The book "Wild Virginia: A Guide to Thirty Roadless Recreation Areas Including Shenandoah National Park" recommends accessing the RMW from the north and bushwacking over the top of the ridge. The book, however, calls this the "loneliest hike in Virginia." Because I had already done the Crane Trail as part of the Dirty Dozen Wilderness Hike Challenge, I decided to complete my 12th required wilderness as a bushwack.
"Bushwack" is kind of a scary term. I really like trails - I seldom get misplaced on one (and never "lost"), and they are easier to move on, sometimes they are kept up, and there is less likelihood that I'll come back with a tick attached to my skin. There really is a season for bushwacking in Virginia that coincides with bare tree season. Once spring growth starts in earnest, it becomes harder to make your way through the woods without a trail. When the leaves are down, it is easier to see distant points and navigate accordingly.
I think I will be finding myself bushwacking more and more. I enjoy exploring trails the first time, but am not as big a fan of returning to areas I've already explored. Virginia has a lot of trail miles, but in places like Shenandoah National Park there are a lot of trails found on older maps, but haven't been on current maps for decades. The Rocks Mountain Trail, near Riprap, is an example. Exploring is like peeling an onion - a series of layers. Layers include: Popular Trails, Less Popular Trails, Nonexistent Trails, Bushwacks along ridges or to former structures, etc., Pure Bushwacking with no goal in mind.
Rough Mountain is about as easy a bushwack as you can get - it is one long ridge, and you are either on the ridge or you are not. And I had bushwacked Rough Mountain in the past, over ten years ago, and found it to be relatively easy going (other than the steep terrain) because it is so dry that lush undergrowth never develops.
|Parking is about 0.2 miles off of Virginia Route 42, |
next to dumped construction debris.
|My guidebook instructs hikers not to block the gate, but it is obvious|
that no vehicle has gone past this point in a long time.
|The hike starts by heading south on the old roadbed, cut into the side of the mountain.|
|The bushwack follows the ridgeline and is never difficult to follow.|
There is a path to follow.
Though I was generally hiking under tree cover, in a couple of places the view opened up. Photographs from these spots are shown below.
|This is a view to the northwest, showing the Cowpasture River valley. |
Someone cut trees here to enhance the view.
How to get there: Take Interstate 64 west past Lexington to Exit 29. Turn north (right) on Virginia Route 42 and drive a long way, over 15 miles, to Forest Road 462 on the right. FR 462 is just after an S curve in Rt. 42 and is marked by a small brown sign on the gravel road. Take this road 2/10 of a mile to the parking area pictured above. Follow the road on foot past the gate. Where the road takes a sharp right turn and ends is about the northern boundary of the proposed wilderness extension. Look for an established path that may be marked by pink ribbons and follow it to the ridge. The ribbons end before the present wilderness boundary begins.
PATC Difficulty Factor: 256.6 (both ways)
Total Distance: 9.6 miles
Total Time: 4 hours, 26 minutes (including stops)
Low Point: 1415 ft.