Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail
- Site Contact: 1-888-265-0019 or 540-265-5100, email@example.com
- Site Access: Daily, sunrise-sunset; parking fee at Grayson Highlands State Park
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Site MMR08: Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area
Elevation: 5729 ft. From Massie Gap, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and Mount Rogers Spur Trail follow Wilburn Ridge approximately 3.0 miles until reaching the spruce forests characteristic of Virginia's highest peak. The blackberry tangles on the edge of this forest are filled with chestnut-sided warblers and eastern towhees. Once you step into the cool mossy spruce woods you enter an entirely different world. The forest here appears ancient with every limb dripping with mosses and lichens. These same mosses carpet the trail and cushion each step as you slowly climb to the summit of Mt. Rogers. The birds here are very different from the first few miles of the climb. The always-present dark-eyed junco is still here, but the other skulkers in the undergrowth have changed. Winter wren, veery and hermit thrush can be heard twittering from the forest floor, but it takes a patient observer to get decent views of them. The familiar chickadees calling in the trees sound a little hoarser, a little raspier and when they are finally seen, the brownish cast down their side alerts you that these are different. The chickadees on Mt. Rogers are the black-capped from farther north, not the Carolina, which are found at lower elevations throughout the state. Many of Mt. Rogers' other birds are from parts farther north as well. Golden-crowned kinglet, red-breasted nuthatch and red crossbill can all be found regularly at these high elevations, as can magnolia warbler, and hairy woodpecker. Mt. Rogers is also home to one of the highest diversities of salamanders in the world. Aside from the multitude of wildlife, Mt. Rogers' beauty lies in all its moss. A careful observer will find an incredible diversity of tiny plants, mushrooms, and insects on almost any trunk or fallen branch. Look for the intricately patterned wood sorrel and a variety of gallerina mushrooms intermingled within these acres of deep green moss. The peak is marked by a small brass plate embedded in the rock. Those hoping for a view from the top of Virginia's highest peak may be disappointed since, at the summit, one can only see forest in every direction. Fortunately, the amazing views seen from along Wilburn Ridge on the hike up and down more than compensate.
From the entrance gate for Grayson Highlands State Park, continue north 2.7 miles to the Massey Gap parking area. Park here and follow the trail along Wilburn Ridge to Mt. Rogers. The Rhododendron Trail from Massey Gap to the Appalachian Trail is approximately 0.8 miles. From here it is another 4.5-5.0 miles of hiking to the top of Mt. Rogers. (Note: This is a moderate to difficult trail). Services listed below are at Massie Gap only.