HIKE: Davids Spring. Round trip 1.8 miles; total climb about 470 feet; time
required 1:40. An easy hike along the A.T., past a hemlock grove and a
mountaineer homesite. See map, page 166. Fishers Gap Overlook is at right
Take the access trail at the south end of the overlook, go to the A.T,, and
turn left. The trail descends for a few feet, then begins a long, steady, easy
climb. About 250 yards from the start, notice a tremendous basalt rock on the
left, in the process of splitting and breaking up. A quarter of a mile farther, the
hemlocks begin; and after another 400 yards you're deep in a grove of large
hemlocks, where you will notice several things: it's dark and cool and quiet;
there is little or no undergrowth, and the ground is carpeted with fallen
needles. If you stop and listen, in summer, you'll hear insects and birds, and
an occasional car sound in the distance, and sometimes the shout of children
in the Big Meadows Campground, half a mile away. If there's a gentle wind in
the treetops you'll hear a steady rain of tiny hemlock needles.
From the trail, near the middle of the hemlock grove, you can look downhill
to a concrete watering trough about 25 yards away. A little farther down the
hill, and a hundred yards to the left, is further evidence of an old homesite,
which you may find worth exploring. (If you get lost down there, go straight
uphill to return to the trail.)
Two hundred yards after you emerge from the hemlock grove, you cross a
small stream that flows from right to left. This is Little Hawksbill Creek, just
300 yards from its source at Davids Spring. Cross the stream, leave the trail,
and follow the stream uphill to the spring. In April, look for the yellow flowers
of marsh marigold, Caltha palustris, one of the first flowers to show color in
the spring. The broad green lily-like leaves in and near the water are false
helibore, Veratrum viride. In late summer, near the spring, look for the
pink-white flowers of white turtlehead, Chelone glabra.
Davids Spring flows prettily out from the roots of a tree. Don't drink; the
spring drains the campground. Looking upstream from a point 20 or 30 feet
below the spring, you'll find one or more trails on the left, going about 50 feet
uphill to the A.T. To return, go to the A.T. and turn left. Note, on the map, that
Davids Spring is only a few feet from a trail junction. To return to Fishers Gap
be sure you're on the A.T. (white blazes) and going downhill.
HIKE: Davids Spring and return via horse trail. Circuit 3.2 miles; total climb
about 590 feet; time required 2:45. This is a hike for people who like to take a
chance. It makes use of an abandoned trailthe former Swamp Nature Trail. I
can't predict what condition it will be in when you read this. See map, page
166. Your route is: A.T. to Davids Spring, left on the abandoned trail, left on
the present Nature Trail, then left again onto the horse trail.
As above, to Davids Spring. Where the A.T. makes a 90-degree turn to the
right, turn left onto the unblazed abandoned trail. If you're able to follow it,
you'll reach a small grassy area about 0.8 mile from Davids Spring. Here a
small stream emerges from Big Meadows Swamp. In summer and fall it's
usually dry. Flowers bloom here throughout the spring and summer, including
blue-flag iris, thinleaf sunflower, American burnett and, in August, the
brilliant red cardinal flower.
After another fifty yards you'll reach a trail junction; turn left here. Walk
another fifty yards to the horse trail, turn left, and cross the stream. The rest of
your hike is mostly downhill, and mostly on the bed of an old mountaineer
road. (Remember that you're on a horse trail, and that horses have the right of
way.) When you reach the Drive, turn left and walk in the grass on the left side
of the road, Bear left into the south entrance of Fishers Gap Overlook, and
return to your starting point.
MILE 50.7, DARK HOLLOW FALLS PARKING. Elevation 3,425 feet. It
has been said that of all the waterfalls in the Park, Dark Hollow Falls is
closest to the Drive and easiest to get to. (But see Mile 1.4 on page 82.)
Trivia: Mile 50 to Mile 51 is the shortest mile on the Drive: just eight-tenths
of a mile long. When the mileposts were put in, the Drive did not go
through the deep cut in the hillside to the south of here, as it does now.
Instead it made a loop to the east, starting near the south end of the parking
HIKE: Dark Hollow Falls. Round trip 1.4 miles; total climb about 440 feet;
time required 1:25. Take the trail at the north end of the parking area. It
crosses the stream and then goes downhill along its left bank. This is
Hogcamp Branch, which drains Big Meadows Swamp and becomes the
principal tributary of Rose River. You may find it dry at the beginning, but it will
gradually acquire enough water to make a satisfactory waterfall.
The trail descends easily for 0.6 mile to the head of the falls. I suggest that
you stay on the trail here. There's no view from the top of the falls, and the
rocks there are slippery and dangerous. The trail swings away from the
stream and goes uphill for a few feet before swinging right and descending to
the base of the falls. On the trail between top and bottom of the falls you'll
pass a tremendous rock that looms on your left, just where the trail swings
sharply to the right. Except in dry summer months, water constantly trickles
and drips down the face of this rock, promoting the growth of mosses, ferns,
and liverworts. On cold winter days there's an enchanting display of
stalactites and stalagmites of ice.
There's a fine view of the falls from the bottom. The water drops 70 feet, in
a series of cascades, over the crumbling greenstone of an ancient lava flow.
Thomas Jefferson once stood here and admired the falls. (Jefferson spent a
great deal of time exploring these mountains, and studying their plants and
animals. He was so fond of the Blue Ridge that at Monticello he put the
outbuildings below ground, so as not to interfere with his view of the
(Below the falls, the trail descends another 145 feet in about 300 yards to
the Rose River fire road, passing a number of small waterfalls and cascades.)
MILE 51.0, BIG MEADOWS, NORTH ENTRANCE. To reach the Visitor
Center or to walk in the meadow, turn right here, then left into the parking
area. (For gas, food, lodging, picnicking, and camping, use the south
entrance at Mile 51.2)
Harry F. Byrd Sr. Visitor Center. Information, publications, exhibits, and a
movie about the history of the area. The Visitor Center was opened to the
public in April, 1966. Visitors sometimes ask about the materials it's made
of. Here are some answers: The wood paneling is butternut. The floor of the
lobby is crab-orchard sandstone from Tennessee. The exterior stonework is
of sandstone from the Massanutten Mountain. A movie is shown frequently,
on a regular schedule. Slide programs may be shown from time to time. Ask
at the information desk.
The Visitor Center is worth a stop even when it's closed. Go around to the
balcony at left rear and look out over the meadow, which has been a
meadow for centuries. It was probably created by fire, set by lightning or
by Indians. Indian fires, with some help from elk and bison, kept it open.
Blueberries and strawberries grow in the meadow. And because deer like
to browse around its edges, the meadow made hunting easier. After the
Indians, white mountaineers grazed their cattle here.
The exhibit on the rail shows how the meadow looked on July 3,
1936, when the Park dedication ceremony took place there. Thousands of
people were seated on chairs, on chestnut logs, and on the ground. Bands
played from bandstands beside the speakers platform. Amplifiers and
loudspeakers carried the sound to everyone, and the program was
broadcast from coast to coast by NBC and CBS radio. After speeches by
Harold Ickes (Secretary of the Interior) and George Peery (Governor of
Virginia), President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Park in a short
speech that ended with
"We seek to pass on to our children a richer land and a stronger
nation. And so my friends, I now take great pleasure in dedicating
Shenandoah National Parkin dedicating it to this and to succeeding
generations of Americans for the recreation and for the re-creation
which we find here."
As the exhibit shows, the meadow was much larger then than it is now. It
extended, with a few islands of trees, to the ridge in front of you, and down
the other side. Behind you it reached the present site of Big Meadows
Campground. It stretched from Fishers Gap, Mile 49.4, to beyond Milam
Gap, Mile 52.8. An estimate of its present size is 132 acres. This is the largest
environment of its kind in the Park. It produces wildflowers that don't grow in
There was once a "ghost forest" of dead chestnut trees here at Big
Meadows, where the Visitor Center and parking area are now. You can see
one of the ghost trees at the extreme left in the dedication photo on the
exhibit. Also at the left edge of the photo is a CCC CampCamp Fechner,
named for the Director of the CCC.
Several mountains can be seen from the balcony. A little to the right of
center is Fork Mountain, just outside the Park. The antenna tower on its
summit belongs to the State Police. (Legend: During the Civil War a
heliograph on Fork Mountain was used to send messages, by flashes of
reflected sunlight, to Washington, D.C.). Diagonally right (behind a tree if
you're standing on the balcony) is Hazeltop. Cat Knob is between Hazeltop
and Fork Mountain. Old Rag is in the distance at the far left, with pale gray
granite cliffs on its left face.
I recommend a walk in the meadow. Distance, as far as you want. Time,
whatever you can spare. This is primarily a wildflower walk; but there are
birds to be watched, and a good chance of seeing deer at twilight. Traces of
the CCC camp are still visible. A great many arrowheads have been found
here, but they're now getting rare. If you find any, please leave them for the
next explorer to see.
MILE 51.2, BIG MEADOWS, SOUTH ENTRANCE. Elevation 3,510 feet.
Turn in here for food and lodging, gasoline, camping and picnicking, etc.
The gas station is in sight at the junction. To reach the Wayside pass the
two entrances to the gas station, then turn right and immediately right
again, into the parking area. (What's a Wayside? It's a snack shop, a
campstore with groceries and camping supplies, and a gift shop.) The
restrooms are reached from outside the building, at the end nearest the gas
station. For other features of Big Meadows see the map on page 166, and the
|Map of Fishers Gap Big Meadows area|
Trailer sewage disposal: Turn right at the junction about 0.4 miles from
the Drive. Disposal area is on left before maintenance area.
Campground. At the junction 0.7 mile from the Drive and partway up the
hill, bear right. Keep right where the road forks, just before you reach the
campground entrance station.
Laundry, showers, firewood, ice. Use the parking area on your left, just
after you pass the campground entrance station. Showers and laundry are
Picnic area. Take the left fork just before you reach the campground
entrance station, then keep to the right and follow the one-way loop around
the picnic area. There are three parking areas on the loop. Park in the
second one for the Amphitheater (Sunday morning church services and
nightly campfire programs during the summer.) Use the same parking area
for hikes on the Lewis Falls Trail. (See above.)
Big Meadows Lodge. Go directly away from the Drive at Mile 51.2,
keeping straight ahead at all intersections until you reach the small traffic
circle in front of the Dining Hall, 0.9 mile from the Drive. Ask here about
reservations for motel-type units or rustic cabins. Meals are available at the
dining hall except in winter. There's a taproom downstairs, and a gift shop near the
entrance. Accessible restroom facilities are to the right of the lobby entrance.
HIKE: Blackrock summit. A very easy hike to a high point with a good view.
The trail, marked by a sign, starts at the far end of the parking area beyond the
Dining Hall. Round trip from the Dining Hall, 0.4 mile; from the end of the
parking area, less than 0.2 mile. Total climb about 60 feet. Time required
(from the Dining Hall) 0:25.|
Just before you reach the summit you may see a small shack to the left,
with a microwave antenna on top. This is part of the Big Meadows telephone
system. On the far side of the shack are underground tanks that store water
for the Big Meadows development. Continue to the rocky viewpoint, elevation
3,721 feet. Caution: the rock is rather slippery, even when dry.
The sketch shows the left-hand part of the view. At the foot of Roundhead
Ridge is the town of Stanley; Luray is diagonally right. After dark, the lights of
the two towns make a beautiful display. On a very clear day you can look far up
the Valley to your right, to a peak at the north end of the Massanutten near
Front Royal. Farther right you can see several peaks in the North District of the
Park. At the extreme right, and fairly near, the highest point you see is the
rounded summit of Hawksbill. The second highest, farther left and more
distant, is Stony Man.
|View from Blackrock|
HIKE: Story-of-the-Forest Nature Trail. Circuit 1.8 miles; total climb about
290 feet; time required 1:30. An easy, self-guiding hike, with interpretive
posts beside the trail for about two-thirds of its length. The trail starts at the
Byrd Visitor Center and passes through a forest in various stages of
succession. It ends at the Big Meadows Wayside, near the Visitor Center
HIKE: Lewis Falls (also called Lewis Spring Falls). Circuit 3.3 miles; total
climb about 990 feet; time required 3:10. A pleasant walk to a high, pretty
waterfall, on a mostly good trail with a few stretches that are rough, rocky,
and steep. Note: if it's a sunny day and your schedule is flexible, take this hike
in mid-afternoon. Then you'll have the sun behind you as you view the falls,
and there's a chance you'll see a rainbow in the mist.
Start from the amphitheater parking area (the second parking area on the
loop around the picnic grounds.) See map, page 166. Walk down through the
amphitheater to the A.T. Turn left, go about 200 feet to a trail junction, and
bear right, downhill. (As the map shows, you can also start the hike from the
Lodge. Start out clockwise around the traffic circle; bear left onto the paved
trail, turn left at the junction a few yards down the hill; go a little more than
mile to the A.T. and continue diagonally left, downhill, on the falls trail.)
A quarter of a mile from the junction there's a view to the right, into the
Page Valley. The town you see is Stanley, at the foot of Roundhead Ridge.
Two-thirds of a mile from the start, the trail passes along the base of a cliff that
rises steeply on your left. After another hundred yards you'll make a
switchback first to the right and then to the left. The trail is steep at both
switchbacks, and in wet weather it's slippery. A little more than 0.4 mile
beyond the switchbacks, the trail passes briefly over bare rock with a view to
the right of the main Blue Ridge, and Tanners Ridge (with clearings and
houses) descending from it toward the right. Beyond Tanners Ridge, a little to
the right of straight out from the trail, is Chapman Mountain; farther right and
more distant is Devils Tanyard, from which Dovel Mountain descends by a
series of bumps.
An eighth of a mile farther, you reach a junction with a side trail. Turn right,
and go about 50 yards to a wide flat viewpoint above the falls. (You can't see the
falls from here.) There's a view down Pine Grove Hollow, with Tanners Ridge to
the left of it. From this viewpoint a trail goes to the left, across the stream, to a
viewpoint from which you look back at the falls.
The total height of the falls is 81 feet. It starts its drop in two separate streams
(one of which disappears in dry weather), then strikes a mossy rock halfway
down, and divides further. In mid-afternoon or later on a sunny day, if there's
enough water to make mist, you'll see a rainbow. Return once more to the
viewpoint at the top of the fails. Go left to the main trail and then turn
right-rather steeply uphill.
The trail climbs steadily, passing through a dark grove of hemlocks. The
trail is rich in plant species. I'm especially fond of two that occur in fall. One is
grass-leaved blazing star, Liatris graminifolia, with leaves that look like large
blades of grass, and a spike of small, thistle-like purplish flowers. The other is
a velvety-red puffball, Calostoma sp., that grows out of a blob of jelly.
About 0.6 mile above the falls, the trail passes the site of the Lewis Spring
Shelter (which was demolished in 1976), then swings left and dead-ends in a
dirt road. To the left, the road goes 0.1 mile to the old sewage treatment plant.
Straight ahead is a door in the side of the hill, and behind it is a pump that
sends most of the output of Lewis Spring up to the underground storage tanks
Turn right on the dirt road. Thirty yards from the junction, a side trail on the
right goes 100 feet to Lewis Spring. It's completely enclosed; you'll hear
gushing water behind the padlocked door. This spring is not only the principal
source of water for the Big Meadows development; it's also the source of
Hawksbill Creek, which forms Lewis Falls and then, much later, flows
through the town of Luray before joining the Shenandoah River.
Back on the road: continue uphill another 25 yards to the A.T. crossing.
Turn left, and continue a steady, easy climb on the A.T. About 0.6 mile from
the dirt road, pass a narrow side trail on the right; it goes 0.2 mile to the
summit of Blackrock. About a hundred feet beyond this junction look for two
side trails to viewpoints on the left. The second one is better. The view is much
the same as that from Blackrock, though not as wide. See sketch, page 167.
Continue for less than 0.4 mile to the falls trail crossing. If you're going to
the Lodge, turn right here, and turn right at every opportunity until you find
yourself in front of the dining hall. If you're returning to the Amphitheater
parking area go straight ahead another 200 feet, watching for the side trail
that goes up to the right through the amphitheater.
MILE 51.3, RAPIDAN ROAD, east side. The road goes 6.3 miles to Camp
Hoover and, eventually, to Criglersville. Camp Hoover is easier to walk to
from Milam Gap, Mile 52.8.
MILE 51.4, SERVICE ROAD and PARKING AREA, west side. This road
provides the easiest access to Lewis Falls. I'll outline the route, though I
recommend the slightly longer circuit hike from the amphitheater (see above.)
HIKE: Lewis Falls. Round trip 2.5 miles; total climb about 795 feet; time
required 2:25. Follow the road downhill, crossing the horse trail twice and the
A.T. once. Pass a short side trail on the left, that goes to the enclosed Lewis
Spring. Continue 30 yards to a locked door in the hillside on your right.
(Behind it is a pump for the Big Meadows water supply.) Turn left here, onto
the falls trail. Descend for 0.6 mile to a trail junction; take the side trail to the
left, and go 50 yards to a viewpoint at the top of the falls. For a note on the
falls, see page 168.
|View from Tanners Ridge Overlook|
MILE 51.5, TANNERS RIDGE OVERLOOK. Elevation 3,465 feet. The
sketch identifies most of what you see from here. To the right of Roundhead
Ridge is the town of Stanley. The name of Dog Slaughter Ridge fascinates
me; I can't determine its origin, though several people have offered
unpremeditated conjectures. Fact: Slaughter was the name of a mountain
family in this area.
If you're here in the third week of July, take a minute to climb the bank
across the Drive and look for the wood lily, Lilium philadelphicum, with
fairly short stems, whorled leaves, and red-orange flowers marked with
black. The lilies are getting scarcer, and there may be none when you read
this. I hope this brief mention does nothing to hasten their extinction.
MILE 51.6, TANNERS RIDGE FIRE ROAD, west side. Elevation 3,465
feet. A.T. access; cemetery. The area is worth exploring if you have time.
The A.T. crosses the fire road 0.3 mile from the Drive. Distances on the A.T.:
North (to the right) it's 1.5 miles to the Big Meadows amphitheater. South
(to the left) it's 1.1 miles to the Drive crossing in Milam Gap, Mile 52.8. The
cemetery is on the right side of the road, beside the A.T. There are a few old
markers here, but most of the graves are relatively new. This is an active
cemetery; burials still take place from time to time.
The A.T. toward the south is interesting. About 0.2 mile from the fire
road, where water flows under the trail through a pipe, there's a spring 25
yards to the left. (It's hidden by vegetation in summer.) Ahead, an old road
trace comes from Tanners Ridge and joins the trail. In the woods to the left
is ample evidence of a mountaineer homesite: the spring, piles of rock,
pieces of scrap metal, and the stone foundation of a small structure.
Mile 52.8, MILAM GAP, elevation 3,230 feet. A.T. crossing; Camp
Hoover Hikes. There's a large parking area on the west side. Distances on
the A.T.: North (on the west side of the Drive) it's 1.1 miles to the Tanners
Ridge fire road, and 2.6 miles to the Big Meadows amphitheater. South (on
the east side) it's 2.8 miles to Bootens Gap, Mile 55.1.
Trivia: There are a great many apple trees in and around Milam Gap;
most are Milam applesthe variety most often grown by the mountain
people. I don't know which name came first. I have an unconfirmed report
of a mountain family named Milam.
Camp Hoover Hikes. During his presidential administration, Herbert
Hoover came to his camp on the Rapidan River for relaxation and "working"
holidays, much as later presidents have used Camp David. Camp Hoover is
a not-too-difficult hike from Milam Gap. I will recommend two hikes: one
directly down the Mill Prong trail, and return by the same route; the second
a somewhat longer circuit hike. Three of the camp's buildings, including
the one occupied by the President, are still standing and still maintained.
An interpretive sign and map at the camp tell the story. You're free to
explore the whole area unless the camp is occupied.
President Hoover, at the end of his administration, donated the camp to
the government for use by future presidents or other high government
officials. When the Park was created, Camp Hoover became a part of it. But
the camp is still used from time to time by government employees for
official business functions. Therefore, if you see that the camp is occupied,
please don't go any closer.
|Map of Milam Gap Camp Hoover area|
HIKE: Camp Hoover via Mill Prong trail. Round trip 4.1 miles; total climb
about 870 feet; time required 3:50. Moderately rough in spots; not steep;
three stream crossings, two of them very easy. See map below. Milam Gap is
below and to the left of center.|
Take the A.T. on the east side of the Drive, walk about 50 yards to the trail
junction, and turn left onto the Mill Prong trail. For a third of a mile the trail
descends gradually through overgrown fields and orchards, then enters older
woods. Cross two small branches of the Mill Prong at 0.7 and 1.1 miles from
the start. Thirty yards beyond the second crossing, the horse trail from Big
Meadows comes in on the left. Note: for the next 0.8 mile you'll be on the
horse trail; horses have the right of way.
Less than half a mile beyond the trail junction, watch for a small waterfall
on the right, where a cascade of water flows down over a sloping rock that
spans the full width of the stream. Fifty yards beyond the falls, the trail turns
right and crosses the stream. Use a little caution here; the rocks are slippery.
Pieces of pipe that you may see on the far side of the stream were part of the
original water supply system for Camp Hoover.
After another 0.3 mile, the trail ends and joins a road. Turn right, and follow
the road to a small parking area. From here, the Laurel Prong trail goes to the
right. (See the circuit hike, below.) Turn left to explore Camp Hoover (unless,
as I said, it's occupied.) The three original cabins that are still standing are The
President, in the middle; The Prime Minister (which was used by Ramsay
MacDonald, prime minister of Great Britain), on the right; and The Creel
(which was occupied by two presidential assistants), on the left.
Go on around to the porch on the far side of The President. It's a little
unusual in that it was built around the trees that were standing there; the
Hoovers tried to disturb the area as little as possible. A short distance down
below the porch, the Mill Prong, coming from the left, and the Laurel Prong,
coming from the right, meet to form the Rapidan River. (The very small stream
that flows through the camp was man-made; it's called Hemlock Run.)
The President's cabin is open to the public one weekend a year nearest to
Hoover's birthday, August 10. On that day, buses carry visitors to Camp Hoover
from the Byrd Visitor Center, Mile 51.0. (If you'd like more information about
Camp Hoover, see "Herbert Hoover's Hideaway" by Darwin Lambert. It's
available at the Visitor Center.)
Return to Milam Gap the way you came. Looking at the map, you might be
tempted to return by the Rapidan fire road to make a circuit hike. I don't
recommend it. From Camp Hoover it's 6.3 miles via fire road to the Drive at
Mile 51.3, though it seems a great deal longer when you're walking it.
HIKE: Camp Hoover via Mill Prong trail; return via Laurel Prong and A.T.
Circuit 7.4 miles; total climb about 1,520 feet; time required 6:30. This is a
moderately difficult hike because of its length and the amount of climbing; but
no part of it is very rough or very steep. There are several stream crossings, all
of them rather easy. (See map, page 170; the Laurel Prong trail joins the A.T.
below the bottom of the map.)
As above to The President. Return past the small parking area on your right
and keep straight ahead on the Laurel Prong trail. The trail follows an old road
trace, which at first is a service road leading to the camp water source. The
first half-mile is yellow-blazed. Half a mile from Camp Hoover, after you
emerge from a grove of hemlocks, watch for a junction where the road trace
swings left and becomes the yellow-blazed Fork Mountain trail. The Laurel
Prong trail, which is blue-blazed beyond this point, continues straight ahead.
Wildflower notes: In late summer look for closed gentians here at the trail
junction. In other seasons you may find a short side trip on the Fork Mountain
trail worthwhile. The Laurel Prong is less than 200 yards from the main trail.
Before you reach it you'll enter a rich stand of the great rhododendron,
Rhododendron maximum, which extends a quarter of a mile downstream and
more than half a mile upstream. As far as I know, this species grows nowhere
else in the Park, though Rhododendron catawbiense occurs at several places
in the South Section. Because the Hoovers planted a number of flower
species near the camp, it's tempting to think they planted the rhododendrons
here. But I find a description of them that was written in the early 1920'syears
before Hoover selected this area for his camp. The flowers are beautiful:
pink in bud, then white when fully opened, then fringed with pink as they
grow older. They're usually at the height of bloom about the middle of July.
Continuing on the Laurel Prong trail: there will be several stream crossings;
not much water, but rocky or muddy. Traces of human habitation: a rock
pile, a rock wall, and a decaying rail fence. If the rhododendrons are in bloom,
you'll see them on your left from several points along the trail. At 0.6 mile
from the Fork Mountain trail you'll cross the Laurel Prong and start to climb.
After three-quarters of a mile of easy climbing, you reach a trail junction on
the ridge crest in Laurel Gap. To the left is the Cat Knob trail. Stay on the
Laurel Prong trail, which turns 90 degrees to the right.
From Laurel Gap, follow the trail along the south slope of Hazeltop, with
the Conway River basin to your left, for exactly one mile to its junction with the
A.T. Turn right. Less than half a mile from the junction, the A.T. crosses the
crest of Hazeltop, elevation 3,816 feetthe third highest point in the Park
(after Hawksbill and Stony Man) and the highest point on the A.T. within the
Park. Continue, mostly downhill, another two miles to your starting point in
|View from Naked Creek Overlook|
MILE 53.2, NAKED CREEK OVERLOOK. Elevation 3,250 feet. The
overlook provides a view down the valley formed by the east branch of
Naked Creek (See sketch.) The town in the Valley, out beyond the mouth of
the hollow, is Elkton. The house over on Long Ridge is outside the Park. Out
of sight on the far side of Smith Mountain is Steam Hollow which, I've
heard, got its name from the steam produced by the moonshine stills that
used to operate there.
Naked Creek Falls is down in the hollow, less than a mile from the
overlook. (See map, page 170; you're in the lower left part of it. I had to
cheat a little to get the falls on the map; actually, they should be just below
the bottom edge.) The falls are worth seeing if you like exploring and have
enough experience to do so safely. There is no trail; this is a cross-country
hike through the woods. And as with any bushwhacking enterprise, you
can expect to find some rocks and brambles. I suggest you start at the south
end of the overlook, go downhill to the stream, then downstream to the
falls. To return, with no chance of getting lost: go uphill from the falls to the
Drive, then turn left and walk along the Drive to the overlook.
MILE 53.6 to 54.6, Wildflower note: Scattered along both sides of the
Drive in this area are plants that look like giant Queen Anne's lace, with
flat-topped umbels of white flowers that bloom in June. Because the plants
often grow eight or ten feet high they look like they belong in the tropics, or
maybe on Venus. This is cow parsnip, Heracleum maximum.