3 Days Outdoors in Grayson County

Grayson County is home to Virginia’s highest peak, Mt. Rogers, and one of the world’s oldest rivers, the New River. Where else has more to offer for three days outdoors? Get out there!

Day 1: Start your long weekend in the Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area. Located in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, this recreation area has over 500 miles of trails for horseback riding, cross-country skiing, or hiking, 191,000 acres of pristine mountain views, 7 campgrounds, 2 lakes, and lots of wildlife viewing (depending on the season, you might just spot a bear!). Just off highway 16 is one of the most manageable sections of the Appalachian Trail for a half day hike. This stretch of the trail allows you to park at Elk Garden and hike to Buzzard Rock at the top of White Top Mountain for spectacular 360 degree views.

Would you rather bring the horses? In this same area is Virginia Highlands Horse Trail with it’s 60 plus miles of mountainous trails, spectacular mountain views, and valley crossings. Primitive camping is available for those who trailer their horses.

Maybe you’ve had enough of roughing it for one day. Many cabins from rustic to luxurious can be rented in western Grayson County. If you are looking for a more rustic experience, check out Rocky Hollow Horse Camp. There are two beautiful cabins and 42 camp sites. This is the perfect place to stay if you brought the horses; there is a 38 stall barn and access to horse trails in Mt. Rogers Recreation Area is easy.

Looking for a little more glamour? Check out Rugby Creek Cabins. Seclusion and serenity abound at these cabins between Grayson Highlands and Mt. Rogers Recreational Area. You can sit out on the porch and enjoy views for miles or soak in the hot tub.

It’s time for dinner! Sarah’s Fox Creek General Store is THE place to eat in Grayson County on Friday nights! Sarah loves to cook! She’s worked in restaurants most of her life, so her Friday night menus are favorite recipes she’s collected over the years — shrimp and grits, salmon, jerk chicken. She serves beer and wine along with her home-baked goods. Seating is limited so meals are available to go. Check out her Facebook page to see what she’s serving! She also serves breakfast and sandwiches for lunch. You never know who you’ll run into at Sarah’s; Grayson’s favorite musicians love her food!

View from Grayson Highlands State park. Photo credit: James Hoffman

Day 2: See the wild ponies at Grayson Highlands State Park, the most visited state park in Virginia! My favorite Trail in Grayson Highlands State Park is the Massey Gap. The main reason? Not long after you park and start your hike, you will most likely see…THE WILD PONIES! OK, they’re really feral, and many people pet them even though you’re told NOT to.(Really, they look innocent and sweet but have been known to kick or bite. It’s best for you and them to give them some space.) You might even get to see the main stallion, Fabio. Just one look at his photo, and you’ll see where he got his name! After spending some time observing the ponies, you can continue the roughly 9 mile (out and back) trail all the way to Mt. Rogers summit. BE PREPARED for this hike. Start out early; it will take a while. Bring water and snacks and dress in layers. It’s hard to believe how drastically the temperatures will change during this hike no matter the time of year. Let someone know where you’ve gone; you probably won’t have cell service. Sing,hum, whistle, or wear bells on your boots; you do not want to surprise a bear up here! Along the way are numerous lookout points for some of the best views in the USA!

Maybe you’d rather not grill out because you’re too tired from a full day of hiking. Try the Corner Market Café at the corner of Highway 16 and 58 in Volney. It’s only a few miles outside the park. This restaurant is a favorite of the locals offering comfort food, sandwiches, and even seafood on the weekends!

If you’re camping, Grayson Highlands has a variety of camping options. Be sure and check the website, because camping may not be available during the harshest times of the year. There are primitive campsites all the way to yurts — a cross between a tent and a cabin for luxury in camping! If you choose to rent a cabin, go ahead and book it for two nights since Mt. Rogers Recreation Area and Grayson Highlands State Park are so close together.

Day 3: Enjoy the New River. Don’t be sad because today is the last day of your extended weekend! The best is yet to come– THE NEW RIVER in Fries (pronounced freeze) Virginia. Fries is a quaint, revitalized old mill town with spectacular views of the New River running right through it. Some of the best fishing the area has to offer is right here at the Fries dam.

A day on the river in Fries is not complete without visiting Timmy Dixon at New River Outdoor Adventures. Timmy offers kayak, tube, and bike rentals along with shuttles. Spend the day or a few hours floating on the river or biking on the New River Trail State Park which is adjacent to the New River in Fries. New River Outdoor Adventures offers lots of packages for your entire family to enjoy.

Enjoy a meal with a view at The Café in Fries. They offer daily specials and the freshest salads around! Dine outside or sit by one of the large windows to gaze at the peaceful river below. Take a short walk over to the pride of Fries, Sweet Lily’s Ice Cream and Such. Located in a historic caboose next to the New River Trail, Sweet Lily’s serves up huge scoops of ice cream, sundaes, and banana splits. If you’re really hungry, you have to try the signature “Big Dam Sundae” consisting of chocolate ice cream, nuts, brownies, waffle cones, pineapple, caramel, chocolate, blueberry, whipped cream, and a cherry — a customer favorite.

Didn’t get everything done you wanted to do or see everything you wanted to see? We know! Grayson is a big, beautiful county full of natural beauty, talented artisans, and the best bluegrass and old time music to be found. Stay tuned for more Grayson County 3 Day itineraries to come!