Trail Dog Reviews: Jack explores Grayson Highlands

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Grayson Highlands State Park, VA Massie Gap to Mt Rogers and back.Round trip 8.5 miles to 10 depending on which trails.

This run takes a while to get there, but my pawrents love it. They kept talking about these creatures, the miniature horses, while we were driving there. They were hoping we would see some. Not sure what they are, but not really looking forward to “seeing” them.

We wind through the mountains and finally arrive at the Massie Gap parking lot in Grayson Highlands State Park. When we get out the car, these large beasties come toward us; I stay in the car. They are funny looking with all this wild hair and no paws. I guess these are the miniature horses, and I hope they don’t follow us on the trail.

We start at Massie Gap inside of Grayson Highlands State Park. We start by crossing the field and going through the gate to access the Rhododendron Trail for less than a mile. This trail intersects with the Appalachian Trail(AT).

Here, you turn left and travel on the AT southbound. There are open views and rock scrambles that are fun to go over. Some water holes exist in the cracks so it’s a nice spot for me to drink and soak.  More ponies along the way if you are lucky or, in my thoughts, unlucky. There are also large cattle with big horns that I do not want to be skewered with. We pass through the state park and enter into the National Forest. There are views and rock outcroppings along the route. We also pass one of those shelters along the AT and enter the Lewis Fork Wilderness.

After about 1.5 miles through the National Forest, you will come to the signage for the Mt Rogers Spur trail. This is a quick half mile up to the Mt. Rogers Summit at 5,715 feet. This is the only section of the trail that has trees and shade. The trees are spruce and look more like the Pacific Northwest than Southwest Virginia.

The summit is a little uneventful. Even from my height, I know there isn’t a view from the summit. We usually relax a little here, before starting the return trip home. This out and back is a little over 1,400 feet elevation of climb. The distance can vary from 8.5 to 10 miles depending on the different trails that you take through the state park. Not a lot of shade on this route, I have worn the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler and Jet Cooler Vest and it worked well to keep me cooler on these sunny runs.

When we have time, we run the Cabin Creek Trail. The access for this is down the Virginia Horse Trail toward the horse stables to the side of the field at Massie Gap. This is a nice shaded 1.5 mile loop. There are several creek crossings and in the spring a lot of pretty flowers. At the far end of the trail loop is a great waterfall and creek pools. The water is cold, even in August.

Animal Encounter Tips

There are multiple chances for meeting other animals on your trail runs, both domestic and wild.  Most wild animals run from me (oh how I do love to chase the deer and squirrels!). The big ones like black bears in this area are most likely going to run away from you too.  If you see cubs then momma bear is near by and its time to get out of there ASAP! If a bear starts coming towards you then you need to stand your ground and remain calm. Back away slowly and most likely the bear will not come towards you.  If it does charge you then pick your dog up (if you can) and then stand as tall as possible. This will most likely stop the charge. Black bears don’t want to fight you, they are usually just guarding food, territory or young when they are charging or swiping the ground.  

Unfortunately, it’s domestic animals that bug me the most and interrupt my trail runs.  I just like to run. I don’t really care about the barking/growling dog coming toward me; I just want to keep going down the trail. 

My human has a few points for these dog to dog interactions.

  • If you can’t control your pooch on a leash, then you need to consider a harness (Ruffwear) and or a head halter (Gentle leader).
  • If you have a dog that is barking at other animals on the trail you need to remove that dog from the trail.
  • Dogs on leash are a little more apprehensive and can’t get away. 

This can cause a normally good dog to become aggressive in the tight confines of single track.  If that is your dog then you need to consider giving more space to other dogs and consider tieing a yellow ribbon to your dog’s leash (  

Check out more pictures and adventures on my Instagram @pawsaroundthepeninsula

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