Little Calf Mountain

Little Calf Mountain
Shenandoah National Park (Southern)
Skyline Drive mile 99.5
Distance: 1 mile
Views: Grassy meadows and valley views
Trailhead: Parking area at milepost 99.5 on the Skyline Drive
Type: Out and back
Dogs: Dogs are welcome with a leash
Notes: Entrance fees apply at Shenandoah National Park (SNP); short, uphill trail through grassy meadows and trees; nice view at the top.

Difficulty and length:
The distance to the Little Calf Mountain summit from the parking area is about a half a mile. Round trip, this hike is around 1 mile. It’s an uphill hike, but I find the gentle grade makes the hike very pleasant. Easy to moderate rating on this one. Most recently, it took me about 35 minutes to get from the parking area to the summit of Little Calf Mountain. It was my first hike with Baby Comfort, so I had some extra weight and kept stopping to check on her, since she was only 3 months old. This is a great hike for families and children. Just the right driving distance from Charlottesville and just the right length for most. I would allow an hour and a half for this hike, which would include some time for frolicking and eating lunch in the grassy meadow at the top.

Chilly day on top of Little Calf MountainGetting there:
Little Calf Mountain is about a 40 minute drive from Charlottesville, Virginia. From Charlottesville, take 64 West to exit 99 towards Afton. Follow signs to enter the Shenandoah National Park at the South entrance (Rockfish Gap Entrance Station). Drive for about 5 miles north on the Skyline Drive to the Beagle Gap Parking Area at mile 99.5.

This is a short hike with nice views and a grassy meadow in the southern part of Shenandoah National Park (SNP). Park at Beagle Gap Parking Area at mile 99.5 on the Skyline Drive (see ‘Getting there’ above). Look for the opening in the fence marked with a white blaze and you’ve found the trail head. The hike begins with an uphill walk through a grassy field.

After about 5 minutes or so of walking, you will enter the woods and continue following the white blazes. After about 20-25 minutes, you’ll find the trail opens back up to a grassy meadow, this is the Little Calf Mountain summit.

This is the perfect spot for eating lunch and daydreaming. The views are pretty amazing, but your panorama may be interrupted by some towers on a mountain across the way. Bear Den Mountain has towers on top that you may want to keep out of your photos. Once you are finished with the views and your lunch, turn around and retrace your steps back to your car (image below shows Beagle Gap Parking area from your descent).

Little Calf - Beagle Gap parking areaTip: For a longer hike, continue on the Appalachian Trail (follow the white blazes) to the summit of Calf Mountain. There aren’t the same great views at this summit, but you will get a little extra distance in.

My Experience:
This is my go-to hike when I don’t have a lot of time, but I still want a quick trip to Shenandoah National Park. Since the trail is so close to the Southern Entrance into SNP, it’s perfect for those who don’t have all day for a hike. I’ve done this hike countless times with many friends and family and it always seems to be a good fit for folks who don’t hike often.

Most recently, I hiked this trail on Mother’s Day as my first hike with my 3 month old baby girl (her middle name is Sunshine, so we’ll call her that on my blog). It was my first time using her Tula baby carrier, so I took awhile adjusting and checking on Baby Comfort here and there. Miss Sunshine is a great hiking partner and she spent most of the time sleeping. I have to admit, I got a little out of breath this last hike, but hey, I was carrying my baby up a mountain and had just delivered about 12 weeks before that, so I’m cutting myself some slack! Spending the day in Shenandoah National Park and then stopping at Pollak Vineyards afterwards, was my perfect Mother’s Day.

Little Calf - relaxingBonus Tip: Take 250 back to Charlottesville, VA rather than 64 and stop at one of Virginia’s vineyards. A few of my favorites on the way back to Charlottesville are: Veritas Vineyard and Winery, Afton Mountain Vineyards, King Family Vineyards, and Pollak Vineyards.

Warning: Lots of poison ivy along this trail in the summer – watch out!

Spring views:

Summer views:

Fall views:

Winter views:


Hiking while pregnant

Hiking while pregnant or 7 Tips for Hiking Mamas

Hiking in SNP during pregnancyAs I enter into the last two weeks of my first pregnancy (Yay – 38 weeks!), I really want to post about hiking while pregnant. If you were a hiker pre-pregnancy and want to continue hiking, follow these tips to make it an easier and more comfortable pregnancy experience. For all my East Coast friends, winter is still hanging around, but spring will be here before you know it and, hopefully, these tips will give all you mamas-to-be the tools to decide if hiking while pregnant is for you.

I could honestly go on forever about the joys and difficulty of hiking in various trimesters and seasons while pregnant, but for the sake of organization and readability, let’s go with a quick list of things to consider before hiking while pregnant.

All you non-preggo hikers, share this post with someone who may find it helpful!

1. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
I can’t emphasize this one enough. As mamas-to-be we need to increase our water intake on a daily basis anyway…add strenuous activity and the need for extra H20 becomes extremely important. If carrying all that extra water-weight on your hike sounds exhausting, let someone else do the heavy lifting!

2. Bring a Hiking Buddy
I always recommend a hiking partner, pregnant or not. The need for a buddy becomes very important when you are expecting. Not only do you have someone there with you in case something goes wrong, but if it’s a super, awesome hiking friend, they will also help lighten your load. Don’t feel guilty asking a hiking partner to help carry your pack or water. Have you seen your adorable baby bump? That little boy or girl is adding some extra weight to your total body mass and if you want to drag that all up a mountain – well, don’t be afraid to ask for help!

3. Double your Snacks (or triple, no judging here)
Alright, this one may just be me, but I’ve been pretty hungry most of this pregnancy. Not only are we growing a human (which takes a lot of energy), but those intense hunger cravings in the 2nd trimester are no joke. I went from vegetarian to ‘give me that cheeseburger, now!’. Remember, if you go hiking, you are burning extra calories and babe is taking nutrients that it needs from you, so be sure to replenish with snacks that fuel your work and sound tasty.

4. Stretch
Loosen up before your hike with some quick warm ups and light stretching. Avoid those night-time leg cramps we often get during pregnancy by hydrating and doing some good stretching after the hike. I find that it’s best to focus on the calves and hamstrings after a good mountain climb.

5. Restrooms
Let’s be honest with ourselves…it’s just not that easy to squat anymore! Center of gravity shift, extra weight (mostly in the front), and general clumsiness are something most of us experience during pregnancy. Squatting in the woods behind a bush or tree for a quick pee is getting less and less feasible as our bellies grow. Plan hikes around open facilities in our State or National parks. Or be sure there is an open gas station or rest area near the trail you choose so you have a nearby option before and after the hike.

If you get stuck out on a trail and nature calls, be sure to use a tree trunk to help you balance as you squat. Find a smaller, sturdy tree, that you can wrap your hands around for balance and support as you lower your growing body to do your business. If your hiking partner is willing to help you back up after your tinkle, let them!

Additional Tip: East Coast mountain mamas – Hike on the Appalachian Trail (white blazes) and plan your route based on sections that pass an outhouse/shelter. This will be a lifesaver for those of you in your third trimester who are using the potty often.

Hiking during 2nd trimester

Hiking during 2nd trimester

6. Slow your pace
Don’t over do it; it’s okay to slow your typical hiking pace. Our lungs are being squished by our growing sprouts and we need to give ourselves a break. Please don’t judge yourself or others for needing to slow down. Hike at a pace that is comfortable for you and take breaks often. The last hike I went on was only a mile, yet I slowed myself down and allowed myself to take breaks when I felt out of breath or tired. Listen to your body. If it’s tired, stop and take a break. If you need to, turn around and head home. Now is NOT the time to push yourself and over do it.

7. Shorten your hike
It’s okay to choose shorter hikes as you progress in your pregnancy. I found that in the first and third trimester, the shorter the hike, the better! Nausea won the first trimester for me, especially in the heat and humidity of Virginia summers. My hikes were short and some planned longer hikes, were cut short when I just couldn’t go any further. And that is OKAY.  In the third trimester, especially as you draw nearer to your due date, I find it’s a good idea to stick to shorter trails so you can quickly and easily make it back to your car should something urgent come up. These babes decide when the want to show up, not us!

As always, be sure to check with your doctor before doing any physical activity (especially hiking). We are all different and each pregnancy is unique. Listen to your doctor and listen to your body. Don’t over do it. You and babe come first.


Blackrock Summit
Shenandoah National Park (Southern)
Skyline Drive milepost 85
Distance: 1 mile
Type: Loop or make it an ‘out and back’
Views: Beautiful view of mountains and valleys
Dogs: Bring your leashed furry friend along for the walk
Trailhead: At the end of the Blackrock Summit Parking area at milepost 85
Notes: A quick, easy trek to the summit for great views. Great hike for younger kiddos.
Blackrock summit1
Getting there:
From Charlottesville, VA the quickest way to Blackrock summit is using the South Entrance of the Shenandoah National Park (SNP) via 64 west. After heading towards the mountains on 64 west, take exit 99 towards Afton. Pay attention to the brown National Park signs to navigate your way to the Rockfish Gap Entrance Station of SNP. Drive North on the Skyline Drive for about 15-20 minutes to the Blackrock Summit Parking area at milepost 85. Do NOT park near Blackrock Gap (you will pass this first). Blackrock Gap is not the hike/trail described here. To find the trailhead, look to the end of the parking lot and find the trail Information board (pictured below).
IMG_7058Difficulty and length:
Only half a mile to get to some incredible views in Shenandoah National Park. Round trip, this hike is one mile and will likely take about 30 minutes. If hiking with smaller children or extremely pregnant ladies, allow for an hour.

As described above, this is a short hike to amazing views in the Southern part of SNP. Find the trail head at the trail information board once you park in the Blackrock Summit Parking area at milepost 85 along the Skyline Drive. Walk a few feet past the information board and then take a left and head south on the Appalachian Trail (white blaze).

You’ll notice it’s only a half a mile to the summit if you check out the trail marker (pictured above). After about 5-10 minutes on the trail, you will see another trail marker and a tree marked with a double white blaze. Turn right to stay on the trail and head to the summit. At this point the summit will be about .03 from where you are standing.

During this first half a mile, you will experience a little bit of an incline, but nothing unmanageable. It’s a short trek, so as soon as you start to get out of breath you will find yourself at the top. At the top, great views and a fun pile of rocks await.

After spending time at the summit enjoying the views, continue around the rocky pile to make your way back to your car. You are more than welcome to come back the way you came, but if you continue to follow the trail around the rocks, you will come to a trail marker after a few minutes. When you see this trail marker be sure to take a left to head back to the parking area.

Not a lot to add to this hike, other than to reiterate that I think it’s a great one for families with small children or people who move at a slower pace. Not a lot of effort needed for the great views.


My experience:
Happy New Year and Happy First Day Hikes! Hoping to start a new tradition of hiking on New Year’s Day, I head out for Shenandoah National Park with my mom and my husband. It was a cold, but clear day and after all the holiday gatherings, it was time to get outside regardless of the temperatures.

At 34 weeks pregnant, it was difficult to get dressed for a cold hike…I haven’t invested in hiking maternity clothes for freezing temperatures (side note: after this hike, I did some digging and found this rockin’ site – I found my warmest, stretchiest, pre-pregnancy hiking wear and packed a ton of snacks (yes, for a 1 mile hike).

I cannot understate the importance of hitting the trails with patient hikers when you are in your third trimester. It took our small group about an hour to do the round trip, one mile hike. Typically this hike would take me about 20-30 minutes with a break at the top for pictures and exploring the rocks, but this pregnant waddle I’ve got going on slowed us down. Not to mention water, snack, and breathing breaks. My family was patient and stayed at my pace, making our day trip to the mountains perfect.

I mentioned this is a great hike for younger children above. We saw quite a few families with little kiddos. Not to mention a few hikers with small dogs on this trail. It was great to see so many people being active outside on New Year’s day. This is a great trail for a quick, family hike in the mountains.

Winter View: