View Full Version : Hiking entire Shenandoah AT - North to South or South to North?

03-06-2013, 18:24
Hiking the Shenandoah AT in September from end to end. Can anyone offer up some wisdom on why it seems like South to North is the preferred method? From a logistics standpoint, North to South is going to be much better for my group.

Any help is greatly appreciated!

03-06-2013, 18:29
I've been looking into a northbound hike of the AT section in Shenandoah this spring (south to north). My reason for south to north is that it is relatively easy for me to get to Rockfish Gap by taking Amtrak to Charlottesville and either hitching or getting a shuttle to the trailhead. Upon arrival in Front Royal, there is an Enterprise rental location where I should be able to rent a car one way back to Washington.

I suppose that logically it could be done the other way around (rent an Enterprise car, drop in Front Royal, hike south, hitch from Rockfish Gap to Charlottesville, Amtrak back to Washington) ... but I like the idea of ending up in a town and having a car to go home rather than trying to hitch/take train after a week of not showering on the trail.

One other advantage of NoBo is possibly having more opportunities to talk to some early thru hikers.

I should note that I plan on diverting from the AT at the Dickey Ridge Trail and heading directly into Front Royal rather than taking the AT to the junction of 522.

I have the Potomac Appalachian guide to the park which was useful for planning purposes.

03-06-2013, 18:38
I would recommend going southbound. Not only is it all downhill :). but the South District is the most remote section and probably best saved for last. Especially in the summer, when there are many fewer water sources in that section.

03-06-2013, 19:27
I did it South to North for no reason other than my inclination to hike on the AT.

Below is my trip report for that hike. Although it may not be helpful due to me being Northbound.

I had the opportunity to thru hike the SNP 30 Jul to 7 Aug. I was northbound. Below is a trip report of sorts.

SNP North bound 7/30 – 8/7
I thru hiked the SNP north bound from 7/30 – 8/7. The following are my observations on water, shelter and trail conditions for that period. Note: It rained 4 out of the 6 first days.

Day 1 - Calf Mtn Shelter. Piped spring running slow. Estimate it took about an hour to fill a one liter bottle. The seeps coming out around the pipe likewise were running at a trickle. But the 2 catch pools someone dugout were full of water, a bit muddy but useable. I filtered from one of these. Was able to get a of a liter until my old msr sweat water filter broke. (Was able to get bailed out the following morning by my 73 year old trail angel Dad, who met me down at Turk Gap, loaned me his filter and even took me into Waynesboro on night 3 for dinner, a motel stay/shower and breakfast at Weasies the next morning. It was great fun having him knock out some miles with me.) Shelter and tent sites were all full. Folks had even set tents up right next to the shelter. I bushwhacked up slope from the shelter and sent up my tent on a rock ledge over-looking the shelter area. The shelter looked to be in good shape, must have been as all spaces were occupied. Trail leading to Calf Mtn. Shelter was in good shape.

Day 2 - Blackrock Hut. Based on the over-crowding at Calf Mtn, and day 2 being a Saturday and there being 2 parking areas near Blackrock Hut I did not camp there. Instead I took Dad down Moormans River Trail down past where the stream crosses the trail and camped there. This maybe 8/10s to 1 mile South of Blackrock Hut. Moormans river trail is part of what used to be the Old AT. If you are uncertain about water availability at Blackrock I highly recommend Moormans River trail as an alternative. The 3 times I have been on it that 1st water source has never been an issue. I talked later with folks who stayed at Blackrock hut. Water from the pipe was slow but steady, shelter and tent sites were full. The trail between Calf mtn and Blackrock was in good shape. It rained hard over night. Dad headed back to his car via the drive, I headed north.

Day 3 – Pinefield Hut. It rained pretty much all day. Water in the stream was flowing fine. Shelter and Campsites were empty. I swept out the shelter, filtered water, read and signed the shelter log. The trail around Loft Mtn Campground down to about the trail to the maintenance bldg and the Loft Mtn Wayside was in pretty rough shape. It was overgrown and it looked the bears had pulled down choke cherry trees and apple trees to get at the fruit. Trail was overgrown but very passable. As I am not out there maintaining I am not complaining, just sharing what I saw on that particular day. Dad walked down from parking area to the Hut and with not too much convincing by me we were off to Waynesboro for the night.

Day 4 – Hightop Hut. Dad dropped me off at the parking area for Pinefield Hut. He drove North and I walked back down to the AT and headed north, it rained on and off during the day. Dad would park at various points along the way, and hike south to meet me and then hike back north with me to his car. Hightop hut spring was flowing fine. Someone had left a brillo pad at the spring. I got rid of it. Dad and I filtered water then went to talk with the folks at the shelter. Shelter was in good shape. Trail from Pinefield to High Top hut was in good shape. Dad and I continued north up to hightop summit. 2/10 of mile past the boxed spring where the concrete trail marker is Dad and I got off the trail and set up our tents. We had a good time relaxing at the high top overlook. Dad got some good pics of the sun setting. That night a heavy fog set in. May as well have been rain. In the morning I went back down to the boxed spring and filled our water bottles. Dad headed back down south to his car and I headed north. We met up at the parking area North of High Top Mtn. Dad re-filled my alcohol bottle, took my trash, gave me hug and headed back home and I continued north. It was great hiking with him again.

Day 5 Bearfence Mtn Hut. It rained on and off this day. I stopped short of Bearfence and hiked off of the AT and onto campsite number 2 at Lewis Mtn Campground. I filled out the necessary info, paid my 15 dollars and vested the camp store for ice cream, Gatorade and a few items to add to my dinner and breakfast. As luck would have it the laundry facilities were not working. I did get to take a $1.00 five minute shower. Next morning I talked with 4 young jackalopes who stayed at bearfence. They said water was not a problem. Having the recent rains I am sure helped. No issue with the trail between Hightop and Bearfence.

Day 6 Rockspring Hut. I stopped into Big Meadows Wayside for lunch. Bacon Cheese Burger Combo and Starbucks coffee. The 4 young jacklopes were finishing up their meal as I arrived. When I was leaving they were perfecting their yoging technique. I heard one gentleman offering to go in and buy them a box of fried chicken for the trail. Not sure if they took him up on it. An hour or so later as they zoomed past me on the trail I did not think to ask them if they were carrying chicken. I rolled into what is my favorite Hut site in SNP – Rockspring Hut. Folks from PATC were just finishing building a new moldering privy that they would install the next day. I swept out the shelter just in time for a father and his two sons to arrive. They were getting a section of the trail in prior to attending a wedding in Harrisonburg. As always the water was flowing fine from out beneath that big rock (boulder) form which the Hut gets its name. I pitched my tent up above. Trail between Bearfence and Rockspring was in good shape. I headed out early the next morning so I could get into Skyland for breakfast.

Day 7 Byrd’s Nest #3 and Pass Mtn Huts. I got into Skyland in plenty of time for breakfast and plenty of refills on the starbucks coffee. The trail between Skyland and Byrd’s Nest 3 was great. No rain or clouds so those westward views were beautiful. I got into Byrd’s nest for lunch. I did not hike down to the spring, but Southbounders Hit and Miss had left a note in the shelter log saying that the spring was running fine. Just as I left Byrd’s nest thunder storms moved in. I played tag with them all the way down to the Panorama facility. It was thundering when I went by Mary’s Rock, so I did not go up. I went into Panorama hoping to get water. There are signs posted saying not to drink the water there before treating it, and that they have plans to put a well in at some point in the future. I left Panorama and headed for Pass Mtn Hut. Just after I arrived another evening thundershower hit. As it was raining I swept out the shelter. I noticed that the gutter was clogged and in between showers I cleaned it out. I started out that night in the shelter with 3 other folks who arrived around 8:30. I could not get comfortable and ended up gathering my gear and pitching my tent. The spring was running fine and strong. Skyline and his co-overseers have done a great job maintaining this Hut. The trail into Pass Mtn hut was fine. Once headed back north the trail is a bit over grown for a short while. Nothing major and no problems navigating.

Day 8 – Gravel Springs Hut. I kicked along pretty good and rolled into Elkwallow Wayside for an early lunch and a minor re-supply for dinner and breakfast. Gravel Springs Hut spring was flowing fine. Although it and the small grassy area just above it had been turned into a playground by a youth group staying in the tent sites. I had a very pleasant dinner conversation with two very nice ladies who were finishing up their section through Virginia. We each were from Va Beach at various points in our life, so it as nice talking old times. The conversation was fun and entertaining and the after dinner drink and dessert was very much appreciated.

Day 9 Tom Floyd Wayside. I stopped in on the way to my finishing point at the 4H Educational Center to grab a snack, rest my feet and sign the shelter log. The hut looks in great shape. I did not visit the spring. There is an Ash tree dying in front of the hut that could come down on the hut if the wind blows it that way.

Hope the above may be of some use.

03-06-2013, 20:37
I don't think it makes any difference. Hike the direction that you want.

03-08-2013, 14:52
Thanks, this is a huge help!!!

Stalking Tortoise
03-08-2013, 15:17
As I was heading northbound out of SNP towards Route 522, I was grateful that I was not ASCENDING to Possums Rest...

Inside the park, I also don't think it makes a difference which direction you hike.

03-08-2013, 17:53
As I was heading northbound out of SNP towards Route 522, I was grateful that I was not ASCENDING to Possums Rest...

Inside the park, I also don't think it makes a difference which direction you hike.

within the park, i was glad i was not ascending mary's rock.

03-08-2013, 22:57
Descending Mary's Rock in the rain is no picnic either.