Virginia’s pristine tracts of wild lands are home to crashing waterfalls, sweeping views and historic highlights. These destinations also include a wealth of awesome campsites to pitch your tent and relax.
The state offers backpacking trips that range in length and difficulty from short day hikes to multi day backpacking adventures. Here’s a look at 10 unforgettable backpacking trips in Virginia to get you started.
Best Times and Places to Go
If you’re looking to get out into the wild for a multi day backpacking trip in Virginia, there are plenty of options. From rhododendron thickets to rushing streams and wide-open meadows, the state is filled with backpacking destinations that will satisfy every outdoor enthusiast.
When it comes to finding the perfect spot for a multi day backpacking trip, there are a few things you should know. These include the best times to visit, what to pack, and how to prepare.
For starters, the most popular times to visit Shenandoah National Park are summer and fall, when temperatures are high and trails are crowded with hikers. This can make it hard to get a good spot on the trail.
Another option is to travel during the winter when the weather is much cooler and the trail is less crowded. This is also a great time to see wildlife, such as black bears.
During these months, it’s important to make noise as you hike and be sure to carry a bear spray. This will help keep the bears away from you and your food.
You should also take note of the weather, as colder months can be a bit more challenging for backpackers. It is recommended to bring a jacket and gloves, as well as a rain jacket.
It is also a good idea to check the weather forecast before you plan your hike so that you can decide whether or not to go. This will help you avoid getting stuck on the side of a mountain when it’s too cold to walk or ride a bike.
If you’re a beginner, then it is recommended to try out short overnight trips before going on longer multi day backpacking trips. This way, you can get a feel for the terrain and how to handle it without being overly tired or frustrated.
There are many different backpacking trips available in Virginia, so it’s important to choose the right one for your needs. For example, if you are planning to go on an overnight trip, then you should choose a destination that has a lot of different features, so you can have more variety while hiking.
Elevations of Peaks
Virginia is a mountainous state, and that means it’s home to many peaks with incredible views stretching to the horizon. Hiking these peaks is one of the best ways to appreciate their beauty, as well as to see some of the country’s most spectacular sights.
Whether you’re an experienced hiker or new to backpacking, there are a variety of peaks in Virginia with breathtaking views that will satisfy your appetite for adventure and challenge. These hikes range from short and easy day trips to longer overnights, with a wide array of terrain, trails, and viewpoints to suit your interests.
From Shenandoah National Park to High Knob Tower, Virginia offers a multitude of peaks with 360-degree views that can be enjoyed from atop these summits. From Mary’s Rock, a naked rock mantle stretches to the sky; from High Knob Tower in Southwest Virginia, you can peer across the Clinch River Valley and beyond to 4 other states (Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, and West Virginia).
Another example of a hike with 360-degree views is Humpback Rocks, where the rocky outcrops offer a vista of Carter Farm. You can also look down over Shenandoah National Park, the spine of which stretches to the horizon.
You can also reach the highest point on the Appalachian Trail with a visit to Chestnut Knob. This lesser-trod section of the AT allows you to climb a little over 4,000 feet to the open grassy summit, where you’ll be rewarded with a view of Burkes Garden and the crest of Chestnut Ridge.
Finally, a visit to Dragon’s Tooth, another of the Triple Crown’s three crowns, will give you the chance to conquer a unique jagged peak, complete with an outcrop of boulders that will be sure to test your wits!
Located in the Carvins Cove Natural Area, this hike is just over 8 miles long and moderately difficult. It’s worth the effort for the stunning view of the Carvins Cove, Roanoke, and Blue Ridge Parkway ridgelines. You’ll also get to experience a maze of slender paths running between, around, and under huge sandstone monoliths that are called The Channels.
Water Sources Along the Way
Whether you’re hiking along the Appalachian Trail or taking a trip on one of Virginia’s many trails, water sources are key to avoiding dehydration. The state has abundant natural springs, streams and other sources of freshwater. However, some of these natural sources are unprotected and can be contaminated with pathogens such as bacteria and viruses that can cause diarrhea and stomach cramps.
To help hikers find the right water source for their needs, the Virginia Department of Health maintains a list of reliable sources in its Outdoor Guide. The water in these sources is safe to drink, but it must be treated before use for drinking, cooking, food preparation, handwashing or washing dishes.
There are also a few shelters with water, and these can be a great alternative to camping in a tent. They often have a fire pit, a privy and are near a reliable water source.
For example, the Mau-Har Trail follows Campbell Creek, which provides a constant water source throughout the day (may not be available year-round). Both Maupin Field Shelter and Harpers Creek Shelter have piped springs in front of them.
Hikers should plan accordingly and fill their bottles before heading out on a long trail, as these sources may dry up during late summer or early fall. The Three Ridges Loop, a popular route, features numerous small waterfalls and swimming holes as well as primitive campsites along the way.
Another good option is the Appalachian Trail and some other footpaths that form a loop in western Virginia. The trail passes through the Blue Ridge Mountains and offers hikers an opportunity to conquer three of the region’s most beautiful overlooks – McAfee Knob, Tinker Cliffs and Dragon’s Tooth.
While the Blue Ridge Mountain range is a major attraction of this area, it can be a challenging place to backpack. This section of the Appalachian Trail passes through some of Virginia’s highest elevations and includes a variety of steep climbs.
Fortunately, the peaks and ledges in this part of Virginia are protected by the National Park Service, meaning that most of the water in the Park is clean and safe to drink. The rocky, steep terrain makes for long days on the Trail, so hikers should pack plenty of water to keep them hydrated while they’re in the woods.
Gear That Hikers Should Bring
If you’re looking to experience a multi day backpacking trip in Virginia, you’ll want to make sure you have all the essential gear you need. This will ensure you have a comfortable time on your trip and that you have everything you need to stay safe and healthy.
When choosing gear, think about how long your backpacking trip is going to be and the weather conditions that you are likely to encounter. This will help you determine how much clothing, gear, food and water you need to bring on your trip.
For longer trips, you’ll need more than one set of clothes to wear during the day and a separate set that you will wear to sleep in. This will allow you to wash and dry your clothing and change into a different pair as needed.
Another essential for multi day backpacking trips is a tent or bivy sack. These items will protect you from the elements while on your trip and also provide you with a place to rest your head after a long hike.
You may also want to carry a raincoat or rain cover for your pack if the weather forecast calls for heavy precipitation. This will prevent you from having to lug around a wet backpack and it can be especially helpful when hiking in the mountains where it’s possible for afternoon showers to fall on your hiking trip.
It’s also a good idea to have a few emergency items in your backpack, such as biodegradable soap, a first aid kit, waterless hand cleaner and a cigarette lighter or fire starter sticks. These items will help you stay clean and healthy on your backpacking trip, and they won’t take up too much space in your pack.
The smallest but most important item you should have in your backpack is a compass. This will give you the ability to orient your topo map to true north and will save you from getting lost on your hike.
Other essentials for a backpacking trip include sunscreen, insect repellent, and sun hats. These will help you avoid being bitten by insects and they’ll also help to keep your skin from getting damaged.