Mount Pleasant: A Spectacular Loop Hike in Amherst County (+ Backpacking)

A couple of weeks ago, I hiked the Cole Mountain and Mount Pleasant Loop just east of Buena Vista in Amherst County. Let me tell you, this hike does not disappoint.

I tackled this rugged hiking loop in the George Washington National Forest over two days. I started with Cole Mountain, then hiked to the summit of Mount Pleasant.

At the summit, I pitched my tent along with a few others from a MeetUp group and settled in for one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.

In the morning, I re-packed my backpack and made my way back down to complete the Mount Pleasant hike. Both hikes are right around 6.5 miles.

You could certainly complete the Cole Mountain and Mount Pleasant Loop in one day, but a two-day loop with a vibrant sunset was more satisfying and rewarding.

Trail Stats 
Length6.5 miles
DifficultyModerate
Trail TypeLoop
Elevation Gain1,306 feet
Duration4-5 hours
TerrainMostly dirt & rock trails
Dog-FriendlyYes
FeeFree
Driving DirectionsClick Here

Arriving at the Trailhead

To reiterate what I wrote in my Cole Mountain (aka Cold Mountain) post, the last section of Wiggins Spring Road (State Route 755) to the trailhead is bumpy and potholed.

Just take your time on this road and you’ll be fine. The fun (er, not fun) begins once you pass the “End State Maintenance” sign, which should have been a tip-off to me.

After 1.4 miles, you’ll see cars parked on the left. This is the Cole Mountain lot. Continue on to the very end of the road for Mount Pleasant parking (another .3-mile).

The First Steps

The hike begins to the right (south) of the parking area. This hike is in the 7,580-acre Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area, a federally designated wooded area.

You’ll see a sign for the Henry Lanum Loop Trail. You can go either way, but many hike counter-clockwise. This trail was once named the Mount Pleasant Trail (or Pompey Trail).

From here, it’s 2.75-miles (give or take) to the far-reaching summit views. As you begin to hike, you’ll walk around a wooden horse gate, then you’re on your way.

Despite an overall elevation gain of more than 1,300 feet, the hike starts out relatively flat. In fact, you’ll gain just 23 feet in the first mile. A cake walk, right?

It’s a nicely forested walk. At the 1.2-mile mark, you’ll see another sign reminding you that you are on the Henry Lanum Loop Trail. Then, an easy-peasy creek crossing.

From here, you begin to ascend the blue-blazed trail and it gets rocky, too. Just keep slogging. The payoff will make it all worth it. At the 2.2-mile mark, stay to the right.

But first, you will see an open area. This is a good spot to set up camp if you are in a large group or have large tents. We saw a large family there with super-size tents.

Keep right and you are on the trail to the summit of Mount Pleasant. You’ll keep going up on a switchback-laden hiking trail. At the 2.8-mile mark, you have two options.

Turn left for Mount Pleasant East or turn right for Mount Pleasant West. Plan to take in the views from both points. Both are no more than .1-mile from the center.

Both have rocky summits that are just right for savoring all the views, but the west side definitely wows with the more incredible sunset.

On the return, re-trace your steps to roughly the 4.1-mile mark. You’ll see a trail sign and will have the option to turn left or right. We turned right to complete the loop.

From here, it’s not entirely a descent to the parking area. It’s down, then up, then down, then up, then down again for the last .7-mile to the parking area.

Backpacking

Mount Pleasant is a fantastic destination in Virginia for an overnight backpacking trip. The hike is nearly 3-miles to reach Mount Pleasant East to set up camp for the night.

You won’t find a large space to set up a bunch of tents in one area. However, you will find maybe a dozen little pockets that each fit up to a two-person backpacking tent.

There is also a stone fire ring with several logs that make nice benches. You may, however, want to bring a camping chair if you plan to spend time around the fire.

Here, you’re steps from Mount Pleasant East and no more than a five-minute walk from Mount Pleasant West. You can set up on the west side, but it’s a smaller space.

There were 10 of us backpacking this night, and there would not have been enough room for all of us to set up our tents. Mount Pleasant East was just right for us.

As a side note, there are no porta-potties at either summit or at the trailhead, so keep this in mind if you plan to hike or backpack at Mount Pleasant or Cole Mountain.

Camping is also first-come, first-served. It’s dispersed camping, so you can set up a tent most anywhere and reservations are not required. It’s free of charge, too.

Wrap-Up Notes

From the Mount Pleasant parking area, this hike took 4 hours, 15 minutes, including time spent ogling the far-reaching views of the Blue Ridge Mountains at both summits.

The Cole Mountain hike along the Appalachian Trail and Old Hotel Trail took me 2 hours, 30 minutes, including stops at Little Cove Creek, the Cow Camp Shelter and Hog Camp Gap.

So, I imagine if you were to do the Cole Mountain and Mount Pleasant Loop in one day it would be a full-day affair.

This scenic mountain loop would take at least seven hours, but it would definitely be worth it. It would also be worth a beer at nearby Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company.