I cannot imagine that many places exist where a person can enter public land to find expansive trails, mountain vistas, and freely roaming ponies. Among the rolling Appalachian mountains of southwest Virginia exists the beautiful Grayson Highlands State Park.
This park continues to stay at the top of my travel list, as every visit seems to bring new experiences. This blog is from my visit on April 16, 2017, and it turns out Spring is a particularly beautiful time of year to visit due to the pregnant and newborn ponies.
Quick background…Grayson Highlands Park was established in 1965, and the ponies were released into the park in 1975 to help reduce brush from taking over the open the balds. Around 150 ponies currently roam the park, with the main concentration usually along the Rhododendron Trail near the intersection of the Appalachian Trail.
Visitors are encouraged not to touch or feed the ponies, however I have found that by even staying still the ponies will usually try to touch you. My experiences with the ponies have only been the most friendliest of encounters, and I can imagine that day in and day out these ponies are meeting new people.
The ponies spend most of their time eating grass and slowly walking around, but will occasionally play with each other and interact in other ways. During this visit, many of the ponies were pregnant, and a male stallion would make large circles around the rest of the ponies and remained rather active. My visit can be seen in the photographs below, captured just before the park was hit by a Spring storm.