The first time I went was during early summer with my friend Cat. Cat and I went on a ton of adventures when we were living together and working at ESPNU. Cat also gets all the credit for discovering this place and making sure we went. It didn’t take much convincing though. Once I heard there are wild ponies there I was going for sure.
If you haven’t been then you need to add it to the top of your list. This hike is perfect for people who want to hike simply for a day or for those who want to camp. It is driving distance from Charlotte, North Carolina since it is on the border between the two states.
Wild Ponies Along the Rhododendron Trail
When you get to the state park you will go through a guard gate entrance. When you’re there I definitely recommend saying, ‘hi’ to the ranger working and ask if they’ve seen any wild ponies. Sometimes the rangers can pin point which trails they were seen on which is extremely helpful since the ponies are always on the move.
Your best bet to see the ponies is to park at Massie Gap and hike the Rhododendron Trail. It is only about a mile long. It starts at this little gate in a meadow by the parking lot. Once you enter the gate you hike upward until you reach a clearing. You see mountains on all sides of you and it is breathtaking. The Park in general offers views of peaks topping 5,000 feet high. It has access to the highest point in Virginia and provides access to the Appalachian Trail.
When you’ve made it to the flat clearing part of Rhododendron Trail that is typically where I have seen the ponies. They are usually grazing and rolling around in the grass. It is prohibited to feed them or pet them, but a warning: if you have food in your backpack they will get curious and come up to you. I even had a foal come and pick up my backpack when it was sitting on the ground, but he quickly put it back.
If you don’t see the ponies in the clearing do not panic! Sometimes you just need to hike further in the distance to find them.
Around the clearing there are various rock formations that you can climb to gain better views of the park. For me I find it one of the easier hikes because it has a lot of flat portions while allowing you amazing vantage points to view the surrounding mountains. I can’t wait to go back with Ross!
This originally appeared on Katie Gillen’s R&K Adventures Blog. Grayson Highlands State Park address is: 829 Grayson Highland Lane, Mouth of Wilson, VA 24363; Latitude, 36.628322. Longitude, -81.496889.