View Full Version : Hiking In Virginia: Mileage and Transportation
I am wondering if I could get some advice about distances and terrain in Virginia, and also about ways to get to and from the trail in that region.
The only important thing is that I need to be at the intersection of the AT and route 77, near the Kentucky/Virginia border, on July 30th. I wanted to hike for nine days prior to that, so I'm having a hard time deciding where to start from. I am coming from Ohio, so I was planning on taking a train or bus to a location a bit south of Harper's Ferry. I just dont know where that would be!
Does 15-18 miles a day sound reasonable for a fit 21 year old female in this region? I hiked a section in New York last summer and did about 12-15 miles a day, but I was with my 55 year old father so I think I could push myself farther than that.
So, I need a starting point about 130-140 miles north or south of the Roanoke area. Any suggestions? Comments?
As you know, daily mileage varies greatly from one person to another. I am a section hiker who gets out about 3 times a year for 3 - 5 days at a time. I'm a 43 yo male, so I don't exactly know how to compare fitness, but just like you, I am starting from zero each time I go on the trail. I have been hiking Virginia the past few years and am now around 50 miles south of the VA/WV border . . . so I have been recently hiking the areas that you are probably looking at. I can tell you that, without question, once I got past Three Ridges (AT nobo mile 828.8) the trail has been noticeably more moderate. I am now at mile 940.5, and the VA/WV border is 996.2. I like to hike all day . . . usually from about 8 a.m. to an hour before sunset, give or take. I've been planning for usually 15 - 18 mile days, and last trip had one day just over 20 and the last full day was 27.5 miles. That said, I do not suggest that you plan for 20+ mile days, but do realize that the terrain in Central and Northern Virginia, moreso than most any section south of there does allow for a bit higher mileage. It si a tough balance sometimes, if you plan the day too short, you end up at your planned end point at 2:00 in the afternoon with nothing to do. On the other hand, if you plan very long days, you have to race by the sights and miss out on some of the side trips. You want your trek to be enjoyable.
I would look at Shenandoah as a possibility for your trip. There are so many easy points to get on and off the trail, there are facilities that are nice to avail yourself of, and the terrain is very moderate. If you start at Rockfish Gap (852.5) and head north, you could maybe plan to finish at Bears Den Hostel (993.1) or Blackburn AT Center (1001.0). That would be around 16 miles per day.
Just noticed this part of your post:
130-140 miles north or south of the Roanoke area.
So that changes my recommendation considerably. Sorry.
If you go to Harpers Ferry you will have to hike 430 miles to the AT crossing at I-77. --which is probably not your plan.
You should probably start just outside Roanoke, like where the trail crosses I-81 at Troutville. That's about 135 miles, and you should be able to manage it in 9 days if you make good mileage.
There's no train into Roanoke, but you can fly or take Greyhound there, then get a taxi (or possibly a shuttle) to the Trailhead. Since it's just outside the city, it shouldn't cost too much.
Flights are inexpensive from Cleveland to Roanoke's small-but-attractive airport (at least they are from Detroit on a Northwest regional turboprop). From there it's an inexpensive taxi ride to the Daleville (US-220/I-81) trailhead if you can't hook up with a shuttler.
The trail from Roanoke to Damascus is beautiful with a nice trail surface where you can get in some good mileage during the warmer months. From Roanoke you can probably make it to Bland in 9 days.