virginia hikes: Little Schloss – September 19, 2020

When a group of friends were looking for some camping time near D.C., I remembered some prime spots along Little Stoney Creek during our hike of the Big Schloss, Mill Mountain, and Little Stoney Creek loop. While the discussion begin as car camping, they didn’t mind the mile walk along Stoney Creek to reach the best campsite

along the creek.

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Don’t worry, our food choices were still inline with car camping.

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We ended up base camping for two night giving us a free day to do a hike in the area, which ended up being Little Schloss. What was a surprise with the amount of wildflowers along the trail from a recent burn.

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trip report: Yoho National Park – Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit, August 2019

Lake O’Hara can seem so out of reach with limitations on the number of campsites and seats on the access buses. But that is just an illusion if you are willing to make the extra 7 mile road walk. That’s all it takes to bring you to the sharp peaks and emerald lakes of Lake O’Hara wonderland.

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This is the eleventh entry of our Canadian Rockies trip series covering our eleventh hike. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted.

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virginia hikes: North Mountain & Pete’s Cave, April 27 2019

Getting started can be the most difficult part about anything. Whether it is me getting these entries out there or getting back on the trail after a long layoff due to injury or other circumstances. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the hardest or most perfect, you just have to get going. On a beautiful Saturday, Katherine joined me to get back on the trail as North Mountain & Pete’s Cave between Lexington and Covington, VA next to I-64 was the perfect combination of reward and ease.

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trip report: John Muir Trail, July 2018 – part 2, getting in & Yosemite National Park warmup

Do you remember your first backpacking trip? For me, it was with Jared, Matt, Will, and Arnold in Yosemite National Park during my last Memorial Day weekend in California before graduate school. Of course, we didn’t have permits beforehand or even thought of how busy it would be that weekend nor really knew much about what was really necessary for backpacking. Through that weekend of floods, rain, infinite hot dogs, and plenty of Gentleman Jack, we emerged as Poopanauts, which is a story that will have to wait for another time. The main point is that it is hard to recall the feeling and mindset of getting into the wilderness for the first time. It was something I had to try my best to relate to as I lead my California friends Arnold, Joey, and Miguel and new friends Becky and Doris back to Yosemite National Park. For Becky and Doris, it was their first time into the backcountry. Since these guys were willing to take the time off work to drive me up to Yosemite – where I would start my John Muir Trail (JMT) hike – and spend several days in the backcountry with me, I hoped that I was able to share my enthusiasm of the outdoors with my friends again and for the first time.

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This is part 2 of my John Muir Trail (JMT) trip report series. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted. Read More

virginia hikes: Devil’s Marbleyard via Belfast Trail, November 4 2018

The fall foliage hiking season seems to be getting shorter and shorter each of the last couple of years. This year it was nearly all green one week, peaked for one week, and gone the next. During the beautiful and fleeting peak weekend this year, Whitney and Matthew joined me for a hike and scramble up Devil’s Marbleyard. For future updated foliage report for in SW VA, check out Virginia Department of Forestry Report.

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This report is supplemented by pictures of my past hikes.

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trip report: Wales, May 2018

The origin of our trip to Wales was open ended, so much so that we didn’t know Wales was our destination until a couple weeks out. This trip serves as an example of an unplanned road trip that’s a culmination of cheap flights across the pond, an expiring travel voucher, and no time to plan. The end result was cliffs, rocks, castles, and fish and chips.

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virginia hikes: Dragon’s Tooth, February 21 2018

Dragon’s Tooth is one of the 3 peaks of the Roanoke triple crown (Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club) along with McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs. It is characterized by the outcrop “tooth” like rock just off the peak of Cove Mountain that can be scrambled upon for a 360 view. It is also known as the most technical of the 3 with a short section of scrambling on the Appalachian Trail near the peak.

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There are actually 4 ways from 3 different trailhead that you can used to access Dragon’s Tooth. The most popular and easiest is an in and out from the Dragon’s Tooth Parking Lot on the Dragon’s Tooth Trail that turns southbound on the Appalachian Trail (AT) at Lost Spectacles Gap. This is also my recommend return route for all other starts. Out of the same Dragon’s Tooth parking lot, the spur Boy Scout Trail splits shortly after the trailhead and connects with the AT quickly before continuing southbound. The other ways are starting on the AT at main trailhead parking lots (Trout Creek trailhead on Miller Cove Road VA-620 to head northbound or McAfee Knob Parking lot on Catawba Valley Drive VA-311 to head southbound).

While I hiked this on an overly warm, 78 degree Fahrenheit, February weekday recently for sunset, this is one of those local hikes that I’ve done multiple times in the past since it’s so close. My preferred route and what I hiked last time is to head up the Boy Scout Trail and returning on the Dragon’s Tooth Trail after summiting. However, I hiked down in the dark on my last trip since I was catching sunset. Rather than describing the exact hike of my most recent hike exclusively, I’ll cover the most popular and easiest way up first and then I’ll follow up with the alternatives using pictures taken across the years.

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virginia hikes: Old Rag, July 30 2017

Living in Southwest Virginia and around Virginia Tech, majority of the day hikes we can feasibly do are around a 3 hour radius. We don’t get to the trails out in Northern Virginia much, but recent events will have us exploring there more often now.

information

  • Old Rag Mountain (NPS)
  • type: loop
  • distance:  9.5 mi
  • elevation change: 2438 ft ascent and descent
  • time: 3:15 hours moving (4:20 hours with breaks)
  • location: Shenandoah National Park (directions to trailhead)
  • Pet are not allowed on the entirety of Old Rag Mountain loop.

report

On our way back from D.C., we were up for a Sunday hike to break up the drive. Old Rag is one of the most popular loops in the area said to include some fun scrambling. Expect the trail to be heavily trafficked and a busy time at the parking lot on a nice weekend day, especially after a period of hard rain.

*EDIT 2020/6 – The new parking lot is now complete. See this sub-Reddit for descriptions and detail.

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There is a National Park fee of $10 each person or $25 a vehicle to be paid at the lower Old Rag parking lot, unlike the National Forests along the I-81 corridor that don’t. I’d recommend picking up the $80 NPS Annual Pass to save money and support the National Parks.

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There is an alternative trail head you can take up to Old Rag at Berry Hollow parking lot and Whiteoak Canyon parking lot should you suspect the lower Old Rag parking lot to be full. The fee station is located at Whiteoak lot.

The first 0.8 miles of the hike is hiking up to the original Old Rag trail head along Nethers Rd. for about a half mile before turning left. At upper Old Rag parking lot, the typically recommended route is in the clockwise direction, so turn left onto the Ridge Trail. *EDIT 2020/6: The initial portions of the trail was rerouted to directly head up from the parking lot and no longer follow Nethers Rd.

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For a little more than 2 miles, the trail is a typical uphills climb among the green tunnels of Virginia with a few switchbacks gaining majority of the elevation for the day. The next section is the a scramble section where no dogs and camping are allowed and

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followed by the first vista of the day.

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The initial scramble takes on upward slanting rock slabs with views toward the summit, north, and south from the valley that we drove in on.

The scramble continues and was surprisingly different as the drops you into a slot.

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The unique scramble continues up not by taking you over rocks but into caves and more slots.

After passing a pretty cool overhanging rock,

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there are a couple more difficult sections between more slots.

The next area opens up as you get a look down toward the scramble you’ve come up on.

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The large flat surfaced rocks here are a popular stop and lunch place for many folks on the trail.

However, the summit is a little scramble and walk along the ridge further as indicated by a sign about a mile and an hour after the scrambling section began.

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The summit consists of a field of large boulders to climb up on.

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With 360 degree views of the area.

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We definitely had to sit on the high point.

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We saw several hikers double back from here because it was shorter distance, but the quicker route is to continue on the loop. Of course if you want more scrambling, but in the downwards direction, doubling back is the way to go.

The Ridge Trail become the Saddle Trail as we continue down the other side of the mountain with a couple more vistas.

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Shortly after the summit, we arrive at the Byrd’s Nest Shelter.

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We didn’t explore this are much since we thought it was just a shelter, but Hiking Upwards points to his area as an additional scrambling area as you can see the rock formations up the mountain in the picture below.

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The rest of the Saddle trail switches back among the trees until

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the Old Rag Shelter. Both the Old Rag Shelter and Byrd’s nest Shelter are for day use only.

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At the Post Office Junction, an intersection of the Weakley Hollow Fire Road, Berry Hollow Fire Road, and Old Rag Fire Road. As mentioned earlier in the post, the Berry Hollow trail head is down the Berry Hollow Fire Road. This junction use to the be town of Old Rag as the poster mark explains. The way back is on the Weakley Hollow Fire Road.

The fire road can be a little boring as green tunnel continues. After the intersection of Robertson Mountain Trail and Corbin Hollow Trail, the Brokenback Run crosses and accompanies the fire road until the Saddle Trail intersection. Around the intersection of trails, there seems to be a few camping spots, which can provide a multi-day trek that includes Old Rag Mountain, Robertson Mountain, and even out to the Skyline Dr.

One the road portion back to the parking lot, there was a smoothie stand set up by the locals should you want a refresher for $4.

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ratings (1-5; link for detailed breakdown)

  • views:  3. The vistas for this hike are your typical Shenandoah views of farm land and small tree covered mountains. The latter half of the hike is composed of green tunnels of trees and streams typical of Virginia as well. The cool thing on this hike is both the added views the large boulders provide in contrasting the green mountains and the fun they provide in the mile long scramble. The scramble itself isn’t just the same thing throughout, but varies as you go along to keep it engaging. This is one of the my favorite hikes in Virginia and I can see the reason for its popularity.
  • difficulty: 3. There is only one major uphill to get up onto the ridge on the Ridge Trail. However, the scrambling is a workout under the sun and will be way more difficult if it is raining.
  • technical: 2. The technicality would be the scrambling involved on this trail, and it’s not a small section either, around a mile from the start of the Ridge Trail to the summit of Old Rag. If you aren’t familiar scrambling take, do take your time.

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