The wilderness has three major trails running through it, and several more minor trails, which are all detailed below. The Appalachian Trail runs through the wilderness for 3.9 miles north of Dickey Gap and south of the Trimpi Shelter access trail. The Virginia Highlands Horse Trail zigzags east-west through the wilderness, crossing the Appalachian Trail. And the Dickey Knob Trail climbs from the Raccoon Branch Campground, just outside the wilderness to a reportedly great view and the foundation of an old fire tower - I did not hike this trail.
The Raccoon Branch Campground has 20 sites, water, and restrooms with flush toilets. There are no showers here. The campground is open year-round and receives moderate use. From what I saw, users were primarily of the RV/trailer type, with only one tenter. The campground is close to Rt. 16, so camping may be subject to road noise. I used this campground as a trailhead for my first hike in this wilderness - up the Horse Trail to the 1 mile long Bobby's Trail, to the Appalachian Trail. Day use in the Campground cost $3.00. There is also a small parking area outside of the campground on the north side of Route 16, but I did not know about that when I hiked here. I believe that parking is free at the outside parking area, located where the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail crosses Rt. 16.
|Raccoon Branch Campground, just outside of the wilderness boundary.|
I parked in a campsite after paying and leaving a stub on my dash.
In the background is Dickey Knob - a trail climbs to the top of that mountain.
|The wide Virginia Highlands Horse Trail goes through a meadow surrounded by forest.|
Prior to receiving wilderness status in 2009, there were 14 wildlife openings
in this area, maintained by mowing. Wilderness status eliminated this maintenance.
Eventually, the road became a trail, and the trail kept working its way uphill in the valley between Dickey's Ridge and Bobby's Ridge until the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail took a sharp left and the hiker-only "Bobby's Trail" kept going straight. Bobby's Trail took me to the A.T., but not before passing the site of the former Raccoon Branch A.T. shelter. There is no shelter here anymore, but there is still a privy and a steadily weakening picnic table, along with an excellent campsite next to the now-small Raccoon Branch stream. This would be a great group campsite - such as for a Scout troop hiking the A.T. - and is just off of the Appalachian Trail - about a 5 minute walk. After reaching the A.T., I retraced my steps, and re-wet my feet, completing 6.9 miles.
|Privy at the former Raccoon Branch Shelter site.|
|Former shelter site, showing level campsite, picnic table and stream (in foreground).|
|Picnic table and fire ring at former shelter site.|
|Mt. Rogers is to the right in the distance.|
|The A.T. hugs steep slopes.|
|Selfie next to the wilderness sign.|
The Mullins Branch Trail is a foot only trail that enters the area from the north and climbs 2.5 miles up Dickey Ridge until intersecting with the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. This trail was not signed at the A.T., but was obviously a trail. It is reportedly in poor condition, and is also a former A.T. route.
The Scott Branch Trail is an overgrown trail on the east side of the roadless area that receives light use and is 1.6 miles long. It is no longer found on maps of the area and is likely difficult to follow as it was reported to be overgrown in reports from over a decade ago.