Hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of March 21-27, 1996
Bike touring in Provence
Desert backpacking adventures
Hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains
Camping on California's north coast
Backcountry hikes in Montana and Wyoming

Hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains
Question: Hey Adventure Adviser, do you have any suggestions for a four- to five-day backpacking trip in Shenandoah National Park? Also, my friends and I have already hiked in the Smokies and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Do you have any other suggestions for week-long hiking routes in the East?

Albert Shung
State College, PA
[email protected]

The Blue Ridge Mountains
Adventure Adviser: While I usually try to avoid stating the obvious, you've given me little choice here. It's true that Shenandoah National Park has more than 500 miles of stellar hiking trails, but never mind. Your best bet in the Blue Ridge Mountains is to let your beard grow wild, christen yourself and your friends with bizarre "trail" names that only you understand, and join the community of slightly unkempt through-hikers on the Appalachian Trail as it winds its way along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Start your five-day stint at the Rockfish Gap entrance station on Skyline Drive, about three miles east of Waynesboro; you'll need to self-register at the visitor center for a free backcountry permit before heading out. From there, it's a 53-mile northbound slog to Lewis Mountain Campground, a good place to leave a second car. While much of the trail is in the woods, it crosses Skyline Drive a couple of times a day, which means mind-boggling views of the Shenandoah Valley every few hours. If you get greedy for open vistas, plan on taking short side trips to nearby summits and overlooks like Mary's Rocks and Loft Mountain. Call the park visitor center at 540-999-2243 for hiking maps and camping regulations.

As for the second part of your query (which, in my mind, is a separate question altogether--what do you think this is, Al, a two-for-one sale?), if you've already licked the Smokies and the Whites, the logical next stop is the Adirondacks in eastern New York, about three hours north of Albany. Try a 25-mile section of the Northville-Lake Placid Trail, a challenging 133-mile route through the park. Pick up the trail just west of the High Peaks, about two miles southeast of Lake Placid on Averyville Road and follow it along the Chubb River for 8.3 miles through alder and spruce swamps, past Wanika Falls to the Moose Pond lean-tos. Spend the next day following Moose Creek through the Valley of the Roaring Brook. Take the Duck Hill side trail to the Indian Pass Trail and set up camp at the Wallface lean-to. Day three starts steep with wide-open views of 1,000-foot Wallface Cliff (good technical climbing) and takes you six miles to the shores of Heart Lake. From there, hike out to the parking lot and, hopefully, your second car at the Adirondack Loj. Or stay hidden in the backcountry for a few more days; you'll have your choice of several great loop hikes that spiral out from the Loj.

For more information, call the High Peak experts at 518-523-3441, and check out "America the Hoofable" in the Destinations Section of our April 1996 issue.

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