HIKE: Cedar Run Falls. Round trip 3.5 miles; total climb about 1,555 feet;
time required 4:00. A moderately difficult hike on a rough, steep trail to a
medium-sized waterfall. Caution: This trail has a history of frequent
accidents. See map, page 146. You're at point "A", left of bottom center. Your
route is A-B-C-B-A.
Start at the marker post across the Drive from the paved parking area.
About 80 yards from the Drive, at point "B" on the map, cross the yellow-
blazed Skyland-to-Big Meadows horse trail. Continue on the blue-blazed
Cedar Run trail.
The trail soon begins to get worse, descending rather steeply on small,
loose rocks. About a mile and a half from the start, the trail crosses Cedar Run,
with a pool and miniature waterfall to your right. The trail climbs slightly,
moving away from the stream and then turning back toward it; 250 yards
beyond the ford you can look ahead to an impressive cliff on the other side of
Cedar Run. The trail descends steeply and roughly, by switchbacks, to the
stream, The falls are a little way upstream, to your left. There is no trail to the
falls, and no view of the falls from the trail. Make your way upstream to a deep
pool at the base of the falls. The total drop, from the top of the falls to the pool,
is about 34 feet.
HIKE: Cedar Run and Whiteoak Canyon. Circuit 7.3 miles; total climb about
2,495 feet; time required 7:30. A difficult hike through two steep, wild gorges
with nine waterfalls. This is for hikers accustomed to prolonged strenuous
exercise. See map, page 146. Your route is A-B-C-D-F-H-I-B-A.
As above, to Cedar Run falls. Return to the trail and continue downstream a
little less than half a mile, to the Park boundary, which is marked by red blazes
on the trees on both sides of the trail. From here, take a short side trail down to
the water. Look upstream, between two large boulders, to see a small but
If you wish, you can cross the stream here; a trail of sorts continues
downstream on the left bank. (At some future time this may become the trail,
because the present trail crosses private property.)
On the present trail (on the right bank of the stream) continue downstream
a little less than 0.2 mile to a concrete marker post. Turn left here, toward the
water. (Avoid the abandoned trail that goes straight ahead on private property.)
The trail swings right and parallels the stream. Less than 200 feet from
the marker post, where the trail seems to disappear, you're supposed to turn
left, ford the stream, and find the trail on the other side. (The red blazes on the
left of the stream mark the Park boundary, not a trail.) After crossing the
stream, join the trail that comes down the left bank. Then pass a side trail, on
the right, that goes to the parking area in Berry Hollow.
Continue around the foot of the ridge and into the bottom of Whiteoak
Canyon. Cross Whiteoak Run and reach the Whiteoak Canyon trail at point
"F" on the map (page 146.) Turn left. About 0.7 mile from the junction, cross a
stream that comes down from the right. This is the largest tributary of
Whiteoak Run. It's also a source of some embarrassment, since its original
name was Nigger Run. It was later changed to Negro Run, which didn't quite
solve the problem. On the latest maps it has no name. A short distance
upstream on Nameless Run are a good-sized waterfall and a pool deep
enough to swim in.
Continue uphill through a narrow canyon on a steep, rough trail, past all six
waterfalls of Whiteoak Run. Near the top of the upper falls, at point "H" on the
map, the horse trail comes in from the right. After another 30 yards, the horse
trail turns left and crosses the stream. Ford the steam here and stay on the
horse trail, straight ahead and uphill. (If the water is too high, continue on the
Whiteoak Canyon trail, cross the steam on a foot bridge, turn left, return to the
horse trail, then turn right.)
Less than a tenth of a mile from the stream, the horse trail joins the
Whiteoak fire road. Continue uphill on the fire road to point "I", where the
road swings sharply to the right while the horse trail goes straight ahead.
Take the horse trail to point "B", then turn right to reach your starting point.
(Or, if you're very tired, continue on the fire road about 0.1 mile to the Drive,
turn left, and return to Hawksbill Gap walking in the grass beside the Drive.
That's a little shorter than the horse trail, and a great deal smoother.)
HAWKSBILL MOUNTAIN HIKES. Hawksbill Mountain, with an elevation
of 4,050 feet, is the highest point in the Park. An observation platform on
the summit offers a fine, wide view. Also on the summit is Byrds Nest
Shelter No. 2, with a picnic table. There's no water up there. Camping is not
permitted on or near the Hawksbill summit. There are three ways to reach the
A short trail, fairly rough and steep.
A leisurely circuit via the A.T., returning by the short trail. Longer, not so
steep, not so rough; much more interesting.
A third route starts from Upper Hawksbill Parking, Mile 46.7. This
involves less climbing than either of the other routes, and is intermediate in
HIKE: Hawksbill summit via short trail. Round trip 1.7 miles; total climb
about 690 feet; time required 2:00. The trail is rough, rocky, and steep. It
starts near the middle of the paved parking area and goes straight into the
woods. See map, page 157. Hawksbill Gap is at the lower right.
Less than 50 yards from the start, look for a big white oak on the right;
tumerous growths have weakened it so that the center has rotted out, and you
can see all the way through it. A quarter of a mile from the start, a concrete
post marks a side trail on the left; it goes 25 yards to a reliable but unprotected
spring. (Boil the water before you drink.)
Climb steadily for another half mile, to a trail junction at the top of the ridge.
Turn right; continue past the shelter to the observation platform, less than 0.1
mile from the junction. For a note on the shelter and the view from the
platform, see page 156.
HIKE: Hawksbill Summit via A.T. Circuit 2.9 miles; total climb about 860
feet; time required 2:50. Parts of this route are moderately rough. The
steepest parts are downhill. See map, page 157.
Take the trail at the north end of the paved parking area. It starts out nearly
parallel to the Drive, then curves left and joins the A.T. less than 100 yards
from the start. Turn left on the A.T. and climb steadily. A little more than 0.4
mile from the start; the trail crosses the first of three talus slopesslanting
rock piles formed by rocks rolling down from the disintegrating cliffs above.
But there's no reason to feel nervous about crossing a talus slope; there has
been relatively little movement of the rocks since the end of the last ice age.
Beyond the first talus slope, the next half mile is a rock-garden hike. The
mountainside to your left consists of tiers of wild rock gardens, one above
another, with a rich assortment of ferns, mosses, and lichens. The plants with
broad lily-like leaves are yellow beadlily, Clintonia borealis, which blooms in
late May and early June. (The flowers are yellow; the plant is sometimes
called blue beadlily because its fruits resemble blue beads.) Smaller plants
with thick fleshy leaves, growing where a small amount of soil has collected
on the rocks, are Allegheny stonecrop, Sedum telephioides. It blooms steadily
from mid-July to mid-September, with flowers that vary from deep salmon-pink to nearly white.
Sixty yards beyond the first talus slope is a second, with a view to the right
across Timber Hollow, The highest point in sight, with rocky cliffs on its left
face, is Stony Man. Nearer, and a little to the left, is the rounded summit of
Bushytop, from which a ridge descends toward the left to the abrupt angle at
After another 200 yards cross the third talus slope, with an overgrown
view. Worth noting in late summer are several mountain ash trees, with
compound leaves and masses of bright red berries. (The mountain ash is not
an ash, but a member of the rose family.)
About half a mile beyond the third talus slope, the main trail splits at a
narrow angle. Take the left-hand fork, which climbs 0.9 mile to the summit.
The climb is steady, but not difficult. As you near the top you will pass several
ledges on the left. All of them offer interesting views, but of course none can
compare with the view from the summit. At two or more points a side trail
branches off toward the right; keep left at all such junctions, until you come
out in front of the shelter. This is Byrds Nest No. 2, the second of four open
shelters for which materials were donated by the late Senator Harry F. Byrd
Sr. Camping is not permitted on or near Hawksbill summit.
Continue 75 yards beyond the shelter to the observation platform,
elevation 4,050 feet, the highest point in Shenandoah National Park. There's
a broad view here. At the far left is the town of Stanley; just to the right of it,
and much closer, is the rounded crest of Nakedtop, with cliffs on its right-hand
slope. To the right of Nakedtop is Buracker Hollow, with the town of Ida at its
mouth. From Ida a ridge rises toward the right to the angle at Millers Head,
then to the rounded summit of Bushytop. The high point, with rocky cliffs on
its left face, is Stony Man. Farther right and closer, down below you, is
Crescent Rock. Still farther right, in the distance, is the rocky summit of Old
As you return, take the trail that goes to the left of the shelter and another 60
yards to a junction. Turn left; from here the trail descends steeply for 0.7 mile
to the parking area at your staring point. Two-thirds of the way down is a
concrete marker post, from which a side trail on the right descends 25 yards
to a spring. (This is an unprotected water supply; boil the water before drinking
MILE 46.5, OLD RAG VIEW OVERLOOK, elevation 3,585. The profile of
Old Rag is diagonally left. There's no other view here. For hikes to Old Rag
summit, see page 138. Across the Drive from the north end of the overlook
is a single yucca plant, rare in the Park. It sends up a flower stalk every four
or five years.
MILE 46.7, UPPER HAWKSBILL PARKING. Elevation 3,635 feet. This is a
large paved parking area on the west side, with a bulletin board and a
drinking fountain (turned off in winter). Hikes: Hawksbill summit; and a
circuit hike to Hawksbill summit via Rose River falls.
HIKE: Hawksbill Summit. Round trip 2.1 miles; total climb about 520 feet;
time required 2:00. A fairly easy hike on a graded trail and a fire road. Good
views from the summit. See map, page 157. You're near bottom center.
The trail goes into the woods from the drinking fountain. After a short steep
stretch you have a steady, easy climb through young oak forest. Two-thirds of
a mile from the start, the trail dead-ends in a dirt road. Turn right. (To the left,
the road goes about half a mile to the Drive at Mile 47.1.) After another
quarter of a mile, a trail crosses the road at a sharp angle. To the left it goes
about 0.8 mile to the A.T.; to the right, 0.8 mile to Hawksbill Gap, Mile 45.6.
Continue on the road to the shelter, then go another 75 yards to the observation
platform. For notes on the shelter and the view, see above.
|Map of Hawksbill Fishers Gap area|
HIKE: Rose River Falls and Hawksbill Summit. Circuit 9.7 miles; total climb
about 2,465 feet; time required 8:45. This hike is difficult, tiring, and fun.
includes a view from the highest point in the Park; one of our prettiest
waterfalls; a mountaineer homesite, and a touch of history. See map above.
Upper Hawksbill parking is near bottom center.
Cross the Drive from the south end of the parking area. Turn right and walk
in the grass beside the Drive, less than a hundred yards, to a large wooden
sign. Turn left, and enter the woods on an abandoned road. Less than 400 feet
from the Drive, the horse trail comes in from the left and joins the old road.
Note: you will walk three miles on the horse trail; horses have the right of way.
About half a mile from the Drive, watch for a concrete post on the left, that
says "Mile 6.5 Horse Trail." (That's the distance back to the stable at Skyland.)
Beyond, the trail begins to swing to the right. About 0.3 mile beyond the
marker, look for two wooden signs: the first says "Horse Trail to Skyland", and
the second "Horse Trail to Big Meadows." Beyond the second sign, the trail
narrows abruptly. Between signs, 30 feet from the first one, the old road trace
leaves the horse trail and goes 30 degrees to the left. It resembles a game
trail, overgrown with bushes; it goes less than 0.2 mile to a mountaineer
homesite. If you want to explore, you might note the direction of the sun as
you leave the trail, so that you can return by keeping the sun in the opposite
direction. Here's how to reach the homesite:
About a hundred feet from the trail, the road trace passes six feet to the left
of an oak tree with a double trunk. Thirty yards farther, look for a big sharp rock
sticking up in the middle of the road. Continue a hundred feet more. Then,
with another double-trunk oak 40 feet ahead, and the remains of a rotting rail
fence on your left, leave the road trace and go 30 degrees to the right. (As an
alternative, if the road trace seems easy to follow, stay with it; it swings to the
left, then makes a sharp switchback to the right and heads directly for the
After leaving the road trace and going 30 degrees to the right, continue in a
straight line, joining a rotting rail fence on your right. About 120 yards from
the road trace, look for a spring on the left, and two abandoned cars on the
right. You'll see rock piles and scrap metal all around you, including a
bedspring, buckets, and tubs. (Don't collect souvenirs; leave the junk for
others to enjoy.) In sight ahead are the gateposts of a former picket fence, and
the filled-in remains of a chimney.
Return to the horse trail. If in doubt, go directly uphill. If you have a
compass, go northwest, Turn left on the horse trail.
Watch for the Mile 7.5 marker post on the horse trail; less than 300 yards
beyond it, the trail swings to the right, where an older trail, now abandoned,
goes steeply downhill straight ahead. Pass through a grove of hemlocks, and
cross three small branches of the Rose River. Then, a few hundred yards
beyond the Mile 9 marker on the horse trail, join the Rose River Falls trail.
Turn sharp left, downhill, passing a post that says "No Horses."
Continue downhill for about 0.4 mile, to a point where the trail turns
sharply to the right. For the next half mile the route parallels the Rose River,
with a number of cascades and pools visible from the trail. From a low point on
the trail, 0.7 mile from the horse trail, you have a good view of the falls, on the
left. If you like, continue a few feet more to where the trail swings up to the
right; ahead on the side trail are some rocks that offer sitting places with a
view of the falls.
Now turn around and go back three-quarters of a mile, to the junction with
the horse trail, which comes in from the right. Go straight ahead, uphill,
another half mile to a gravel fire road. This was formerly the Gordonsville
Turnpike. In November of 1862 Stonewall Jackson passed this point, going
from right to left, with about 20,000 men and a number of supply wagons, on
his way to Fredericksburg. Turn right onto the fire road, go 40 yards uphill, and
cross the Drive. Continue about a hundred yards on the fire road (not the
paved road into Fishers Gap Overlook) to the Appalachian Trail, and turn right.
The A.T. passes several ledges with views to the left and, a third of a mile
from the fire road, goes along a ledge below Franklin Cliffs. Continue 0.9 mile
to a side trail on the right that goes to Spitler Knoll Overlook; then another 0.6
mile to a side trail on the left that goes to Rock Spring Cabin. Less than 0.3
mile beyond the Rock Spring Cabin trail, watch carefully for a side trail that
doubles back sharply to the right. Turn right onto this trail; it climbs steadily
for 0.9 mile to Hawksbill summit. Where side trails branch off toward the
right, keep left, until you come out in front of the shelter on the summit. The
observation platform is 75 yards beyond the shelter. For a note on the shelter,
and on the view from the platform, see page 156.
Return past the shelter and take the service road that starts near the far
rear corner. Follow the road downhill about a third of a mile, to a trail that
comes in from the left at a marker post. Turn left onto the trail, and walk
two-thirds of a mile to your starting point.
MILE 47.1, FIRE ROAD, west side. This is the service road for Byrds Nest
Shelter No. 2, on Hawksbill summit.
MILE 47.25, GEOLOGY. Rock lovers only. If you're going south, park in
the grass on the right, just before the beginning of the curve. Look out for a
ditch and culvert, marked with a white pipe. Going north: park in the grass
on your right, at about the middle of the curve. Near the south end of the
curve, on the east side, look for basalt with veins of sedimentary rock one to
four inches thick, and five to ten feet above road level. The veins show a
variety of colors, from yellowish to pale dull purple. The sedimentary
material was picked up by the cooling base of the lava flow as it advanced
over the sediments of an ancient stream.
MILE 47.8, FIRE ROAD, west side. This is the service road for Rock
Spring Cabin. There's a parking area for people using the cabin; it's at Mile
48.1, at the north end of Spitler Knoll Overlook.
|View from Spitler Knoll Overlook|
MILE 48.1, SPITLER KNOLL OVERLOOK. Elevation 3,285 feet. A.T.
access. Parking for Rock Spring Cabin is at the north end of the overlook.
The ridge behind the overlook is the former site of Spitler ranch.
This is a very long, curving overlook. From the middle: the high mountain
to your left, about 1.5 miles away, is Blackrockthe site of Big Meadows
Lodge and campground. The sketch shows only a small part of the view, to
left of center. Straight out from the middle of the overlook is the town of
Stanley, at the foot of Roundhead Ridge. To the right of center, on this side
of the valley, is Hershberger Ridge. At the far right, the relatively nearby
rounded summit is Nakedtop.
A.T. access is via a short trail from the north end of the overlook.
Distances on the A.T.: South (to the left) it's 1.3 miles to Fishers Gap, Mile
49.4. North (to the right) it's 1.9 miles to Hawksbill Gap, Mile 45.6.
Geology: Here, and for a quarter of a mile in each direction along the
Drive, the exposed rocks are granodiorite of the Pedlar formation.
MILE 49.0, FRANKLIN CLIFFS OVERLOOK. Elevation 3,140 feet. The
overlook has a narrow view down the hollow to the Shenandoah Valley,
and to the Massanutten Mountain on the far side. The town of Stanley, a
little to left of center, is at the foot of Roundhead Ridge. Farther right, and
more distant, is the larger town of Luray. To your left, the high summit is
Blackrock; a little way down from its high point, and a little to the left, is Big
Meadows Campground. Still farther left you can see Fishers Gap Overlook,
with a short stretch of the Redgate Road below it.
The A.T. passes along a ledge at the foot of the cliff, but it's not readily
accessible from the overlook. I've read that the cliffs were named for
General William B. Franklin, a Union officer in the Civil War.