Having grown up in Iowa, where the landscape is mostly flat, it took me many years to embrace my environment in the mountains. In fact, it wasn’t until I hit my late 50’s that I decided to take up hiking. My daughter and husband had already discovered the joy of being out in nature, but having an aversion to bugs and snakes, it took me a little longer to jump in.
What finally did it for me was seeing pictures of them on top of McAfee’s Knob. The most photographed scene on the Appalachian Trail, once I finally made the trek, I could totally understand why. What a view! Shortly after that first hike, I was hooked.
One Sunday morning we stopped at Draper Overlook. As we were walking around, my husband said “I wonder where that trail leads?” So, we grabbed our boots out of the trunk and took off to find out.
What a pleasant surprise when after a mile descent, we found “The Landing” a playground for mountain bikers. Even more exciting was the discovery that there were several trails that met there. We hiked back to the car and as soon as we got home, we got on Google Maps to figure out where the trail head was located.
Our next hike started off of Valley Road and we had the first of many visits to this delightful hiking paradise.
I became an avid hiker, even formed a women’s hiking group. My husband passed away in 2019 and shortly after that we found ourselves in a Pandemic. Because Draper Mountain was so close, that became my saving grace. I was there at least once a week. And on every visit, I would discover something new. There are 8 miles of trails filled with gnomes, funny signs, decorations, and so much more.
To access the Draper Moutain Trail System follow GPS directions to 3535 Valley Rd, Pulaski, VA 24301. To view the Draper Overlook, take Exit 89B on I-81 and follow Route 11 towards the Town of Pulaski.
Written by Karen J. Gerlach, Friends of Draper Mountain