|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.
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.
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 timesor 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.
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.