Delights you'll find in the Whitetop, Virginia area, described below in this blog:
- Interesting and fun festivals
- Miles and miles of hiking trails, most sparsely used
- A superb biking trail
- Views -- panoramic views that go on and on and on
- Horseback riding
- The Crooked Road – Virginia's Musical Heritage Trail
- Feral Ponies
- Your Daily Bread – dining
- Grayson Highlands State Park
Visit the Whitetop Mountain area once, and I promise you'll come back often.The information below provides many alternatives for enjoying your day trip or longer stay.
Mt. Rogers Volunteer Fire Department hosts three fund-raiser festivals each year:
- The Whitetop Mountain Maple Festival
- The Ramps Festival
- The Molasses Festival
THE WHITETOP MOUNTAIN MAPLE FESTIVAL: Occurs: the last full weekend in March.
Begin your morning at Mr. Rogers School with a full breakfast including pancakes [buckwheat and wheat], sausage, eggs, coffee and juice. Drench your pancakes in your choice of the locally produced maple syrup or molasses.
Down the school hall, peruse authentic mountain artists' art and handicrafts.You'll also find maple syrup, molasses, and other local foods for sale.
Address:Mt. Rogers School. 11337 Highlands Parkway, Whitetop, Virginia 24292
Fortified for the morning, at the school you'll find directions to visit the Sugar House [Old Park Road, Whitetop, Virginia, 24292] to see how the sap is reduced to syrup. Visit the Maple Forest to see how the trees are tapped. Visit the Mt. Rogers Fire Hall [511 Firehouse Rd., Whitetop Virginia, 24292] for music, food, and 'more maple syrup fun.'
THE WHITETOP MOUNTAIN RAMP FESTIVAL: Occurs: mid-May.
The organizers say, "A ramp is a wild onion that grows in the mountains around Mt. Rogers and other areas of the Appalachian Mountains. It is known for its strong, pungent flavor and some describe it as 'very hot.'
At the Ramp Festival, the ramp eating contest is the highlight of the day. The winner gains respect by eating ramps at record speeds. Once you have tried a ramp you will never forget the experience. Come out and try a ramp at the Whitetop Mountain Ramp Festival!"
Oldtime music mountain and bluegrass music with dance begin at 11am. Want to try out ramps? A BBQ chicken dinner is offered with fried potatoes and ramps. You'll find a wide choice of home made deserts, as well.
Mountain made arts and crafts will be available, as well as locally made apple butter, molasses, and maple syrup.
"Ramps are a never to be forgotten experience."
Address:Mt. Rogers Fire Hall [511 Firehouse Rd., Whitetop Virginia, 24292]
THE WHITETOP SORGHUM MOLASSES FESTIVAL: Occurs: mid-October.
Mid-October is peak leaf-viewing time.Be sure to bring your camera to this festival as the area will abound with glorious tree colors!
At the festival, enjoy a BBQ chicken dinner with all the fixings and home made deserts. See molasses and apple butter made the old-fashioned way. Dance to the mountain and bluegrass music. Mountain made arts and crafts will be available for purchase, as will locally made apple butter, molasses, and maple syrup.
The Festivals are great fun – a pleasure in and of themselves. You certainly may want to enjoy them just for themselves. You may also want to combine your day with the many fun adventures the area offers, that, as well, can be your sole destination for the day.
GRAYSTON HIGHLANDS FALL FESTIVAL: Grayson Highlands State Park offers fun events throughout the year. Their Fall Festival celebrates the old-time pioneer life with exhibits and live demonstrations of pioneer skills. Learn more at:
WHITETOP FOLK FESTIVAL:This is a historical event, no longer occurring, but worth noting. If you drive on Route 60 from Whitetop up to the top of Whitetop Mountain, you'll pass a historical marker telling about it. It occurred for several years around 1930, a tribute to the strong local musical heritage.To learn more about it and see pictures, including the year Eleanor Roosevelt visited:
For historical background:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Top_Folk_Festival
Hike: Drive up State Road 60 to reach the top of Whitetop Mountain. At the very top of the mountain, the Appalachian Trail crosses. At that point are toilet facilities and also a signboard showing the route the App Trail takes both to the east and to the west. Heed the warnings you see there, particularly regarding weather. Then, plan an out and back hike. Hint:head west and you'll find spectacular views. More info:
Hike: Drive east to Grayson Highlands State Park traveling on Hwy 58. I've always enjoyed the drive on Hwy 58, finding it akin to driving the Blue Ridge Parkway with scenic vistas and through pastoral fields, mountainsides, and streams rushing through valleys. I suggest on your first visit to Grayson Highlands that you stop at the visitors center or the camp store and purchase a hiking map. Look at the bottom of this blogpost for full information on what else the Park can offer you, including the possibility of seeing the feral ponies.
Hike: Head into the town of Whitetop, ending at the Whitetop Depot. You'll find parking and the eastern end of the Virginia Creeper Trail.The trail runs downhill 34 miles, ending in Damascus, VA. It follows the roadbed of the Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina train, a 'rails to trails' marvel. Hike out and back, or plan ahead for a ride back to Whitetop on a shuttle service. Visit www.vacreepertrail.com for more information about the interesting history of the trail, shuttle information, and more.Besides hiking, you have the choices of biking the trail or riding your horses.Bring your own bicycles or rent from one of the bicycle shuttle services you'll find on the website…..Everyone I know who's biked the trail once, has come back again and again. It's a special treat, and an easy ride.
Hike: That scratches merely the surface of hiking trails in the area.Visit the website of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/gwj/maps-pubs to find many, many more hiking trails located in the National Forests, plus Forest Service roads, recreation sites, camping areas, wilderness areas, and wild & scenic rivers .Especially helpful is their interactive map at:
Horseback riding: More information on horse back riding and camping with horses in the Whitetop Mountain area is available at:
Camping is available at Grayson Highlands:
and also on Forest Service land:
You'll find some other camping and rentals in the photo gallery immediately below.
If you're not into oldtime mountain music and/or bluegrass, you're likely unaware of the significant musical heritage of this area of southwestern Virginia.It's no small thing that you can experience it at the Whitetop festivals!
This blogpost isn't the place to wax at length on the significance. The tradition continues, homegrown, children learning the music from their relatives. Here's an excellent introduction that also lets you know where else besides the Whitetop festivals you can experience it:
Hwy 58 – the access to the Whitetop Festivals and to Grayson Highlands – is known as The Crooked Road, a path that transverses the areas where the tradition thrives.
Learn more about The Crooked Road at:
Though this takes us further afield than addressed in this blog post, the Blue Ridge Parkway memorialized the tradition by constructing a music center on the Parkway MP 218 near Galax, Virginia.Learn more about the music center at:
THE FERAL PONIES OF GRAYSON HIGHLANDS
Humans have had an association with horses for tens of thousands of years. Maybe I'm biased because I myself experienced the horse crazy stage as a young girl, but I think love of horses is in our human bones. Who, though, I ask, could possibly resist the charm of the feral ponies who live wild in Grayson Highlands State Park?
On Facebook, search for 'the feral ponies of Grayson Highlands' and you'll find several pages devoted to them. Plus, tons of pictures that draw you into their appeal.
Visit the park and you may have the luck of seeing them. They do move freely around the park. Ask someone at the Visitor's Center or the camp store and you'll get an update of where they've been seen on the day you're there.
Here's what I've been told is the best chance of seeing them - and, in fact, is where I've seen them: Enter the park, where you'll pay a day's fee/year's pass. Be sure to ask for a park map, but most likely they'll offer one to you. Drive along Grayson Highland Lane until you come to an open field on your right, parking, and picnic tables at Massie Gap.Park and walk across the field, through a gate, and continue on the hiking trail.
YOUR DAILY BREAD
Hwy 58 in the area between Whitetop, Va, and Grayson Highlands does not offer restaurants. The Whitetop Festivals offer a meal. Still, you may want to bring snacks or a picnic for the other part of your adventures in the area.There are a few alternatives.
There is one gas station, so plan ahead.
On Hwy 58 at the turnoff to downtown Whitetop is the Whitetop Food and Gas [16164 Highlands Pkwy, Whitetop, VA 24292-2479. ].You'll find rest room facilities and an assortment of drinks and snack items.
If you're driving from the Jeffersons/Boone or other places to the south and east, you'll find several interesting restaurants along the way.
In Warrensville, The Whistlestop Café [4969 NC-88, Warrensville, NC 28693.336.384.1222]offers an American menu and one local favorite you won't find an any other restaurant:Chocolate Gravy. Try it! Open Mon-Sat, 6am to 2pm. Search for their page on Facebook.
In Lansing, you'll have your choice of:
Country House Restaurant [9187 Nc Highway 194 N, Lansing, NC 28643-9532. 336.384.4678] offers an American menu.Open Tue-Thurs 6am to 9pm. Open Fri and Sat 6am to 10pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.Search for their page on Facebook.
Pie On The Mountain [9360 Nc Highway 194 N, Lansing, NC 28643-9534. 336.384.8008] offers pizza with farm fresh ingredients, craft beer and wine. Website:http://www.pieonthemtn.com
Drive east on Hwy 58 past the entrance to Grayson Highlands to find:
Greyson Highlands Country Store and Inn [4249 Highlands Pkwy, Mouth of Wilson, VA 24363. 276.579.4602] offers a deli, ice cream, an inn, and a shuttle to the Appalachian Trail http://www.graysongeneralstore.comOpen Mon-Sat 9am to 6pm, Sun 10am to 5pm.
GRAYSON HIGHLANDS STATE PARK
Camp – in tents, RVs, Yurts, with your horse, -- hike, backpack, picnic, ride horseback, gaze at panoramic vistas, view the feral ponies, attend festivals and educational events….there are almost endless ways to enjoy this park.Here's a great introduction:
Your entrée to make camping reservations, find trail maps, learn of events is this site: