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In six years of hiking, including treks on six continents and speed records on the Long and Appalachian Trails, I’ve seen my share of jawdropping vistas. But when I want a soul-satisfying hike I can count on year in, year out, I always return to this 10-miler in Virginia’s uplands. It has a sky big enough to rival any in Montana, a heavenly blue that arcs over an open grassland with rocky outcroppings laced with rhododendrons in June.
This loop combines creekside rambling, top-of-a-grassy-world views, trailside waterfalls, rhododendron tunnels, blueberry patches, and wild ponies. Step for step, it’s the most rewarding place I’ve ever been. You could exhaust a memory card by mile six, where a sidehike leads to to 20-foot Cabin Creek Falls. Take your time—it’s just four miles back to the trailhead, and it’s best hiked at sunset.
—Jennifer Pharr Davis, as told to Ellie Levitt
PERFECT 10 MILES Link the Horse Trail East, Wilson Creek, Appalachian, Appalachian Spur, and Cabin Creek Trails
MAP Grayson Highlands Trail Guide (free, see Contact)
CONTACT (276) 579-7092; dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/gra.shtml