There is nothing like having to cross a knee high stream to keep you cool on a hot and humid summer day in Virginia. Ramsey’s Draft provided exactly that as the trail cross the stream several times. While there are a couple longer backpacking loops here, we chose a moderate day hike loop that included Jerry’s Run.
- name: Ramsey’s Draft & Jerry’s Run loop
- type: loop
- distance: 8.7 miles
- elevation change: 1040 ft
- time: 3:36 hours (3:11 hours moving)
- location: Ramsey’s Draft Wilderness, North River Rangers District, George Washington National Forest, near Staunton, VA (google map directions)
There are a few backpacking options starting out of the same trailhead at Ramsey’s Draft trailhead. The first is a 16.8 miles loop including Bald Ridge Trail and Ramsey’s Draft Trail with an option for (Hiking Upwards; alltrail). The second also includes Ramsey’s Draft, but combined with the trail on Shenandoah Mountain Ridge on the other side of Ramsey’s Draft drainage for a 18.2 mile loop (Hiking Upwards; alltrail). Both hikes have an option for a side hike up to Hardscrabble Knob. Lastly, you can skip Ramsey’s Draft all together by combining Bald Ridge Trail and Shenandoah Mountain Ridge.
The parking area for the Ramsey’s Draft Wilderness is fairly large. There is a postboard here with a sign in log.
The trail starts in the forest and really never leave it for the entirety of our hike. 0.1 miles into the hike, the trail comes to its first junction. To continue on the Ramsey’s Draft Trail, continue straight. The trail turning right heads acrosses Ramsey’s Draft before heading up to The Peak and Bald Ridge Trail. Unfortunately for us, I was too excited to start crossing the stream and didn’t read the sign despite taking a picture of it.
This mistake lead us to cross Ramsey’s Draft a couple more time than necessary. Soon enough, we were back on track. The trail would follow Ramsey’s Draft for the next roughly 2.5 miles with an unnoticeable incline.
We continued forward keeping Ramsey’s Draft on our right (river right, facing downstream). We passes an old house just before officially entering Ramsey’s Draft Wilderness Area marked by a sign.
The trail was slightly overgrown and had a few down trees here and there. This included some stinging nestles making me regret shorts. But that also meant plenty of wildflowers, including these Rubus Argutus. They are more commonly known for their fruit, the blackberry (US Wildflowers).
About 0.8 miles on the hike, we cross Fish Hollow Stream draining into Ramsey’s Draft. The trail at this point isn’t the clearest leading hikers to do some trail finding and back tracking based on alltrails GPS trackings. This was the case for our hike as well. The OSM map shows the trail crossing Ramsey’s Draft a couple of time right with the first around Fish Hollow Stream, however there was a clear trail continuing on the river right (facing downstream) as marked by an orange mark painted on the tree.
Roughly 1 mile into the hike, the trail does cross Ramsay’s Draft for the first time. The OSM track shows this this crossing. However, there is still a trail that continues river right. We made a mistake here and continued to follow this trail,
which deadended after a large Mountain Laurel Bush.
We then crossed Ramsey’s Draft here only to find thick brush on the other side.
Compounding mistakes like these can turn little mistakes into bigger ones. After taking a deep breath, we decided the best course was to backtrack along the stream until we found the trail river left. I guess I should have searched the hike on Hiking Upwards beforehand to see Jeff Monroe‘s description of the crossing.
Anyways after this kerfuffle, we didn’t have any more issues with navigation for the rest of the hike. As we continued on, we found a colorful shelf mushroom on one of the trees.
The trail stays river left for only 0.2 miles before the second crossing of Ramsey’s Draft. We passed one of the many established dispersed campsites along the entirety of the trail just before the crossing. At the crossing was a placard from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF Licenses) regarding fishing regulations here.
Once we crossed back to the river right of Ramsey’s Draft, the trail heads deeper into the forest. The feel here was more open with seemingly some older growth and higher canopy rather than the closer packed brush we had been hiking through so far.
We crossed Ramsey’s Draft a couple more times
and then crossed Jerry’s Run.
Immediately after was another campsite and the junction for Jerry’s Run Trail branching off to the left.
Jerry’s Run Trail was even lesser trafficked than Ramsey’s Draft Trail, so the overgrown brushes matched it. The incline was noticeable now, but it wasn’t very steep with only a 4.4% grade over the next 2 miles. The trail also crossed the smaller Jerry’s Run a few times as well. It was possible to make the crossing without getting your feet wet, but we didn’t care at this point.
Jerry’s Run became smaller and smaller as we neared its headwaters. Pretty soon, we were just in the woods.
Roughly 4.3 miles into the hike, we arrived at a large open area with several fire rings and the leftover chimney of the old Sexton Cabin originally built by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club in 1940s. It burned down in 1967 and was rebuilt. The cabin was then removed in 1984 when the area became a Wilderness area at the request of the Forest Service (Hiking Upwards) since Wilderness Areas are meant to allow natural forces to dominate the area (USDA).
To continue on the trail, turn around from from the chimney and head back toward where you came from. The continuation of the trail is marked by a sign on the left. It is 0.6 miles from the campsite to the junction with the Shenandoah Mountain Trail. The trail first crosses the stream for the last time before going through a 0.2 muddy mile. The last 0.4 mile to the junction is the steepest climb at roughly 9.7% grade. The junction is marked rather unceremoniously by a small sign marking Jerry’s Run. Turning left of the Shenandoah Mountain Trail and walking a few steps, we reached the edge of the Wilderness Area.
For the next mile, the trail curves around the mountainside of the Shenandoah Mountain Ridge through mostly pine forest. The rare pine covered trail here in the Appalachians reminded me of the trails on the west coast. However, there were only glimpses of the ridges in the distance.
The trail was made more interesting by the many wildflowers blooming including a few Cypripedium Acaule or Pink Lady’s Slippers (USDA).
Around the 6 mile mark, we came to the junction for the Road Hollow Trail branching off to the left and leaving the ridge, which we took. Continuing straight will also lead to the U.S. Hwy 250, but at a Shaws Fork Equestrian Campgrounds rather than the Ramsey’s Draft Trailhead.
The first half mile on the Road Hollow Trail was the steepest at a -10% grade with the next 1.8 miles at a -4.9% grade. It back in the brushy forest curving around the mountain. It would have been a monotonous descent, but the wildflowers were on full bloom. Most of it were Mountain Laurels.
As we neared the end of our hike, we could hear U.S. Hwy 250 as we rounded the last mile before we could see it. The trail continue to curve around the mountain above the parking area before finally junctioning onto the Ramsey’s Draft Trail to complete our loop. It was 0.1 miles back to the trailhead from there.
ratings (1-5; see detailed breakdown)
- views: 2. While I certainly enjoy hiking along Ramsey’s Draft and Jerry’s Run, Meg would have preferred a hike that kept her dry feet. She gets a lot colders than I do. There weren’t much cascading features on Ramsey’s Draft, so it wasn’t the most interesting stream we’ve seen. Either way, the rushing stream acoustics were enjoyable for me. Other than that, there were no vistas for the hike at this times but the many wildflowers did make the otherwise tunnel of green more interesting.
- difficulty: 2. The elevation gain for the trail is pretty mild and it is never that steep. However, the many water crossings can be annoying if you run cold or if you are here in the winter month. The more difficult aspect of the hike is dealing with the overgrown brush and stinging nettles during the summer. Be on the lookout for ticks for sure.
- technical: 2. Some navigation knowledge is needed since portions of the Ramsey’s Draft trail isn’t clear and there is no markers along the trail. The water crossings didn’t involve any swift currents while we were there even through the deepest parts came up to knee high. However, you should be aware of water crossing safety.