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Shenandoah National Park, VA

Two Week Trip

May 7 - May 21, 2016 -- $1950 ★★★

Just an hour west of Washington, DC, lies a beautiful, long, and narrow ridge of Appalachian mountains known as Shenandoah National Park, one of the most accessible and easily reached National Parks in the USA. We will hike over 100 miles on the 2190 mile long Appalachian National Scenic Trail which spans the entire length of the park.

Our trek parallels the famed Skyline Drive, traversing miles of fine hardwood canopy, all on a ridge high above the surrounding valleys. You'll almost certainly see deer and we usually see black bear as well.

Unlike most Fitpacking trips where we exclusively sleep in tents, on this trip we will spend 1 night in a cabin, 1 night in a front country campground (tenting), 1 night in the backcountry tenting, 2 nights in Skyland Lodge (hotel) and many nights in campsites that have huts/shelters -- open faced structures that sleep up to 12. There are tent sites at every shelter which we encourage you to use, however if the weather is inclement or you just don't feel like setting up a tent, you may opt for staying in the shelter if space is available. Shelter space is unreserved and is on a first come first served basis.

At the end of the first week, we spend a day at Big Meadows Frontcountry Campground, where coin-op showers and laundry are available. After Big Meadows, we spend 2 consecutive nights in Skyland Lodge (lodging and breakfast included, but not lunch and dinner) for what Appalachian thru-hikers call a 'zero day', when you do nothing but rest, although in the past participants have gone horseback riding (not included in trip cost) or taken a day-hike.

Our journey will begin at Rockfish Gap at the South end of Shenandoah NP and go through the entire length of the park. The first day will involve a somewhat steep climb to ascend the ridge that joins the Appalachain Trail. From there, we'll hike Northbound every day for almost two weeks, staying in or near AT shelters (lean-tos), car campgrounds, and in cabins.

Here are trail maps for the first week (this map's route is a little different route than our trip will be) and the second week.

If you have heard about the Appalachian Trail or were inspired by A Walk in the Woods and want to see the AT for yourself, this is the trip for you


Weather is always an important concern when hiking. Expect daytime hiking temperatures in the 60s & 70s and nighttime temperatures in the 40s & 50s. However, be prepared for the possibility of day temperatures in the 80s and night temperatures in the 30s. It's thunderstorm season so expect rain, T-storms or both. Here is the historical May weather. We experienced brief snow on both the 2008 and 2009 trips and hail on the 2011 trip. The 2014 trip experienced consecutive 95 degree days so be prepared for a wide variety of conditions.

Trip Leaders

Dan Shafto
Julie Quibodeaux


$1950 per person double occupancy. Here, double occupancy means that you will share a room with another participant during the 4 hotel nights. You will also be responsible for transportation to and from Dulles, personal equipment and any restaurant meals eaten off the trail (although breakfasts are included).

Covered expenses include 2 hotel nights, 2 nights in a lodge, 1 cabin night, campground fees, 12 days of trail meals, ground transportation, National Park permits, insurance, and 2 awesome guides.

Important Notes

The trails through Shenandoah National Park are well groomed with good footing and moderate elevation gain and loss (although it may not seem like that while hiking). Difficulties arise because there are several days of 10+ mile hikes planned. While this may not seem like much while sitting at your computer or even after say, 7 miles of hiking, cumulative fatigue sets in and every subsequent mile becomes more challenging. The upside is that in May, there will be as much as 15 hours of daylight, which gives plenty of time to complete our daily mileage. By the end of 2nd week of the 2009 trip, some participants decided to hike 21 miles in a single day.

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Guides for this trip
Important Note
Difficulty (Please Read)
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Saturday, May 7, 2016

Drive or fly into Dulles Airport (IAD). The best time to arrive is between around Noon-3PM. However, if you can save a substantial amount on your flight by arriving at say, 11AM or 5PM, then do so.

Take the free airport shuttle to Homewood Suites Dulles, 13460 Sunrise Valley Drive, Herndon, VA, 20171. Call hotel's number, 703-793-1700 for shuttle pickup.

Equipment shakedown

Trail mix distribution

"Before" measurements taken

Go to EMS Dulles, Dulles 28 Center [Wegman's], 22000 Dulles Retail Plaza, Dulles, VA, 703.421.4330 or REI Fairfax, # 11950 Grand Commons Ave, Fairfax, VA 22030, (571) 522-6568 for last minute or forgotten equipment

Go out for dinner (Dinner not included in trip cost)

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Second set of "before" measurements taken

All the items that you won't bring on the trail will be set aside and put in storage.

All the items that you will want for the halfway re-stocking point will be set aside and transported to Skyland Lodge.

Breakfast at hotel (included)

Shuttle to Rockfish Trailhead off of I-64

Begin Hiking, elevation 1900'.

Hike 7.0 uphill miles on the Appalachian Trail to Calf Mt. Hut trail junction

Hike 0.3 miles to Calf Mt. Shelter

Camp at Calf Mt. Shelter, elevation 2700'

Miles today: 7.3. Total miles: 7.3

Possible bailout: Skyline Dr.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Hike 0.3 miles back to the Appalachian Trail.

Hike 9.0 miles to Riprap Trail intersection

Dispersed Camping at Calvary Rock, elevation 2800'.

Miles today: 9.3. Total miles: 16.6

Possible bailout: Skyline Dr.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Hike 9.3 miles to Blue Blaze Trail turnoff for Doyle's River Cabin

Hike 0.2 miles to Doyle's River Cabin

Stay in Doyle's River Cabin, elevation 3200'.

Miles today: 9.5. Total miles: 26.1

Possible bailout: Skyline Dr.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Hike 0.2 miles back to the AT

Hike 7.6 miles to Pinefield Hut.

Camp at Pinefield Hut, elevation 2500'

Miles today: 7.8. Total miles: 33.9

Possible bailout: Skyline Dr.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Hike 8.4 miles to Hightop Hut

Camp at Hightop Hut, elevation 3200'

Miles today: 8.4. Total miles: 42.3

Possible bailout: Skyline Dr.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Hike 12.6 miles to Bearfence Hut

Stay at Bearfence Hut, elevation 3250'.

Miles today: 12.6. Total miles: 54.9

Possible bailout: Skyline Dr.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Hike 1.5 miles to Bearfence Rock Scramble

Drop packs and rock scramble for 0.3 miles

Hike 0.2 miles back to the backpacks on the AT

Hike 7.5 miles to Big Meadows

Camp at Big Meadows Campground, elevation 3550', group site D163

There are coin op laundry facilities here. There are NO laundry facilities at Skyland the next few nights.

Miles today: 9.5. Total miles: 64.4

Possible bailout: Skyline Dr.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Hike 3.1 miles to Rock Spring Hut

Hike 1.0 miles to Byrds Nest 2 atop Hawksbill Mountain, elevation 4049' -- the highest point in Shenandoah National Park.

Hike 1.1 miles to Hawksbill Gap

Hike 3.3 miles to Skyland

Miles today: 8.5. Total miles: 72.9

Hotel night. Stay in Skyland Resort.

Resupply food and equipment. The stuff you set aside at the beginning of the trip will rejoin you here

Note: lodging and breakfast are covered in trip cost but lunches and dinners at lodge are not

Monday, May 16, 2016

Day Off

Optional: 2.0 mile day-hike to the summit of Stony Man Mountain, elevation 3765'

Hotel Night. Stay in Skyland Resort.

Note: lodging and breakfast are covered in trip cost but lunches and dinners at lodge are not

Possible bailout: Skyline Dr.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Check out of Skyland Lodge. You can leave a bag of items here that will be picked up and returned to you at the end of the trip.

Hike 7.6 miles past Byrds Nest 3 to a spur trail to the left.

Hike 0.6 miles round trip to Mary's Rock with sweeping views of Thornton Gap, totally worth it.

Hike 1.9 steep (1000') miles down to Thornton Gap.

Hike 1.5 uphill miles to Pass Mt. Hut

Camp at Pass Mt. Hut, elevation 2700'

Miles today: 11.6. Total miles: 84.5 or 86.5

Possible bailout: Skyline Dr.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Hike 7.2 miles to Elkwallow Wayside, elevation 2400'

Have lunch at Elkwallow Wayside. We provide lunch and there are picnic tables here. However, the Wayside sells items such as cheeseburgers and blackberry milkshakes should this interest you.

Hike 6.1 miles to Gravel Spring Hut Trail, elevation 2650'

Hike 0.2 miles down to Gravel Spring Hut, elevation 2600'

Miles today: 13.5. Total miles: 98.0 or 199.0

Possible bailout: Skyline Dr.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Hike 0.2 miles back up to the Appalachian Trail

Hike 10.3 miles to Tom Floyd Hut

Camp at Tom Floyd Hut, elevation 1900'

Miles today: 10.5. Total miles: 108.5 or 110.5

Possible bailout: Skyline Dr.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Hike 2.9 miles to US-522

Miles today: 2.9. Total miles: 111.4 or 113.4

Possible bailout: Skyline Dr., Front Royal

Shuttle back to Homewood Suites Dulles, 13460 Sunrise Valley Drive, Herndon, VA, 20171.

Your stuff will be transported here around the time you arrive

After measurements taken

Dinner and awards ceremony (Dinner not included in trip cost)

This is the official end of the trip. You are welcome to spend the night at the hotel, however if you drove and would like to get on the road or if you flew and would like to schedule a late flight (or a red-eye if this is a West Coast trip) you can definitely do so.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Free Hotel Breakfast

Take Free Airport Shuttle

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