View Full Version : May 2015: NOBO thru of SNP

12-04-2014, 23:51
Quick details:

Im flying in to Washington DC for a family affair. Hike is looking like May 11/12-18/19.
And likely leaving from Washington DC as well. I can hike 25 mile days in Florida with no issues and 13 mile days in GA where not an issue.
Fully loaded I'm at 38 pounds wet, for 4 days. I'm working on better food planning as the base weight is 17-22 pounds right now.

A few questions:

Would love to get some input on the wayside/restaurants to help determine how i'm handling food while in the park.
Best means of getting to Rockfish Gap from Washington DC. I'm tied to DC, I have a family thing happening there.
Best means of getting from Front Royal to DC again.
Temperatures to be expected 2nd week of May?
Am I too soon for the hiker bubble?

Current transportation

To trail

Amtrack from Alexandria to Stauton, city bus to Waynesboro, get shuttle
I need to check times and see if i'll need to zero in town

From Trail

Hopes and dreams currently. please help!

Route Planned:

Rockfish Gap > Calf Mnt shelter

7.8 miles
Short day as this will likely be part of a travel day

Calf Mnt Shelter > Loft Mnt Camp

19.1 miles
Nasty little descent 3 miles out, but looks gradual for nearly the rest of the day

Loft Mnt Camp > Hightop Hut

15.3 Miles
planning to make use of the store/wayside for meal (brunch?) and resupply on snacks

Hightop Hut > Big Meadows Campground

20.8 miles
Dinner at the big meadows wayside?

Big Meadows > Pass Mnt Hut

18.4 miles
Brunch at Skyland
maybe stony man summit or the overlook

Pass Mnt Hut > Gravel Springs hut

13.1 miles
Lunch at Elkwallow Wayside

Gravel Springs > Either Compton Gap or US 522

9.6 or 13.4 miles
need to determine best end point for making it back to Washington DC.

Thanks in advance for any advice you may have,


12-05-2014, 09:02
I hiked through the park northbound starting on April 15 this year, so about a month before your planned hike. I had a ride to Rockfish Gap so I cannot comment on the travel logistics at that end. I continued on to Boiling Springs, PA where I took Greyhound home from Harrisburg so I cannot comment on the logistics related to Front Royal. However, I do know that there is an Enterprise car rental location in Front Royal. You might want to look into potentially renting a car in Front Royal and returning it either at Reagan National Airport or a city location in Arlington or DC. There is no public transportation from Front Royal all the way into DC. However, you could arrange a taxi or shuttle to take you either to the Vienna Metro or to the Manassas VRE/Amtrak station which could save some money vs. a ride all the way into DC.

Waysides/Camp Stores

As for the waysides and camp stores, all should be open at the time of your trip. During my hike, Loft Mountain campground/store was closed but the Loft Mountain wayside was open. The wayside has prepared food and very limited snacks (chips, candy). The camp store near the campground is supposed to have camping supplies and food but I haven't been there. If you choose to go into the wayside for a meal, the flattest approach is to hike past the Loft Mountain campground area to the cutoff to the Ivy Creek Maintenance hut. Past the hut, the fire road will take you to Skyline Drive a short walk north of the wayside.

The Lewis Mountain camp store has a good selection of camping foods and could be used for a resupply if you are not too picky. But it is mostly targeted to car campers, not backpackers. No prepared food at this location but there are shower facilities available.

I've always thought that the Big Meadows wayside is the most promising for resupply. There is a good selection of foods and even some backpacking oriented foods (Mountain House), but inventory and selection seems to vary. There is also a counter service for fast food and a sit down restaurant at the wayside which I recommend.

Elkwallow has a limited section of foods but could be fine if you are looking to just buy food for your last day on the trail. They also have counter service fast food.


I also had a short day out of Rockfish Gap but rather than stopping at Calf Mountain shelter, I pushed on to a dry campsite on Sawlog Ridge which is just a few miles further after passing Turk Gap. There are flat spots for camping (although seemingly rarely used) on the ridge. So that's an option if you get to Calf Mountain and want to put in a few more miles.

Loft Mountain and Big Meadows are both large campgrounds and I think it is usually possible to get a site but they are $15-20/night and I don't really see the value of paying for developed camping during a backpacking trip normally ... If you push on a few miles past Loft Mountain, you would reach Pinefield Hut which has nice campsites above the hut itself. I'd plan to eat dinner at Loft Mountain wayside and then push on to Pinefield Hut (that's what I did last April). Prior to Big Meadows, I camped at Bearfence Mountain Hut, a mile or so past Lewis Mountain campground. After Big Meadows, I camped at Byrds Nest #3 which has good views.

But I see nothing wrong with your specific plan for campsites. Good luck with the trip.

12-05-2014, 09:04
One other thing - on day 5 from Big Meadows to Pass Mountain Hut, don't miss Skyland and the restaurant/bar facility there. You might want to stop in for a late breakfast or early lunch but don't miss it.

12-05-2014, 18:27
Looking at your plans everything looks well thought out . As previously mentioned I would save the $20 camping fee at Big Meadows and use it for the waysides . Loft Mtn. Campground opens late every year , third weekend in May, so it could be still closed.

I would look into purchasing the SNP map set , broken down into 3 separate sections -- www.patc.net is where you can buy them. Make sure to also get a park brochure with opening dates of park facilies when getting a free backcountry permit .

That first resupply if open will be the camp store at Loft Mountain. This is how to get there from the trail . Look for a rock marker on the trail after circling around the campground . A short(70 yds), but steep blueblaze trail on the left takes you to thr camp store and adjacent laundry facilities. Generally , all waysides are open by the first weekend in May even if the campgrounds are not.

Big Meadows Wayside/Resturant is the best resupply in the park. Quickest way to get to it is once again on the backside of the campground . The AT crosses a service road called Lewis Falls Road . From here make a short climb of <1 to the Skyline Drive. Wayside is left and a short walk from there.

Third resupply is Elkwallow at SDMP 24 . Limited items here but hot food is available.

12-07-2014, 22:24
Coffee, Thanks for the insight on the rental car idea, that seems like a great way to get back to the DC metro area. Funny you mention the Pinefield hut, as that was in my first revision of the plan, I'm not sure how i feel about a 23 mile day though.

Johnnybgood, I have the 2014 NOBO AWOL guide. I will take a look at the suggested map set, I also plan on getting TOPOs for the area as well.
I've been into Skyland on a car trip before, It is really nice and i have some artwork purchased there hanging in the house!

Resupply, this is my biggest hurdle to figure out. Will likely set off with 4 days of food (minus planned meals at waysides) and resupply with what ever is handy at Loft Mountain. I will visit the camp stores at my local Florida State Parks to see what I may have to work with up there. I seem to remember that Skyland having some hiker type foods as well?

Thanks for advice!

12-07-2014, 23:10
damnhawk , I think you will be fine with 4 days of food leaving Rockfish Gap . Even w/o a resupply at Loft Mtn., averaging 15 miles/day gets you to the camp store at Lewis Mountain Campground on day 4.

Skyland does have limited hiker foodies but you could buy an extra sandwich from their restaurant and pack it for a meal. Having just resupplied at Big Meadows 8 miles ago you really don't need to here. ALSO...the cutoff service road to the wayside is prior to the campground going Nobo, app or map will show this.

12-08-2014, 13:57
Johnnybgood, Lewis mountain sounds like it'll be my resupply. I've stayed in the cabins at skyland, so I don't really have a need to hike in there and do bonus miles if I don't have to.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

12-08-2014, 14:11
You could also eat at the restaurants or "tap rooms" at Big Meadows lodge and Skyland. They have good food and are closer to the trail than the Big Meadows wayside. I see that you plan on having brunch at Skyland.

I also recommend that you summit Hawksbill and Stony Man mountains. I think they are both less than 1 mile side trails. A bit steap of course, but well worth it if the weather is nice. Stop at Mary's Rock too. The climb down to the gap from Mary's Rock is some of the most impressive trail building I've seen in the area. When they decided to put in a crib wall, they were not messing around. Not a whole lot in the way of views north of there.

I don't feel that you need to buy trail maps. The park map that they give away for free plus the guidebook should be fine.

Good luck with transportation. I would second the rental car idea.