“A loop ride through the heavily forested Iron Mountain Range of Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.
— Lost Justpastnowhere
This is some no-nonsense singletrack and isolated forest road through the heavily forested, less-used eastern half of Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. It uses portions of both long distance trails that run through Mount Rogers NRA: the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail #337 (VHHT) and the Iron Mountain Trail #301 (IMT). The loop is named for Horse Heaven Peak, which is the highest point of the loop.
The trails connecting these two long distance trails are both steep, technical singletracks. The long distance trails are more tame. This section of the VHHT is mostly forest road with a short singletrack segment. This section of the IMT is all singletrack.
Need to Know
Part of this loop uses the Virginia Highlands HORSE trail, so you should expect to see horses and follow the appropriate etiquette not only on the VHHT but on the entire loop. Unfortunately, this means you can expect some horse poo. Consider it an occupational hazard and don't swallow any mud that gets splashed onto your face!
From the small parking area and trailhead just off US 21, take the Henley Hollow Trail #306
. Henley Hollow Trail #306
is a difficult but manageable, narrow singletrack climb up to Virginia Highlands Horse Trail (VHHT) #337: Divide Trail to US21
. A number of root jumps and sharp turns will seek to impede your progress. Remember as you're going up that you get to ride this trail back down to your car at the end of this loop.
The Henley Hollow Trail #306
ends at a forest road section of the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail (VHHT) #337: Divide Trail to US21
. Turn left and follow it a short distance down to the gravel CCC Camp Road. Turn right onto CCC Camp Road for about 0.5 mile. Just before you reach US 21, the Dry Run Gap #4613
trail begins its narrow, steep, uphill climb to the IMT on the left side of CCC Camp Road.
At the end of Dry Run Gap #4613
, turn left onto the Iron Mountain Trail #301: US 21 to Divide Trail
singletrack. This is an easier, singletrack and the next four miles are no-nonsense earthen singletrack that winds its way peacefully through the dense forest.
At the intersection at the end of Iron Mountain Trail #301: US 21 to Divide Trail
, turn left onto the Divide Trail #309
. After a short, flat prelude, this becomes a steep, somewhat technical descent down to CCC Camp Road. Point the front wheel down and hang on!
When you reach CCC Camp Road, cross it to onto the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail (VHHT) #337: Divide Trail to US21
. The VHHT climbs for about a mile on the gated Forest Road 4009. After the first mile, the forest road makes a hairpin turn but the VHHT continues as a singletrack as it climbs through the forest towards Horse Heaven Peak. You'll cross almost right over the peak around the ten-mile mark and then you've got about five miles of nearly continuous downhill to look forward to.
Shortly after the Horse Heaven peak, the VHHT follows a former forest road. Most of this segment of the VHHT is heavily forested beneath pine and hemlock trees, but in a few places the forest canopy breaks enough to offer views of the equally forested opposite side of the East Dry Run Fork Creek Valley. Watch for the turn off to the Henley Hollow Trail #306
at about 12.5 miles as it's easy to miss if you're headed downhill in a hurry on VHHT. Henley Hollow Trail #306
is then a fun, technical descent back to the trailhead.