Doyles River Overlook to|
MILE 81.9, DOYLES RIVER OVERLOOK. Elevation 2,875 feet. A.T. access.
The overlook is about 100 yards off the Drive. The entrance road makes a
loop around the island, which has shade trees and picnic tables. The A.T.
passes through the overlook, coming in one end and going out the other.
Distances on the A.T.: North (to the left as you face the view) it's 0.9 mile to
the Doyles River parking area, Mile 81.1. South (to the right) it's 1.3 miles to
Browns Gap, Mile 83.0.
The overlook has a view of the Doyles River valley. To the left, outside the
sketch, is Big Flat Mountainthe site of Loft Mountain Campground.
Browns Cove (see sketch), like Browns Gap a mile to the south, was named
for the rich and influential Brown family (page 204.) Note that High Top
Mountain is not the same as Hightop, which is farther north and a lot
MILE 82.0, VIEWPOINT AND HISTORY. There's parking space in the grass on the east side of the Drive, about 50 yards south of the milepost. Look out for a culvert near the north end of the grassy strip. From the west side of the Drive you have a clear view into Big Run (see sketch). Just inside the woods on the east side is an artificially levelled area about 25 feet in diameter. That's where General Early posted one of his guns in September, 1864, to command the old road that occupied the present site of Skyline Drive at this point, and thus prevent a cavalry attack from the north against the Confederate troops bivouacked in Browns Gap.
MILE 82.2, A.T. CROSSING. Elevation 2,800 feet. There's very limited parking beside the Drive. If you want to hike north on the A.T., I suggest that you start from Doyles River Overlook, Mile 81.9. To the south (on the west side of the Drive) it's 0.9 mile to Browns Gap, Mile 83.0.
MILE 82.5, GEOLOGY. There's parking space in the grass on the west side of the Drive; look out for two culverts about ten feet from the edge of the road. From 100 to 300 yards toward the south (downhill), sedimentary rocks of the Weverton formation are exposed beside the Drive: quartzites that vary from fine-grained to coarse and pebbly, and phyllites that vary from silvery gray to silvery pale green. The green phyllites are exposed intermittently beside the Drive for a quarter of a mile to the south.
MILE 83.0, BROWNS GAP. Elevation 2,600 feet. A.T. crossing. Fire road, both sides. Hikes. History. There's a large parking area on the west side. The A.T. crosses the Drive just south of the fire road. Distances on the A.T.: North (on the west side of the Drive) it's 1.3 miles to Doyles River Overlook, Mile 81.9 South (on the east side) it's 1.4 miles to the Drive crossing at Mile 84.3.
History: About 1750 Benjamin Brown and his son, also Benjamin Brown, began to buy land in the western part of Albemarle County, including more than 6,000 acres on both sides of what is now Doyles River. They became, of course, one of the most influential families in that part of the county. The older Benjamin Brown had eight sons. I know the names of seven: Benjamin, Barzillai, Benajah, Bernard, Bernis, Bezaleel, and Brightberry. In 1805-06 Brightberry Brown and William Jarman built a turnpike across the Blue Ridge here. For many years it was one of the principal routes for taking farm produce from the Shenandoah Valley to Richmond.
Browns Gap and the turnpike were used briefly during the Civil War. On May 2, 1862, at the beginning of his Valley Campaign, Stonewall Jackson marched his entire army through Browns Gap. From June 9 to June 12, after the Battle of Port Republic at the end of the Valley Campaign, Jackson's army camped in and near Browns Gap. On September 25, 1864, General Jubal Early and his army, after their defeat at Winchester, fortified themselves here and fought off Sheridan's attacks for two days while awaiting reinforcements.
The turnpike is now a Park fire road. On the west it's Madison Run fire road; it descends five miles to the Park boundary, where it becomes Virginia secondary road No. 663. The lower end of the Madison Run hollow is worth exploring (experienced hikers only.) On the east, the Browns Gap fire road goes a little more than three miles to the Park boundary, where it becomes Virginia secondary road No. 629.
I will describe three hikes that begin at Browns Gap: Upper Doyles River Falls, the Doyles River Trail circuit, and Big Run Portal via Rockytop.
MILE 83.7, DUNDO OVERLOOK Elevation 2,769 feet. The sketch shows the right-center part of the view. The ridge to the left of Furnace Mountain rises to the summit of Trayfoot Mountain. Most of the bushes in front of the overlook are mountain laurel, which blooms in early June.
Geology: The cliffs and talus slopes on Furnace, Lewis, and Austin Mountains are of white Erwin quartzite. The talus on Trayfoot is Hampton quartzite,
MILE 83.7, DUNDO GROUP CAMP. The entrance is on the east side of the Drive, just south of the overlook. This was originally CCC Camp No. 27. Now it's a campground for organized youth groupsBoy Scouts, for example. The facilities are rather primitive. There are a number of tent sites, each with a table and fireplace. There are pit toilets at each end of the campground, and a water faucet at each campsite. If you'd like to bring your youth group here, call Swift Run Entrance Station, 540-298-9625.
MILE 84.1, JONES RUN PARKING. Elevation 2,790 feet. Hikes. The Jones Run Trail starts here, at a large parking area on the east side of the Drive. The A.T. crosses the Jones Run Trail just a few yards from its start.
From here you can take a one-way hike on the Jones Run and Doyles River Trails to Doyles River Parking Mile 81.1, or a circuit that returns from Doyles River Parking via the A.T. Since I've described both those hikes from the other end (pages 200 and 201), I won't repeat them here.
MILE 84.3, A.T. CROSSING. Elevation 2,810 feet. Parking for several cars in the grass on the west side. Distances on the A.T.: North (on the east side of the Drive) it's 1.4 miles to Browns Gap, Mile 83.0. South (on the west side) it's 1.1 miles to Blackrock and 2.3 miles to Blackrock Gap, Mile 87.4.
MILE 84.7, ABANDONED ROAD, east side. This is an exploring
possibility for experienced hikers. The entrance is grassy and hard to see;
look for the yellow posts and chain. I have not explored this area. Park
naturalists Bob Momich and Amanda Moody report as follows:
MILE 84.8, BLACKROCK PARKING, west side. This is the closest
approach to Blackrock from the Drive. A hundred feet from Skyline Drive
is parking space for 12 cars. The entrance road is well marked.
MILE 86.8, TRAYFOOT MOUNTAIN OVERLOOK. Drinking fountain (turned off in winter). Elevation 2,530 feet. The short hollow in front of the overlook drains into the north branch of Moormans River in Via Hollow, at the foot of Pasture Fence Mountain (which has grassy clearings near its top.) To the right of Pasture Fence and more distant, with clearings and radio towers on top, is Bucks Elbow Mountain. From the south end of the overlook on a very clear day you can see far to the right, across the Blue Ridge to the Allegheny Mountains on the far side of the valley.
MILE 87.4, BLACKROCK GAP. Elevation 2,320 feet. Parking on west side. Fire road; trail head. A.T. access. The A.T. comes to the edge of the Drive on the east side, but does not cross it. Distances on the A.T.: North (to the left) it's a quarter of a mile to the Drive crossing at Mile 87.2. South (to the right) it's 1.8 miles to the Drive Crossing at Mile 88.9.
On the west side of the Drive the Paine Run trail goes 3.8 miles to the Park boundary, where it joins Virginia secondary roads Nos. 614 and 661. On the east side the fire road goes 1.1 miles to the Park boundary, then continues for 0.4 mile to the north fork of Moormans River in Via Hollow, which was a popular Catch and Release stream prior to the flood of 1995.
In June of 1995 unusually intense rains caused localized flooding and triggered numerous landslides which dramatically altered the landscape along the north fork of Moormans River. The lower 3 miles of this area is open for day-use only. The flood washed away several sections of the fire road which the park has no plans to rebuild. Hikers to this area should be prepared to bushwhack and be alert for hazards along what remains of the old road bed.
Paine Run hollow is big and wilda great place for exploring and backcountry camping. Although you can reach it from the bottom, you have to cross private land to do so. It might be better to start from Blackrock Gap and walk down the trail.
History: About a mile down the Paine Run trail is Blackrock Springs,
which at the turn of the century was a fashionable resort with a hotel,
cabins, recreation hall, and bowling alley. The resort reached the height of
its popularity in the 1840's and 1850's. It burned down, probably as a result
of arson, early in this century. The waters of Blackrock Springs were said to
be good for whatever ails you. According to advertisements they contained
iron, soda, lime, magnesia, and carbonic acid gas. When Mme. Curie discovered
radium, that too was added to the list of ingredients. There were
seven springs of different colors and different healing properties, including
one for rheumatism, one for arthritis, one for gout, and one for aiding the
growth of hair. People still come to Blackrock Gap and carry jugs down the
trail to bring back some of the healing water. If you'd like to see where the
hotel once stood, or if you're suffering from shortage of hair or other
ailment, try this: