Backpacking in the winter can be a challenge due to the uncertainty that accompanies the cold season. However, if you’re willing to accept the risk, the rewards are incredible. For that reason, my buddy Coop and I make it a point to plan a yearly winter trip. More often than not, we find ourselves in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area (NRA), a nearly 200,000 acre National Forest in southwestern Virginia. This year, Coop suggested we continue the trend and return to the NRA to tackle the northern section of the Iron Mountain Trail (IMT).
The yellow-blazed Iron Mountain Trail spans 47 miles from Highway 91 near Tennessee in the south to VA16 at Iron Mountain Gap in the north. Up until 1972, the IMT was part of the Appalachian Trail when it was relocated to the south to accommodate communication towers and power lines in order to maintain the secluded experience hikers have come to expect from the AT. The IMT is well-maintained thanks to local volunteers, has an old AT shelter in the northern section that’s in great condition, and as it turns out, is also the perfect location for our latest adventure.