by Alan Trammel
Located in Southwest Virginia, Grayson Highlands State Park is a photographer’s delight. Scenic mountain peaks offer the perfect backdrop for the wild ponies which are the main attraction. Around 150 free-roaming wild ponies grace the airy mountain meadows, barren high-country balds and rhododendron-filled forests.
Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED (non VR)
The word “wild” is used loosely when labeling the ponies. Signs in the park urge visitors not to feed the ponies, but clearly they are used to handouts. Many of the ponies approached without fear to see if I had any offerings. When they approached I would take several steps back. They quickly went back to grazing and were perfectly fine with me remaining close and taking pictures. Occasionally they would investigate my camera lens to see what I was up to. All my interactions were pleasant and friendly.
Weather changes on the mountain can be extreme and can change suddenly anytime of the year. Over three days I experienced heavy fog, howling winds with rainy mist and cool blue skies with puffy clouds.
Know Before You Go
- Park entry fee is $7 but jumps up to $10 on weekends (April-October). It is cash-only and you just place the money in an envelope at the entry gate when it is unattended (honor system).
- Parking is limited by the popular trail areas so it’s best to arrive early.
- Dress in layers as the highlands can get quite windy and cold. Signs in the park warn that drastic weather changes can occur rapidly.
- Be sure and check for park closures.
829 Grayson Highland Ln., Mouth of Wilson, VA 24363
The park is on U.S. 58 midway between Independence and Damascus and is reached from I-81 at Exit 45 in Marion; turn south on Route 16 and travel 24 miles to US 58 in the community of Volney. Turn right onto US 58. Travel eight miles to the park’s entrance. Latitude, 36.628322. Longitude, -81.496889.
From I-77, take Hillsville Exit 14 to U.S. 58. Travel west on U.S. 58, 40 miles to Volney. Turn left to stay on U.S. 58 and go eight miles to the park entrance.
Its address is 829 Grayson Highland Lane, Mouth of Wilson, VA 24363; Latitude, 36.628322. Longitude, -81.496889.
Drive Time: Northern Va., 6.5 hours; Richmond, 5.5 hours; Tidewater, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, 7.5 hours; Roanoke, 2.5 hours; Winston-Salem, 1.5 hours; Charlotte, 1.5 hours; Raleigh, 4 hours
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