Access Points & Orientation -- Access roads from I-81 are U.S. 21 from Wytheville; Va. 16 from Marion; S.R. 600 from Chilehowie; Va. 91 from Glades Spring; and U.S. 58 from Damascus and Abingdon. S.R. 603 runs 13 miles lengthwise through beautiful highland meadows from Troutdale (on Va. 16) to Konnarock (on U.S. 58).
Information -- Since the area is so vast and most facilities widespread, it's a good idea to get as much information in advance as possible. Contact the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, 3714 Hwy. 16, Marion, VA 24354 (tel. 800/628-7202 or 276/783-5196; www.fs.fed.us/r8/gwj/mr).
Fees, Regulations & Backcountry Permits -- There is no charge to drive through the area, but parking fees of $3 per vehicle apply to specific recreational areas, payable on the honor system. Except for the Appalachian Trail and some others reserved for hikers, mountain bikes are permitted but must give way to horses. Bikers and horseback riders must walk across all bridges and trestles. Hikers must not spook the horses. Fishing requires a Virginia license. The "leave no trace" ethic applies: Leave nothing behind, and take away only photographs and memories.
Visitor Center -- The area headquarters is at 3714 Va. 16, about 6 miles south of Marion (take Exit 45 off I-81 and go south on Va. 16). Exhibits describe the area, and there's a bookstore with maps and other publications for sale. The center is open Memorial Day to October Monday through Friday from 8am to 4:30pm, Saturday from 9am to 4pm. Off season, it's open Monday through Friday from 8am to 4:30pm. It's closed on federal holidays.
Seasons -- The area gets the most visitors on summer and fall weekends and holidays. Spring is punctuated by wildflowers in bloom (the calendars published by the Blue Ridge Parkway are generally applicable here), while fall foliage is at its brilliant best in mid-October. Cross-country skiers use the trails during winter. Summer thunderstorms, winter blizzards, and fog any time of the year can pose threats in the high country, so caution is advised.