There are 23 federally designated wildernesses within the GWJNF. There are special, set-aside areas established to protect the flora and fauna within and allow for primitive natural experiences for forest visitors, primarily through hiking. No motors or bicycles are allowed in the preserved parcels. Here are five sample Virginia wildernesses at GWJNF.
LITTLE DRY RUN WILDERNESS
What You Need to Know: The hollow of Little Dry Run is very scenic
Size: 2,850 acres
The Little Dry Run Trail delves into the heart of this wilderness. Anglers vie for native trout in the small stream. Elevations run from 2,440 feet to over 3,610 feet. Visitors also access the wilderness from Comers Rock area.
MOUNTAIN LAKE WILDERNESS
What You Need to Know: This is the GWJNF’s biggest wilderness
Size: 16,511 acres
Lots of trails course through this high country bordering West Virginia. The AT cuts through the heart of it. Two overlooks – Wind Rock and War Spur – attract the most visitors. Parts of the wilderness harbor a highland plateau with forests recalling New England.
RAMSEYS DRAFT WILDERNESS
Nearest Town: Churchville
What You Need to Know: The wilderness has good loop hiking possibilities
Size: 6,518 acres
Centered by the trout stream of Ramseys Draft and enveloped by ridges, this wild area harbors old growth forests within its ranks. A good trail network makes this a popular choice among backpackers and day hikers.
SAINT MARYS WILDERNESS
What You Need to Know: Waterfalls and historic mining relics draw visitors from low and high.
Size: 9,835 acres
Once mined and logged, this mountain land has recovered well and is now a destination for waterfall lovers and history buffs. Multiple trailheads allow visitors to start high or low, to see concrete remnants of ore processing areas as well as the uber-clear waters of Saint Marys River, highlighted by Saint Marys Falls.
THREE RIDGES WILDERNESS
What You Need to Know: The AT traverses the untamed area, passing two major overlooks
Size: 4,608 acres
Situated atop the Blue Ridge, this forested locale is centered on the distinctive peak known as Three Ridges. The steep terrain ranges from 1,000 feet up to 4,000 feet in elevation. The Mau-Har Trail makes loop hikes possible.