Virginia hikes: Chimney Rock, Riprap Hollow, & Wildcat Ridge, April 17 2021

Shenandoah National Park is one of the parks thru hikers on the Appalachian Trail will cross during their journey between Georgia and Maine. However, I don’t know if the thru hiker ever really get the full Shenandoah experience if they only stick to the white blazes on the ridge following Skyline Drive and never try Blue-Blazing down on of the many hollows. While this could serve as the start of a spicy discussion of why I will probably never be a thru-hiker (JMT doesn’t count), I will save that clickbait post for another time. Instead, this post will highlight they typical Shenandoah experience with rushing cascades, crystal clear swimming holes, and rocky vistas out with views of the wide Virginian valleys. Maybe you’ll even see a black bear. All of which you’ll find on the Riprap Hollow loop.

21_4_17_Riprap-11

Read More

Maryland hikes: Maryland Heights via Harpers Ferry, March 20 2021

My personal hiking preference are for the grand views of the new and more rugged mountains of the west. However, a benefit of hikes here in the mid Atlantic are the history that accompanies the trails. It is among the reasons I enjoy visiting Harpers Ferry and hiking up Maryland Heights, where the Union solders defended against Stonewall Jackson’s invasion into the north during the Civil War. 

21_3_20_Maryland_Heights-30

Read More

virginia hikes: Tinker Cliffs, October 24 2015 & October 20 2020

 This report is an repost with updated video, new photos, and standardized formatting.

For much of my travels, I don’t mind the number of people on the trails. I understand it; everyone wants to see these most aesthetically pleasing views out there. If people are going to spend their hard earned money to fly across the world, the least we all can do is share the experience. Plus they can all be potential drinking buddies. This is why I don’t include seclusion as a criterion on my rating system and I don’t hold a the number of hikers on the trail against a hike with a few exceptions.

Ofcourse, I still do enjoy the aspect of getting away from it all when I am hiking. This is especially true when I’m close to home. Within an hour from our former front door in Southwest Virginia, there were many well-known hikes and sections of the Appalachian Trail. It’s not uncommon that on a sunny day, you’ll see a traffic jam on the on the curves up Catawba Valley Dr and people trying to squeeze their cars anywhere they can at McAfee Knob or Dragon’s Tooth trailheads. Both are well worth the hike, however my local favorite is Tinker Cliffs via the Andy Layne Trail. Here I find the cliffs all to myself for the perfect sunset and a pilgrimage I will make every fall.

Read More

virginia hikes: Angel’s Rest – October 24, 2020

During peak foliage season, popular hikes like McAfee Knob can become very crowded. It seemed like standing room only up there just this past weekend (reddit). For such reasons, I only hike to McAfee during the weekday and for either sunrise or sunset. For the weekend, there are plenty other options along the Appalachian Mountains with outlooks. Angel’s Rest is such a place located about 30 minutes west of the Virginia Tech campus, yet we had plenty of time at the two major viewpoints all to ourselves during this peak hiking season.

20_10_24_angels_rest-1-2

Read More

virginia hikes: McAfee Knob, September 24 & October 29, 2017

This report was reposted on October 17, 2020 to include a video, new photos, and updated formatting.

McAfee Knob is among the most popular hikes in southwest Virginia and said to be the most photographed place on the Appalachian Trail with its own wikipedia page. The popular nature of the hike is a reason I avoid this hike typically and head over to Tinker’s Cliff unless I am doing a sunrise hike. When Keith visited last year, I had planned to write about our sunrise hike and even took a GPS track on it. However, that hike was completely in the fog.

About 1 year to the day, Keith visited us again so we gave sunrise another shot. As you can see, it was quite a nice success. Given we hiked mostly in the dark, I headed up there again to take some updated pictures of the trail for this report a month later during the peak foliage season. With Amtrak restarting train service to Roanoke from D.C the week I’m publishing this post, hopefully this will be just in time for you to plan a southwest VA getaway.

2017_10_29_McAfee-30

Read More

virginia hikes: Carvins Cove & Hay Rock – May 30, 2016 & July 30, 2020

The Triple Crown of Virginia is a small portion of the Appalachian Trail (AT) near Roanoke, Va. It includes the proment points of Dragon’s Tooth, Tinker’s Cliff, and the most photographed outlook on the AT of McAfee Knob. For the typical backpacker of the Triple Crown of Virginia (RATC), it is hiked in a loop that involves rather mundane North Mountain (alltrails). However, I would recommend setting up a shuttle for a point to point hike instead so you can include a lesser known outlook through this section of the AT, Carvins Cove & Hay Rock.

The original hike report of Carvins Cove & Hay Rock was of an early summer hike in 2016 where we were joined by our friends Kevin, Shannon, Mat, and Vrushali. This re-post includes new pictures of the trail since then, a video, and updated formatting.

05-dsc00272
Our friend Mat at an overlook of Carvins Cove in 2016

Read More

virginia hikes: Petites Gap, Highcock Knob, & Sulphur Spring loop, March 21 2020

With COVID-19 pandemic shutting down everything, there are a lot of questions regarding if hitting the trails is something ok to do. My impression on the aspect of social distancing is to avoid other. So it’s not just a simple questions of is heading outdoors ok. Rather the question is can I go hike somewhere not many other hikers are. Remember it’s not just contact with other, but also surfaces others have contacted. You know that rock everyone likes to sit on (McAfee), probably should avoid that. This is the reason popular parks such as Yosemite are closing as they should. Not to mention how the popular parks get tramped on the most without rangers upholding infrastructure (see the damage from government shutdown of 2019, Business Insider).

So the takeaway is go hiking, but probably should be limited to day hikes in your local area on the lesser trafficked trails. With all of that in mind, we headed to an out to explore an out of the way trail we hadn’t done before. We saw only 2 groups of hikers along the 8 mile stretch, so I’d consider that minimizing the risk.

Read More

virginia hikes: Compton Peak via AT from Jenkins Gap to Chester Gap, November 9 2019

As the fall colors start to taper, we headed out for a hike at the northern tip of Shenandoah National Park. What we found was the leaves were pretty much gone at higher elevations and the vista views were mostly brown, we did find some nice foliage in the woods at lower elevations where we would have typically been in a tunnel of green during the middle of the year. For weekly reports, you can also check out Virginia.orgVirginia Department of Forestry reports, or Shenandoah National Park.

11_9_Compton_Peak-17.jpg

Read More

virginia hikes: Franklin Cliffs & Hawksbill Mountain loop, October 15 2019

As fall rolls around, it’s time for me to start my foliage watch. My favorite time to hike here in Virginia is during peak foliage, but the past 2 years has seen muted colors in the area. On this day in mid October, I was commuting from D.C. down to southwest Virginia, so a stop in the Shenandoah National Park was a welcome break in the drive. I found the foliage is still in the very early stages of changing. For weekly reports, you can also check out Virginia.orgVirginia Department of Forestry reports, or Shenandoah National Park.

Read More

virginia hikes: Cove Mountain loop, September 7 2019

Hiking Upwards recently uploaded a new loop near Buchanan, VA, 40 minutes from my place. It seemed like a hike with vista views to the west for a nice sunset. This was important since I was starting my hike late on a Saturday as I was looking to stretch my legs and to walk off the stress from watching a closer than expected football game for my alma mater.

19_9_Cove_Mountain-23.jpg

You can also check out the companion video of the hike here.

Read More