HIKE: Stony Man Nature Trail. Round trip 1.6 miles; total climb about 340
feet; time required 1:40. An easy, gradual climb to the cliffs of Stony Man
summit; part of the trail is rather rough. The hike is self-guiding, using
numbered posts and a pamphlet. The pamphlet dispenser is beside the trail at
its beginning, in the corner of the parking area nearest the Drive. See map,
The trail follows the A.T. for a short distance. About 0.4 mile from the start,
the nature trail crosses the Stony Man ridge trail and leaves the A.T. Continue
straight ahead for less than 150 yards, to a junction where the trail rejoins
itself after making a loop around the summit. Keep right. In less than 0.3 mile,
reach a broad clearing with a horse hitching rail. (You have passed the
inconspicuous summit of Stony Manelevation 4,010 feet, the second-highest
point in the Parkon your left.) Straight ahead is a 100-yard path to a
viewpoint on the cliffs. The horse trail comes in from the left. The trail that
goes sharp left is your return route along the Nature Trail, back to the A.T.
Go straight ahead, to the viewpoint on the rocks. By moving around a little,
you can piece together a view of more than 180 degrees. Ahead is a broad
view of the Page Valley, with the Massanutten Mountain beyond it. The town
of Luray is a little to the left. To the far left, the highest point in sight is
Hawksbill. Farther right you can look down on Skyland, and beyond it the
rounded summit of Bushytop. The ridge that descends to the right from
Bushytop abruptly changes slope at the observation point on Millers Head.
Looking down the ridge to your right, you can see the two-tiered cliffs of
Little Stony Man. Beyond them are two short stretches of the Drive, with
Stony Man Mountain Overlook to the left of the second one. In line with the
second stretch of Drive, but five miles away, is the grassy area at Thornton
Gap. The sharp peak to the right of the gap is Marys Rock; still farther right,
closer, and not so sharp, is The Pinnacle.
Note: Near the Stony Man summit, in late summer and early fall, you may
see small trees with bright red berries that, on close look, resemble tiny
tomatoes. This is mountain ash.
History: There was once a small copper mine near the summit of Stony
Man. Some ore was mined in the early 1800's, but operations were stopped
before 1850. In 1881 the Richards Mining Co. bought the copper-mining
rights on 340 acres for $1500, and began to work a quartz vein that was only
an inch thick at the surface, though it widened to four inches farther down.
The vein assayed 12.5% copper (mostly as green copper carbonate.) In 1882,
nine men were employed in drilling and blasting, and a sample assayed at
47% copper and 1/2% silver. In 1883 the shaft reached a depth of 100 feet,
was then abandoned. The value of the ore in the narrow vein was less than
the expense of extracting it.
|Map of SkylandStony ManLimberlost Area|
HIKE: Passamaquoddy Trail. Circuit 3.5 miles; total climb about 770 feet;
time required 3:10. An interesting, not very difficult walk, with outstanding
views from Stony Man Summit and Little Stony Man.(See map, page 143.)
From the Nature Trail parking area, follow the sidewalk west (away from
the Drive), and go 50 feet beyond the parking area to the horse trail. Turn left,
go to the paved road, and turn right. Walk beside the road, keeping to the right
where it forks. The Passamaquoddy Trail crosses the road about 0.2 mile from
the parking area. Turn right on the Passamaquoddy Trail. Pass through a
grove of hemlocks, go about .15 mile to a dirt road, and turn right. Pass an
abandoned side road that goes uphill on the right, and continue to a fork in the
road. The right branch goes 50 yards to a pumphouse. The left branch, with a
yellow chain, is the old Skyland-to-Luray road which provided access to
Skyland before the Drive was built. The Passamaquoddy Trail resumes on the
far side of the road, at a concrete marker post. Fifty yards from the marker, the
enclosed pumphouse at Furnace Spring is set into the hillside on the right.
Excess water, if any. runs under the trail. This spring once supplied water to a
copper smelter; hence its name. It now supplies water to the Skyland
development, as it has since the earliest days of Skyland.
Trivia: The 0.8-mile section of trail between Furnace Spring and Little Stony
Man is the original Passamaquoddy trail route, In 1932 Pollock, then
still proprietor of Skyland, had a trail built between these points. In several places
you can see a trace of the old trail just a few feet up the bank. Pollock called this
the Passamaquoddy Trail because, he said, Passamaquoddy is a Maine Indian
word meaning "abounding in pollock" (a kind of fish).
Continue, with some ups and downs, along the steep slope below the
Stony Man cliffs. Less than half a mile beyond the spring, where the trail is
wide and nearly level, there are big overhanging rocks on the right. In wet
weather they drip, and in winter they are often draped with icicles. The Stony
Man cliffs are directly up the slope, high above you.
Less than a third of a mile beyond this point the upper cliffs of Little Stony
Man begin on your right, and continue for nearly 200 yards. (These are fine
climbing rocks, but for experienced climbers only.) Near the end of the upper
cliffs you approach a wide viewpoint at the top of the lower cliffs. The view
here is excitingto me at leastbecause there's nothing between you and all
those cubic miles of air that begin just beyond your toes. (For a note on the
view and the geology here, see page 137.)
Beyond the viewpoint the trail swings right, and in 200 yards reaches a
marker post where a side trail comes in on the right connecting with the A.T.
Ahead, the A.T. goes 0.4 mile to the Little Stony Man parking area at Mile 39.1
on the Drive. Turn right, uphill. The A.T. climbs by switchbacks to the top of the
upper cliffs, swings left through laurels and scrub oaks, and then emerges in
fairly open woods. You now have a steady, easy climb to the trail marker at the
junction with the Stony Man Nature Trail.
Turn right onto the nature trail, and climb to Stony Man Summit. (For a note
on the view, see page 143.) Return to the trail junction and A.T. To reach your
starting point you can now turn right onto the horse trail, or go straight ahead
on the A.T. (Nature trail).
MILE 42.5, SKYLAND, SOUTH ENTRANCE. Elevation 3,515 feet. Food,
lodging; hikes, stables, horseback riding. See map, page 143.To reach the
Lodge turn in here, take the first turn to the right and then, after a tenth of a
mile, to the left. The parking lot for the stables is only a hundred yards from
the Drive, on the left side of the Skyland road. For information on horseback
rides, ask at the stables.
HIKE: Millers Head. Round trip 1.6 miles; total climb about 450 feet; time
required 1:35. A fairly easy hike on a good, graded trail, down a rocky ridge to
an observation platform with a fine, nearly 360-degree view.
Turn in toward Skyland, and pass the stables on your left. Where the road
forks, keep to the left (see map, page 143.) Watch for a gravel road on your left;
turn in there, and park in the grass. (The A.T. passes this point.)
Note: In winter, the Skyland area may be closed to cars. To hike to Millers
Head in winter, park in the White Oak Canyon parking area (Mile 42.6) and
walk along the Skyland entrance road to the Millers Head parking spot. The
round trip to Millers Head from the White Oak parking area is 2.3 miles, with a
total climb of about 600 feet.
From the Millers Head parking spot, walk 80 yards up the paved road to a
sign that marks the Millers Head trail. Turn left onto the trail, which enters the
woods at the downhill edge of a locust grove. (If you can't find the trail, take
the gravel road instead. It joins the trail in 0.2 mile, near the summit of
Bushytop; when you get there, turn left.) On the Bushytop summit the shack
with a microwave antenna on the roof is part of the telephone system: it's
cheaper to connect the Skyland telephones to the valley by radio than by
wires. If you hear a humming sound inside the shack it's the power
A hundred feet beyond the Bushytop summit the trail switches back
sharply to the left; a side trail goes 30 feet straight ahead to a viewpoint
(sometimes clear, sometimes overgrown) that overlooks Kettle Canyon. (On
October 14, 1951, Swami Premananda scattered the ashes of George
Freeman Pollock into the head of Kettle Canyon.)
The main trail descends steadily, by switchbacks, to a low point with a
concrete trail marker. About 250 yards beyond the marker is a view to the left,
across Buracker Hollow. The rock at your feet here is covered with rock
spikemoss (Selaginella rupestris), which is rather rare in the Park; it's not
really moss, but a somewhat higher plant.
A little farther on, the trail comes out on the ridge crest, with Buracker
Hollow on the left and Kettle Canyon on the right. Beyond, the trail drops
down to the right side of the ridge by a double switchback. There, where you
see a hemlock on the right, note the rock face on your left: a miniature rock
garden with several species of moss and several of ferns, especially polypody.
Continue another 200 yards to the observation platform on Millers Head,
elevation about 3,465 feet.
The view from the left wall (i.e. to the left of the steps as you mount the
platform), from left to right: Pollock Knob, Timber Hollow Overlook, Bettys
Rock, and Hawksbill Gap. The high point is Hawksbill, with Nakedtop a little
lower and to its right. From there the ridge descends to the community of Ida,
at the mouth of Buracker Hollow. (The clear area a short distance below the
observation platform is a hang-glide launching site. For permission to launch,
call Park Headquarters, 540-999-2243.)
From the front wall you look across the Page Valley to the Massanutten,
with the town of Luray a little to the right of center.
From the right-hand wall you see Bushytop at the far right; to the left of it
are some of the buildings at Skyland. The high point is Stony Man; to the left of
that is The Pinnacle. Still farther left, and more distant, are the sharp peak of
Marys Rock and the grassy clearing at Thornton Gap. To the left of The
Pinnacle, and closer, is Stony Man Mountain Overlook.
Now back to the left front corner of the platform: relax, look, and listen. On
a typical summer day, if the wind is not too strong, you may hear all of these
sounds within a few minutes: trucks and cars, cows, a train, a sawmill,
hammering, a gunshot or two, a radio in Ida with commercials louder than the
music, and the nearby humming of flies and bees and the chirping of a cricket.
MILE 42.6, WHITEOAK CANYON PARKING, east side. Elevation 3,510
feet. This is a long, paved parking area that begins a few feet south of the
south entrance to Skyland. The Whiteoak Canyon trail begins near the
north end of the parking area.
Whiteoak Canyon has been called the "scenic gem" of Shenandoah,
which is an understatement. It's a place of wild beautya shady place of
great boulders under tall hemlocks, of cascades and pools and sheer rock
walls, and a steep gorge with six waterfalls. The trail, from the Drive to the
first (and highest) waterfall, is in good condition, and the walking is easy.
But farther down it gets steeper, and parts of it are rough and rocky.
As you might expect, this has always been one of the most popular
places in the Park. Long before there was a Park, Whiteoak Canyon was the
principal playground for the guests at Skyland. At that time the first falls
could be reached by road. At the top of the falls were a bridge, a dam, a
swimming pool, and bath houses. This spot was the scene of picnics and
barbeques throughout the summer. Now the top of the falls has partially
returned to its original wild state. But its popularity continues. The parking
area holds 40 cars; on summer weekends you'll find the parking area full,
and the canyon disappointingly crowded.
|Map of Whiteoak Canyon and Cedar Run Area|
The map above shows the principal trails in the Whiteoak Canyon area.
The parking lot, at Mile 42.6 on the Drive, is at point "N", near the left-hand
edge of the map. (Point "P", at the upper left corner of the map, is at the
north entrance to Skyland.) I will describe several hikes in the area represented by the map:
From Mile 42.6, Whiteoak Canyon to the first falls. (N-K-L-H, and return
by the same route.)
From Mile 43.0, a circuit through the Limberlost (M-R-L-M).
From Crescent Rock Overlook, a hike to Bettys Rock, another to
Limberlost via the Crescent Rock trail (Q-R-L-M-R-Q); and a circuit hike
using the A.T. and returning via the Crescent Rock trail (Q-N-K-L-R-Q).
From Hawksbill Gap, Mile 45.6, a circuit that includes all the waterfalls
in Cedar Run and Whiteoak Canyon (A-B-C-D-F-H-I-B-A).
With the help of the map, and the notes and table that follow, you can put
together a number of other hikes.
Table of Distances, WhiteoakCedar Run area. See map, page 146.
By using the Old Rag fire road, which goes along the top of the map, you
can climb Old Rag from here if you have enough time and energy. Old Rag
Shelter, which appears at the upper right corner of the map, is in the lower
left part of the map on page 139.
If you follow the Whiteoak Canyon trail all the way to the bottom, you
reach a parking area in Berry Hollow, at point "E" on the map. To reach
point "E" by car: Leave the Drive at Thornton Gap, Mile 31.5. Turn left onto
U.S. 211, and go through Sperryville to the junction with U.S. 522 at the far
end of town, a little more than seven miles from the Drive. Turn right on
522; go a block, and follow 522 to the left. Go 0.6 mile and turn right onto
Virginia 231. Go about ten miles to Etlan, and turn right onto Virginia 643.
Drive 4.5 miles to a junction where 643 turns sharply to the left. Turn right
here, onto 600. Go about 3.6 miles, and cross the stream
on a concrete-paved ford. Immediately turn left onto an unpaved road, to a small parking
area. Continue, crossing a small bridge, to the parking area at point "E".
HIKE: Whiteoak Canyon to first falls. Round trip 4.6 miles; total climb about
1,040 feet; time required 4:15. See map, page 146. The trail starts gently
downhill, swinging first right and then left around a swampy area. (In early
spring those vigorous green shoots in the swamp are False Helibore,
Veratrum viride.) Cross a small stream and, 0.6 mile from the start, cross the
Old Rag fire road. After another quarter of a mile you reach the Limberlost trail
in a grove of giant hemlocks. The biggest are from 350 to 400 years old. You
will be among big hemlocks all the way down to the falls.
Go straight ahead past the junction. (Geology: note the disintegrating
basalt boulder on your lefta good example of columnar jointing.) After a
couple of hundred yards a small stream, a mere trickle, comes in from the
right and flows beside the trail. One of the pleasures of the Whiteoak Canyon
hike consists in watching this trickle grow, and join other trickles and grow
some more, until it plunges over the falls inwhat shall I say? In a dry August,
a somewhat larger trickle. In spring, an awesome torrent. During a spring
thaw, especially after a rain, Whiteoak Canyon is saturated. Water streams
from every pore in the soil, and gushes from every crack in the cliffs. There's
running water wherever you look, including the trail under your feet.)
Continue, downward. Pass cascades and pools and more tall trees
(including an occasional white oak.) Pass cliffs and ledges and surrealistic
boulders. Hemlocks grow on the boulders, and grip their sides with
descending roots as with downturned fingers.
Then, a mile and a third from the Limberlost trail, you come to another trail
junction with a concrete marker post. The trail turns left here, crosses the
stream on a bridge, and then continues downstream on the left bank.
(Straight ahead from the junction, a trail goes about 200 feet and dead-ends
at the horse trail, which goes uphill to the right, and fords the stream on the
left.) One way or another, get to the trail on the left bank of the stream,
opposite the ford. Here the trail widens, and there's a hitching rail for horses.
The top of the falls is ahead on your right, but there's no point in going there;
you can't see the falls from the top.
Thirty yards farther, the horse trail comes in on the left. Continue straight
ahead another 400 feet, to another widening in the trail. Diagonally ahead to
the right are two rocky ledges. From the downstream ledge you have a fine
view of the falls, which has a total drop of 86 feet. The stream, by the way, is
Whiteoak Run. It was originally called Island Run, because of the island near
point "E" on the map. It's the principal source of the Robinson River.
This is the first, and highest of six waterfalls on Whiteoak Run. Their
heights are (numbered from top to bottom):
Below the first falls the canyon is narrow, and the trail is steep and rough. If
you continue down the canyon to the sixth falls, and then return, you will add
2.7 miles and 1,110 feet of climbing to your hike. If you want to see all the
falls, an alternative possibility is the Cedar RunWhiteoak circuit hike from
Hawksbill Gap (page 154.)
|No. 1: ||86 feet.|
|No. 2: ||62 feet.|
|No. 3: ||35 feet.|
|No. 4: ||41 feet.|
|No. 5: ||49 feet.|
|No. 6: ||60 feet.|
MILE 43.0, OLD RAG FIRE ROAD, Limberlost trail. Turn into the gravel
fire road on the east side of the Drive, about 50 feet south of the milepost.
MILE 43.0, OLD RAG FIRE ROAD, Limberlost Trail. At the sign for the
Limberlost Trail, turn onto a gravel road on the east side of the Drive. Drive 0.1
mile to a small parking area on the left. If the lot is filled, park along the gravel
road, taking care not to block it. There is a picnic table under a tree and a large
trailhead map at the north end of the parking area.
HIKE: Limberlost Trail Circuit. 1.3 miles; total climb about 130 feet; time
required: 55 minutes, but you will probably want to take longer to enjoy this
beautiful trail. The Limberlost Trail is the Park's first accessible trail, with a
crushed greenstone walkway, wooden boardwalk and bridge, and many
benches to sit on. It is an easy hike on a gentle grade, cool and shady, through a
grove of giant hemlocks.
You can hike this loop trail in either direction, but these directions take you
counter-clockwise, starting from the trailpost at the south end of the parking
Soon after you begin your walk and pass the first bench, you'll enter an open
area thick with mountain laurel bushes on both sides. There are a few S curves
on a gentle downgrade, and a sharper left turn just before the fourth bench. In
this area, you may spot chipmunks, squirrels, and perhaps a deer. After less than
half a mile. you'll reach a swampy area with a boardwalk running across it.
Immediately after the boardwalk, the Crescent Rock Trail comes in on the right,
at a trailpost.
Ahead, on the Limberlost Trail, the first young hemlocks appear. As you
continue they increase in number and size; and the undergrowth becomes
progressively thinner, for several reasons. Hemlocks produce a shade too
dense for many plants: and their fallen needles eventually make a thick, acid
mulch in which the seeds of most plants can not germinate. Toward the
beginning of the hemlock grove you'll still see mountain laurels on both sides of
the trail. Mountain laurel can stand a good deal of shade. and it likes acid soil.
About 0.6 miles from the start, the trail makes a sharp left turn in front of a
hemlock more than three feet in diameter. You are now entering an area of big
hemlocks, from 350 to 400 years old. called the Limberlost. The name was
given by George Freeman Pollock, the founder of Skyland, who took it from
the novel Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter. In the summer,
Limberlost is one of the best places in the Park to find mushrooms, Indian pipes,
mosses, pine drops, and other plants that thrive in deep shade.
It's only because of Pollock and his wife, Addie Nairn Pollock, that these big
trees are here. They were scheduled to be cut down. The Pollocks paid the
lumbermen $10 per tree to leave them standing.
Continue, crossing the wooden bridge over a small stream. This is a principal
source of Whiteoak Run which, after growing considerably, forms the six
beautiful waterfalls of Whiteoak Canyon. Beyond the crossing, note the tall red
maple on the left; in early October it's a mass of brilliant color.
About 150 yards beyond the stream crossing is the junction with the
Whiteoak Trail. To the right, the Whiteoak Canyon Trail goes 1.6 miles to the first
falls in the canyon. As you approach the trail junction, notice the boulder ahead
on the right. It's worth a closer look, because it shows a fine example of columnar
The large hemlocks continue as you move ahead past the Whiteoak Canyon
Trail crossing. Soon after, you'll cross the Old Rag Fire Road (which is also a
horse trail), and then find yourself among younger hemlocks. You'll begin to see
more hardwoods among the hemlocks, as you weave around some S curves in
the trail and pass several more benches.
Gradually mountain laurel will appear again and you'll come to a second
crossing of the Whiteoak Canyon Trail. More sun reaches this area, so you'll see
wildflowers in season-in late spring, violets, bluets, garlic, mustard, and golden
ragwort among them. After passing a final bench, you'll be back at the parking
MILE 43.1 to 43.2. The Drive passes along the edge of an old orchard.
Many apple trees are visible from the Drive; they bloom in late April and
MILE 43.3, TIMBER HOLLOW OVERLOOK. Elevation 3,360 feet. A.T.
access. Timber Hollow is the upper end of Buracker Hollow, which you can
see down below, with a house and clearing. (Most members of the
Buracker family pronounce the name BURR-uh-k'r, with the "uh" so soft
that it's almost inaudible.)
To the far left, looking straight down the Drive, you see a high rocky ledge
near the viewpoint on Bettys Rock. Farther right and more distant, the
highest peak is Hawksbill, with Nakedtop to the right of it. A ridge descends
from Nakedtop to the settlement of Idaone of the seven resettlement
locations to which families of mountain people were removed when the
Park was established. The nearby crest on your right is Pollock Knob,
elevation 3,580 feet, named for George Freeman Pollock, the founder of
Skyland. It was dedicated on October 14, 1951, by Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr.
History: Almost directly across the Drive from the overlook was CCC
camp No. 1the first CCC camp in the Park, and one of the first in the
A.T. access. From an opening in the wall, a trail descends a flight of stone
steps and continues another hundred feet or so to the A.T. Distances on the
A.T.: South (to the left) it's 1.3 miles to Hawksbill Gap, Mile 45.6. North (to
the right) it's 1.8 miles to the Dining Hall at Skyland.
Geology: Here, and for about a mile to the north and a quarter of a mile to
the south, the exposed rocks are granodiorite of the Pedlar formation.
Going from the overlook to the A.T. you pass a ledge of granodiorite on the
right; in it are several veins of light-green epidoteprobably the result of
mineralization by the lava flow that once covered this area. Beyond Ida, at
the mouth of the hollow, is Hershberger Ridge, consisting of sedimentary
rocks of the Erwin formation. Beyond the ridge is the limestone of the
Shenandoah Valley. Thus successively younger rocks are to be found at
successively lower elevations as you go westa result of the deep folding
of the earth's crust that took place here.