Grayson Highlands State Park Visitor's Guide (2023)

Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains of southwest Virginia, Grayson Highlands State Park offers beautiful vistas, hiking, camping, and many more outdoor activities to enjoy.

Whether you want to go on some challenging hikes, fish in serene trout streams, see the wild ponies, or just relax around the campsite, Grayson Highlands has something to offer for any nature lover.

Grayson Highlands State Park is located near Whitetop Mountain and Mount Rogers, which are Virginia’s two highest peaks at over 5000 feet above sea level.

With a bit of preparation and planning, a trip to Grayson Highlands will surely be one to remember.

Follow our visitor’s guide below for everything you need to know from fees, things to do, and what to expect on your visit to Grayson Highlands State Park.

[Want to see more? Explore some of thebest Virginia State Parksin our full guide.]

Entrance Fees

As part of Virginia’s state park system, fees are to be expected. Grayson Highlands State Park’s fee rate will vary by season and day of the week. The peak season for visitors at Grayson Highlands is late spring-early fall.

During most of the year, admission fees for Grayson Highlands State Park are $7 on weekdays and $10 on weekends.

An annual pass for Virginia’s state parks can be acquired through the state’s website for $85 per year, which covers all admission and parking fees for all of Virginia’s state parks.

Camping fees also vary by type and season. Standard campsites are $25 per night, Electric and water sites are $35 per night, Yurts are $75 per night and bunkhouses are $92 per night.

Non-Virginia residents will have to pay a slightly higher fee for campsites, which is an additional $3-5 depending on the type of accommodation.

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Things to Do in Grayson Highlands State Park

Hiking & Mountain Biking Trails

Grayson Highlands State Park hosts many miles of hiking and mountain biking trails for all different skill levels.

While some trails are beginner-friendly, many of the trails available at Grayson Highlands are moderate or difficult in rating due to high elevation gains.

Cabin Creek Trail is a 1.51-mile loop trail that brings you to the scenic Cabin Creek waterfall. Although one of the more difficult trails, the picturesque waterfall is well worth the challenge.

The Twin Pinnacles Trail is a 1.33-mile loop trail that offers one of the best views in the entire park. The Twin Pinnacles are the highest peaks at Grayson Highlands, so you can see views of mountain peaks all the way to neighboring North Carolina on clear days.

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Another popular hiking trail, the Listening Rick Trail is an advanced hike to the storied peak known as the listening rock.

As legend has it, early farmers in the region used to go to the peak of listening rock to listen for cowbells in order to locate the whereabouts of their roaming cattle herds.

Three designated mountain biking trails, Seed Orchard Road (1.21 miles), Upchurch Road (3.07 miles), and Wilburn Branch (0.94 miles) offer moderate – difficult riding trails for thrill-seeking mountain bikers. Bike rentals are available through local retailers in nearby towns.

Wild Horses

The wild horses or ponies that roam Grayson Highlands State Park are one of the reasons the park attracts so many visitors.

Back in the 1970s, ponies were released in Grayson Highlands State Park as a means to conserve the bald mountain highlands. The ponies’ natural grazing habits keep the ridge tops clear of overgrowth.

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While the wild ponies are accustomed to people and won’t run away from you, it’s advised that visitors DO NOT approach, pet, or feed the ponies. While they’re mostly docile, the ponies are still wild animals, and feeding them human foods will harm their health.

It’s best to admire the ponies from a distance and not bring forth any unnecessary conflict or stress on the animals.

Climbing

Grayson Highland State Park offers truly unique climbing and bouldering opportunities uncommon in the southeastern United States.

Summertime is ideal for climbing at Grayson Highlands due to comfortable temperatures and calm winds. Other seasons may not be suitable for climbing because of strong winds.

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Climbers are encouraged to register with the park office and understand the inherent risks of rock climbing. Leave No Trace ethics also apply to climbing at Grayson Highlands so hammering or chipping rocks is not permitted.

Fishing

For fishing enthusiasts, Grayson Highlands State Park offers nearly 10 miles of wild trout streams. A valid Virginia fishing license is required, and a Virginia trout license may also apply. Check Virginia’s fishing regulations before you go via dwr.virginia.gov/fishing.

Streams within Grayson Highlands host healthy populations of wild native brook trout and wild or stocked rainbow trout.

All of the trout streams within Grayson Highlands are designated as special regulation trout streams. Only single hook flies and lures may be used and trout under 9 inches must be released.

Camping in Grayson Highlands State Park

A total of 89 different campsites are available at Grayson Highlands State Park.

Campsites can be reserved online through reservevaparks.com or by calling 1-800-933-PARK and campers must reserve campsites prior to arrival.

Tent/RV Camping

The Hickory Ridge campground where most of the campsites are located includes amenities such as a camp store, bathhouses, and picnic areas.

Standard campsites are available at the lowest costs for tent camping. Standard campsites come with a fire ring and picnic table, but do not have electric or water hookups. Nightly rates for standard campsites are $25 for Virginia residents and $30 for non-residents.

Electric and Water (E/W) campsites are also available for camper trailers and RVs up to 40 feet. Each site is equipped with a 20-amp or 30-amp electric hookup, water hookup, a fire ring, and a picnic table. Nightly rates for E/W sites are $35 for Virginia residents and $40 for non-residents.

Bunkhouses

For larger groups, several bunkhouses (camping lodges) are available for $92 per night for both residents and non-residents.

Bunkhouses at Grayson Highlands require a 2-night minimum and can sleep up to 14 individuals.

Bunkhouses are not equipped with a bathroom or kitchen but do have a refrigerator and microwave.

Yurts

Grayson Highlands also has four yurts available for reservation at $75 per night for both Virginia residents and non-residents. All yurts have a wooden porch and fire ring but do not have running water, bathrooms, or heat/AC.

Located in the Hickory Ridge campground, the yurts are conveniently placed near the bathhouses.

Equestrian Campsites

Equestrian campsites can be reserved for the Chestnut Hollow campground for those bringing trail horses for the same rate as E/W sites. Campsites are equipped with Electric and water hookups, and horse stalls are available for $8-$15 per night depending on the type of stall.

Hay and water buckets for horses are not provided so visitors must bring their own.

Additionally, group camping is available through a special use permit for up to 35 campers. Contact the park office for details on how to obtain a group camping permit.

Grayson Highlands State Park Weather

Weather conditions at Grayson Highlands State Park are typically comfortable during the peak summer season. Average summer temperatures are 71 F with winter temperatures averaging 35 F.

Due to high elevations, average temperatures in Grayson Highlands are slightly cooler, but a wide range of weather conditions are possible. Prepare for all weather possibilities to include occasional rain, cool nights, and possible high winds.

Temperatures can be quite hot during the summer, especially on the bald mountain ridge tops where shade is limited. Make sure to bring plenty of water on hikes to avoid overheating and dehydration.

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Grayson Highlands State Park FAQ

Can you pet the wild ponies at Grayson Highlands State Park?

NO. Visitors are encouraged to give the ponies space and to not approach or pet them. The ponies are wild and may bite or kick if frightened.

Is camping available at Grayson Highlands State Park?

Yes, camping is available at Grayson Highlands State Park. Accommodations include standard non-electric campsites, electric and water campsites, camping lounges (bunkhouses), and yurts. Fees vary by site.

Can you backpack in Grayson Highlands State Park?

Backpackers may hike through Grayson Highlands State Park, but backpack camping is not permitted unless in the developed campgrounds with a reservation.

Backpackers may camp in the adjacent Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and can park in the designated backpackers parking lot. A reservation is required for the backpacker’s parking lot.

Are the hiking trails at Grayson Highlands State Park difficult?

Grayson Highlands offers hiking trails for all skill levels. Due to high elevation gain and limited shade on the ridge tops, many of the hiking trails at Grayson Highlands are a moderate – difficult rating and may not be beginner-friendly.

Visitors looking for an easier hike should use the Haw Flats trail (0.62 miles) near the park office.

Is Grayson Highlands State Park Dog Friendly?

Yes, Grayson Highlands State Park is dog friendly.

Dogs are permitted at all Virginia state parks but must be restrained by a leash no more than 6 feet long at all times. Visitors are reminded to practice leave no trace ethics and clean up after their dogs.

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