When we’re not selling real estate in Rappahannock County, many of us enjoy hiking the amazing network of trails in the Shenandoah National Park. Many of our favorite trails are just outside our own homes in Rappahannock. Here is a quick look at a few of our top choices.
Hazel River – Hazel Mountain Loop
A perennial favorite in the Piedmont. The Hazel River spectacularly cascades over huge boulders along the first few miles of this trail. It crosses the river several times so the trail can be tricky when the water is high. Climb to the Hazel Mountain Trail and follow it to the White Rocks trail where there a wonderful views across the FT Valley. White Rocks will bring you back to the Hazel River Trail. To get to the trail park along Woodward Road near Hungry Horse Lane and follow Hungry Horse Lane into the park where the trail begins.
Little Devils Stairs
This 5.5 mile loop involves some fairly strenuous climbing for the first 2 miles. It parallels a steep stream through a narrow gorge with waterfalls. Be cautious in the winter because the trail can be very icy at times. After 2 miles take a left on the Keyser Run Fire Road or, if you prefer a longer hike, take the Pole Bridge Link Trail to the Piney Run Trail which rejoins the Keyser Run Fire Road after about 4 miles. Stop for a few minutes at The Old Bolen Cemetery on the trail where the Piney Branch Trail joins the Keyser Run Fire Road. It is an eerie and fascinating glimpse of mountain life before the Shenandoah National Park. From the cemetery it is about another 1.5 miles back to the parking area on Keyser Run Road.
Oventop is the most prominent mountain you see as you drive into Sperryville from either the east or the south. This unmaintained trail is ends at the rocky peak of Oventop with impressive views of Sperryville and Rappahannock County. Directions for this exciting hike reads like scavenger hunt instructions: Take the Pass Mount Trail from Rt. 211 just inside the Park boundary to the concrete trail marker at the intersection of the Pass Mountain trail and two old road beds. Follow the old road bed to the right for about ¾ mile until you get to a wide upward sloping plain. Look for rock cairns and follow them until you reach the top of the ridge. There is an unmaintained but obvious trail that runs along the ridge. It dead-ends at the summit of Oventop. The trip out and back is about 8 miles.
Thornton River – Hull School – Piney Run Loop
The first part of this fascinating hike follows the route of the old Hull School Road along the Thornton River. On this stretch you can often see folks fly fishing for native trout just inside the Park boundary. Along the way on the right you will see signs of old homesteads that pre-date the Shenandoah National Park. A few old boxwoods, stone foundations, old stone walls and daffodils from old gardens still appear. When you reach the concrete trail marker, take the Hull School Trail to the right across the ridge to the Piney River Trail. Along the Piney, you will see more traces of early mountain homesteads. At the end of the Piney River Trail, take the gravel roads back to your car. The trail head is at the end of Hull School Road. Do not park in the “no parking” area even if it seems absurd.
Buck Ridge – Buck Hollow Loop
In a secluded and serene area of the Park, this loop is a great combination of a strenuous workout and a scenic return along a big mountain stream. Just west of Sperryville, park on the left along Rt. 211. After about ¼ mile take a left on the Buck Ridge trail (affectionately know by locals as the Stairmaster.) It is about 2 miles of steep hiking up log steps, big boulders and loose rock. When you reach Skyline Drive, you can return back on the Buck Hollow trail or extend you hike by pushing on to Mary’s Rock for some grand views.