Shenandoah National Park (Central)
Skyline Drive milepost 41.7
Distance: 1.6 miles
Views: Great view of Shenandoah Valley
Trailhead: Parking area just inside the north entrance to Skyland Resort milepost 41.7
Type: Out and back with a short loop near the vista
Dogs: No dogs allowed
Notes: Entrance fees apply at Shenandoah National Park
This is a nice, short hike in Central Shenandoah National Park (SNP). According to www.nps.gov the Stony Man summit is the 2nd highest peak in SNP at 4,010 feet. To access the trail from Charlottesville, enter the park and the Skyline Drive at the Thornton Gap Entrance Station near Sperryville, VA. From here, head south on the Skyline Drive. If you have time, stop at the Stony Man Overlook for a view of the “Stony Man” and the hike you are about to start. Nps.gov provides a detailed map of the surrounding mileposts and the Stony Man hiking trails and parking areas.
Continue heading South down the Skyline Drive and look for the parking area on your right after passing the Thorofare Mountain Overlook. If you reach Skyland Resort you’ve gone too far. The trailhead is easy to find once you are in the parking area.
Begin the hike on the Appalachian Trail (AT) which is recognizable by its white blazes. Keep your eye out for the blue blaze, which is the Stony Man trail. Be sure to follow the trail markers which will point you in the direction of the summit. Eventually, you will come to a Y; this is a loop that leads to the Stony Man summit and vista. You can go either way since it’s a loop. When you see a horse-hitching rail, you will look for a side trail that leads to the rocky viewpoint. Spend some time at the vista and go back the way you came, or complete the loop. Once back at the “Y” on the trail, you will simply retrace your steps back to the parking area.
This hike takes forty five minutes to one hour to complete. If you have little ones, slow hikers or plan to eat lunch at the summit allow 1.5 to 2 hours. A fairly easy hike with a gentle slope; not too much effort and a great reward (amazing views).
Visual markers to look for: white blazes, blue blazes, horse-hitching rail and trail markers.
Rather than participate in Black Friday shopping, I always try to go hiking the Friday after Thanksgiving. In 2014, my birthday happened to fall on this day, so my sister, my mother, and I packed up for a hike. We left Charlottesville, VA on a chilly, but sunny November morning and made our way North. As we got closer to the mountains we were surprised to see snow. We had plans to hike Hawksbill Loop, but were turned away at Swift Run Gap due to ice. Not giving up, we pushed on to the Thornton Gap Entrance, which was still open. We parked and noted that it was 20 degrees outside. At this point, nothing was going to stop these determined ladies. The Stony Man trailhead was nearby, so after putting on every item of clothing we had in my car, we started walking. The wind was bone-chilling and it was an overcast day, but it was impossible not to laugh and enjoy ourselves as we stomped through the snow. The sky was absolutely stunning and the snow made everything magical. A perfect birthday hike.