An investment of little more than an hour's time offers a high return as the beauty and diversity of the park are best seen while hiking along its trails. Spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and a closer look at the park's vegetation are just a small part of the rewards reaped from a walk in this mountain forest.
Traveling along the south-eastern facing slope of Mount Jefferson, the moderate Lost Province Trail explores a virgin oak/chestnut forest, providing views of false Solomon's seal and other understory species.
This trail offers the hikers beautiful views and an intimate trip through diverse plant communities, while enjoying the craftsmanship of native stone steps. As you enter the strenuous 2-mile trail from the park office, it ascends the mountain through each overlook, to the upper parking area.
The self-guided Rhododendron Trail follows a ridge southeast along the crest of the mountain from the summit to Luther Rock, an outcrop of metamorphosed amphibolite. This black volcanic rock is what gives Mount Jefferson its dark appearance. Here, hikers may look back along the horseshoe-shaped ridge to the summit and tower. Beyond, is a spectacular view of neighboring valleys and peaks. On clear days the New River is visible to the east. Bluffs extend along the ridge below the trail where outcrops of amphibolite are visible in winter.
The return segment of Rhododendron Trail descends the south side of the mountain. As this area is less exposed to the frigid winds of winter, the trees are somewhat larger than those on the ridge. The trail returns to the picnic area parking lot through a rare virgin forest of large northern red oaks and skeletons of American chestnuts.
Beginning at the Sunset overlook, the Spur trail ascends .5 miles up the mountain, and intersects with the Mountain Ridge trail at the rock staircase. This trek makes for a great one mile “out and back”, if you don’t have too much time to hike.
Beginning at the parking lot, Summit Trail passes through the picnic area and ascends 0.3 miles to the highest point on Mount Jefferson.