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Massanutten Loop Trail Thru-Hike

Sunday, May 19, 2024 - Wednesday, May 29, 2024 -- $1975 ★★★


Are you up for a thru-hike? The 71-mile long Massanutten Mountain Loop Trail was completed relatively recently in June, 2002 and serves as a similar but quieter ridgeline alternative to the relatively crowded Appalachian Trail.


As it's our first thru-hike of the Massanutten Loop Trail, we plan to start at Low Water Bridge Campground which is right on the Shenandoah River. We expect a lot of ridge walking once we're on the trail although there will be several climbs and descents along the way at breaks in the ridge.

Along the way, we will visit Signal Knob for views of our ubiquitous companion, the Shenandoah River (both North and South branches), Copernicus Ridge, Woodstock Tower with incredible sweeping 360 views and other occasional unnamed views along the way. As this is Virginia, most of the ridges are tree-covered so enjoy the views when you encounter them.


Located almost entirely in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests we may see various critters such as deer, black bears, raccoons, skunks and if we're lucky, water shrews and rock voles (whatever they are!) This trip is a good sampling of the Shenandoah region. We're never too far from a ridge and although it will feel like we're in the middle of nowhere, we will probably see lights from homes at night in the distance.


Spring is a great time to be in the Shenandoah Valley as weather is still temperate, and bugs haven't yet established themselves. Plus a panoply of wildflowers will be emerging. Why not join us?



Topographical Map of Proposed Route

See CalTopo map


Weather

Weather is always an important concern when hiking. Expect daytime hiking temperatures in the 70s and nighttime temperatures in the 50s. However, be prepared for the possibility of day temperatures as high as th 90s and nights as cold as freezing, probably punctuated by rainfall or thunderstorms at times. Here is the historical weather Be prepared for colder temps at high elevation as well as warm, sunny, humid weather or rain.



Probable Trip Leaders

Steve Silberberg
Collin Chambers
Any Other Guide(s) TBD

Difficulty

While all Fitpacking trips are difficult some of the time, this one might be considered slightly less strenuous than others because the elevation changes aren't dramatic most of the time, there is a reasonable amount of ridge walking, although the terrain is rocky in places. Please be aware that hauling all your gear and food for a week and a half is not easy no matter what the terrain is like.



Cost

$1975 per person double occupancy. Here, double occupancy means that you will share a hotel room with another trip participant. You will be responsible for transportation to and from Dulles Airport (IAD), as well as personal equipment, restaurant meals and any gratuities for guides. You may also incur parking charges if you drive and leave your car at the hotel all week.


Covered expenses include 1 hotel night, 5 nights in the backcountry, 4 nights frontcountry campgrounds, 9 days of trail meals, ground transportation to/from Dulles and the National Forest, park permits, backcountry permits and awesome guides.


Tipping: In order to keep our prices competitive with (and hopefully favorable to) other outfitters, we shamefully can’t pay our guides as much as we think they deserve. Like most other guiding services, we rely on the generosity of our participants to make up this shortfall by tipping the guides. While tips are not required or expected, if your guides have served you well, please consider a gratuity so they can continue living their extravagant lifestyles of eating powdered meals, sleeping in the dirt and pooping in smelly outhouses and small holes they've dug.



Notes

Although we ran a trip on the Tuscarora Trail in 2023, much of which we'll retrace on this trip, this is our first time thru-hiking the entire trail.


Water should not be difficult to find, but we may end up camping in spots that don't have water and will have to fill up all our vessels when we encounter it a few miles before camp. We will also end up hiking side trails to lower elevations in order to haul water back up to the trail.


We expect to resupply on or around Day 5 so we're not carrying 9 days of food


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Itinerary
Weather
Guides for this trip
Cost
Important Note
Difficulty (Please Read)
Map
 
 

Itinerary


Sunday, May 19, 2024

Drive or fly into Dulles Airport (IAD). The best time to arrive is between around 9AM-1PM, earlier is generally better. If you have to arrive later that may be fine as long as you've had your pre-trip virtual shakedown and the group can leave Herndon by around 3PM.


Call or text us and we will pick you up and take you to a local hotel where the group will assemble


We will assemble at: TBD, To Be Determined


You should have already done an online shakedown pre-trip, but guides will still ask you a few questions and give you a "mini equipment shakedown"


Make your own trail mix from our selection of nuts, fruits and sweets


Go to REI Fairfax, # 11950 Grand Commons Ave, Fairfax, VA 22030, (571) 522-6568 for last minute or forgotten equipment


"Before" body composition measurements taken


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


At around 3PM, shuttle to campsite: Low Water Bridge Campground, 192 Panhandle Road, Bentonville, VA 22610,(540) 635-7277. Site(s): TBD Elevation: 560'


Shuttling will take about 1.5 hours


Guides prepare dinner in camp. On some trips with longer shuttle times, we may opt to go out for an opening dinner at a local restaurant. (Cost of restaurant dinner not included in trip price)


Camp at Low Water Bridge Campground, 192 Panhandle Road, Bentonville, VA 22610,(540) 635-7277. Site(s): TBD Elevation: 560'



Monday, May 20, 2024

Begin hiking on the Tuscarora Trail (which is a road at this point) elevation 550'


Hike 3.0 miles to the Massanutten Loop Trail, elevation 1200'


Hike 2.7 miles to a switchback. Fill up with water as tonight's campsite is dry


Hike 0.6 uphill miles to an unnamed campsite on the top of a ridge near Little Crease Mountain, elevation 1940'


Camp at the unnamed campsite, elevation 1940'


Miles today: 6.3. Total miles: 6.3


Possible bailout: VA-613


Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Hike 4.3 primarily ridge and downhill miles on the Tuscarora Trail / Massanutten Loop Trail to the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, elevation 740'


We are now near Elizabeth Furnace Family Campground (front country). The campground has a pitcher pump with potable water, so drop packs and walk over to the pump to fill up water.


Hike 0.8 miles on the Massanutten Loop Trail to Elizabeth Furnace Group Campsite B, elevation 740'


Camp at Elizabeth Furnace Group Campsite B, elevation 740'


Miles today 5.1, total 11.4


Possible bailout: VA-678


Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Hike 4.6 uphill miles to Signal Knob with views of the Shenadoah Valley, elevation 2100'


Hike 4.0 downhill miles (primarily on a forest road) on the Massanutten Loop Trail to Mudhole Gap Camping, elevation 750'


Camp at Mudhole Gap Camping, elevation 750'. Water nearby in Little Passage Creek


Miles today: 8.6, total 20.0


Possible bailout: VA-678


Thursday, May 23, 2024

Hike 1.1 miles up to the intersection with the Tuscarora Trail, elevation 1740'


Hike 4.6 ridge (flat-ish) miles on the Massanutten Ridge to Woodstock Tower Rd, elevation 1840'.


Hike 0.2 round trip miles to Woodstock Tower, elevation 1840'. Climb the tower for incredible views.


Hike 0.8 steep downhill miles to Little Fort Camp. Little Fort Camp used to be a place where Conestoga wagons would gather, but now mostly ATVs and ORVs gather here.


Camp at Little Fort Camp, elevation 1350'. Treatable water nearby in Peters Mill Run


Miles today: 6.7, total 26.7


Possible bailout: Woodstock Tower Rd.


Friday, May 24, 2024

Hike 0.8 steep uphill miles to Massanutten Loop Trail, elevation 1840'.


Hike 6.4 ridge miles to Waonaze Peak, elevation 2675'


Hike 1.0 miles to a signed, but unreliable spring, elevation 2000'. If there is water here, fill up all water vessels in anticipation of a dry camp tonight.


Hike 0.8 miles to SR 675 Edinburg Gap. There is reliable water about 0.5 miles Southeast of the trail, elevation 1575'. If the spring was dry, fill up all water vessels in anticipation of a dry camp tonight.


Hike 0.8 uphill miles to a closed and abandoned closed Forest Rd. / ORV road. If there are open and flat spots, we will dispersed camp here practicing Leave No Trace Principles, elevation 2130'


It is possible that we will have to press on and find flat spots on Copernicus Ridge.


Camp at unnamed campsite, elevation 2130'


Miles today: 9.8. Total miles: 36.5


Possible bailout: SR-675


Saturday, May 25, 2024

Today will be our longest day by far, so be mentally prepared for it.


Hike 13.2 miles back to Waterfall Mountain Camp, elevation 2330'. If it's late or inclement, we may camp here.


Hike 1.3 steep dowhill miles back to an unnamed wilderness camp with reliable water elevation 1580'


Camp at unnamed wilderness camp, elevation 1580'


Miles today: 14.5. Total miles: 51.0


Possible bailout: FR-724



Sunday, May 26, 2024

Hike 9.6 miles up to 2770' and back down to Camp Roosevelt, elevation 1285'.


Camp at Camp Roosevelt, elevation 1280'. As of this writing in July 2023, there is no potable water available at the campground, although it appears there is a treatable water source 0.3 miles before we get to camp or about 0.5 past the camp.


Miles today: 9.6. Total miles: 60.6


Possible bailout: SR-675



Monday, May 27, 2024

Hike 7.0 miles up to a spur trail, elevation 1925'.


Hike 0.6 round trip miles to a water source to fill up all vessels in anticipation of a dry camp tonight, elevation 1700''


Hike 4.4 miles to an established wilderness campsite on the ridge, elevation 1830'.


Camp at established wilderness campsite on the ridge, elevation 1830'.


Miles today: 12.0. Total miles: 72.6


Possible bailout: SR-675



Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Hike 3.8 miles to the Tuscarora Trail, elevation 1680'


Congratulations, you have completed the Massanutten Loop Trail!


Hike 2.9 miles back to Low Water Bridge Campsite, elevation 550'.


End of hiking


Possible bailout: SR-613


Miles today: 6.7. Total miles: 79.3


Shuttle back to our local hotel


Shuttle back to local hotel: TBD, To Be Determined


Gather your off-trail items from storage


After body composition measurements taken


Dinner and awards ceremony at a local restaurant (Dinner cost not included in trip price)


Stay in our local hotel (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.


Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Take free airport shuttle or we will pay for a shared cab/Uber


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