May 11-13, 2018

Buy one ticket and get three days of activities! Friday - Sunday!

Each year we assemble a wide variety of field trips with leaders who are experts in their field and who are able to make it understandable and interesting for everyone from inquisitive amateurs to accomplished naturalists. There is something for the entire family with field trips Saturday and Sunday, an expert speaker Friday Night and nighttime programs at the campground. Topics include salamanders, wildflowers, geology, birding, fishing, cultural history, mammals, medicinal plants, general natural history and much much more! 

NOTE: Opportunity to choose your field trips will begin Friday at 4PM. All field trips have a limited number of participants and will be first-come-first-serve basis. All times listed are actual departure times. Please allow extra time if you still need to register. All trips will go out regardless of weather conditions! Come prepared!

Friday Night Dinner

The 2018 dinner will consist of locally sourced ingredients used to prepare a menu of homemade lasagna (meat and vegetarian), fresh greens salad, garlic bread and dessert! Each year, the Friday Night Dinner is lovingly prepared by the Konnarock Community Association to raise funds for the community. Please join us for this great meal and catchup with old friends. Dinner is by pre-paid reservation ONLY.  There will be no dinners sold at the door. Registration is due by May 1st.

Door Prizes

1 Ticket for $5; 5 for $20; 20 for $40
Support BRDC’s Annual Scholarship Fund!! Door Prizes will be drawn during Saturday Lunch at 12:45PM. Must be present to win.

  • 10x32 Vortex Diamondback Binoculars, Valued at $239
  • Framed Wildlife Photograph by Jay Martin, Valued at $200
  • T-shirts and more!

Featured Speaker

Join us Friday, May 11th 7:00PM for: Conservation of Rare Vertebrates in the Southern Blue Ridge presented by Allen Boynton, Wildlife Diversity Program Coordinator with the NCWRC.

"Conservation of Rare Vertebrates in the Southern Blue Ridge"

What do northern flying squirrels, peregrine falcons, big-eared bats, and bog turtles have in common? All are Blue Ridge natives with small populations in need of conservation. Allen Boynton, a career wildlife biologist working in Virginia and North Carolina, will tell the stories of these and other mountain wildlife that need our help.


Allen Boynton is a wildlife biologist with 30-year's experience working in the southern highlands of Virginia and North Carolina. He is employed by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and was formerly with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Allen earned degrees from Virginia Tech in 1977 and the University of Vermont in 1979. He has worked on a wide variety of wildlife conservation projects in the southern Appalachian mountains. He spends an inordinate amount of time birdwatching and maintains a residence in Troutdale, VA.

Special Kids Programs

Ashley and Steve Ahn and Darin Handy provide both education and entertainment for our youngest of naturalists. Join them for one or both sessions Saturday.


TERRARIUMS! Join Ashley and Steve Ahn for a morning program designed for kids located at the Konnarock Community Center. They will do a workshop where kids learn about various ecosystems within Mt Rogers. The kids will set up and take home a Southern Appalachian mini-terrarium. All supplies provided. Limit 15 kids.

PAPAW AND GRANNY! Darin Handy will offer an afternoon kid program located at the Konnarock Community Center. Darin Handy presents: “My papaw once told me a big ‘ol tale ’bout growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains.” We will take a glimpse at the heritage “Papaw and Granny” passed down to their children and grandchildren in a time where imagination, the meadows, and the woods were their only resources. Through storytelling, folklore, toy-making, and games, we will begin to realize the effectiveness of our heritage that’s slipping through-the-cracks in an age of technology.


Field trips depart at 8:00AM on Saturday Morning from the Konnarock Community Center. Hike options include: Birding, Hike to Mount Rogers, Native American Lifeways, Salamanders, Edible/Medicinal Plants, Mammals of Mount Rogers, Appalachian Trail Hike, Geology, and a Service Project in Elk Garden.

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All Day Hike to Mt. Rogers: Phil Shelton, Emeritus Professor of Biology at UVA College at Wise, and Richard Davis, will lead this nine mile round trip to Virginia’s highest point. Natural history, including geology, climate, plants, animals and cultural history will be discussed. Sturdy shoes, dress for high altitude weather, food, and water are necessary.

Service Project: Join Jay Martin, wildlife biologist with BRDC and Tom Blevins of Mount Rogers NRA in restoring the habitat for the Gray’s Lily at Elk Garden.

Intro to Birding: Dr. Ashley Peele (Avian Ecologist with VA Tech) and Dr. Steven Hopp (Professor of Environmental Studies at Emory and Henry College) will lead a beginner bird-watching program, focusing on sight and sound identification of resident and migrant birds in the Mt Rogers area. Bring binoculars and field guides. This is peak migration season, so expect a good morning! 

MRTC Hike: If you want to add a nice walk to your nature study, join the Mt. Rogers Appalachian Trail Club on an easy 2.5 mile hike from Whitetop to Elk Garden. Explore natural history and trail tales on one of the most beautiful trail sections in our area.

Birding: Allen Boynton, Wildlife Diversity Program Coordinator with the NCWRC (and BRDC), will conduct bird watching at Grindstone and Homestead Road section of Fairwood Valley. Notable birds expected: least flycatcher, rose-breasted grosbeak, veery, wood thrush, and a variety of wood warblers and vireos.

Salamanders: Kevin Hamed, Professor of Biology, Virginia Highlands Community College. Explore the incredible salamander diversity of Whitetop Mountain. Whitetop Mountain is home to 15 plethodontid salamanders and we will have a chance to view several species. Hike begins at Elk Garden Trail and will survey 2 different habitats. 

Time Travel: Native American Lifeways: Using the Landscape as a Window to the Past: A 15,000 Year Overview of the Native Americans of the Mount Rogers Area. Join Devin Floyd on a journey through time using the wild and varied ecosystems of the highlands to visit different cultural periods, from the frigid Pleistocene Epoch to the first European Contact. A moderate hike will be augmented by activities and topics such as flint knapping, plant identification, landscape reading (through the eyes of Paleo-ecology and Archaeology), megafauna extinction, effects of climate change, and the Native American tool-making resources of the Mount Rogers Area.

Edible and Medicinal Plants: Wild forager, Carrie Sparks, will introduce you to the world of foraging for wild foods and medicine with a focus on the plants we most commonly think of as weeds. Identify common plants that can be used for food or medicine.

Geology: Join Fred Newcomb, geology teacher at Marion HS, a program guide for BRDC, and the Rally's resident virtual time traveler--to see evidence of epic events in Earth’s history as you walk this easy, one-mile hike along the Creeper Trail (between Green Cove Station and Creek Junction). You will be transported back to the Neoproterozoic Era, three-quarters of a billion years ago, to touch rocks of the supercontinent Rodinia and witness the effects of glaciers, faults, rivers, and an encroaching pre-Atlantic ocean.

Mammals of Mount Rogers: Karen Powers, PhD, Radford University, will check several hundred pre-set live traps in the woods near the community center and on Mount Rogers Trail in hopes of examining a sample of the small mammal diversity of the MRNRA.

Saturday Afternoon Field Trips

Field trips depart at 1:00PM from the Konnarock Community Center. Join us for these excursions: Wildflowers, Mussels, Insects/invertebrates, Rare Plant Monitoring, Geology, Spruce Habitat, Cultural History, Biological Survey, and Stream Ecology. 


Wildflower Walk: Join the exceptional team of John Kell on a wildflower jaunt in Grindstone Campground. Expect an abundance of blooms. Bring a hand lens and a camera.

Mussels: Come visit the Aquatic Wildlife Conservation Center on the banks of the South Fork Holston River just 20 miles away from Mount Rogers. See how the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is recovering rare freshwater mussels, the Eastern hellbender, North America's largest salamander, and the Spiny River Snail. North America is the site of the greatest diversity of the group and freshwater mussels are the most endangered taxa in North America. Participants will see parts of the complex freshwater mussel life cycle, native non-game fish and learn about why native mussels are such a threatened group.

Entomology: Explore the world of spiders, insects, millipedes and other creepy crawlers. Shawn Kurtzman, CMI staff entomologist, will lead an invertebrate walk through several different habitats to identify insects and other arthropods in the Elk Garden area. Good footwear and a willingness to collect and handle insects is a must. Children welcome with an adult. 

Rare Plant Monitoring: Join Conner McBane, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, on a rare plant monitoring hike up on Whitetop Mountain. The hike is 2.4 miles from Whitetop Mountain trailhead down to Elk Garden along the Appalachian Trail. During our hike we will be counting rare plant species to ensure their continued protection up on Whitetop Mountain. Along the way we will also enjoy some of the best Spring wildflower displays in Virginia!

Geology:  Basement Rocks of Mt. Rogers. Arthur Merschat, PhD, USGS, will lead a field trip to examine the 1 billion year old rocks (basement) exposed around Mount Rogers. The field trip will caravan to several locations and road cuts to examine the the oldest rocks in the Blue Ridge.  

Glacial Refugia of Whitetop: Join ecologist and forester Austin Thomas in White Top Mountain's Red Spruce Forest. Learn about the natural history of glacial refugia in the Southern Appalachians and the unique flora and fauna found in these high elevation habitats

Fairwood Valley Cultural History: Tom Blevins, a Natural Resource Specialist with the U.S. Forest Service, has worked on the Mount Rogers NRA for 30 years. An amateur historian, he has extensively studied the railroad and logging history of the local area and authored the booklet, “The Virginia Creeper, a brief History of the Abingdon Branch of the Norfolk & Western Railway.” The tour will depart from Konnarock with the first stop at the Grayson/Smyth County line where we first enter into the Fox Creek/New River watershed. After a brief stop we will continue down the valley stopping along the way to discuss both the natural and cultural history of the scenic Fairwood Valley. A detailed visit and short hike at the site of the “Town of Fairwood” detailing its history, significance to the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and lasting environmental legacy. The tour will end at Fairwood Cemetery, the last remaining vestige of a once thriving mountain community. 

A Biological Survey of an Appalachian Highland Forest: Participants are invited to be scientists for a day! Join Devin Floyd (BRDC) for a half day biological survey of a rich forest. We will surveying for diversity in plants, animals, fungi, and other biota that reside on the property. Participants will help investigate and classify a unique plant community through data collection, in addition to helping build a baseline measure of biodiversity at the site.

Drawing Workshop: Join artist Suzanne Stryk for a natural history drawing workshop to explore the treasures of Mount Rogers. This workshop is in association with her art show "Notes on the State of VA" at the William King Museum of Art in Abingdon, VA , March 1 – July 15, 2018.

Stream Ecology: Join Grayson Patton to study stream ecology in Big Laurel Creek and learn about macro-invertebrates and the habitats they need to thrive in these freshwater systems.

Sunday Field Trips

Field trips depart at 8:00AM on Sunday Morning from the Grindstone Campground Parking Lot. Hike options include: Birding, Caving, Drawing from Life, and Transecting the Ecotone.


Birding: Join Allen Boynton with a follow-up outing to the Saturday morning bird walk. Allen is the Wildlife Diversity Program Coordinator with the NCWRC (and with BRDC), birding will begin at Grindstone and continue to "birdy" locations identified the previous day.

Caving: Jason Lachniet, Walker Mountain Grotto and the National Speleological Society, will lead a group caving. Be prepared to get wet and muddy spending half the time walking and the other half crawling on hands and knees...or your belly!

Drawing from Life: Join Devin Floyd for a morning of outdoor sketching and illustration. Art is one of the primary tools used for documenting and sharing what is found during scientific inquiry. Participants will learn how the skills of observation and illustration are used to communicate discoveries made during a Biological Survey. This guided class will generate a composite of sketches for a unique Appalachian Ecosystem.

Transecting the Ecotone: Join Austin Thomas for a vegetation survey (trees) or Ashley Peele (bird) inventory transecting the ecotone from red spruce forest to northern hardwood forest on Whitetop Mountain. The mapping and data collection of this initial effort will be continued at future rallies to monitor long term changes of this transitional zone.

Nighttime Activities

Join us Friday and Saturday night for the BRDC staff at Grindstone Campground for Star Watches, Salamander Meanders and Moths.


Friday Night Salamander Meander: Take a walk through the woods with BRDC staff in search of salamanders feeding at night. We will travel the trail around the amphitheater in Grindstone Campground. Be at the parking lot by 8:30pm and be sure to bring a headlamp!

Friday and Saturday Night Star Watch: Join BRDC astronomer Evan Worrell for a exploration of the stars. Friday night meet at the Community Center. Saturday night meet at Grindstone Campground parking lot. Activities begins at 8:30PM and will last as long as you! 

Saturday Night Moth Light: Join us at Grindstone Campground as we put up a moth light and study anything the is drawn to the glow. Excitement begins at 8:30pm by the playground

Camping & Lodging

Join us at Grindstone Campground! Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally guides and volunteers will be camping in the Grindstone Groundhog Den at sites 70, 71, 73, 74, 75, 76, 78 on Friday and Saturday night. Come pitch a tent but remember to reserve your spot online.

Although the focus is on Grindstone Campground, there are a number of other options available in the area including overnight lodging in "Downtown Konnarock" through Airbnb. Beartree Campground is also located within 10 miles of Konnarock. Other local options include Bed & Breakfasts, Inns and rental cabins. Try for more lodging information.


Konnarock Community Center

The Konnarock Community Center (Address: 6535 Whitetop Rd, Troutdale, VA 24378) From I-81, take exit 35 (Chilhowie), go south on RT 762, passing Hardee’s. Follow this for 3.6 miles to the flashing light at intersection. Keeping straight the road becomes RT 600, crossing Iron Mountain (disregard “Old 600″ signs) and in 7.6 miles turn left at intersection, staying on RT 600. From here, go 2/10 miles and the Konnarock community center is on the left.

Grindstone Campground

Grindstone Campground (GPS: 36.68694, -81.54111) From I-81, take exit 35 (Chilhowie), go south on RT 762, passing Hardee’s. Follow this for 3.6 miles to the flashing light at intersection. Keeping straight, the road becomes RT 600, crossing Iron Mountain (disregard “Old 600″ signs) and in 7.4 miles turn left on to Laurel Valley Road. Travel 4.3 miles and the campground entrance will be on your right. 

Consider Supporting the Rally

The Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally is a grand tradition that dates back to 1974. Over the years it has gone through many changes but the root goal has stayed the same: to connect our community to one of the most spectacular landscapes on Earth. If you would like to see this tradition continue for the next generation, please consider making a donation to support the Rally. 

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All of our field trip leaders volunteer their time for the Naturalist Rally, so let them know you appreciate them sharing their time and knowledge with us!!


Rally Ticket

Ticket price includes Friday Night Program, Saturday Field Trips, Saturday Night Program and Sunday Program. Members, Guides, and persons 17 years or younger are FREE! 

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BUY NOW Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally Tshirts!

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The Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally has adopted the Leave No Trace Principles as a guiding reference for participant and guide etiquette. Please refer to their 7 Principles for more information.

The Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally has a long history, all the way back to 1974! Check out these historical brochures!

Sponsors & Partners

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