Virginia's Crest Zone: Basking In Moonshine

Pine Mountain and Wilson Ridge command high-country vistas stretching across rock-strewn meadows.
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Pine Mountain and Wilson Ridge command high-country vistas stretching across rock-strewn meadows.

Hiking across the Crest Zone, it's easy to see why the windswept mountain balds of Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area are Virginia's version of Big Sky Country. Big views, high elevation, and a herd of feral ponies grazing in lush meadows give this mid-Atlantic location all the trappings of a Montana wilderness. But it's when the cool, clear air of fall arrives that this place becomes truly unique; that's when it's an ideal spot for worshipping the harvest moon.

With 1,800 wide-open acres, the Crest Zone is the South's largest bald and the best place to watch the moonrise. It now serves as the centerpiece of a hiker's paradise graced with hundreds of miles of trail. My favorite loop rambles 19 miles along the Mt. Rogers, Iron Mountain, and Appalachian Trails. Pine Mountain and Wilson Ridge command high-country vistas stretching across rock-strewn meadows.

Getting There:

Access the Crest Zone near Grindstone Campground, about 6 miles west of Troutdale on Forest Service Road 603.

Prime Time:

This year, the harvest moon will be on September 13, and other full moons will be on October 13 and November 11.

Guides:

Mt. Rogers High Country and Wilderness map ($3.25) is available from the Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area.

Contact:

Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area, (540) 783-5196.