The Appalachian Mountains often get overlooked when people think about epic, hardcore adventures. In fact, the old, eroded Appalachians are so scrunched up with ripples and wrinkles that these micro features create some of the gnarliest, steepest trails and most technical, bullet-hard rock faces in the nation.
Southwest Virginia, like the much of the Appalachian range, contains a lifetime’s worth of extremely tough outdoor adventures that are on par or surpass anything out west. Below you will find seven of the toughest challenges found in Southwest Virginia.
After you push yourself to the limit, head back to Abingdon, Virginia for some well-deserved play time. This artsy little town of 8,000 boasts great restaurants, live music, a brewery, and a variety of overnight options, from rustic cabins to the 4-star Martha Washington Inn & Spa.
1. Summiting Mount Rogers
Standing at 5,729 feet, Mount Rogers is the highest peak in Virginia and the fourth highest peak east of the Mississippi. Hikers follow the Rhododendron Trail and Appalachian Trail, passing through windswept plains with hearty alpine-esque shrubbery and large exposed rock formations, wild ponies, and possible erratic weather.
2. Sport Climbing at Hidden Valley Lake
Hidden Valley is a sandstone crag located just north of Abingdon, Virginia. Although Hidden Valley has a storied past going back more than 30 years, it only recently was officially opened to the public. Expect about 200 established single-pitch routes that are mostly clip-ups, but there are a handful of high-quality trad lines as well.
3. Trail Running the Seven Sister Trail
The Seven Sisters Trail, located on Little Walker Mountain, is a hidden gem that packs a huge punch in a relatively short distance. The 4.8-mile ridge trail is aptly named for its seven peaks that it covers. Trail runners looking for a hard hill workout with a heavy dose of backcountry adventure should tackle the Seven Sisters Trail loop.
4. Mountain Biking the Iron Mountain 100k
The Iron Mountain 100k is organized by Shenandoah Mountain Touring, which also hosts the Shenandoah 100, one of the most popular ultra-distance mountain bike races in the nation. The Iron Mountain 100k, although not as big as the Shenandoah 100, is one of the best mountain bike races on the East Coast.
5. Running the Entire Virginia Creeper Trail
The Virginia Creeper Trail is best known as a beginner-friendly rail trail popular with cyclists. However, for hardcore runners out there looking to rack up some serious miles, the 34-mile trail is the perfect challenge
6. Rack Up a 100-Point Day Bouldering in Grayson Highlands State Park!
Grayson Highlands State Park, located within the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, has a lifetime’s worth of established bouldering routes. In fact, there are more than a thousand problems there. No matter how you slice it, this power-endurance day is not an easy task.
Solid session on new lines with perfect weather in GHSP yesterday. Here is one I took of Rick Carpenter on the First Ascent of the beautiful "Wild Betula" #hippytreetribe #tsugalifestyle #graysonhighlandsbouldering #bouldering #appalachianappreciation #crimps @center45climbing @mistymountainthreadworks @scarpana @hatchetcoffee @appalachianmountainbrewery
7. Backpacking 20-miles through Grayson Highlands State Park!
Grayson Highlands State Park will have you hiking through rhododendron tunnels, traversing windswept plains with wild ponies, crossing rocky creeks, and climbing high-elevation knobs. Plan for crazy weather swings and expect cold temperatures at night even in the summer.