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Mount Pleasant

April 2, 2010

This 5.4 mile loop hike takes you to the beautiful double summit of Mount Pleasant, across Pompey Mountain and then back down to your car.

NOTE (2/26/17): A recent hiker reported that the fall forest fire in this area did severe damage to this trail system.  He reports that many of the blazes have been destroyed and the trail is hard to follow.

Adam enjoys the vista from the west summit of Mount Pleasant. Below:  Moss was still the only greenery along the trail.  Leaves are still a few weeks away;  The sign at the trailhead marks the loop at 5.2 miles.  Our GPS marked it at 5.75, so we’ll split the difference in mileage for this blog post.

Trailhead Sign

Christine Says…

When we hiked the Cole Mountain trail last fall, we made a mental note to return to the area sometime to do the Mount Pleasant hike.   We’re so glad we did.  The hike up Mount Pleasant provides gorgeous views from both its east and west summits.  We had a crystal clear day and could see for miles in every direction.

We started out on our hike a couple hours later than we normally do.  The delayed start turned out to be quite fortuitous.  As we drove down Wiggins Spring Rd toward the trailhead, we saw 15-20 cars parked near the AT crossing and Cole Mountain trail.  We assumed that they were a group camping and hiking on the Cole Mountain trail and were thankful not to sharing trail with such a large crowd.  A little further down the road, the Mount Pleasant parking lot was empty with the exception of one frost-covered car that had obviously been left there overnight.

We started down the trail.  It was icy and muddy, but pleasantly flat for the first mile.  After we crossed a small stream, the upward climb began in earnest.  It wasn’t terribly difficult or steep climbing, but it was constant for the rest of the way to the summit.  Much of the trail was wet/soupy and covered with a thick layer of leaves.  There were several places that the trail was tough to follow, but I imagine that once more hikers pass this way, the trail will become clear again.

These could be the poster children for the defiance of Leave No Trace principles.  This was just a portion of the group we encountered.

At around the 1.5 mile mark, we started hearing distant voices in the woods – lots of distant voices.  I looked at Adam and said “I don’t think all those people are on Cole Mountain after all.” At 1.9 miles we came to a trail junction being used as a rendezvous point for about 30 kids on a church youth group trip. I have never heard people being so loud in the woods.  One group of three boys thought it was hilarious to repeatedly scream “NINKOMPOOP” at the top of their lungs as they headed down the trail.

After we cut through the crowd, we took a right turn and followed the spur trail up to the mountain top.  On the way up, we passed about 20 more hikers from the same youth group.  As I mentioned earlier, it was lucky we started our hike late, or else we might have been sharing the beautiful mountaintop with 50 shrieking kids.  As it turned out, we had the view all to ourselves.

At the summit, there was a small sign with arrows pointing to the east summit and the west summit.  We headed west first.  The west summit is on a dramatic outcropping of rocks.  It provides an expansive, layered mountain vista, including a great look at the bald summit of Cole Mountain.  The east summit is also lovely, albeit a little less dramatic.  The view is mostly valley and farmland.

We stayed at both summits longer than we normally would.  We wanted to put some time and distance between ourselves and the youth group.  We took in the view, had a snack and a drink and took a few photos.

The hike back down from the summit brings you back to the trail junction, where instead of turning left to hike back down the way you came up, you continue straight on the Henry Lanum Loop Trail.  This trail will almost immediately begin to climb upward again – over the summit of Pompey Mountain.  There are no views from this mountain.  After reaching the peak of Pompey, there is a short, but steep downhill.    The trail from this point on is a mix of uphill and downhill walking until you’re eventually returned to your car.   On this loop, you definitely spend more time hiking uphill than you do hiking downhill.  If you want less climbing, I recommend hiking this as an out-and-back.  It won’t make the hike much shorter, but will significantly cut down on the climbing.

Adam Says…

The summit provides a beautiful view of distant mountains. Below: A telephoto shot of the Cole Mountain summit from the west side of Mt. Pleasant; The eastern summit is beautiful, albeit a bit less dramatic.

View of Cole Mountain The East Summit

The hike up Mount Pleasant is one of the better hikes for views in Virginia.  If you have a few days to spend in this area, I would also recommend doing this and the Cole/Cold Mountain hike.  This area has some gorgeous mountains around you and the reason for the town nearby to be named Buena Vista.   When you combine both views from the two overlooks at Mount Pleasant, you get nearly a full view of the area around you.

The hike was not too difficult.  I would recommend that if just want to see the views, complete this hike as an out-and-back hike.  When we did this hike as a loop, we added on the trip up Pompey Mountain, but there are not any scenic views or much of note on the way back.

One interesting note about this trail is that you may see some remnants of fallen American chestnut trees throughout your hike.  They once covered this area until a fungal blight wiped out their population.   It is interesting to think how different these views would have looked in a canopy of chestnuts.

To know which way to start the hike can be a little tricky.  There are lots of paths away from the parking lot, including two blue-blazed trails marking the Henry Lanum Trail.  You will start the hike at the blue-blazed trail that starts off very flat.  The other blue-blazed trail looks clearly uphill and is the path that you will return. We felt this trail was a little hard to follow at times and could have used a few more blue blazes painted.  There were times we were unsure if we were still on the correct trail.

The trail starts off relatively flat or going downhill for about the first 1.5 miles.  Around 1.3 miles, you see a wooden sign that reads “Trail”, but other than that it is fairly easy to follow.  Keep following the blue blazes and you will eventually need to cross a couple of areas that may include small streams.   We didn’t have any trouble hopping across and I’m guessing that most of the year, it is relatively dry.  After you cross the stream, the trail will lead to the climb up to the summit.  Around 2.0 miles you will reach a junction sign that shows the Mount Pleasant Summit Spur Trail to the right.  This summit trail continues for about .4 miles until you reach the saddle.  A sign at the junction here shows there are overlooks to the West and East.  The western summit takes about .1 mile to reach and you will need to climb up the rock outcropping for the great views.  The eastern summit is closer and doesn’t require any climbing, but we were both more impressed with the views from the western summit.  Once you take some time to soak in the views, go back the way you came to reach the junction sign for the Summit Spur Trail.   If you want to continue the loop back to your car, you will continue straight on the Henry Lanum Trail.  This leads you through the forest for some more uphill climbs over Pompey Mountain.    From the junction sign, it is about 1.9 miles back to your vehicle.

Luckily, we were able to avoid the crowds of screaming teenagers that clearly don’t understand Leave No Trace principles.   Once more of the leaves start spreading their leaves, the summit overlooks will give you absolutely amazing views.

Trail Notes

  • Distance – 5.4 miles – loop.
  • Elevation Change –1350 feet.
  • Difficulty – 3.5 This loop has long, moderate uphills and shorter, steeper downhills.  It’s one of those trails that makes you feel like you’re always walking uphill.
  • Trail Conditions – 3. The trail is in decent shape.  There was a lot of mud when we hiked.
  • Views –5. The east/west double summit of Mount Pleasant is magnificent
  • Waterfalls/streams –1. There is a small stream in the woods on the departing arm of the loop.
  • Wildlife – 0. Nothing, but doubtlessly the large church group scared any wildlife away.  We did see lots of juncos along the trail.
  • Ease to Navigate – 2.5. In several spots, the trail was hard to find under thick leaves and blowdowns.  Some blazes are starting to wear away and it might be easy to miss turns.  I think ease of navigation will improve as spring/summer approach and hikers wear the path down.
  • Solitude – 3 . For today, we had a 0 for solitude, but we just had a bit of poor timing.  Being the namesake hike for this area, you will likely run into some other people on the hike.

Directions to trailhead:
Follow I-81 to Buena Vista (exit 188A).  After passing through the town of Buena Vista, follow US60/Midland Trail for 9.5 miles.  Take a left on Coffeytown Rd.  Follow Coffeytown for just under two miles.  Take a right on Wiggins Spring Rd. Follow Wiggins Spring for 3 miles.  This road will turn to a rugged gravel road.  Follow the signs for the Mt. Pleasant trailhead.  There is a small parking lot at the trailhead.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. tom holton permalink
    March 19, 2017 1:27 pm

    Just an update, we hiked both Mount Pleasant and Cold Mountain this weekend. All blue blazes have been restored and are clearly visible. Trails are in great shape. Hiked from the parking area to the Mount Pleasant summit Friday night under headlamps the entire way. Great fun, and again, trail was pretty straight forward.


  2. Aaron Bateman permalink
    February 26, 2017 10:49 am

    Hiked the full loop on Friday. Weather was wonderful. Had the trail to myself all day save for one solo hiker I met as I was leaving the summit. My brothers and I scattered my father’s ashes here in 2010 and this was my first return visit since then.

    A couple notes. The fire damage from last fall is quite evident on the entire hike, although maybe not as bad as on Cole Mountain which I did two weeks prior. This is especially notable one the return via Pompey. The trail was never that well marked as I recall and now it’s downright bad. It would seem may of the blue-blazed trees were lost in the fire so you can go long distances without seeing one. At one point along the ridge of Pompey, the trail seems to end at a small pile of boulders. At this point, you should continue straight over that formation and you will quickly pick up the trail again. There are also several other places where you will ask yourself if you are still on the trail.

    Also I’m questioning the mileage. At the saddle before the half mile trek to the summit of Mt. Pleasant the sign indicates that you’ve come 2.8 miles and that the return via Pompey is 3.5. That would be a loop of 6.3 mi. Adding in the .5 miles to the summit and its return trip back to the saddle would make it a hike of 7.3 mi. I was wondering if your GPS mileage included that extra mile to reach the summit and return to the saddle?

    As always, yours is the go-to site for me when I’m seeking hike info! Maybe someday I’ll see you on one of these hikes. Cheers!


    • February 26, 2017 1:26 pm

      That’s a shame the fire damage was so bad! Regarding the mileage discrepancy, in 2010 we were mainly relying on distance information from guidebooks and official trail signage. Our personal GPS mapped the entire loop at 5.75 miles (including all distances to and from the summits). The sign at the Mt. Pleasant trailhead described the full loop at 5.2 miles. Hiking Upward GPS mapped it at 5.5 miles ( MidAtlantic hikes mapped it right at six miles. ( There’s a lot of variation, but I don’t see any calculations that put it at over 7 miles. I’m sure we’ll hike it again sometime soon and when we do, we’ll remap it. We’ll see what we come up with next time! Thanks for the visit.


  3. David permalink
    October 22, 2015 10:43 pm

    We saw a black bear running downhill about 30 yards in front of us!


  4. October 11, 2015 8:52 pm

    Thanks for the write-up! My husband and I hiked this today as an out-and-back. We saw a total of 6 other groups throughout the day and half of them had camped. Perfect weather for camping and hiking this weekend! New blazes must have been painted since you wrote this, we found them to be plentiful and the trail very easy to follow. A great walk in the woods with beautiful fall views at the top! We were amazed to see small cars in the parking area because the road to the trailhead is steep and rocky, we had no troubles in our Subaru but couldn’t figure out how those cars made the trip.


  5. Ace Ernst permalink
    April 30, 2012 1:42 pm

    One of the best views for the least amount of walking uphill I have seen! Nice overnighter, too, on the saddle near the summit with a spring that will give up enough water to cook with.


  6. April 8, 2010 7:44 pm

    Thanks for the great write up! Brought back good memories…Glad you got the chance to check it out. It really does have nice views doesn’t it?
    Sorry the beginning was marred by rowdy youngins (-;


    • April 9, 2010 8:35 am

      Yeah – the views were downright spectacular! I think we’ll go back sometime in the fall when the leaves are changing.



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