Hikes: Virginia

Hikes marked with an * are adapted from Appalachian Trail Day Hikes, by Victoria Logue, Frank Logue and Leonard M. Adkins. 

Other useful links:
Map of Skyline Drive
Map of Blue Ridge Parkway
Hike Name Compton Gap to Compton Peak* in Shenandoah National Park
Closest Town Front Royal
Difficulty Level** Moderate
Distance 2.4 miles round trip
Features Good views, basalt formation
Description From Compton Gap at Skyline Drive Mile post 10.4, head south on the A.T. and climb via switchbacks. At mile 0.8, reach a signpost at the junction of a blue-blazed trail that heads left and right to viewpoints (these trails are ungraded and rough, but are worth the short trips to the viewpoints).  Follow the blue blazed trail on the left 0.2 mile to an interesting rock formation composed of columnar basalt.  Return to the A.T. and follow the blue-blazed trail right to the summit of Compton Peak.  You can continue another 0.2 mile beyond the peak to a rocky ledge with more good views to the west and north.  Retrace your steps.
Directions The parking area at Compton Gap is located south of Front Royal, at Skyline Drive Mile-post 10.4


Hike Name Mary's Rock* in Shenandoah National Park
Closest Town Luray
Difficulty Level** Moderate
Distance 4 miles round trip
Features Panoramic views, wildflowers in most seasons
Description Enter the woods on a wide trail from the turnaround circle at the end of the parking lot, intersect the A.T. in a few feet, and turn left.  Look for the rock walls at 1.2 miles built by the CCC.  Make a right turn onto a side trail at 1.9 miles and ascend 0.1 mile to Mary's Rock.  The large outcrop is a favorite perch where birders watch the fall hawk migration.  The 360-degree view is obtained by scrambling 80 feet to its summit. Retrace your steps to return.
Directions The trailhead is located next to the Panorama Restaurant in Thornton Gap, at the intersection of US 211 and Skyline Drive (9 miles east of Luray).  Leave your car in the parking located on US 211, making the restaurant and the hike accessible without having to pass through the park entrance station.


Hike Name Hawksbill Loop*in Shenandoah National Park
Closest Town Luray
Difficulty Level** Moderate
Distance 2.7 miles round trip
Features Highest mountain in Shenandoah National Park, views
Description Take the Trail from the parking lot, following it to the left, as you will be returning on the pathway coming in from the right.  Ascend through balsam fir and red spruce.  A side trail to the left at 0.2 mile goes less than 100 feet to a spring that can usually be counted on to flow throughout the year.  At 0.6 mile enter the no-camping zone, and at 0.7 mile make a right turn at a trail intersection to come to Byrds Nest Shelter 2 and the Hawksbill's summit at 0.8 mile. Continue to the stone-walled outlook for the almost, but not quite panorama.  Beneath you are Timber and Buracker hollows, which funnel East Hawksbill Creek to the town of Luray, some 3,000 feet below.  Return to the shelter, walking past it to turn right off of the dirt road and onto the blue-blazed trail. A few yards down this pathway is another fine view to the west.  At 1.1 miles you will switchback away from the road and intersect the A.T. at 1.7 miles. Turn right on the fern lined, white-blazed pathway.  At 2.2 miles, swing around a large rock promontory to cross a series of talus slopes, whose openings in the forest canopy provide limited views of Stony Man. Begin a quick switchbacking descent to arrive at an intesection at 2.7 miles.  Turn right and go 500 feet to the parking area in Hawksbill Gap.
Directions The hike begins from the Hawksbill Gap Parking Area at Skyline Drive milepost 45.6.  This is about 15 miles south of US 211 in Thornton Gap.


Hike Name Lewis Spring Falls* Shenandoah National Park
Closest Town  Harrisonburg/Shenandoah
Difficulty Level** Moderate
Distance 3.3 miles round trip
Features Views, falls
Description Follow the pathway between the amphitheater parking and the lodge to cross over the A.T., then continue along blue-blazed Lewis Spring Falls Trail as it gradually drops through the forest.  Turn right and steeply descend along a side trail at 1.2 miles to enjoy the falls near its base. Return to the main pathway and continue on your way, then turn right onto another short side route at 1.7 miles to enjoy the head of the falls.  Upon rejoining the main pathway, ascend the steep slope to come onto the Lewis Spring service road at 2.3 miles and turn left onto the A.T. Ascend steadily along the western side of a ridgeline.  Look for views to the west.  Proceeding along the A.T., skirt the cliffs of Blackrock and return to the initial intersection of this hike.  Bear right to return to the parking area at 3.3 miles.
Directions Start from Big Meadows Lodge amphitheater parking, near Skyline Drive milepost 51.


Hike Name Blackrock*
Closest Town  Harrisonburg, VA
Difficulty Level** Moderate
Distance 2 miles round trip
Features outstanding views from Blackrock
Description From the parking area at the trailhead, hike a short distance of the Jones Run Trail to the junction with the A.T. Turn right on the A.T. and hike south for 0.25 mile to Skyline Drive. Cross Skyline Drive and continue following the A.T., climbing gradually. Pass most of the way around the summit of Blackrock.  There are several fine views from this section of trail. The return hike is back north on the A.T. to the Jones Run Trail, which leads to the parking area.
Directions The Jones Run Parking Area is a Skyline Drive milepost 83.8


Hike Name Bear Den Mountain*in Shenandoah National Park
Closest Town  Waynesboro, VA
Difficulty Level** Easy to Moderate
Distance 2.2 miles round trip
Features Panoramic views, hawks during the annual fall migration
Description You don't have to hike anywhere to anywhere to enjoy the views from the open meadows of Beagle Gap. To begin the hike, cross Skyline Drive and follow the A.T. south, turning around every once in a while to look onto the fields of Calf Mountain to the north.  Communication towers at 0.5 mile mark your arrival on the summit. Continue a bit beyond this to the rock outcrops of green shale for a break. To the west is Waynesboro with US 250 running through the Shenandoah Valley.  Turn around and you can see the same road descending into the piedmont to the east. To enjoy the views a little longer, continue along the open mountainside and turn around when the A.T. enters the woods at 1.1 miles.  Retrace your steps to return.
Directions There is a small dirt parking lot in Beagle Gap at Skyline Drive milepost 99.3


Hike Name Bluff Mountain*
Closest Town  Buena Vista, VA
Difficulty Level** Moderate
Distance 4 miles round trip, 4.4 miles round trip with option hike to the Punchbowl Shelter
Features views, Plaque - story of Ottie Cline Powell
Description From the small parking area, diagonally cross the Blue Ridge Parkway, hike south on the A.T., and begin climbing the northeast slope of Punchbowl Mountain. At mile 0.4, reach the junction with the blue-blazed side trail, which leads 0.2 mile to Punchbowl shelter (the ascent is steep, but the Trail is graded well and the climb is short).  Take a side trip to the shelter if you choose, then continue on the A.T., and in 0.5 mile reach the tree covered summit of Punchbowl Mountain.  Descend 0.25 mile to a gap and begin climbing Bluff Mountain. At mile 2, reach the summit of Bluff Mountain.  Note the plaque in memory of Ottie Cline Powell just a few feet to the south.  Retrace your steps to return.
Directions The parking area is at Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 51.7, about 6.1 miles south of US 60 and about 12.2 miles north of US 501.


Hike Name Apple Orchard*
Closest Town Bedford, Lynchburg, VA
Difficulty Level** Easy
Distance 4 miles round trip
Features views, FAA antenna, stone steps/rock formation
Description From Sunset Field, follow the blue-blazed Apple Orchard Falls Trail as it descends 0.25 mile to the junction with the A.T. Turn right and follow the A.T. north, climbing up to Forest Service 812 on steps.  Cross the gravel road and again ascend on steps. The A.T. winds up the wooded side of Apple Orchard Mountain for a little more than a mile, where it enters the field on the summit of the mountain. Views of mountain peaks more than 40 miles away are visible from rocks just a few feet off the Trail.  Continue north on the A.T. to rock steps that descend around rock formations and pass under the Guillotine at 2 miles. The return hike is south on the A.T. to the Apple Orchard Falls Trail, which you follow back to Sunset Field.
Directions Sunset Field is at Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 78.4, 14.5 miles south of US 501 and 7.6 miles north of Virginia 43.


Hike Name Dismal Creek Falls*
Closest Town Bland, VA
Difficulty Level** Moderate
Distance 4.3 miles round trip
Features Dismal Creek and Falls
Description From the trailhead on Virginia 606, hike north on the A.T. and begin climbing Brushy Mountain. At mile 1.9, reach the junction with the blue-blazed side trail to Dismal Creek Falls. Turn left on the side trail and hike another 0.25 mile to the falls overlook. To return, hike back to the A.T. on the side trail, turn right on the A.T. and hike south to Virginia 606.
Directions To reach the trailhead, drive 12 miles east of Bland on Virginia 42 to the intersection with VA 606. Turn left and follow VA606 0.75 mile to the trailhead.


Hike Name Chestnut Knob*
Closest Town  Tazewell, Wytheville VA
Difficulty Level** Moderate
Distance 2.6 mile round trip
Features Views, including Burkes Garden, an oval shaped bowl of more than 20,000 acres that looks like a volcanic crater.
Description From the parking area in Walker Gap, hike south on the A.T. and begin climbing Chestnut Knob. You will cross an old woods road and a gravel road on the climb up the knob. At mile 1.3, reach the open summit of Chestnut Knob. Retrace your steps to return.
Directions From Virginia 42, about 10.5 miles west of Interstate 77, take VA 623 north into Burkes Garden. VA 623 is the only paved road in or out of the National and Virginia Rural Historical District. In Burkes Garden, turn left on VA 727 and travel slightly more than 5 miles to where the gravel road dead ends at Walker Gap.  This can be a very rough road!


Hike Name Rhododendron Gap*
Closest Town  
Difficulty Level** Moderate
Elevation Gain  
Distance 5.2 miles round trip
Features great views, free-ranging ponies (don't attempt to feed or ride ponies)
Description From the main park road at Massie Gap, hike 0.5 mile on the blue-blazed Rhododendron Trail to the A.T. Turn left and follow the A.T. south. Hike another 0.5 mile and cross a fence, leaving Grayson Highlands Stat Park behind and entering the Jefferson National Forest. Reach the junction with a blue-blazed side trail in 0.25 mile. Follow this trail, which leads straight up and over Wilburn Ridge to rejoin the A.T. on the other side of the two highpoints on the ridge. After rejoining the A.T., continue south and descend to Rhododendron Gap. After exploring the gap (there is a nice view from the rocks), hike back north on the A.T., which bears left around the high points on Wilburn Ridge. At the junction with the Rhododendron Trail, turn right and return to the parking area on the Grayson Highlands State pPark road at Massie Gap.
Directions From interstate 81 near Marion, follow the signs to Grayson Highlands State Park. The park is just north of the Virginia-North Carolina border on US 58, 8 miles west of the community of Volney. Once in the park, follow the main park road to the trailhead at Massie Gap.


Hike Name Kelly Knob
Closest Town Newport
Difficulty Level** Moderate 
Elevation Gain 500
Distance 4.2
Features Vista/View, Dogs allowed, Cliffs or rocky outcrop
Description This is an out and back hike beginning at VA 601 headed north on the AT.  The first 1/2 mile is the most strenuous as the trail ascends Johns Creek Mountain and gains about 500 feet in elevation.  The trail then levels out as it follows the ridgeline to Kelly Knob - a large rock outcropping with a beautiful view of the valley below.
Directions Follow US 460, 5 miles west of Blacksburg.  Turn right on VA 42 and go 1 mile.  Turn left on VA 601 and go 7 miles.  Small gravel pull off on the left where the road intersects the A.T.
Local attractions Mikies 7th - all natural, local cuisine, 8 miles from the trailhead - back at the junction of VA 42 and US 460


Hike Name Cornelius Creek
Closest Town Bedford
Difficulty Level** Easy
Elevation Gain 50' to 200'
Distance 0.5 mile or 3 miles
Features Vista/View, Stream or river, Cliffs or rocky outcrop, Shelter
Description Hike in and out to A.T. shelter and small stream for short hike. For longer out and back hike, continue to additional streams, overlook, and small bridge.
Directions Park at mile post 80.4 on Blue Ridge Parkway, north of Peaks of Otter. Trail starts on opposite side of Parkway.


Hike Name Comers Creek Falls with 2 alternates – two out and back hikes, one requires alternates
Closest Town Troutdale
Difficulty Level** Easy
Distance 2.2 miles or more round trip, depending on option chosen.
Features Waterfall
Description Hike on the AT south of 650 for 1.1 miles to the falls at a trail bridge. Return to your vehicle by the same route. Alternate hike:  Continue over bridge. Follow A.T. a few more yards, then turn left on blue-blazed trail along the creek 1/4 mile to Homestead Road (741); then return to your starting point. Alternative #2: Spot a second car down 650 opposite Hurricane Campground, then start the hike as described above, but continue past the falls on the AT, turning right on the A.T. where the blue blazed trail turns left, then hike about 1 mile to the sign for Hurricane Campground and follow that blue blazed trail to your second car.
Directions I-81 to exit 45. Follow signs to Sugar Grove (9 miles). Continue through Sugar Grove about 5 miles on Rte. 16 to Rte. 650. Turn right and park along 650 a few yards after turning. Take the A.T. south (left side of road at trail sign).


Hike Name Wind Rock
Closest Town Pembroke
Difficulty Level** Easy
Distance 0.8 miles round trip
Features Vista/View, Dogs allowed, Cliffs or rocky outcrop
Description This is a short out and back hike in the Mountain Lake Wilderness to Wind Rock Overlook.  The overlook offers sweeping views of Rocky Mountain, Fork Mountain and Peter's Mountain.  Starting at the trailhead bulletin board, follow the A.T. eastward for about 1/3 mile.  A short spur trail on the left takes you to Wind Rock.
Directions Follow US 460 6.5 miles west of Blacksburg.  Turn right on Mountain Lake Rd (SR 700).  Go  5.5 miles past Mountain Lake Hotel. Parking is on the left.