How to Beat the Virginia Blues
Virginia has 556.2 miles in it. Being over a quarter of the trail, it has the potential to feel endless. This yearning to get out of endless Virginia has been dubbed the Virginia Blues. And, if you’re counting down states, then you’re probably going to feel the blues at what might seem like a lack of progress.
But it’s a sham! With a little bit of a different mind-set the Virginia Blues are beyond beatable. I loved Virginia (except for maybe the Roller Coaster). It’s natural to be looking toward the next big thing you’re going to hit on trail, but instead of looking toward the next state, look toward the next awesome thing you’re going to hit in Virginia. And there are plenty. Here are my suggestions on what to look forward to and you walk through this long state.
Grayson Highlands State Park
You don’t have to wait long before hitting your first big thing in Virginia. Just over 35 miles into the state you walk through the gorgeous Grayson Highlands State Park, which is known for its wild ponies that are comfortable around hikers and will walk right up to you. You’re technically not supposed to pet the ponies, but it’s hard to avoid it when they start playing with your pack and licking you. They have long since learned that hikers’ sweaty, salty skin is tasty. The ponies roam where they please, so you’re likely to see them before you hit the park and after you leave it. I easily saw a few dozen ponies over two days.
The park itself and surrounding area is beautiful. It’s something to look forward to even without the added benefit of a pony shower.
Mile 548 (2019 mileage)
Just a hop, skip, and a jump past the state park you hit the quarter-way point. While there isn’t much there other than regular trail, it’s something to be celebrated.
Woods Hole Hostel
Now this one might seem like an odd choice. It’s about a half mile off trail and not something that every hiker passes through. But I highly recommend it. Not as a great place to stay (although it is) but as an actual AT experience that should be had. The hostel embodies so much of the Appalachian Trail, which is impressive given that the trail is about walking and traveling and experiencing, and the hostel is stationary. But it’s there and you can feel it. There are community meals and the hikers volunteer to help cook and clean up. Much of the food is grown right there on property and the animals are housed there. There are free daily yoga and meditation if you choose to participate. There is also something called the “hiker jar” for hikers who are strapped for cash. Whenever the owner gets tipped the money goes into the jar and she doesn’t receive it until a hiker comes along that really needs it and can put it toward their stay. In another setting, in this greedy world, this setup would never work. But at Woods Hole, it does. It is a special place on the trail.
This one is a no-brainer. McAfee Knob is the most photographed spot on the trail. After hitting it in bad weather I hiked it a second time to properly see it. It sits in between Dragon’s Tooth and Tinker Cliffs, and the three views make up what’s called the Virginia Triple Crown.
Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park was absolutely amazing. It has the well-groomed trails that national parks tend to have, plentiful and beautiful views, and camp stores or waysides right along the trail to feed your hiker hunger if you so choose. The wildlife was plentiful and, if you haven’t had the opportunity to see a bear before now, you will likely see at least one within the park. All of the bears I have seen have been in or just outside the park.
Just a mere 55 miles and one Roller Coaster ride later you’ve officially hiked Virginia and are just a couple of miles from Harpers Ferry, where you get your halfway picture taken at the ATC.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.