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  1. #1
    Registered User jax_o's_fan's Avatar
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    Default 4 days and 3 nights in SNP

    Hello all and thanks for reading. After waffling on whether or not to do our annual sprink hike, my friend and I decided we are going to hit Shen. It is only about 2.5 weeks out at this point. He was thinking of us going from Thornton gap to Swift run gap. I have just started researching it on my end. Any advice, tips, et cetera would be appreciated. We are going to have 1 vehicle. We can either do a loop or hitch hike or shuttle or whatever.

    How are the water levels around this area? Are there bug concerns in early April?

    Is the shelter situation similar to the SMNP where you aren't supposed to pitch your tent unless the shelter is full?

    Thanks in advance for any advice

  2. #2

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    The Park requires a permit which you can pick up when you pass the entrance station. Unlike the Smokies, you are not required to stay in or camp near the shelters. The Park has some rules which you can discern from their website but in general, you're more flexible in SNP than along the AT in NJ or CT for example.

    Hitching is viable, especially on a weekend when there are more people out. I suggest you start on a Sunday, leave your car by the entrance station, and hitch to your starting point, hike back to your car.

    Can't speak to current water levels. Bugs shouldn't normally be an issue although this year's early hot Spring weather threw everything out of wack.

  3. #3
    Registered User johnnybgood's Avatar
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    As Cookerhiker has stated,the park has no restrictions on shelters like the Smokies but a free backcountry permit is needed. I will also mention that Big Meadows Wayside is now open for the season and Lewis Mtn Campground will open in 2 weeks. The best way to get to Big Meadows from the AT that requires little effort ,(0.9 mile flat walking) is to exit the trail at the campground as you're circling around behind it.
    Lewis Mtn. Campground store is a very short walk from where the trail intersects the side trail that empties out on the outer loop . The store can provide hikers with a limited supply of typical hiker food and is much closer to the trail.
    As far as water goes, I'm sure the storms of the last several days have helped out plenty in that regard. Bugs might get an early start this season as the temps have been well above average for the first week of spring.
    Getting lost is a way to find yourself.

  4. #4
    Backing Back into Backpacking
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    I hiked that section last summer with my kids. We didn't have to pump water the entire trip. There are enough waystations and campgrounds that you can get it out of the tap no filtering. That said, we took ours anyway just in case.
    The key to success in achieving a goal is focusing not on how far you have to go, but rather how far you have come.

    I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me Phil 4:13

  5. #5
    Registered User jax_o's_fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ashman View Post
    I hiked that section last summer with my kids. We didn't have to pump water the entire trip. There are enough waystations and campgrounds that you can get it out of the tap no filtering. That said, we took ours anyway just in case.
    The only section I've done in Virginia is near Dragon's Tooth to down past Tinker Cliffs. Awesome section. So is this Thornton Gap section worthy of doing? Knowing that you only got to do a couple of 4 day hikes like this per year?

    If not...I'll take suggestions for other 4 day 3 night hikes. Generally we do 8-10ish miles per day.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by jax_o's_fan View Post
    The only section I've done in Virginia is near Dragon's Tooth to down past Tinker Cliffs. Awesome section. So is this Thornton Gap section worthy of doing? Knowing that you only got to do a couple of 4 day hikes like this per year?

    If not...I'll take suggestions for other 4 day 3 night hikes. Generally we do 8-10ish miles per day.
    There's nothing as dramatic as Dragons Tooth or Tinker Cliffs but it's worth doing for the viewpoints and wildflowers. Also if you want to take the time, the waterfalls should be flush if you're willing to hike down and back up again. Lewis, Dark Hollow, White Oak Canyon, South River are all nice in the Spring. Another side trail to take is up to Hawks Bill - the highest point in the Park.

  7. #7
    Registered User johnnybgood's Avatar
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    We did this section ending at Lewis Mtn in late September as the fall colors were just starting to change in the upper elevations. After the climb from Thornton Gap you're immediately rewarded with a 180 degree view just a few steps beyond the AT.

    A ridge walk will give you more opportunties to snap pictures and enjoy the vistas. A very nice section with a few stretches of PA rocks thrown in to acclimate yourself to the AT in that state.
    Getting lost is a way to find yourself.

  8. #8
    Registered User jax_o's_fan's Avatar
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    Are there shelters along this section? My map of the area has not arrived yet. I always have a tent, but I was curious about the shelters.

  9. #9

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    From Thornton Gap going south:

    Rock Spring Hut - 14 miles
    Bear Fence Hut - 26 miles

  10. #10
    Registered User jax_o's_fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cookerhiker View Post
    From Thornton Gap going south:

    Rock Spring Hut - 14 miles
    Bear Fence Hut - 26 miles
    Thank you for all of your input. Can't wait to go.

  11. #11
    Registered User KnotHere's Avatar
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    Both of these should help you. Bugs and wter do not seem to be an issue. Weekends will be full of park visitors and weekenders so I agree with Starting on a Sunday.

    http://www.appalachiantrail.org/hiki...nteractive-map <- Click and Zoooooom
    http://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisi...whole_park.pdf

    SALT LIFE!!
    -I'm not a hiker, but I will walk for days for the right campsite!

  12. #12
    Registered User jax_o's_fan's Avatar
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    If we leave a car at swift run gap, does anyone know of a shuttle service to take me back up to thornton gap? April 12th is the date that I'll be doing this.

  13. #13

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    Personally as I said in Post #2, I'd hitch but if you're uncomfortable with that, here's the ATC list: http://www.appalachiantrail.org/hiki...transportation

    There's a PATCer out of Waynesboro named Bill Gallagher (sp) - I'll try to find contact info on him.

  14. #14
    Registered User johnnybgood's Avatar
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    Pam Bennett also shuttles hikers through SNP.
    She is on the ATC list : 540.447.6882
    Getting lost is a way to find yourself.

  15. #15
    Registered User jax_o's_fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cookerhiker View Post
    Personally as I said in Post #2, I'd hitch but if you're uncomfortable with that, here's the ATC list: http://www.appalachiantrail.org/hiki...transportation

    There's a PATCer out of Waynesboro named Bill Gallagher (sp) - I'll try to find contact info on him.
    My first time hitch hiking was last October. We made the boneheaded mistake of leaving the end car keys in the beginning car. So we hitch hiked back to the beginning car. After walking five miles ( on the highway ) a very nice gentleman picked us up. This was while we were walking the foothills trail in South Carolina. I've never been to Shenandoah but it sounds like there will be a lot more hikers, and a lot more cars. I'm just worried that if I had to walk several hours on the highway, that it would throw off my schedule. I only get 2 days off of work and I'm combining that with a weekend.

    Maybe this is one of those times where I need to just let go and put my faith in mankind and see what happens : )

  16. #16
    Registered User jax_o's_fan's Avatar
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    Ok the map has arrived. So now I have a couple questions if you don't mind.

    I'm still undecided on which entrance to start from either Swift Run Gap and finish at thornton or vice versa. But for now starting at swift run gap and hiking north to thornton.

    So Roughly 8.9 miles on day 1 and we'll reach Bearfence Mtn Hut. Perfect

    Day 2 roughly 11.5 we'll reach Rock spring hut - perfect

    Day 3 I don't see any shelters. I see that we'll hit skyland after about 4 miles. Is there camping here or just a resort?

    Day 4 we'll walk out at Thornton gap.

    We don't mind using our tents ( sometimes I prefer it to crowded shelters ). So would you skip skyland and find a spot a few miles past it to camp for night 3? I'd like the 4th day to be a relatively short hike out so we can drive back to baltimore so i can hop my flight back to FL.

    Also I keep hearing about pay showers. Are there any on the stretch that I'm referring to?
    I see a couple of waterfalls that aren't too far off of the A.T. I'm definitely going to try to hit those. Is there anything else in this stretch that I should hop off of the A.T. to see?

    Thanks in advance

  17. #17
    1,630 miles and counting earlyriser26's Avatar
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    I did this hike two years ago in April. You do get several nice views and the trail is fairly easy. I don't remember any camping at Skyland (we stayed in a room). Also, the guide book doesn't show camping. I would just get a room if that works for you.
    There are so many miles and so many mountains between here and there that it is hardly worth thinking about

  18. #18
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    Post SNP and I have a beautiful friendship

    So I can answer a lot of questions.

    > we'll hit skyland after about 4 miles. Is there camping here or just a resort?

    It's a resort. Indeed, it was one of the first tourist resorts in the area that became Shenandoah.

    > So would you skip skyland and find a spot a few miles past it to camp for night 3?

    Keep walking. As noted in this URL
    http://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/campbc_regs.htm
    "No camping may occur ... within mile of a paved road, park boundary, or park facilities such as a campground, picnic area, visitor center, lodge, wayside, or restaurant."

    So you won't be able to pitch a tent till you're past this area.


    > Also I keep hearing about pay showers. Are there any on the stretch that I'm referring to?

    As this pdf notes
    http://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisi...campground.pdf

    there are pay showers at Big Meadows, between the picnic area and the camping area.


    > Is there anything else in this stretch that I should hop off of the A.T. to see?

    If the air is clear, take a couple minutes to view the scenery from the overlooks.
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  19. #19
    Registered User KnotHere's Avatar
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    Pm me with the time you'd need a lift. I pass swift run every to and from work.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    -I'm not a hiker, but I will walk for days for the right campsite!

  20. #20

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    The other side trail you may want to consider is up to the summit of Hawksbill - the highest point in SNP. The side trail is a few miles of Big Meadows.

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