|Thornton Hollow Overlook to Thornton Gap|
MILE 27.6, THORNTON HOLLOW OVERLOOK. Elevation 2,460 feet. There's a wide view heremore than 180 degrees. The sketch shows only a part of it, mostly to the left of center. On your left, outside the sketch, the high mountain with four bumps is Hogback; farther left, lower and closer, is Sugarloaf. To the right of Fork Mountain (which is near the right-hand end of the sketch), the distant ridge is Oventop; and farther right, nearer and higher, is the rounded top of Pass Mountain.
Down below the overlook, and about a third of a mile away, is a mountaineer homesite, suitable for exploration by experienced hikers. It's fairly easy to reach from Mile 28.2.
Geology: Across the Drive from the south end of the overlook is an exposure of massive Catoctin basalt. It shows narrow veins and exposed surfaces of a greenish-white mineral that appears to consist of parallel fibers. (The best exposure covers several square feet; it's a few feet above eye level.) This is fibrous anthophyllitea kind of asbestos.
MILE 28.2, HULL SCHOOL TRAIL, east, and SERVICE ROAD, west. A.T. access; Byrds Nest Shelter No 4; explorer hikes. Park in the paved parking area.
On the east side of the Drive is the former Hull School fire road, which is
now a trail. It descends about two miles to the site of Hull School, where it
crosses the Thornton River Trail that comes down from Mile 25.4. The Hull
School Trail then continues across the saddle of Fork Mountain to join the
Piney Branch Trail and the Keyser Run fire road.
MILE 28.5, BEAHMS GAP. Elevation 2,485 feet. A. T. access, hikes. This was formerly Beahms Gap Overlook, but the treetops are now at eye level, and the view is gone. From one point in the parking area you can see the top of the Massanutten, and from another the sharp angle of Neighbor Mountain, ahead on the right. From most of the parking area you can see a nearby knob to the right; Byrds Nest Shelter No. 4 is near its summit.
When the Park was created there was a good view here, directly down Kemp Hollow; the slope below the overlook was grassy, all the way down. But now it's covered with trees, and the slope is so gradual that vista clearing is impracticable. (Across the Drive, diagonally to the left, is a rather poor view of Hogback Mountain and the Marshalls.)
Geology: The boulders on either side of the trail at the north end of the parking area, and those at the north end of the island, are epidotized basalt brecchia that shows many colors: various shades of purplish and green, with embedded white pebbles and fragments.
The A.T. crosses the Drive about 100 feet south of the parking area. Distances on the A.T.: North (on the west side of the Drive) it's 1.6 miles to a side trail that reaches the Drive at Mile 26.8. South (on the east side) it's 3.0 miles to the Drive crossing at Mile 31.4, near Thornton Gap.
I recommend three short hikes from Beahms Gap: a loop using the A.T. in
Beahms Gap; a hike south to a viewpoint on Pass Mountain; and a hike
north to Byrds Nest Shelter No. 4 and two viewpoints near it.
MILE 30.1, PASS MOUNTAIN OVERLOOK. Elevation 2,460. Drinking fountain (turned off in winter): short hike.
The overlook has a rather narrow view out through the mouth of Kemp Hollow and across the Shenandoah Valley to the Massanutten. The low point in the Massanutten is New Market Gap. The town that appears to fill the whole valley between the Massanutten and the mouth of Kemp Hollow is Luray. To the left of the mouth of the hollow is Pine Mountain, with divided highway U.S. 211 passing on this side of it. As the highway comes closer, it disappears between Pine Mountain and Pumpkin Hill. The ridge at the right of the hollow rises to the peak of Neighbor Mountain.
From this overlook the lights of Luray make an enchanting display after dark. Luray is the location of the famous Luray Caverns. Surprisingly, its name is pronounced with equal emphasis on both syllables, or with a slightly stronger stress on the first syllable. Origin of the name is in doubt.
Legend: One of the early settlers was a blacksmith named Louis Ramey. The town was named by taking the first syllable of his first and last name.
Legend: The first settlers were French Huguenots from Lorraine. "Luray" is a corruption of "Lorraine."
History: On August 13, 1812, the General Assembly of Virginia authorized a surveyor to lay out a town at the present site of Luray.
The parents of the man who drafted the bill were immigrants from Lorraine,
and he gave the proposed town that name to honor them. But because of
his poor penmanship the name he wrote appeared to be "Luray."
MILE 30.2, FIRE ROAD, east side. The entrance is 125 yards south of Pass Mountain Overlook. The road goes a third of a mile up the west side of Pass Mountain, to a concrete-enclosed spring that provides water for the drinking fountain at the overlook. Just off the road, 200 yards from the Drive, is a storage area for dirt and gravel. Explore if you wish, but I don't think it's worth your time.
MILE 31.4, FIRE ROAD, east side; A. T. crossing. On the west side the A.T. descends, crosses U.S. 211, then passes near the Panorama restaurant (see below, Mile 31.6.) On the east is the service road for Pass Mountain Hut. The A.T. follows it for a short distance, then turns off to the left. There's no safe parking here. If you want to hike on the A.T., park at the Panorama development on the south side of the overpass.
MILE 31.5, THORNTON GAP. Elevation 2,304 feet. U.S. 211 interchange. For
Luray, Luray Caverns, and I-81, exit here and turn right on U.S.
211. For Sperryville, Warrenton, and Washington, D.C., exit here and turn
left on U.S. 211. Exit here if you want to climb Old Rag Mountain (see page