This hidden gem in Southwest Virginia has over 100 wild ponies roaming free in the most picturesque setting. Over 200,000 acres of national forest and grasslands across Virginia's Grayson Highlands State Park surrounding Mt. Rogers have been attracting visitors for years to see these stunning creatures in the wild and take in the sites.
The area along the Appalachian Trail is one of the last remaining places where you can find feral ponies in the wild. According to the U.S. Forest Service, these animals were created as an experiment by local ranchers to see if horses could survive in the local area without (or with limited) help from humans. After breeding a horse with a pony, these wild ponies are the result, happily roaming free.
Though these ponies have been wild animals living on the land since the 1940s, the Wilburn Ridge Pony Association was created in the '70s to help them and to manage their grazing. Today, it's common for hikers to see the ponies of Grayson Highlands along the trail as they journey to the top of Virginia's highest peak.
The Smithsonian highlighted one pony in particular who local park rangers call "Fabio".
"Fabio had been the leader of one of the herds for years," Sara Abbott, the park's recreation program manager, tells Smithsonian.com. "But then we noticed that the mares were no longer giving birth to young in that herd, so we concluded that Fabio isn't able to do what he needs to do anymore."
Next time you find yourself in Southwestern Virginia, check out these wild ponies along the Appalachian Trail. Explore the hiking trails on the area's highest mountain and witness this little piece of paradise in the middle of Mount Rogers National Park.