Ascent of Apple Orchard Mountain on 2004-08-08

Climber: Scott Surgent

Others in Party:Beth Cousland
Date:Sunday, August 8, 2004
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Apple Orchard Mountain
    Elevation:4225 ft / 1287 m

Ascent Trip Report

Apple Orchard Mountain has the highest prominence of any mountain in Virginia, beating the state highpoint, Mount Rogers. However, prominence doesn't dictate effort, and in this case, this peak's summit is easily reached from the Blue Ridge Parkway, with access to the Appalachian Trail or to a service road that goes to the very top.

Beth and I were staying in Natural Bridge and it was a 20-mile drive to get to the Blue Ridge Parkway access onramp, then another 15 miles south to the Apple Orchard Mountain area. Beth helped me fit in better with the locals by explaining that Botetourt County is pronounced "Bot-a-tott". The weather was behaving wonderfully and we had clear, mostly dry conditions. The views from the Blue Ridge Parkway were magnificent.

We chose to hike the service road to the top instead of taking a segment of the Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail can be reached about a mile north of the peak, requiring about 500 feet of gain. I'm sure it's a lovely hike, but we were both scratched up from yesterday's 14-mile epic on Elliott Knob. We found the road without a problem, and parked north of it in a pullout near an information sign. The hike went fast, gaining about 300 feet in a half-mile. The top is home to an FAA radar dome.

We walked past the complex, noted the gate was open and there was a truck there, and walked onto a grassy area. Someone, maybe the FAA guys, had mowed paths into the grass. One path led to the Appalachian Trail and a small sign marking the summit. Actually, the summit was hidden in trees and consisted of a pile of big rocks. Still skittish from yesterday's snake encounter, we gingerly stepped into the brush, which wasn't too thick. The highest rock had some sort of metal guy-wire anchor drilled into it. Shortly we walked back onto the grass, shot some photos and took in the lovely scenery.

As we hiked down the road, the worker came rumbling down in his truck and we had a short chat near the gate at the bottom. He said people walk up the road all the time and they have no trouble with that. The FAA site has all the usual signs about long prison sentences for tampering and that sort of thing. The worker was a pretty cool guy. We also met a motorcyclist at our pullout and had a good chat with him.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:300 ft / 91 m
    Round-Trip Distance:1 mi / 1.6 km
    Trailhead:3925 ft / 1196 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Open Country

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