The Jefferson National Forest, of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, is located in the southwestern portion of Virginia and is about 690,000 acres. It is bound by the George Washington National Forest to the northeast, and the Cherokee National Forest to the southwest. There are 31 developed campgrounds, 19 of which meet the selection criteria.
The Jefferson National Forest is where the authors had their first camping experience within the National Forest system. It was in the Jefferson that their idea to write a "U.S. National Forest Campground Guide" was conceived. The beauty and variety of recreational activities found in the forest make it one of the authors' favorites.
Springtime in the Jefferson National Forest brings the rhododendron, azalea, dogwood, and red bud blossoms out in mass. From a distance, mountainsides appear to have white and pink clouds hanging like fog around them. Along streams and creeks, creamy white rhododendron and flaming red azaleas grow to unbelievable size. Soon the hardwoods have a full canopy of new leaves, providing food and shelter for a diverse population of wildlife and birds. But it is the Autumn when the Jefferson National Forest puts on its coat of many colors. This is when the leaves of the many species of hardwood turn gold, orange, rust, red, yellow, and brown.
The Jefferson National Forest has designed its recreational opportunities to bring the Forest to the visitor and the visitor to the Forest. Most of the developed campground have maintained hiking trails. Some campgrounds, such as Hurricane, have connector trails to the granddaddy of hiking trails - the Appalachian Trail (AT). The Beartree campground is convenient to hiking, biking, horse trails - on the Virginia Creeper trails. Using old railroad right-of-ways, the Virginia Creeper trails provide a comfortable grade for bicyclist, equestrian or walker with interesting views of the countryside.
The Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area, the southern most section of the Jefferson National Forest, offers outstanding opportunities for horseback riding. The 68-mile Virginia Highlands Horse Trail connecting Elk Garden to Virginia Route 94, with three dispersed campgrounds along the way, is a delight for any equestrian.
Trout fishing is a big attraction of Jefferson National Forest. And it would seem, the best fishing is in the prettiest location. Actually, it is hard to find a campground with a clear, fast flowing stream nearby that doesn't boast it has "the best trout fishing in the area."
Hiking, biking, horseback riding, fishing, or just looking, the Jefferson National Forest has something for just about everyone. Unlike many of the other National Forests, which the authors have only visited once, they have seen the Jefferson in its thick summer mantle of dark green brilliant autumn finery, stark winter beauty, and gentle spring foliage. They have camped and hiked throughout the Jefferson and have discovered something new and delightful on each visit. Visit the Jefferson National Forest once, and like the authors, you'll want to return again and again.
5162 Valleypointe Pkwy.
Roanoke, Virginia 24019-3050
RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES
110 Southpark Dr.
Blacksburg, Virginia 24060
1700 Park Ave SW
Norton, Virginia 24273
Mount Rogers National Recreation Area
3714 Hwy. 16
Marion, Virginia 24354-4097
27 Ranger Lane
Natural Bridge Station, Virginia 24579