Hiking in the Shenadoah National Park is great, but it’s such a long drive! Skyline Drive is cool (in the Ultimate Driving Machine), but the entire distance is a 2 1/2 hour haul each way. Whenever I go up there tagging along with a group we end up doing a really long, difficult hike to justify the drive, leaving everyone beaten to death at the end of the day.
Last weekend I was doing the planning and would have none of that, so eight of us met at 8:00 am in Vienna, Virginia, piled into a couple of cars and drove to the Byrd Visitor Center in the Big Meadows area. After unfolding from the ride and donning sunscreen/bug repellent, we hiked nearby Dark Hollow Falls Trail, a steep but short (1.5 mile) trail just east of the visitor center.
After a break back at the visitor center, we proceeded back down Skyline Drive to Hawksbill Mountain, where we opted to hike the Upper Hawksbill Trail, starting from the parking area just north of Spitler Hill. It’s a 2.1 mile, moderately easy climb with no overlooks until you get to the summit. For that reason, it seems less travelled than the other trails on Hawksbill. (In fact, the Hawksbill Gap parking lots were both full when we passed.)
According to the trail maps, the two trails together were 3.6 miles, but with all the walking back and forth, looking around and side trips to get the right camera angle for photos, I had over 6 miles logged when it was time to leave. Just in time, because a sprinkle of rain chased us out of the park.
On the way back we stopped at a grille across the street from the post office in Sperryville for a late lunch, and closed back on Vienna sometime around 7:00 pm. I guess it was about the same amount of time it would take to hurry straight to a trailhead, do a much longer hike and immediately return, but I’d rather spend an easygoing and enjoyable day hiking in the mountains than a rushed one trying to chalk up points for distance or difficulty.