View Full Version : Mid-June Section Hike a Bad idea?

05-30-2015, 00:47
I have a few questions about a section hike through SNP. My plan is to hike from the Front Royal entrance 105 miles south to Rockfish Gap. I will start on June 14 and am planning to finish by June 21 (7 full days, averaging ~15 miles per day roughly following in reverse http://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/upload/SHEN_BCTrip-AT_through_SNP_average_15_miles_per_day_E102.pdf).

The SNP website says to avoid the AT there in June because it will be packed with thru-hikers. So my question is: how crowded is it? And what's that like when you're hiking against the crowd going south? Does that make it feel even more crowded because you're passing everyone? I actually like the fact that I won't be so isolated because this is my first solo trip over 3 nights and only my second week-long trip.

How do the crowds affect camping? I definitely prefer not to hear other campers while I am falling asleep or waking me up. I would enjoy sharing a campfire with others, though. I am planning on using a hammock, which I assume will help the situation.

I would also consider options like hiking Northbound or doing a long loop through some of the park's side trails or really a different park entirely-- so long as I can get a shuttle there from Washginton DC [where I'll be for a wedding] and back to an airport if anyone has any recommendations.

Any input would be greatly appreciated, thank you!

05-30-2015, 04:39
By mid-late June, the aspiring thru-hikers are well distributed along the trail - some already approaching New England, others struggling to get to central VA. The bulk of the successful thrus should be beyond SNP by then (I've heard a rule of thumb that if you don't get to Harpers Ferry by the Fourth of July, you won't have time to get to Katahdin before it closes). There will be plenty of company in SNP, but so long as you're carrying a shelter of your own, you don't have to worry about the huts being full.

We often plan a SOBO spring weekend hike in our area specifically so we can meet a few thru-hikers. Hiking against the flow can be fun.

Most backpackers sleep and rise with the sun. You'll fall into the same rhythm, and you'll be so tired at the end of the day that sleep will come easily.

The AT through SNP is a nice place to hike. Enjoy your trip! And :welcome to WhiteBlaze!

05-30-2015, 10:50
You need to plan the trip based on hut and campground spacing, not MPD. With that in mind, 7 days (6 nights) will force you to do at least a couple of really long days as hut spacing is kinda inconvenient. While the trail through the park is relatively easy, there is a lot of little ups and downs, along with stumblingly rocky sections which slow and wear you down. For a thru hiker who has just hiked 900 miles, that's not much of an issue, but for a section hiker it is. Also the heat and humidity can really sap your energy, especially in the afternoon. To beat most of the heat, you really need to be hiking by 6 AM.

Although it is possible to camp away from the Huts, I would suggest that you do not do that. First there is the issue of water, which is only available at the huts, campgrounds and picnic areas, so you'd have to do a "dry" camp. A camp fire is out of the question. Look out for Poison Ivy, which is everywhere. The trail is often slabbing the steep side of the ridge and the parkway is never far away. Even with a hammock, camping away from the huts is a significant challenge. You'll also be competing with thru hikers for the few good spots.

As for how busy it will be, that's impossible to predict. In addition to thru hikers, there are the weekenders and section hikers like yourself. June 14th is a Sunday, which is a popular day for people to start a section hike through the park, although I'd guess most go north. There is also the possibility of running into camp groups of one kind or another (Boy/Girl scouts, church groups). Thankfully, there is sufficient space around the huts for tents and hammocks.

Just Bill
05-30-2015, 12:04
Water and heat will be the bigger concerns- As a fellow Chicagoan the first week in the heat and humidity of even the relatively northern SNP is tough. The canopy traps the humidity and the mountains create a bit of a rain bubble so there is little relief.

Sobo is a decent plan- Amtrack is available direct to Harpers Ferry or out of Stanton VA (cheap cab ride from wanyesboro to Stanton). That said, Rockfish Gap and Waynesboro offer more post hike availability as far as shuttles and rides so I prefer Sobo for that reason. When you get out it is a short walk to the Northwest to the welcome center where you can use the phone to drum up a ride. I believe DamnYankee, a WB member here also does shuttles out of Staunton.
IIRC- there is a way to take the Staunton train to DC area.

I did that section a bit later in the year but saw few if any NOBO hikers. Once you get beyond the waysides and lodges even during busy time there are not many hikers. I had no issues staying at shelters. Definitely look into the wayside schedules and if that is your thing- plan on some stops. You can save some food weight and make carrying easier on yourself if you like and buy food as you go or swap a few meals for concession services. You can even buy beer there. Put the beers into the foot of your sleeping bag/quilt and wrap them up and they will stay cold for a few hours easily if you'd like to encourage a few jealous stares when you reach your evenings destination.

SNP is a great place to start as there are many bailouts with the parkway and facilities available. But it's still a "remote" enough hike to be enjoyable.
Don't be afraid to use the texas tumbler either- with the damp conditions the only real way to dry out gear is to take advantage of the many weavings in and out with the parkway. Simply walk the parkway for a mile or so and find a sunny overlook- layout your gear on the hot asphalt and it will dry in 15-20 minutes.

Spirit Walker
05-30-2015, 12:32
As an April 1 starter, I was in SNP just after Memorial Day. Since most thruhikers start earlier, I think the bubble will have passed already, though you will meet some of the slower and later hikers. It's a beautiful place in June. One consideration for camping: there are a lot of bears who will want your food and deer that may go after your clothes for the salt. Hang everything you can.

05-30-2015, 12:44
I've been doing my section hikes in June in Virginia, slowly completing the first half of the trail. Thru hikers are spread all the way through the state, the entire length of the AT. You'll be unlikely to have a night alone at a shelter, but you'll also be unlikely to find huge crowds. In general the huts in SNP have tenting areas, most of which are pretty good, some are great.

June is a fine time to hike SNP, though May is nicer weather.

05-30-2015, 13:13
SNP is a great hike!

As Just Bill said, do not plan to bring all your food. That is what I did, and it was a HUGE mistake. The waysides provide some basic resupply, and we found it nice to get a burger at Big Meadows and breakfast at Skyline.....

05-30-2015, 19:38
Thanks so much for the quick replies everyone! My fears about crowding have been forgotten and this trip is a go :) A couple of follow-ups:

I will order a map but in the meantime is there a map I can see online with the huts and waysides? I only found http://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/facilities-opening-schedule.htm but don't see those points on here. I will be stopping for groceries in Front Royal-- will I be able to get a good map there? Or I could order online in advance-- is the conservancy map better than NatGeo?

Just Bill, thanks for the tip about beer :) Regarding food, will I be able to find (vegetarian/vegan) dehydrated meals at the waysides?

Thanks again everyone for the info!

05-30-2015, 20:04
I will order a map but in the meantime is there a map I can see online with the huts and waysides?

Turns out you can browse the NatGeo map with enough detail to see huts! http://s7d2.scene7.com/s7/uviewer.jsp?asset=NationalGeographic/228_IS&config=NationalGeographic/Universal_ImageSet1

05-30-2015, 20:27
Regarding food, will I be able to find (vegetarian/vegan) dehydrated meals at the waysides?

I haven't used the waysides, but my guess is you probably won't find much - mashed potatoes, maybe. For something that specific, I'd suggest you call the park and ask a few questions.

05-30-2015, 21:34
Waysides typically only have snacks. Camp stores have a larger selection. Dinners are Freeze dried Backpackers Pantry meals which run about $9 a meal. If you don't eat meat, that could be a problem. Bring all your dinners and restock snacks from the camp stores or waysides.

The Loft Mt camp store is closed for renovations, but it might be open by the time you get there. It was still closed in mid May when I went through there. If not, the wayside is a mile off the trail and has very little. it didn't even have propane stove canisters, something I desperately needed at the time. Unless you want a $15 lunch, don't bother going there.

I like a carry a bag of Firtos in hot weather. They supply salt, potassium, magnesium and lots of fat. You can even use them to start camp fires :)

05-30-2015, 22:26
Maps: When I hiked SNP, it was my first extended trip, and I purchased the section maps... while those were cool to see every single specific item detail of everything including the geographic guidelines (note: my over emphasis on EVERYTHING), I found them overwhelming to keep up with. I have since discovered the AWOL guide (http://www.theatguide.com/) - which is what I use now - and if I were to do a thru - this is what I would use exclusively.

Follow-up on BEER: When I hiked, the beer was CHEAPER than water or pop at the Waysides. If you do partake, go for the Yuengling! It is made by the oldest brewery in the US (within a drive from the AT in PA).

Red Cinema
06-01-2015, 23:15
Maps: I just used Guthook's guide on iPhone for a short section hike mile 996 to Harper's Ferry (1023), found it wonderful. This took the place of a longer planned section of SNP; PATC has a dedicated app for iPhone for SNP as well. One of those or AWOL as per shelb plus a relatively simple paper back-up would work for me--for you, depends on how much you need to know. In my experience, the necessary questions are: how far to X (where X is shelter, water, resupply), what's the coming elevation change (often between me and X), and last but far from least is there some feature I might otherwise miss coming up?

Hoping to get the longer SNP hike in myself later in the summer, so all this info about how the SNP runs in June also interesting for me to read, thanks all