View Full Version : Hiking VA from late June/late July - best section and weather?

04-15-2013, 12:06
Hey all - I have a month between jobs this summer from the last week of June til the last week of July and am planning a section hike in Virginia with one other girl my age (late 20s). She is in fair shape but is very slight and is worried about weight loss. Her parents are also worried about safety/bail out points. Because of this, I'm trying to pick a section of trail that will:

- not be too crazy hard for a beginner
- allow resupply every few days
- good water access
- have great views
- be very safe for two young women hiking alone

Where do you suggest for starting point?

Also, it's going to be July... just how miserably hot are we looking at here? How much water should we carry? It's our only option, but I just want to know what I'm getting into!

04-15-2013, 14:07
The natural choice in your situation would be Shenandoah National Park. The park, while not void of climbs, is still an easy-leaning section of the AT. Yet, it still has dozens of incredible sights. In other words, you get a lot of bang for the buck. The flora and fauna are nice pluses as well (one of the highest concentrations of bears in the country, though they are not a threat so long as you aren't aggressive toward them and follow proper food storage at night. All huts provide bear poles and/or bear boxes, and you can hang a bear bag when/if camping in non-designated sites.) You will pass dozens of park facilities near the trail including restaurants, waysides, and stores. If you want to go into a town (not really all that necessary with all of the park offerings), Front Royal, Luray, Elkton, and Waynesboro are all considered trail towns. You could start at either the north end of the park (US 522 near Front Royal) or the south end (US 250 / I-64 at Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro). If you wanted to do a little more, you could extend the trip to Harpers Ferry, WV, which is about 55 miles north of US 522. While that addition would include the "Roller Coaster," it's really not that bad, even for a beginner, and doesn't compare with some of the climbs farther south in Virginia.

Safety -- the main concern is people, not animals or natural conditions (so long as you have appropriate gear). While incidents of violent crimes are low on the AT, they have happened and are something of which to be aware and prepared. There are dozens of threads on here that concern safety, and the topic is addressed by the ATC on their website.

Weather -- Conditions are highly variable in Virginia in late June / July. Some years, it can be rainy and almost cool, others it can be blistering hot and dry, even in the mountains. Last year, for instance, I was in Roanoke during June and early July before starting my through-hike, and we were routinely seeing temperatures in upper-90s and even lower-100s. We also had a derecho, a new term we learned when we got hit by one, which is a widespread area of straight-line winds. I usually carry about 2 liters of water, and would probably increase that to 3 liters when it starts to dry out.

Have a great hike! You'll find that a lot of people are into the trail in Virginia and most are quite willing to be very helpful!

04-15-2013, 14:23
Virginia is going to be hot. That's just how it is.

How long do you want to be out on the trail? Shenandoah is the obvious starting point -- it's relatively easy, with good resupply every few days in the northern 2/3 of the park. But it's really only a 7-10 day hike.

If you start at the northern end of SNP, you can resupply in several places in the park, then again in Waynesboro (easy to get into town with the local trail angel network, and plenty of places to stay, eat, and resupply. Loved Waynesboro.) Bailing out is easy anywhere along this section.

Then it gets a little harder. The trail itself gets more difficult. Bailout points are still very common -- you'll be crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway and other roads several times. Resupply is a little harder - you can send a mail drop to the Dutch Haus and stay there (call to check about rates out of season.) The Dutch Haus is very cool and I would highly recommend it. After that you can hitch into town from the road crossing at James River Bridge, then you can resupply in Daleville - again, plenty of options right there on the trail (no hitching) for food, motel, and grocery store.

Front Royal to Daleville is probably 3 weeks or so for an average hiker. Less if you're very strong.

Safety. Not really an issue, but I know that people - especially parents - are always concerned. In my mind, ticks are the most dangerous thing on the trail. Beyond that it's just common hiking sense -- hang your food, don't tell people your plans, if you get a bad vibe from another person just keep hiking.

Weight loss. If I recall correctly, most women don't lose weight on long distance hikes. YMMV.

Water. That's another issue. Pay attention to the guidebook, as there are a couple of sections with very little water (south section of SNP for example), and by late summer many springs are starting to dry up.

Good luck. Virginia is a nice section of trail.

04-15-2013, 17:14
A month long hike, it all depends on how many MPD you do and which direction NOBO or SOBO? and how much esperience do you and your friend have?, on all of my thru-hikes i have completed the entire state in a month, My advise is to start in Pearisburg VA and hike NOBO to harpers ferry or SOBO HF to Pearisburg thats a decent section and HF has Amtrak service but remember VA in summer is HOT and DRY so be prepared to carry water longer miles. and one more thing

04-15-2013, 17:15
:welcome to WB

04-15-2013, 19:28
i'm partial to pearisburg(i shuttle hikers up and down the AT[out of pearisburg]). if you'd care to discuss how the northbound hike, from pearisburg might meet your criteria---call me at 540-921-7433(RIDE), don r.

04-15-2013, 19:53
July in VA is usually quite hot and humid.

04-16-2013, 12:57
Thanks for all the input! I'm an experienced hiker, but have only done weekend backpacking trips. My friend is an experienced traveler (SE Asia, hiking in the Himalayas) but has always done base camp trips or stayed in hostels. In many ways, this is a new experience for us.

I have no way of gauging our potential MPD... she lives in TX and can't train in the mountains AND she'll be the slower hiker. Start off around 8 and moving up toward 15? We'll be on the trail 4 weeks, so enough time to get in shape for higher miles. We're open to either NOBO or SOBO.

I hadn't thought of the Amtrak, that's a really good suggestion since we will need to be heading back toward SC to get home! Would spare family members the drive up. :)

04-16-2013, 15:28
When I posted above, I didn't realize that you meant you were going to be on the trail for the entire month. That changes my advice quite a bit since you obviously can do substantially more than just SNP.

The question really becomes: What section in Virginia are you not going to do over the course of the month? It would be logical that you would have to cut from either the north end or the south end since you would have to average about 137 miles per week to do the entire section in four weeks, which is very aggressive starting out of the gate. If you cut the north end, you would cutting a ho-hum section in terms of scenery, but also a section that is easy in AT terms, resource rich, and logistically easy with Harpers Ferry as the northern end of the section. However, if you cut the southern end, you will miss some better scenery areas of Virginia; most prominently, Grayson Highlands. If it were me, I would probably start at US 211 (Thornton Gap) in SNP with a goal of making it to either Damascus or Grayson Highlands (which isn't a bad drive from SC using I-77) -- in other words, picking the best scenery even if it means adding difficulty.

Whichever section you cut, I would definitely recommend that you travel southbound through Virginia. As a general rule, the farther south you go on the AT in Virginia, the harder it gets. The exception to that rule is that the range from Three Ridges to Bald Knob is probably the hardest section in Virginia going either direction, and it's pretty far north, but otherwise the rule is pretty accurate. By going southbound, you'll give yourself and your hiking companion a chance to build up some stamina as you head into the more challenging areas.

Again, best of luck!

04-17-2013, 14:59
Yes, we'll be out for a month. :) I was thinking the same thing, go SOBO and cut an end off the state... now it's just down to picking either Harper's Ferry or Damascus I guess.

It will probably come down to water and resupply. Thanks again for all the advice!