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houthuse
10-12-2007, 10:43
Hi! I will be moving from New Orleans to Alexandria, VA at the end of the month. Hiking here in Louisiana the most difficult problems are bugs and heat (and finding places to hike), so the winter is the best time. I imagine in the Virginia area in the fall/winter heat and bugs are not the most pressing obstacles. I am wondering, though, what to expect for weather, and if/when I would need a 4 season tent. For example, would backpacking in Shenandoah NP in early November generally require more than a zero degree bag and an SD clip flashlight tent? Can you even hike there in Nov.? I am not afraid of cold weather, but also want to be safe, and I have very limited cold weather backpacking experience. Actually, almost none. Obviously, weather is unpredictable, but any advice from those with experience would definitely be appreciated. I really donít want the cold weather to force me indoors any sooner than it has to. Thanks!

Just a Hiker
10-12-2007, 10:56
Hey there! Your current gear should be fine for SNP in the Fall and Winter. I was stationed in the DC area for several years, and the winter weather wasn't too awful bad. The Real downside to that area is traffic!!! My advice is get a Metro Pass!! Take care,


Just Jim

Creek Dancer
10-12-2007, 10:59
:welcome The weather in Virginia varies significantly throughout the year as you will come to find out. We had some warmish winter days last year, and we also had single digit temperatures during the day. The decision to use a zero degree bag and three season tent really just depend upon the conditions at the time. But generally speaking, your winter gear will be sufficient.

Keep in mind that the temperatures on the ridge in the SNP are about 10 degrees cooler than where you are moving.

Yes, you can hike there in November. But be aware that if there is one speck of ice on Skyline Drive, the road will be closed. Just call the SNP general information number to find out if it is open before you leave for the park. I learned that one the hard way! Check out the SNP website. There's lots of helpful information in there.
Have fun hiking. I hope you enjoy living in Virginia as much as I do. :sun

RiverWarriorPJ
10-12-2007, 11:00
. For example, would backpacking in Shenandoah NP in early November generally require more than a zero degree bag and an SD clip flashlight tent? Can you even hike there in Nov.? Thanks!

Hi there & welcome to Va...:welcome ..Your gear sounds fine to me 4 a Nov hike..... Most of my late fall hikes are in the southern part of SNP & my bag is rated 30*..... w/a few pair of long johns....:D

Furlough
10-12-2007, 11:00
Hiking in the SNP in Nov-Jan are actually some of my favorite times of the year to hike. No crowds and the views are unbeatable, and if you like stargazing then you are heading to the right place and the right time of year.

You should be fine with your 0 degree bag and tent. I generally use a 15 degree back and an old Alps Mountaineering Solo tent. I would recommend a good pad to help insulate you and maybe bring along a second foam pad if the weather over night dios below 30.

Welcome to Virginia - where you will not have any problem finding numerous great places to hike.

Furlough

Cookerhiker
10-12-2007, 11:10
You can hike comfortably in the winter in VA. I've backpacked in SNP (http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=125152) in the winter as well as Southwestern VA (http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=89307) between Atkins & Pearisburg. My personal threshhold is 10 degree nights i.e. I wouldn't hike with overnight lows colder than that. So check the weather forecast for where you're hiking and subtract 10 degrees to allow for elevation.

You're wise to approach this gradually since you're undoubtedly used to warmer winters. Winter is a great time for clear views, clean air, no bugs.

As noted by Creek Dancer, Skyline Drive is often closed but you can park by the entrance stations at Rt. 211 or Rt. 33 and start your hike.

houthuse
10-12-2007, 11:15
That all sounds great. Thanks for the heads up about the road closures, I hadn't thought of that. I am really excited about the move, and yes, I will definitely be using the Metro! Any hiking spots I should make sure to not to miss?

the goat
10-12-2007, 11:16
i live right outside alexandria, in arlington, welcome to the area!

SNP is prettty unpredictable, a zero degree bag should be alright for nov., probably december too.

i don't think i've ever used more than a 20 deg bag + tent in SNP, in Nov.

skyline drive closes at a certain point in the winter, but the AT & other trails are still accessible at points. send me a PM if you want to know some of the winter access points to the AT or other good trails.

Just a Hiker
10-12-2007, 11:17
Another thought.....I used to walk alot in Rock Creek Park. It's pretty nice.

Furlough
10-12-2007, 11:29
That all sounds great. Thanks for the heads up about the road closures, I hadn't thought of that. I am really excited about the move, and yes, I will definitely be using the Metro! Any hiking spots I should make sure to not to miss?

I am sure you will get a lot of replys to this - One I like to hike is the Wild Oak Trail (link below). This is one of many great hikes out in the George Washington National Forest west of SNP.

http://gorp.away.com/gorp/resource/us_national_forest/va/hik_geo2.htm

Another all time favorite is a day hike to Old Rag Mountian - this can be extended into an overnight(s) hike because of the other trails in the area. http://www.localhikes.com/Hikes/Old_Rag_Mt_0000.asp

Furlough

Blissful
10-12-2007, 13:03
In SNP are also the White Oak Canyon circuit with Cedar Run Falls and Old Rag circuit. Doing those in off season is much better. And do the AT through SNP either in late fall or winter in SNP. The views are much better and fewer hikers.
Another good one is the Three Ridges and Mar har trail circuit. That's located near the Blue Ridge Parkway area of the AT, south of SNP.

RiverWarriorPJ
10-12-2007, 13:35
Another good one is the Three Ridges and Mar har trail circuit. That's located near the Blue Ridge Parkway area of the AT, south of SNP.
Gotta luv this one Blissful...good choice..
http://midatlantichikes.com/at-mauhar.htm

houthuse
10-12-2007, 16:51
Thanks for all the comments.
The Goat- I will definitely ask for info when I get into town, thanks!
Furlough and Riverwarrior PJ, thanks for the great links.
I checked out the PATC website, and it looks like they have a lot going on, and I saw there are several hiking clubs to look into also. The hiking club here in Louisiana is great, it has been the best resource I have found (besides WB, of course! :D ). I am getting more excited by the minute, too bad I have two weeks to go! Thanks again.

Newb
10-12-2007, 17:55
That all sounds great. Thanks for the heads up about the road closures, I hadn't thought of that. I am really excited about the move, and yes, I will definitely be using the Metro! Any hiking spots I should make sure to not to miss?

I live in Alexandria and just recently introduced a lady friend of mine to hiking in the area. As a matter of fact, we're going to hike in the Northern SNP section tomorrow while her boyfriend plays golf. I hike around here A LOT, and can offer a billion suggestions.

Locally, it's really rather flat but there is the Fairfax cross county trail (http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/cct/)that runs from Great Falls park all the way down to Occoquan. for local parks you have:
- Great Falls (http://www.nps.gov/grfa/)(both in MD. and VA.)
- Prince William Forest Park (http://www.nps.gov/prwi/) (down I-95 in Prince William County, it's right next to the Marine Corps museum which is a must see)
- Burke Lake Park (http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/burkelake/) - about 4 to 5 miles around the lake it's a good circuit for a power walk, it also connects to other trails that spiderweb out into the local area.
- Lake Accontink (http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/accotink/) - located along the Cross County trail it's a nice 3.5 mile loop.
- Occaquan Trail (http://potomacappalachian.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=313&Itemid=43) - Much overlooked and well worth the hike.

Then of course there's the W&O bike trail, the C&O canal towpath (185 miles from Georgetown in DC to Cumberland in the MD panhandle) and the Appalachian Trail...should I continue?

I suggest you join the Potomac Applachian Trail Clu (http://potomacappalachian.org/)b (PATC)

Let me know when you get here and you can piggyback one of our outings.

Blissful
10-12-2007, 18:02
I am getting more excited by the minute, too bad I have two weeks to go! Thanks again.

You're gonna love it, Virginia is a great state. Hot summers, but you're already used to that. The spring seasons are beautiful with the flowering trees and plants. And just enough winter, at least for me. I also like the history and the ocean isn't far away either.

Northern VA and MD have four REI gear stores also. And Hudson Outfitters.

Cosmic Crusader
10-12-2007, 19:00
SNP is a great place for a quick "get away" and in the winter it can be just that. The leaf folks are the finish to the season in general and once the hills are bare the traffic comes close to zero. The roads do close at the drop of a hat but, if you have a decent vehicle you can park at North Sky Line Drive Exit and hike in - or better yet at RT 211 where it crosses at the Pano-rama. North to Pass Mt hut short hike gentle mt - South to Marys Rock nice 360 view and some good places to camp just beyond summit. The North section of the park does offer the best quick access to the DC area but the south end of the park offers some great loop hikes and several great shelters or tent spots. Blackrock summit is a super place to spend a sunset nice mostly 360 view and a possible quick hike down to shelter to the south, and it is fairly remote as the Drive goes so traffic is usually lighter. Word of caution on Blue blazes in the Fall/Winter. The parks outer edge butts up against some serious deer,turkey, and bear hunting areas. The rangers are not usually too present in these areas as the road access is usually from the valley below and through large private lands that either support or do not know hunting is going on up the mt sides. So if you do go blue blazing wear some safe colors hat and or more, and dont be too quiet as you make your way along.
The temps as stated are usually mild low 40s days - teens or below nights in full winter (mid jan - late feb). Dress for winds and carry what you need as the stores are closed.
Keep a lookout for bears the park has lots of them and enjoy the rocks without worry for snakes. If you are parking for overnight hikes on AT the ranger stations are the best for vehicle safety. Several in each section N-C-S, and avoid overnight parking at overlooks just inside gates. The park is flanked by several decent sized schools and weekends almost always bring in some students and or trouble makers.

So enjoy it and bring someone who needs to see it...:)

http://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/maps.htm

- but if you want a great day of relaxing hikes and some good history you can also take the train to Harpers Ferry and hike around then relax with a nice dinner at one several of the towns fine food estabs and overnight at many places.
I believe the trains are about 30 $ and run M_F
PS dont miss the ATC visitors center.:banana

oruoja
10-12-2007, 21:19
Interesting thread. Probability is pretty high I'll be moving down to Va, possibly the Roanoke area in the next few years. Looking forward to an extended hiking season as compared to up here in Vt.

Cookerhiker
10-13-2007, 20:14
Interesting thread. Probability is pretty high I'll be moving down to Va, possibly the Roanoke area in the next few years. Looking forward to an extended hiking season as compared to up here in Vt.

Moving to Roanoke? Contact Hikerhead here on WB. Good hiking partner and great photographer.

Cookerhiker
10-13-2007, 20:18
Hi! I will be moving from New Orleans to Alexandria, VA at the end of the month. Hiking here in Louisiana the most difficult problems are bugs and heat (and finding places to hike), so the winter is the best time. I imagine in the Virginia area in the fall/winter heat and bugs are not the most pressing obstacles. I am wondering, though, what to expect for weather, and if/when I would need a 4 season tent. For example, would backpacking in Shenandoah NP in early November generally require more than a zero degree bag and an SD clip flashlight tent? Can you even hike there in Nov.? I am not afraid of cold weather, but also want to be safe, and I have very limited cold weather backpacking experience. Actually, almost none. Obviously, weather is unpredictable, but any advice from those with experience would definitely be appreciated. I really donít want the cold weather to force me indoors any sooner than it has to. Thanks!

One more point about SNP in winter which I don't believe was mentioned above: all the facilities along Skyline Drive including the Visitors Center are closed. So don't count on a nice meal at Big Meadows Wayside or similar locales. Check the Park website (http://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/hours.htm) for the exact closing times.

houthuse
10-15-2007, 12:33
Thanks Cookerhiker. That is important to know! :) I am now in my last week at work, it's rough leaving the city, especially with the place in such a terrible state, but it has become clear there really isn't anything I can do to help anymore. It is also exciting, though, a new start. I hope to see you all out in the woods!
Heather

2009ThruHiker
10-15-2007, 12:45
Sounds like you have some great info to go on already in this thread. If you need any more help with anything in the area, don't hesitate to ask my wife and I! We live just outside of SNP, at the end of Interstate 66 where it meets 81. We have hiked almost every trail in SNP from the Northern to Central sections, so we might be able to provide some insight there. Great Falls in NVA is a not to miss experience once you find the time.

Have a safe trip!

Cookerhiker
10-15-2007, 15:21
Thanks Cookerhiker. That is important to know! :) I am now in my last week at work, it's rough leaving the city, especially with the place in such a terrible state, but it has become clear there really isn't anything I can do to help anymore. It is also exciting, though, a new start. I hope to see you all out in the woods!
Heather

I wouldn't pretend to have your experience there in NO although I stopped there for one night last summer on one of my trips to Biloxi where I helped (albeit in a small way given my lack of skills) with home reconstruction. Whatever work you were doing was, I'm sure, a Godsend to those you helped. Good luck in the DC area and as someone else suggested, get involved in the PATC (http://potomacappalachian.org/).

NICKTHEGREEK
10-15-2007, 15:36
Hi! I will be moving from New Orleans to Alexandria, VA at the end of the month. Hiking here in Louisiana the most difficult problems are bugs and heat (and finding places to hike), so the winter is the best time. I imagine in the Virginia area in the fall/winter heat and bugs are not the most pressing obstacles. I am wondering, though, what to expect for weather, and if/when I would need a 4 season tent. For example, would backpacking in Shenandoah NP in early November generally require more than a zero degree bag and an SD clip flashlight tent? Can you even hike there in Nov.? I am not afraid of cold weather, but also want to be safe, and I have very limited cold weather backpacking experience. Actually, almost none. Obviously, weather is unpredictable, but any advice from those with experience would definitely be appreciated. I really donít want the cold weather to force me indoors any sooner than it has to. Thanks!
Welcome to NOVA. You will only have problems in SNP with a light tent when there's ice, and to be honest it happens frequently.

houthuse
10-15-2007, 16:27
NicktheGreek, do you mean ice on the trees, or ice on the ground, or both? Can you tell in advance when there will be ice? Can this be alleviated by careful site selection? I had considered snowand cold, but not thought too much about ice. I will definitely have more experience before I knowingly go out in questionable weather (but then when isn't the weather questionable?), and I certainly won't be heading out into the woods in any snow or ice storms, but, of course, weather is unpredictable, and I don't want to end up like those people in the search and rescue thread. :confused:

NICKTHEGREEK
10-15-2007, 18:32
NicktheGreek, do you mean ice on the trees, or ice on the ground, or both? Can you tell in advance when there will be ice? Can this be alleviated by careful site selection? I had considered snowand cold, but not thought too much about ice. I will definitely have more experience before I knowingly go out in questionable weather (but then when isn't the weather questionable?), and I certainly won't be heading out into the woods in any snow or ice storms, but, of course, weather is unpredictable, and I don't want to end up like those people in the search and rescue thread. :confused:
We get some pretty horrid ice (from the sky) that plays hell with the trees, limbs fall off and squash hammock hangers and tents pitched under them (the trees), and then the ground gets real nasty. In a wide open meadow, you won't get squashed by limbs, but 2-3" of ice on a tent will at least bend a pole or 2.
Some times the predictions are accurate, sometimes not. Mostlythe ice is from two colliding fronts that meet right at the mountains. Warmer and wet from the SW and cold and dry from the NE. The warm wet climbs up over the ridges, freezes, falls and then makes everything really ugly for a day or 2. No reason to live in fear, SNP is often closed anyway once the weather gets bad, they have very limited plowing and salting capabilities. Just be advised that the TV weather guys call the "local" area from about Gettysburg PA to Richmond VA and from the Atlantic Ocean to west of SNP. Buy a map and learn the local and it will help to know where they are talking about.