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  1. #1
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    Default Advice needed: 5-6 day backpacking trip in VA or WV

    Howdy all. I have some unused PTO that I need to burn in December that I'd otherwise lose, so I figured I'd head out for a 5-6 day trip, a shakedown in preparation for thru-hiking the AT next year.

    My immediate thought was to do the AT in Shenandoah NP SOBO, parking at US-522 (or nearby) and getting a shuttle back to my vehicle at the end of the trip. Upon more thought I realized that would be some fairly large daily miles with shortened daylight, and the Waysides are all closed so I'd need to pack in all my food for the trip. So, not terribly ideal.

    I can shorten the trip if need be, but did want to get some extended nights out with my current kit.

    Any thoughts on trails/routes? Trout Run Valley? VA Triple Crown? Loops are desirable, as I'll be solo, but will listen to any ideas. Thanks in advance!

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    The AT through SNP is fantastic but it is true that the waysides are closed and you'd have some long days. I'd recommend shuttling down to Rockfish Gap and hiking NOBO back to your car. I always favor hiking to a vehicle, when I have one, rather than relying on shuttle logistics at the end of a trip. Also, with the winter sun, I'd rather hike NOBO than SOBO to avoid having the sun in my face.

    If you think the entire SNP is too long, one possibility might be to park your car at Thornton Gap rather than US 522 which would shorten the hike by around 30 miles, I believe. If you have extra time, you could keep hiking NOBO into the northern district of SNP, perhaps to the Elkwallow wayside, and then hitch back to Thornton Gap (which I think should be easy unless the road is closed due to weather).

  3. #3

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    I don't know how you feel but I don't tend to want to extensively repeat trail mileage. If your focus is a 5-6 day in SNP IMHO the AT route through SNP doesn't showcase the diversity this NP offers. If you plan on bagging the AT in the near future you'll experience that part of SNP. I'd suggest a 4-5 day loop or lollipop involving Old Rag, White Oak Canyon, maybe Cedar Run, and a portion of the AT with perhaps leaving a vehicle at a CG/ Skylands, safe TH, etc or leaving a vehicle in town and getting shuttles.

  4. #4

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    I'm telling you because there're very very few AT thrus who spend any amount of hiking time beyond the AT when cruising through SNP. If you haven't experienced SNP beyond the AT IMHO you haven't experienced 2/3 of what this NP has to offer. A matter of fact some AT straight terminus to terminus NOBO and SOBO itinerary thrus, at this stage in their hikes, see SNP as boring, flat, or speed hike SNP or decide to aqua blaze it. Asking 500 AT thrus this is what I took from our conversations.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    I don't know how you feel but I don't tend to want to extensively repeat trail mileage. If your focus is a 5-6 day in SNP IMHO the AT route through SNP doesn't showcase the diversity this NP offers. If you plan on bagging the AT in the near future you'll experience that part of SNP. I'd suggest a 4-5 day loop or lollipop involving Old Rag, White Oak Canyon, maybe Cedar Run, and a portion of the AT with perhaps leaving a vehicle at a CG/ Skylands, safe TH, etc or leaving a vehicle in town and getting shuttles.
    These are all great options that I've hiked before. SNP is a great park with the best trails off the AT.

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    Great posts, thanks! I love SNP and have done quite a few trails off the AT, but there are a ton I haven't gotten to. I'll put together a few loops mentioned above and will report back.

  7. #7

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    here's an idea: Leave your car at the Angels Rest Hiker's Heaven hostel in Pearisburg and hike north to Daleville. Get a shuttle back to Pearisburg. You will do the Triple Crown. you can stay at the Four Pines Hostel in Catawba for resupply, Laundry etc.

  8. #8
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    Foothills Trail

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by stilllife View Post
    Foothills Trail
    Another wonderful choice and a perfect length for a 5 day trip.

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    Wish I could do that, just a bit far for me to drive. Will pencil it in for the future though, thanks for the rec!

    So far, I've got a rough plan for a long loop in Shenandoah NP, starting off what Dogwood mention above. So far:

    Old Rag
    White Oak Canyon
    Cedar Run
    Rose River Loop (partial)
    Dark Hollow Falls
    AT north
    Nicholson Hollow Trail to end loop at vehicle

    Working on figuring mileage tonight, but so far I've figured my mileage from trailhead to the Cedar Run / AT junction is only 11 miles. But dipping down into Rose River / Dark Hollow should add some decent mileage. Plus there are a few small sidetrails to jump off on. But I can always add on if need be, once I reach the Nicholson Hollow junction.

  11. #11

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    Exactly the loop with the side spurs and alternates I was referring. It's a more scenically diverse and overall engaging hike than strictly staying on the AT through SNP. When you thru the AT next yr please come back to your thread and tell me if I was misleading in anything I stated. You might communicate to other AT thrus what I've been saying for yrs and what you chose to experience. Virtually all AT thrus will be so into the so common thru hike don't veer off the 30" tread mus get er dun ASAP by the shortest distance mentality it will be like you're speaking in Chinese to them. You on the other hand will have had a higher cumulative qualitative and quantitative experience.

    Enjoy your hikes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    Exactly the loop with the side spurs and alternates I was referring. It's a more scenically diverse and overall engaging hike than strictly staying on the AT through SNP. When you thru the AT next yr please come back to your thread and tell me if I was misleading in anything I stated. You might communicate to other AT thrus what I've been saying for yrs and what you chose to experience. Virtually all AT thrus will be so into the so common thru hike don't veer off the 30" tread mus get er dun ASAP by the shortest distance mentality it will be like you're speaking in Chinese to them. You on the other hand will have had a higher cumulative qualitative and quantitative experience.

    Enjoy your hikes.
    Appreciate your insight! I'll report back to the thread with a trail report.

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    I like that plan. Be aware that some of these side trails can get crowded on weekends, although maybe not so much this time of year. Old Rag, White Oak Canyon and Cedar run are all very popular day hike destinations. Rose River is very nice but also a popular and easily accessible camping destination for people who park at Big Meadows and only want to walk a couple of miles. But these are all scenic areas and if you avoid weekends (especially for Old Rag), I think it is a good plan.

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    I've day hiked a few of the areas before, but never Old Rag. Plan is to start on a weekday morning as early as possible.

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    There are two routes to the Old Rag summit: The Ridge Trail and the Saddle Trail (which is accessed via the Weakley Hollow Fire Road). The Ridge Trail is the more scenic and fun routes but it has a few areas where you will likely have to take off your pack and scramble a little. This is probably a non issue if you have a compact pack but could be an issue if you have a larger pack. Most people ascend the Ridge Trail and descend the Saddle Trail to make it a loop hike but you could also take the Saddle Trail to the summit and backtrack.

    Here's a map of the area:

    https://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvis..._RoadTrail.pdf

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    Planning on parking in the Old Rag lot, then doing the Ridge to Saddle Trail, then heading south on the Weakley Hollow / Berry Hollow (fire) roads to continue my loop.

    If you want to see a very rough loop I'm considering, you can see it here: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com?r=7320196

    Somewhat related, is the Old Rag parking lot open 24/7? I've seen from photos there is a gate.

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    It has, unfortunately, been a few years since I hiked Old Rag but I seem to recall the large parking lot being open very early in the morning, if not 24/7. Since backpackers leave their cars there, I'd be surprised if it wasn't always accessible. The small lot at the top of the road right next to the trailhead is very small and rarely offers parking. People try to park on the side of the narrow road leading up to the trailhead but that hardly seems worthwhile. The walk from the large parking lot to the trailhead is probably under a mile and doesn't take very long.

  18. #18
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    The little lot next to the trailhead has been closed for some time. I also don't recall any vehicles parked along the side of the road either on my trips up there, even with the big lot pretty full. I didn't pay attention for signs or enforcement etc...but there must be a reason. I think you are pretty much limited to the big lot, which has a fee.
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    I would do loops that have you very near your car every second day. Two separate interlocking loop hikes would keep it simple while testing your gear and enjoying your walk without a heavy payload. Some such hikes mentioned above are good in distance with a bit of challenge thrown in for good measure.
    Getting lost is a way to find yourself.

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    Thanks all, good info. I think I'm going to stick with 40-ish mile loop I put together in SNP. Not worried about the extra weight of food for 5 days, I need to weight train anyway. Will definitely keep an eye on the weather and trail conditions, though. I know many areas of Central VA on and off the AT were hit fairly bad with the recent storms.

    Worse comes to worse, I head out to Dolly Sods. I've done it before, but I can add in more trails to make it a longer trip. Just a thought.

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