Hiking Shenandoah National Park – Summer Backpacking in Virginia


For this episode we not only do a summer visit to Shenandoah National Park, but also add another member to the crew, Mike’s 8 year old son. This will be his first hike, and hopefully we don’t scare him off with the whole “endless walking and hard work” thing.
Our specific area for this backpacking trip will be the South District of Shenandoah National Park, in the Federal Wilderness Area along Trayfoot Mountain. The time frame is late summer, August to be exact, which is exactly why we chose this region. The North District tends to be the more popular area of Shenandoah, due in part to it’s higher elevations, along with the close proximity to Washington, DC. To use an analogy, the North District would be Virginia’s version of New Hampshire’s Presidential Range, while the South District would be, say, the Carter-Moriah Range.
Okay, so what I’m trying to say is: I’m not messing with that in peak season, but I’ll gladly come back in the Fall when I can have it all to my greedy self. In the mean time I’ll stick to my favorite summer solution – less traveled Wilderness Areas. Skyline Drive, which runs the entire length of the park, provides convenient access to just about all the trails in the park. It also comes with a $15 admission fee for cars. Not bad for a scenic drive, but a little steep for some trail head parking. Thanks to my cheapness and a little research, we’ll be entering the park via the terminus of a rural state road that butts up against the southwestern boundary with parking space for two or three cars at the end of SR661.

All backcountry camping requires a permit. These are free and available at each Skyline Drive entrance station, via self registration. We grabbed ours from the Rockfish Gap entrance station at 2:30 am. You can find the permits in a wooden drawer on the backside of the Ranger Station. Very convenient!

A big part of this trip was not just visiting the Shenandoah Valley, but also a bit of training and hopefully a fun first time hiking experience for Mike’s son. We began at 6:30am by following the Paine Run Trail (a foot and horse trail) from the parking spot towards it’s intersection with the Appalachian Trail, which would make up the first half of our loop hike. We passed up the only shelter on this trip, Black Rock Shelter, as a camping location, but it was much appreciated for it’s excellent reliable water source. From there we trekked along on the Furnace Mountain Trail to link up with Tray Foot Mountain Trail. This would take us back towards the car along the ridge of Trayfoot Mountain. Running a bit heavier on mileage than anticipated, we finally set up camp at the Southern base of Trayfoot around 5pm. This put our total mileage for day one at 18 miles, and ironically, pretty close to the car. The upside was that we had a short and easy hike out the following morning, which gave us time to explore the entire length of Skyline Drive by auto. But you’ll have to catch that in the next video…

Trail Head Parking Info via National Parks Service:
GPS Coordinates: 38.196763, -78.767869
PAINE RUN Rt. 661 Foot, Horse Trail
Fair access; parking for 3 cars at private turn-around at end of
Rt. #661; No public access from Rt. #614. NOTE No Parking in
turnaround weekdays, 7am to 4 pm during school year to
accommodate school bus turn around

My Hiking Gear List:

Nemo Losi 3p Tent (Split between Mike and I)
EMS Long Trail 70 Backpack
EMS “Stuffer” Jacket
EMS Pack Cover
2 ReVive Solar ReStore chargers for video camera, phone, etc
Osprey 2 liter Nalgene Bladder for hydration
Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System
1 Liter Disposable Plastic Water Bottle
Taurus 740 Slim Sub-Compact Pistol
Swiss Gear Trekking Poles (Cork Handle Model)
Therm-A-Rest Z-Lite foam sleeping pad
Sea To Summit Toaster Fleece Liner (used as stand-alone sleeping bag)
EMS Packable Pack (9oz Daypack that also makes a decent pillow!)
Sunscreen
Brunton Classic Compass
Beef Jerky, pop-tarts, trail mix, snacks etc
Mountain House ProPak Chili Mac n Cheese
‘Light My Fire’ Spork
Homemade Ultralight Cookset – video:
Instant Coffee!
1 oz bottle of Ben’s Max 100 98% DEET insect repellent
Sea To Summit ‘Insect Shield’ Mosquito Head Neat (Luckily the bugs weren’t bad though)
EMS Camp Cap (synthetic fast dry, & lightweight!)
EMS Convertible Camp Pants / Shorts
EMS ‘Velocity’ synthetic lightweight long sleeve shirt
Nike ‘Pro Combat’ synthetic tee shirt
EMS synthetic socks
Garmont Zenith Mid GTX Hiking Boots
4Sevens Preon 2 Flashlight
Princeton Tec Byte Headlamp
Leatherman Squirt Ultra-Light Multi-Tool
SOG Blink Spring Assisted Knife

Some of Mike’s Backpacking Gear:

Gregory Palisade 80 Backpack
DeLorme PN-60 Handheld GPS
Therm-a-Rest Self Inflating Sleeping Pad
Big Agnes Sleeping Bag
….and other gear choices similar to mine, but different brands etc.



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