Wild ponies on open grasslands studded with rocky knobs give the area around Mt. Rogers an appearance distinct from any other in Virginia. At 5,729 feet, Mt. Rogers is Virginia's highest point, but you don't need to hike all the way to its summit to experience the grandeur of the Western-like terrain.It's only a short walk of about a mile from into the adjacent Mount Rogers Recreation Area. Through the 5,000-acre state park and 120,000-acre recreation area run an extensive network of riding and hiking trails; the Appalachian Trail passes through on its way to North Carolina and Tennessee, just to the south. Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, 3714 Hwy. 16, Marion, VA, 24354. 276/783–5196. Free. Grayson Highlands State Park 829 Grayson Highland Lane [U, .S. 58, 20 mi east of Damascus], Abingdon, 24363. 276/579–7092. $2.
At the end of Abingdon's Main Street is the beginning of the 34-mi Virginia Creeper Trail (www.vacreepertrail.com), a former rail bed of the Virginia-Carolina Railroad. You can hike it, bike it, or take to it on horseback. The trail has sharp curves, steep grades, and 100 trestles and bridges. It joins the Appalachian Trail at Damascus, a town known for its friendly attitude and the many businesses targeted toward hikers and cyclists. In May the town celebrates Trail Days, a festival celebrating hikers. Trailhead at end of Main St., Abingdon, VA, 24210. 540/676–2282 or 800/435–3440.