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  1. #1

    Default Planning hike, possibly in Shenandoah NP

    Hello. My husband and I are in our early 60s and want to hike a portion of the AT for about 20-25 miles. We have backpacked a couple times before on the Superior Trail, but wouldn't call us "experienced." We hope to keep a pretty easy schedule and hike for 3-4 days. We would like to see some nice scenery. Wondering if hiking in Shenandoah NP would be a good idea? We need to go in October because of limited arrangements for pet care during our absence. Could anyone tell me of a nice hike and what trailhead we should start at/end at, and which direction? Also about parking at suggested trailhead? Thank you.

  2. #2

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    Yes anywhere in SNP will be easily accessible and I wont call it easy, but SNP is very forgiving.

    Southern PA would also be a nice stretch
    Trail Miles: 4,334.8 - AT Trips: 72
    AT Map 1: 2193.1 Complete 2013-2021
    AT Map 2: 270.2
    Sheltowee Trace Map: 167.0
    BMT Map: 52.7
    Pinhoti Trail Map: 31.5

  3. #3

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    Thanks for responding. Do you have any idea about the typical weather there in October?

  4. #4

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    My first week long hike was from Harpers Ferry south 105 miles into SNP during mid October. It rained pretty much everyday but 1. I had a great time that I will never forget but I could have done without rain. Temps were perfect however. I didn't wear a jacket (i did wear my rain jacket a lot!) the entire week, hike in shorts and tshirt. Nightly temps were probably no less than 50's.

    Weather data for the SNP area in October:
    Temperature ( F) Max Average Min
    Max Temperature 93 67.77 55
    Avg Temperature 81.04 58.92 50.33
    Min Temperature 70 50.29 37
    Trail Miles: 4,334.8 - AT Trips: 72
    AT Map 1: 2193.1 Complete 2013-2021
    AT Map 2: 270.2
    Sheltowee Trace Map: 167.0
    BMT Map: 52.7
    Pinhoti Trail Map: 31.5

  5. #5

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    April and October are two of the prettiest months in Northern Virginia (dogwoods in the spring and fall colors) and are the two months with the highest average rainfall during the year.
    If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything.

  6. #6

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    Thanks! Sounds just about perfect, except for the rain, but we can sure deal with that.

    Any ideas about a good place to catch the trail and to leave the car?

  7. #7
    Registered User LittleRock's Avatar
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    October is a nice time to be out pretty much anywhere on the southern 2/3 of the AT.

    My favorite part of Shenandoah was the Central district which goes from Swift Run Gap to Thornton Gap. It's about 35 miles, if that's too much then I suggest cutting miles off of the southern end and starting at Big Meadows. Very scenic section of trail from there to Thornton Gap.
    It's all good in the woods.

  8. #8

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    Sounds great. Can you camp anywhere along the trail in the NP or do you have to be at a registered camp site?

    I am getting excited!

    For rain, I have always just bought the 99 center

  9. #9

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    Sorry, something happened....the 99 cent disposable rain ponchos from Walmart. They come in a box the size of a deck of cards. I can usually get two uses out of each and they are oh-so-light to carry!

  10. #10
    Registered User Majortrauma's Avatar
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    Backpacking/camping in SNP is not without more than a fair amount of challenges and risks. I don't recommend doing this in the fall unless you want to compete for camp sites with a LOT of people. The trail will be full of tourists and day hikers.
    I also thing the SNP has more than it's fair share of bears prowling around because they know food is so easy to come by there. It's a pretty easy hike and easy to get on and off the AT there but not a peaceful hike.
    Southern PA is very nice.

  11. #11
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    I hiked from Harper's Ferry south, through SNP to Rockfish Gap in the first part of October 2017 -- it was a great hike in every respect. I was in my mid-50's with some fair hiking experience (the SHT is one of my favorites), but I was pretty out of shape and used that hike as a rehab/refresher.

    The terrain challenged me in some places, on some days, but didn't intimidate or over-work me. It taught me the lessons I needed to learn. I chose the 2nd week in October because I figured the weather would favorable...and, well, it was certainly memorable! For the first several days, temps were in the high 80's with epic humidity, and I really struggled with that heat. Then the remnants of a hurricane or tropical depression hit the area, and I experienced TONS of rain and a few hours wide awake listening to trees crashing down in the woods. Once that system moved through, however, the weather really was glorious.

    I combined my hike with a short family vacation, meeting up at Skyland Resort. I took a weekend to dry out and enjoyed the park as a typical tourist for a few days, then continued hiking south. Yes, there were plenty of other people enjoying the park -- and in some places or other times, that would bother me, but I wasn't anticipating a "wilderness" experience, so I wasn't frustrated. I enjoyed meeting the people I did.

    I did have to recalculate and be flexible with my mileage and camping plans in one area -- a stretch that was closed to back-country camping due to a problem bear. There was also a long dry stretch (at the very southern end of the park.)

    So -- be prepared for the possibility of a wild weather rollercoaster, especially if a tropical system looks like it could impact the Mid-Atlantic region. Be prepared for other like-minded people enjoying the park; be prepared for camping closures that *might* occur due to bear activity (you can also call ahead or find out online, I think), and be prepared to carry more water than you might think.

    Hope you have a great hike!
    fortis fortuna adjuvat

  12. #12
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    How about Elkwallow to Skyland. 27 miles. There is a nice lodge at the end and in the middle (Skyland). Elkwallow wayside at the beginning (parking lot there). A couple of huts in there too. Some good overlooks.

  13. #13
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    SNP is packed with day hikers and cars on the weekends in the fall. If you plan your hike during the week, you'll have less competition for trail and camping space.

  14. #14
    Registered User LittleRock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bridget01 View Post
    Sounds great. Can you camp anywhere along the trail in the NP or do you have to be at a registered camp site?
    Here are the backcountry camping regulations for Shenandoah NP:

    https://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvis...egulations.htm
    It's all good in the woods.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleRock View Post
    Here are the backcountry camping regulations for Shenandoah NP:

    https://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvis...egulations.htm
    Camping at non-designated sites is not very practical along the AT. Camping at the designated sites is easier, plus you have a reliable source of water, bear proof food storage, a privy for proper disposal of human waste and your not doing further damage to the forest.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  16. #16

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    Thanks for detailing your hike, very helpful!

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by misterblitz View Post
    SNP is packed with day hikers and cars on the weekends in the fall. If you plan your hike during the week, you'll have less competition for trail and camping space.
    We will most likely hike during the week; thanks for the tip.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Camping at non-designated sites is not very practical along the AT. Camping at the designated sites is easier, plus you have a reliable source of water, bear proof food storage, a privy for proper disposal of human waste and your not doing further damage to the forest.
    I respectfully disagree. I've hike about 450 miles of the AT, and I've only stayed at a shelter about 5-6 times. One of the things I enjoy most about section hiking it the ability to get away from people and camp by myself. The AT is literally full of places to camp, even in the SNP.

  19. #19
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    Our first AT section was in Shenandoah, almost 11 years ago. We went for our 20th anniversary in early November. I remember it being a little chilly at night, but very enjoyable during the daylight hours. There were a few people out but not crowds. You need a map of the park. With a map you'll see that Skyline Drive crosses the AT about a hundred times, so there are about a thousand options to start-here/end-there. Just pick a spot and start walking. The AT isn't really about the views, although there are many nice ones, it's more about the experience of following a piece of a long trail, thinking about all the others who have done it before you, and letting that sink into your heart. Before long, you'll be back for the next section!

    To arrange a shuttle, go to the WB home page. At the upper left there's a box. Click on the shuttle list, find somebody in the area you're aiming for, make contact and inquire about pricing, schedule, etc, and you'll be all set.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by misterblitz View Post
    I respectfully disagree. I've hike about 450 miles of the AT, and I've only stayed at a shelter about 5-6 times. One of the things I enjoy most about section hiking it the ability to get away from people and camp by myself. The AT is literally full of places to camp, even in the SNP.
    I have to agree with Slo-go-en on this. IMHO, in Shenandoah, as opposed to the southern AT, easily found established legal tent campsites away from the shelters are fewer and require more effort to find. The 1/4 mile rule is the killer. If you want solitude, I agree they are the way to go.

    Campsites must be at least:

    • 10 yards away from a stream or other natural water source.
    • 20 yards away from any park trail or unpaved fire road.
    • 50 yards away from another camping party or no camping post sign.
    • 50 yards away from any standing buildings and ruins including stone foundations, chimneys, and log walls.
    • 100 yards away from a hut, cabin, or day-use shelter.
    • 1/4-mile away from any paved road, park boundary, or park facility (i.e. campgrounds, picnic grounds, visitor centers, lodges, waysides, or restaurants).

    Make sure you check out a waterfall or two. An early morning or evening hike may also yield a bear sighting.

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