Visitor’s Center for an ice pop and some great educational exhibits.
Hike to See the Grayson Highlands Wild Ponies
The wild ponies at Grayson Highlands State Park are not to be missed while you’re visiting Smyth County. Introduced by the Forest Service in 1974 to graze down vegetation that would overgrow the meadow-like balds, the ponies and long-horn cattle are the stars of the park. For your best chance at catching a glimpse of the ponies, start your hike at the Rhododendron Trail and up the AT. This is a moderate 2.5 mile out and back hike. You’ll encounter outcroppings of massive rocks, sweeping views and, if you’re traveling in the first few weeks of June, blooming Rhododendron. Please remember, the ponies are wild – do not feed them, or approach them. Enjoy their majesty from a distance to protect them and yourself from injury. And as always, while hiking, practice Leave No Trace.
Waterfalls in Grayson Highlands State Park
There are 3 waterfalls located within the park’s limits. The short-and-sweet Cabin Creek Trail is a 1.8 mile ramble, taking visitors along the river path, framed by rhododendron and mountain laurel, with a 25-foot waterfall as your reward. When the creek is running high, Upper Cabin Creek Falls and the Wilson Creek falls are also great options.
Fishing at Grayson Highlands State Park
Anglers have nearly 10 miles of wild trout streams to choose from within Grayson Highlands State Park. Native brook and wild rainbow trout swim in the cool mountain waters, surrounded by breathtaking scenery. When fishing in the park, you must have all required state fishing licences and use single hooks and artificial lures.
Where to Stay in Grayson Highlands State Park
There are several options for camping or lodging at Grayson Highlands State Park. There over 80 campsites to choose from, including options for equestrian campsites with horse stalls. Additionally, there are options for reserving a bunkhouse and even glamping accommodations, with 4 yurts available at the park. These options fill up fast, so be prepared to book early when openings are made available in January.
If you’ve had your fill of outdoor activity for the day, Smyth County makes the perfect base camp for your outdoor adventures. Choose your preferred stay, from familiar hotel options, to boutique hotels like the General Francis Marion, and unique stays at our various Air BnBs.