East of Damascus in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, the Virginia Highlands Trail is a 67 mile horseback riding route through the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area from Elk Garden to SR94 near the New River. The route combines trails with old forest roads and passes through a couple wilderness areas (no bikes allowed). It is maintained by a local horsemans association and receives heavy equestrian traffic at times.
The western trailhead is at Elk Garden. From Damascus, head east on US58 past Whitetop. Turn left on SR600 for 2 miles. The trailhead parking is on the left.
The eastern trailhead is on SR94 south of Wytheville.
The trail is blazed with orange paint and orange plastic diamonds.
Section 1 (VA 94 to US 21)
Mile 0.0--The trail begins on VA 94 near Ivanhoe, crosses a short section of private land, then climbs to Chestnut Knob at Mile 2.0. Continue along the ridge to tri-county corner. Mile 3.6--Side trail to Raven Cliff Horse Camp. Mile 6.6--Cross VA 602. Mile 8.0--Cross Francis Mill Creek. Climb the hill to the divide on FS Road 14. Hussy Mountain Horse Camp is 1 mile to the left on FS Road 14. Mile 8.4--Climb the hill to Horse Heaven. Follow along the ridge and down hill to FS Road 14. Mile 11.8--Turn right on FS Road 14 and follow it to US 21 at Mile 12.3. Turn right and follow US 21 for 0.2 mile.
Section 2 (US 21 to Sugar Hollow Pond)
Turn left on the horse trail along the West Fork of Dry Run. Mile 12.5--Follow the trail along West Fork and then cross Jones Creek and Kinser Creek. Mile 20.5--Cross Harvel Creek, then VA 798. Trail contours to FS Road 16 at Mile 25.5. Trail contours to Sugar Hollow Pond, ending at Mile 35.0.
Section 3 (Sugar Hollow Pond to VA 16)
Trail follows narrow, rocky blazed path to VA 601. Turn left at Mile 36.0. Trail branches off VA 601 about 100 yards to right to reach VA 16 at Raccoon Branch Campground at Mile 40.0.
Section 4 (VA 16 to Hurricane Campground)
Mile 42.5--Follow Raccoon Branch to its headwaters, then bear left. Mile 44.6--Cross Appalachian Trail, go down the hill to VA 650 at Mile 46.6, turn left, then right at Mile 46.7 onto paved FS Road 84.
Section 5 (Hurricane to Fox Creek Horse Camp)
This section is not a designated horse trail, but is included to connect the east end of the trail with the west end and Fox Creek Horse Camp.
Mile 47.0--Head up graveled FS Road 84. Turn left onto FS Road 828 at Mile 51.0. At the top of Iron Mountain, Mile 52.0, turn left onto yellow-blazed Iron Mountain Trail. Follow it to orange-blazed trail at Mile 55.0. Leave the Iron Mt Trail and descend to VA 741 at Mile 55.5. Turn right at VA 603 and Fox Creek Horse Camp at Mile 56.0.
Section 6 (Fox Creek to Elk Garden)
This is a continuation of the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail.
Cross VA 603 and follow orange blazes to the Scales area between Pine and Stone Mountains, Mile 58.5. Continue to follow the orange blazes from the Scales along an old railroad grade that skirts Grayson Highlands State Park. Mile 61.2--Follow railroad grade into Fraser fir forest. Continue on connecting trails along the slope of Mount Rogers to the open fields of Briar Ridge. Mile 64.2--Cross fields and follow grade to Deep Gap, Mile 65.2. Please note that picnicking, or camping is prohibited at the old Deep Gap Shelter site due to rehabilitation efforts. Continue on the grade to Elk Garden Gap and VA 600 at Mile 77.8.