Trails Less Traveled

Enjoy hikes that offer quiet beauty in Shenandoah National Park

America is rediscovering hiking. More people, young and old, lace up their hiking boots and venture out into nature because it’s fun, it’s healthy, it’s in. Through the website Meetup they pick a hiking club and look for one of the best hiking trails to spend a day in the great outdoors with other like-minded people. It’s a great way to be social and make new friends.

The best hiking destinations are often showcased with beautiful photographs from glossy magazines or weekend sections of many publications. A glance at The 7 Best Hikes in the Shenandoah National Park lists Old Rag Mountain, Dark Hollow Falls, Blackrock Summit, Compton Peak, Bearfence Mountain, Whiteoak Canyon and Hawksbill Mountain. Each one of these hiking destinations offers a payoff in unparalleled views. They literally have become famous tourist spots. The only drawback is that the trails can be very crowded on sunny weekends.

Seeking the Stillness of Nature

If you are looking for a less-traveled trail or you simply want to enjoy solitude while immersed in the quiet of nature, there are certainly many trails, long and short, beckoning you with their silent beauty. Shenandoah National Park offers over 500 miles of hiking paths. Many are interconnected, or cross with the 105 mile long portion of the Appalachian Trail which runs through the full length of the park.

A little bit of homework is required to hike the less traveled trails. On hikingupward.com you can actually select hikes based on solitude. The suggested hikes below can be found on that website. You may also want to inquire with the park rangers about a trail’s condition, as some maybe overgrown or the blazes may have faded.

Overlooked Hikes in our Neighborhood

Andreas Keller

Double Bear Rocks

Close to Sperryville there is the Pass Mountain Trail, one of the least-used in the Shenandoah National Park. This is a two-mile uphill climb on a well-maintained trail accompanied by the rushing waters of the Thornton River. It is a pleasant forest walk along the ridgeline with views of Mary’s Rock before reaching the Pass Mountain Shelter.

The Pass Mountain Trail, marked with blue blazes on intermittent trees, which intersects with the white-blazed Appalachian Trail (AT), offers a smooth and easy-on-the-feet stretch of trail to Pass Mountain. The rocky descent on the AT leads to the Double Bear Rocks, which offers a stunning vista of New Market Gap, Luray Valley, and the Massanutten Range with Strickler Knob and Kennedy Peak.

The length of the hike is eight-and-one-half miles with an elevation gain of 1,750 feet, suitable for both young and old alike. There is no river crossing, just a beautiful hike with a great payoff. As a reward for this hike, only two miles west of the trailhead on Rt. 211 is the newly opened Sperryville Trading Cafe and Market with a delectable menu of organic food and grass fed beef. Boots ’n Beer sampled it and recommends it despite the missing libations. For libations, the Boots ’n Beer crowd likes to go to the nearby Griffin Tavern in Flint Hill.

Veach Gap

Near Front Royal, secluded in the George Washington National Forest, is one of the easy, little-known hikes of 7 miles with a little more than 1,000 feet elevation gain. If you ever want to hike while being surrounded by white and pink mountain laurel while enjoying the warming sun on your face and wind tousling your hair while on the ridge top, then this is your hike in late spring and early summer.

The profuse, exuberant flowering of mountain laurel on this trail turns any hiker into a happy one. If the mountain laurel is no longer in bloom, it’s still well worth an early morning hike to enjoy a spectacular sunrise coming up over the horizon of the Shenandoah National Park. On the way back along the ridgeline three overlooks invite you to stop, each one opening up to increasingly more expansive and beautiful vistas of the south fork of the Shenandoah River.

After hiking such a wonderful trail, hikers can find more delight at a place that offers 34 different craft beers on tap and made-to-order burgers at the PaveMint Tap House and Grill in Front Royal, VA.

Bear Church Rock

This hike is not well known and somewhat more demanding with over 2,200 feet elevation gain on a eight-and-one-half mile picturesque trail along the beautiful Rapidan River before climbing alongside the Staunton River. This path boasts many small falls and pools that provide enjoyment along the way.

The Staunton River Trail leads into the steeper Jones Mountain Trail, which in early summer resembles more of a tunnel with all the canopies of mountain laurel. A side trip to the Jones Mountain Cabin is worth the extra effort, and the final climb to the Bear Church outcropping is steep but rewards you with a panoramic view.

Last March, a large group of Boots ’n Beer hikers braved cold weather with chilly wind gusts at the top of the mountain and looked forward to getting some solid food with craft beer served in old fashioned pitchers at the Pig ‘N Steak in Madison.

If you’re looking for a new trail, or to avoid a crowd in the Shenandoah National Park, you’ll be pleased with these pleasant and less-crowded hikes. The recommended nearby food and drink spots will serve to make a day of hiking even more enjoyable!

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