View Full Version : Newbie to AT- thinking of trying Shenandoah in 2015

Geneva Jenn
11-27-2014, 19:55
Starting to plan for my first AT section hike. I have heard Shenandoah is a great place for a beginner to the AT. I hike in Florida, but we are flat lands!

Thoughts from those experienced? Are there any great books or resources on this specific section hike of the AT?

I hammock camp in Florida :sun but from all I have read, I am guessing a tent will be an investment for this trip? Thoughts on this?

Thinking of about 2 weeks; prefer to hike slower and enjoy the walk than to be fast-paced since I am not trying to make mileage for the whole AT. Start at Rockfish Gap or is there a better place to begin? :-?

Resupply versus carrying so much food on this section? I am a boil water only person when I hike Florida. I have only done a few short multi-day hikes, but doing a 6 day this Christmas break (advantages of living in Florida is hiking is better here in the winter when it's cooler and less bugs.) :rolleyes:

Open to ANY advice. Thanks!!!

11-27-2014, 20:22
Shenandoah is great, nice hike in spring or early summer. It's about 100 miles, so I would plan on 10 days or so. If it were me I would hike it southbound, starting at Front Royal, since the southern section is the most difficult for several reason, especially water availability.

I hammocked the whole park, it was easy to find trees to hang. Resupply is slightly more difficult - there are camp stores with some food but not a real resupply. I'd probably plan to get off into town in Luray and/or at Swift Run Gap to a grocery store. Otherwise there is plenty of prepared food available at waysides and restaurants, which is always fun. If you're planning on two weeks, you'll likely need both resupply stops.

The trail is realtively easy for the AT. We certainly found it so, anyway. It's not flat like Florida but it's not bad.

11-27-2014, 21:26
Welcome to WhiteBlaze first of all . Shenandoah National Park is an excellent choice for beginner hikers wanting to get their " feet wet ".

If your hiking the AT thru the park alone then a shuttle will be needed. I'd suggest leaving a car here www.nova4h.com/ (http://www.nova4h.com/) , then getting shuttled south to Rockfish Gap.
Sharon's shuttles are one of a few that I'd recommend ; 703.615.5612.

A leisurely hike likely still shouldn't take more than 10 days. Huts are about 12 miles apart once you get inside the park. Designated tent sites available at the huts.
There are numerous waysides/ campground camp stores for resupply so carry only a day and a half worth of food at any given time. Schedule for 2015 openings of services found here; http://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit...

No fires are allowed outside official fire rings at the huts. Maps of the park and other informational sources can be attained through their website or calling the park headquarters at 1.540.999.3500 .

11-28-2014, 00:07
Oh, yeah, I just realized that was your first post. :welcome

11-28-2014, 19:02
If you take two weeks, and find that you only needed ten days, there are lots of excellent side trails in SNP (I would argue the best hiking in SNP is blue blazed). One nice thing about SNP for beginners is you have easy outs. Hitching on Skyline and into Elkton or Luray (or Waynesboro and Front Royal if you are near the ends) is easy if something is not working out right, and you need a break or to make an adjustment. So long as you have adequate insulation for when you are there (which isn't a lot in the summer) hanging should be no problem. Have a good hike!

11-28-2014, 23:33
SNP is an awesome start! There are great places to "refresh!"
Big Meadows = BEST cheeseburgers!
Skyline =Awesome breakfast!
Elk ?? Has wonderful shakes!!!

11-29-2014, 00:23
Welcome to WB. I did eight days in SNP last month. It is a great start for your first section hike and not difficult. Have a great hike.

Geneva Jenn
11-29-2014, 17:28
Thanks for the advice. I will definitely shuttle! The tip on how much food to carry and less will cut way back on weight is a big tip!!! I love your quote- I am going to google it.

Geneva Jenn
11-29-2014, 17:31
I was wondering if SB would be a better option. Would prefer my hammock for sure- so knowing it will work is a great thing!! I am trying out my new under quilt this upcoming weekend. Once I see the weather for SNP, I can decide if I need both upper and lower warmth or just the bottom and something lighter for the top. The "cold butt syndrome" is what made me shiver last time, so I invested in the quilt.

Geneva Jenn
11-29-2014, 17:32
Thanks for the tip about going SB, as I would prefer the toughest section at the end, and that will also put me 100 miles closer to home when I am finished. Thanks for the tips and encouragement!

Geneva Jenn
11-29-2014, 18:42
First- sorry I thought each response went to a different person, not one on top of another. (First time poster mistake!).

Second, am I correct when I read the trail crosses Skyline Drive over and over? Is this what those "waysides" are on the map every 6-8 miles or so? If so, how are these different than the two "resupply" site- just more selection?

Third, I understand SNP is pretty dry. There is water at each campsite and also at the waysides? How much water should I carry and do I need to bring my Sawyer Straw or is all water on the trail from these places safe so I don't need to filter?

As my daughter (who does NOT hike but is 15 and apparently knows everything) says when I pack "Every Ounce Counts!". LOL!!!

Thanks for the advice.

11-29-2014, 19:46
Southbound option is fine, which does have you closer to home at the end.
Just flip the hike around , leaving a car at Rockfish Gap, then getting shuttled north to the 4h Center near the northern terminus of Shenandoah National Park. Once there , go to the park office and get directions to the connector trail leading to the AT. FYI...It begins behind a named shelter across the road from the pond .

Pick up a backcountry permit at the entrance station at Rockfish Gap or at the kiosk at the parking area there. Parking for 8 cars here in a somewhat safe area is one option of a place to leave your car.
You may also consider leaving it at the Rockfish Gap Information Center which occupies the white pre-fab trailer on top of hill near the Afton Inn. They have free extended parking the last I used their lot.

Water availabilty in the southern district of Shenandoah is sometimes a concern during the hot/dry months of the summer and early fall . It would behoove you to inquire with northbound hikers on the water status of this section while hiking.
If the campgrounds , lodges and picnic areas are open then camel up there so you won't need to rely on iffy water sources along the trail .
Reward yourself every 3 days at the Waysides with hamburgers/ fries and yummy milkshakes .

11-29-2014, 21:32
You are correct you cross Skyline Drive often. You are probably seldom more than 300' from the road. There prepared food and restocking at the Waysides. I had what I thought was the best Cheeseburger of my life. Perhaps that was because we started talking Cheeseburgers at breakfast and I didn't reach the Elkwallow Wayside until ~ 3 PM. Enjoy your section hike. +1 on Johnnybgood rewarding yourself

11-30-2014, 01:31
The trail follows the same ridgeline as Skyline Drive, though it does get farther away than 300 feet :). On weekends in the summer and fall you'll hear the cars and motorcycles on the road, but on weekedays not so much. You will cross the road on occasion - just look both ways.

Re: starting location. I would start at Compton Gap, in the far north of the park, and hike south to Rockfish Gap. Trust me on this :). Compton Gap is where the AT first crosses Skyline Drive, so it's fairly easy to get there. The AT north from there to US 522 is not a great section. I would find a place in Waynesboro to park my car. It's easy to get a ride from the Rockfish Gap trailhead into town, as there is a posted list of names and phone numbers at the trailhead. Note that you'll need to pay the park entrance fee if you get a ride to Compton Gap, which is inside the park. (Walking into the park requires no fee.) You'll need a free permit to camp overnight -- get the permit from the entrance station and fill it out, then carry it with you.

Waysides: there are public campgrounds, camp stores, and restaurants along Skyline Drive. The trail either crosses nearby, or there is a connector trail to them. You can get decent meals in the restaurants, and some basic food items in the camp stores (along with cold drinks!!!) I don't recall that they have much selection of food that you'd want to carry beyond snacks, though it might be possible to resupply at these stores. There are also two lodges, at Skyland and Big Meadows, where you can get a room and a meal, though these are not inexpensive.

Resupply: I would want to get off the trail at least once and go to a grocery store. The trail is up on a long ridgeline, and the towns are down in the valleys -- you'll need to hitchhike from one of the two main gaps where large roads cross the trail. (See the Shenandoah park map at the NPS web site (http://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/index.htm).) I don't recall offhand which towns have what resources, but either of the main AT hiker guidebooks will have that information. You'll want one of them for this hike anyway. Hitching from the park into town is relatively easy in the summer.

Water: there are springs at the shelters ("huts.") I treat water from the springs. There are water pumps at most developed areas, like picnic areas and campgrounds. I don't treat that water. In the southern section, there were longer stretches between shelters with no water - I think the longest was 13 miles. That takes some planning and paying attention, which is one reason I suggested going southbound. I usually carry 1.5 liters but for an all-day dry section I'd want a lot more than that. I do remember running out of water on that section and it was pretty miserable. (And I thought I was paying attention!)

When are you planning to do this hike? Note that the waysides and other park amenities are not open year-round.

12-04-2014, 22:10
Im looking at may 2015 for my hike of this area, and Im also from Florida. Im looking at a NOBO hike with some large mile days though.

Geneva Jenn
12-08-2014, 22:02
Thinking of mid-late June. I work in education and would be a great time with school out. I usually spend July 4th week with my family, so I am thinking the two weeks before July 4th, then I report back July 10th (I work year round so I have to take those weeks off!). I want to hammock camp (I sleep soon much better) and there should be plenty of trees.

Is it safe to solo hike as a female in this area? I am assuming at this time of year there are plenty of hikers on the trail. Bear spray works well and doesn't weigh so that is my thought on that side of things.

12-08-2014, 22:53
There will be thru-hikers ,section hikers and weekend warriors like myself on the trails during this timeframe ~ so yes ...plenty of hikers.
Always be alert for suspicious people . Don't provide information on hiking plans to strangers and as a lone female it is a good idea to say your hiking with others . Bear spray is great.

Enjoy , the terrain in Shenandoah is graded well and waysides are delectable.

01-04-2015, 16:14
ATC sells "Set 07 - Shenandoah National Park Guide" for $34.95. It has a Guide Book and the three maps for SNP. I also have saved a pdf from NPS that outlines a '7-day' plan. Sorry I can't locate the site where I found it. If desired. I can e-mail it.

01-04-2015, 16:26
I think deliberate use of bear spray on humans is a crime. Even mace can be a crime, depending on the laws where you are. If that is your thinking... that is.

01-04-2015, 18:35
First- sorry I thought each response went to a different person, not one on top of another. (First time poster mistake!).

Second, am I correct when I read the trail crosses Skyline Drive over and over? Is this what those "waysides" are on the map every 6-8 miles or so? If so, how are these different than the two "resupply" site- just more selection?

Third, I understand SNP is pretty dry. There is water at each campsite and also at the waysides? How much water should I carry and do I need to bring my Sawyer Straw or is all water on the trail from these places safe so I don't need to filter?

As my daughter (who does NOT hike but is 15 and apparently knows everything) says when I pack "Every Ounce Counts!". LOL!!!

Thanks for the advice.

Your daughter is wise beyond her years...... And the weight also applies to bear spray. It is dead weight in SNP for any use.

Joie Joey
02-19-2015, 11:57
I want to as well! I'm not new to hiking the SNP, but to backcountry camping. I want to take a week or so off to do it.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

02-24-2015, 00:14
If getting off the AT in SNP to resupply in a town, there are two options mid-hike.

The best, with the most numerous options, would be found by hitching west via US211 (at Thornton Gap) to Luray. Three supermarkets including a smallish Super WalMart, laundromats, restaurants, lodging, bars, theatre, post office, and more. Both AT guidebooks include Luray town maps. Thru-hikers and long distance section hikers seem to like Luray because it is almost exactly at the halfway point between Waynesboro and Harpers Ferry.

Regarding the hitch to Luray: You'll have better luck if you do NOT try to hitch right where the AT crosses US211. There just isn't any good place right there for drivers to safely pull off the road who might want to pick you up, and if travelling at even a modest speed they won't even see you until it's too late. Instead, walk a few minutes uphill (east) to just beyond the Skyline Drive bridge and try to hitch there. Not only is there a better place for drivers to pull over, but SNP visitors exiting the Park nearby (who might be in more of a mindset to help hikers than the rest of the public driving from the eastern flatlands) can see you better and check out the situation while they are driving.

The other resupply option is to hitch west at US33 (Swift Run Gap) to Elkton. Not nearly as much to offer, but enough to get by.

If you just need food resupplies, you can do so in-season right in the Park. There are campstores with some (but not an overwhelming selection of) hiker foods and other supplies. Prices will be higher than in town supermarkets, but it's convenient.

Hiking NOBO, these stores are at:
Loft Mt. Campground
Lewis Mt.
Big Meadows Wayside
Elkwallow Wayside

The lodges at Big Meadows and Skyland do not have campstores for resupply, but do serve food if you just want something to eat on premises or to take with you.

02-24-2015, 08:32
And if you go to Luray, and do not get a crab cake sandwich at Mok-N-She's you are wrong.