As the title says Im new to the forum. I've been on a couple of weekend backpacking trips when I lived in (as the name implies) Texas. They were summer trips and on large acreage properties (2000 plus) owned by friends.
Now, however, I'm presented with a backpacking trip (in two weeks no less) in my new home out east. A friend who also recently relocated to the area is wanting to backpack overnight in the Fancy Gap, VA area. Long story short I've never camped on anything but the aforementioned private land so I'm wanting some advise regarding this possibility. In terms of gear I have a cold weather bag (Halo Recon 3), a decent pad (Thermarest Backpacker Plus) and a decent tent (Eureka Solitare) so unless I'm missing a curveball I think I should be set for a decent nights sleep. My main concern, to be honest, is what park/legal issues that I may encounter during my trip. I've looked at the area and it seems that year around camping is permitted with a permit. However, the number that is given for said permits does not function. Is this common for camping in the "offseason" or something I should concern myself with at all? Any advise is much appreciated. I know I know...newbs and their questions...
In addition I'm here to learn as much as I can. I'm relocating permanently to Asheville, NC and hope to make backpacking a regular part of my life. Thanks in advance for the advice and happy new year all!
Welcome! Fancy Gap, as I recall, is partly on the Blue Ridge Parkway. All the campgrounds are probably closed now, and there's no overnight parking and road closures at any time for ice and snow. If you have access from another road, you're still dealing with the legality issues. Sorry, I couldn't help. The Appalachian Trail is west of there and you would have some excellent stretches with legal parking on that. Mt. Rogers/Laurel Highlands is close to there and a great place. I've thought about relocating to Asheville, it's truly an outdoor paradise. Your gear should be OK at lower elevations, as it seems to be good for the mid 20's or so if you are somewhat use to the cold. The nights are going to be in the teens in all likelihood, so you may want to plan for a little more warmth than you have. If you haven't camped in cold weather, it would be good to do some more research about how to stay warm and deal with issues like condensation in your tent. This is a good place to get those questions answered. Best wishes for a great hike.
As an alternative thought, many parks in the West require permits and have trailhead quotas during the summer. Those regulations/restriction disappear in the winter, simply because there aren't enough people on the trail to make it matter....The same may be true in the East.
I would call the main number for the park and ask the question.
I may be mistaken, but other than the narrow strip along the Parkway, the land around Fancy Gap is private. Hiking along the Parkway is pretty much limited to the asphalt in that area. Your friend may have insider/local info about somewhere to go on private land. Lots of National Forest Land in the Cherokee and Jefferson to explore, too. I would still highly recommend the AT, though.
I'd heartily second the recommendation for Grayson Highlands/Mt. Rogers. There's nothing to compare with unzipping your tent vestibule in the morning and find that you're face to face with a pony!
It really is a pretty place, and unlike a lot of Eastern trails, there are lots of stretches with wide-open views rather than a tunnel of trees. It's also near the Virginia-Tennessee-North Carolina junction, so probably not a hatefully long drive.
Grayson, not Laurel! Thanks, Glenn. White Top Laurel is the main trout stream on Mt. Rogers, Laurel Highlands is in Western Pa. Tex, I hope you get a period of good weather when you guys decide to go. Please tell us how it went. I talked to a friend in Tenn. this morning about doing the Roan Highlands south of there sometime in the near future. Another spectacular area of open views, as Glen described. Have a blast!
I've heard the Laurel Highlands are absolutely gorgeous, too. The local backpacking store organized a trip there a few months ago; sadly, I couldn't go due to work commitments, but they had nothing but good to say.