Mathews Arm Campground to Jeremys Run Overlook

MILE 22.2, ENTRANCE ROAD, west side, for MATHEWS ARM CAMPGROUND. (Closed in winter.) On your left as you approach the entrance station, 0.7 mile from the Drive, is the beginning of a trail to Elkwallow Wayside and Campstore. See map below. On your right you'll see a parking area, from which short walkways lead to the amphitheater where the evening campfire programs are given. The "Traces" self-guiding nature trail begins at the edge of the parking area.

After you pass the entrance station, turn right to enter the campground, or turn left to reach the trailer sewage disposal facility and the beginning of the Knob Mountain Trail.

I will describe three hikes that you can start from the campground.

Map of Mathews Arm and Elkwallow Area
Map of Mathews Arm and Elkwallow Area

HIKE: Traces Trail. Circuit 1.7 miles; total climb about 335 feet; time required 1:40. The trail begins at the edge of the amphitheater parking area, and encircles the campground. The hike is self-guiding; get a pamphlet from the dispenser near the trail head. This is an easy walk on a smooth trail, which is moderately steep in a few spots. The "traces" are evidence left by the mountain people who once lived here; old roads, overgrown fields, rock piles and walls, and the remains of a mountaineer homesite. There are several junctions along the trail, but at each of them a marker post or a small sign on a tree tells you which way to go.

HIKE: Knob Mountain, Jeremys Run, and Elkwallow. Circuit 5.8 miles; total climb about 1,130 feet; time required 4:30. A moderately difficult hike through the woods; no views, but a variety of forest environments. Part of the trail is rough; another part is quite steep. See map, page 109,

The trail starts from the end of the loop at the trailer sewage dump. It was formerly a fire road all the way to the summit of Knob Mountain; but because it's in a Wilderness Area it has been closed to vehicles and reclassified as a trail. It goes along the east side of the mountain, mostly downhill. At about two and a third miles from the start the trail is on the crest of a ridge, at a low point between two knobs, in a former clearing. Turn left there, onto the cutoff trail.

The cutoff trail descends steeply at first, then less so, to the upper end of Jeremys Run. Cross the stream, reach the junction with the Jeremys Run Trail. Continue ahead, uphill, In less than half a mile join the A.T., which comes in from the right. After another tenth of a mile, keep left at the trail junction. (Ahead, on the right fork, it's less than a hundred yards to the Elkwallow Picnic Area.) Three tenths of a mile beyond the junction, you reach the trail that goes from Mathews Arm Campground to Elkwallow. Turn left here.

The rest of the hike, about 1.9 miles, is mostly a gentle uphill climb. For most of its length the trail follows an old woods road, and is in fairly good condition. Only the last 200 yards of it, just before you reach the campground road, are somewhat rough and rocky.

Map of Mathews Arm and Overall Run Area
Map of Mathews Arm and Overall Run Area

HIKE: Overall Run Falls. Round trip 3.8 miles; total climb about 1,140 feet; time required 3:40. A moderately difficult hike to the highest waterfall in the Park. See map above.

Take the Mathews Arm fire road, which begins at the end of "B" loop in the Campground. (The road goes into the Wilderness Area and becomes a footpath.) Follow the trail. mostly downhill. for 1.4 miles to its junction with the Tuscarora/Overall Run Trail, which comes in on the right. Continue for less than a hundred yards. Then turn left on the Tuscarora/Overall Run Trail; follow it downhill for about a tenth of a mile, and take the side trail to the left. It goes to a small overlook with a good close view of the upper falls. Like most of our waterfalls. this is a cascade down the rock face, rather than a sheer plunge. Its total drop is 29 feet.

Continue downhill on the main trail, which goes along near the edge of a steep gorge on your left. Watch for one or more short side trails going to the left, to viewpoints from which you can see the big falls. Like the upper falls, this is a cascade down the face of the rocks; the total drop is 93 feet. It's a spectacular sight in springtime, when the stream is full. In a dry summer, the stream may go completely dry.

From the big falls, the trail descends steeply, then begins to level out after it crosses the stream. The lower end of the hollow is especially beautiful. Explore it if you wish, but note that it's a long hard climb back to the campground. Don't consider a one-way hike with a car posted outside the boundary at the foot of the hollow. Beyond the boundary you're on private property. The easiest way to reach the lower part of Overall Run is from Thompson Hollow (see hike below.)

Note on the map, page 110, that a short trail goes from the lower end of Overall Run to Beecher Ridge. and from there to the upper end of Heiskell Hollow. Thus, from lower Overall Run, you might use either the Beecher Ridge Trail or the Heiskell Hollow Trail on your return trip. Either will take you through a delightfully wild area where you'll rarely meet another hiker. But be sure you have the necessary time and energy, plus a little skill at map reading.

HIKE: Thompson Hollow to Overall Run. Round trip from 2.6 to 4.6 miles; total climb from 480 to 640 feet; time required from 2:40 to 4:30. A fairly easy hike into lower Overall Run. Park in Thompson Hollow, outside the boundary. (See upper left corner of the map, page 110.) The length of the hike depends on where you find parking space and how much of Overall Run you want to explore.

To reach Thompson Hollow from the campground: Return to the Drive and turn left. Go 22.2 miles to the beginning of the Drive, and turn left on U.S. 340. Go about ten miles to Bentonville, and turn left on Virginia highway 613. Go less than a mile, and turn right on Virginia highway 630. From there it's a little over two miles to the Park boundary. The road is narrow, and there's almost no place to pull off. When you park be careful not to block the road, or access to private property.

The Thompson Hollow Trail begins at the Park boundary. Cross the ridge, joining the Tuscarora Trail which comes in on the right. At the junction with the Overall Run Trail turn right, and explore at will. The lower end of the hollow is truly delightful, with large boulders, small cascades, and several pools deep enough to swim in. At last report there were still trout in the stream.

MILE 23.9, A.T. CROSSING. There is limited parking beside the Drive, but I recommend that you park at Elkwallow Wayside (in view to the south.) Distances on the A.T.: North (on the east side of the Drive) it's 1.6 miles to the Drive crossing at Mile 21.1, just south of Rattlesnake Point Overlook. South (on the west side) it's 3.9 miles to a side trail that goes to the Drive at Mile 26.8.

MILE 24.0, ELKWALLOW WAYSIDE. Usually open from May to October. Snack bar, campstore, souvenirs, gas, oil, water, toilets. The outdoor telephone is in service all year.

MILE 24.1, ELKWALLOW PICNIC AREA. Elevation 2,420 feet. The one-way road makes a loop around the picnic area and returns to the Drive at Mile 24.2. There are picnic tables and fireplaces; and several drinking fountains, which are drained in winter. The comfort station is on the inside of the loop, near the middle. Pit toilets for winter use are just outside the far end of the loop at the second parking area. Also at this point, a connecting trail goes less than a hundred yards to join the A.T. See map below. Via the A.T., it's a short walk to the head of Jeremys Run.

Map of Jeremys Run Area
Map of Jeremys Run Area

Jeremys Run is one of the most beautiful streams in the Park, with an endless succession of cascades, cataracts, and pools. Near its lower end is a small waterfall. The stream flows through a rather steep-sided, rocky canyon. The upper half is narrow; the lower half somewhat less so. The trail is moderately steep at each end, but has a gentle slope throughout most of its length. There are trout in Jeremys Run, but because it's very popular with fishermen, they are not always plentiful. The trail crosses the stream a dozen times—or maybe twenty. (I haven't counted the crossings, and reports vary. Don't take my map too literally on this point.) The crossings are not easy. In spring, and in rainy weather in summer, the stream is high and the trail is soggy. I recommend waterproof boots that come nearly to your knees.

I will describe two circuit hikes into Jeremys Run. Both begin here at Elkwallow Picnic Area, and both are rather long and difficult.

HIKE: Knob Mountain and Jeremys Run. Circuit 11.7 miles; total climb about 2,615 feet; time required 10:00. See map, page 112. This is a long and tiring hike; parts of the trail are steep, and there are many stream crossings. If you can cope with the difficulties, it's a delightful, highly rewarding experience.

Take the connecting trail from the second parking area, and in less than a hundred yards reach the A.T., which joins from the right. About two hundred yards from the junction a service road comes in on the left. Just beyond the road, on the left and about 60 feet from the trail, is an unprotected spring. Continue downhill on the A.T. In less than a tenth of a mile, the A.T. turns off sharply to the left; continue ahead on the blue-blazed Jeremys Run Trail. About 0.3 mile after you leave the A.T., watch for a trail junction where the Jeremys Run Trail turns sharply to the left. Continue ahead here, on the cutoff trail. Cross the stream, and climb steeply up to the Knob Mountain Trail. Turn left.

The former road ends about two miles from the cutoff trail, a hundred yards before you reach the high point on Knob Mountain. From here it's 3.3 miles to Jeremys Run. The trail descends steeply at first, then more gradually, then steeply again. At the foot of the ridge, cross the stream; turn left on the Jeremys Run Trail and pass the foot of the Neighbor Trail, on the right. Pass an attractive waterfall in less than 0.7 mile. From there it's about 4.2 miles to the junction where the cutoff trail from Knob Mountain comes in on the left. Turn right, and continue half a mile uphill to your starting point.

HIKE: Jeremys Run and Neighbor Mountain. Circuit 14.0 miles; total climb about 2,765 feet; time required 11:40. A rewarding, but very long and tiring hike, with a lot of climbing; part of the trail is steep. See map, page 112.

Start as above, from the second parking area of the Elkwallow Picnic ground. At the intersection with the cutoff trail, about half a mile from the start, turn left on the Jeremys Run Trail. Follow it downstream for 4.8 miles, to the junction with the Neighbor Trail on the left, and the Knob Mountain Trail a little farther on the right.

Turn left onto the Neighbor Trail, which climbs by switchbacks to the crest of Neighbor Mountain. A part of this trail is moderately steep. Along it you may see a few white birch trees, which are rare in the Park. (They're somewhat easier to spot in winter.) Some parts of the trail, especially at the top of the ridge, tend to be overgrown and hard to follow; watch for the blue blazes. From the high point on Neighbor Mountain, the trail continues near the ridge crest, with a few ups and downs, reaching the A.T. 4.6 miles from Jeremys Run. Turn left, downhill, on the A.T. In less than 0.3 mile the trail forks; keep left. (The right-hand branch goes 160 yards to the Drive at Mile 26.8.) Continue another 3.4 miles to the junction with the Jeremys Run Trail, which comes in from the left. Turn right, and continue uphill to your starting point in the picnic area.

MILE 24.2, ROAD, west side. This is the exit road from the Elkwallow picnic area. Do not enter. The entrance is at Mile 24.1.

MILE 24.3, FIRE ROAD, west side. This was the service road to Elkwallow Shelter, which was removed in 1980.

MILE 25, GEOLOGY. Here, and for more than a mile to the south, the Drive runs close to the contact between the Catoctin lavas and the Weverton formation; often it's just above road level. In many places the bank on the west side is made of broken purplish slate of the Weverton.

MILE 25.4, THORNTON RIVER TRAIL, east side. Park in the paved parking area. This trail is the former Thornton Hollow fire road. It descends steeply at first, then less so. About 2.5 miles from the Drive it crosses the Hull School Trail, then continues to the Park boundary. To the right, from the junction, the Hull School Trail climbs to the Drive at Mile 28.2. To the left it crosses the saddle of Fork Mountain, then descends to join the Piney Branch Trail and the Keyser Run fire road. (See the lower left part of the map on page 107.) The Thornton River and Hull School trails are fun to explore if you have enough time and energy.

MILE 26.4, JEREMYS RUN OVERLOOK. Elevation 2,410 feet. The overlook provides a narrow, V-shaped view across the hollow of Jeremys Run, with Neighbor Mountain to the left and Knob Mountain to the right. Jeremys Run, which was formerly called Jeremiah's Run, is a delightfully scenic place of cascades and cataracts.

I've described two circuit hikes that go into the hollow. Both are rather difficult. They begin at Elkwallow Picnic Area, Mile 24.1 (page 113).

Across the Shenandoah Valley is the Massanutten. Its two prominent crests are Kennedy Peak on the left and Strickler Knob on the right, both with an elevation of about 2,600 feet. Between the two ridges of the Massanutten is the Fort Valley. It's a natural stronghold, accessible through a narrow passage between sheer cliffs. In the 1730's it was occupied by a man named Powell, who needed its defendability because he was in trouble with the law. For a while thereafter the valley was called Powell's Fort Valley, and the ridge to the west of it Powell's Fort Mountain.

Legend: Powell discovered a rich silver deposit in the Fort Valley, and became an outlaw by making counterfeit silver coins out of real silver. According to legend the mine is still there, and still loaded with silver; but its location is unknown.

History: In 1748, when George Washington was 16 years old, he surveyed the Fort Valley for its owner, Lord Fairfax. Thirty years later, after the hard winter at Valley Forge, Washington's advisors suggested that the Continental Army might have to surrender to the British. Washington replied that rather than surrender he would retreat to the Shenandoah and take refuge with his army in the Fort Valley. He actually began preparations for such a retreat.

Geology: Most of the drainage area of Jeremys Run, below the overlook, is on ancient lavas of the Catoctin formation. The higher parts of Knob Mountain, Neighbor Mountain, and the Blue Ridge between here and Elkwallow, are capped by sedimentary rocks of the Weverton and Hampton formations.

MILE 26.8. PARKING AREA, west side. A.T. access; hikes. A short access trail to the A.T. begins here, but it's not visible from the Drive. From the parking area, as you stand with your back to the Drive, the access trail goes diagonally left, about 150 yards, to the A.T. From that point on the A.T., distances are: North (to the right) it's 3.8 miles to Elkwallow Picnic Area. South (to the left) it's 1.6 miles to the Drive crossing in Beahms Gap, Mile 28.5.

MILE 26.9, GEOLOGY. The jointed sandstone beds in the road cut on the west side of the Drive are in the lower part of the Weverton formation. The blocks are eroding into roughly spheroidal form, and surface weathering has produced a variety of colors.

[Previous | Up | Next]
© Copyright 1997 Antony Heatwole, All rights reserved