Go take a hike!

By Posted on Jul 18 2016 | By

National Park Service celebrates 100 years of adventure

On August 25, the National Park Service celebrates its diamond anniversary. President Woodrow Wilson established the NPS in 1916 and charged it with responsibility for protecting 35 national parks and monuments.

Today, the agency oversees more than 400 areas nationwide encompassing some 84 million acres. Nearby Shenandoah National Park is one of the crown jewels of the system.

Fauquier County residents are fortunate to have the federally run park within 40 minutes of their front door. The park has over 200,000 acres of forest, 500 miles of maintained trails, dozens of cascading waterfalls, peaceful backcountry camping and endless valley views.

landscapeThe center piece of the park is Skyline Drive that meanders the ridge line for 105 miles, from Front Royal to Waynesboro. The iconic Appalachian Trail parallels the Drive offering both vehicular or boot traffic the opportunity to step back in time and experience the mountains as the early pioneers did.

While hikes such as Old Rag Mountain and White Oak Canyon are still on the experienced hiker’s favorite list, dozens of other trails are pathways to a peaceful walk in the woods.

When you arrive in the high country, finding your way around SNP is simple.  Its trail obelisks and blazed trees easily guide a hiker from trailhead to trail’s end.

There are three color-coded trail blazes: white identifies the historic Appalachian Trail which runs 101 miles through the park; blue pinpoints side trails for hikers only; and yellow welcomes both hikers and horses. The park boundary is identified by red markers.

Fauquier County has its own organized hiking club called Boots ’n Beer. The seven-year-old club was originally founded as a men’s only organization but has expanded to include everyone, with one caveat.

Pilsner hikes are moderate ventures of about five miles and are open to family and friends. Stout hikes offer greater a challenge of eight to 12 miles and are reserved for men only.

Club founder, Jim Carson, believes working men need to take a regular break from office or field and seek stress relief through camaraderie and exercise.

“A few hours of walking in the woods are the greatest stress relief I know of,” Carson said. “It’s therapeutic and the quickest way to get out of your own head and relax.”

The club’s motto embodies its fun loving approach to the great outdoors: “A drinking club with a hiking problem”. Its whimsical logo depicts a pair of hiking boots, one with a mug handle and foaming beer head and the other lying on its side in a dreamy beer-induced repose.

Nothing is taken seriously here except physical and mental well-being. To join Boots ’n Beer visit http://bootsnbeer.com/.

Oh, by the way, all hikes terminate with a hydration stop at a local pub or brewery for a cold draft and a bite to eat. Need we say more?


                                                  Hit parade of hikes

While there are hundreds of hiking options in the Shenandoah National Park, several are perennial keepers. Here are five proven favorites to place on your bucket list. You won’t be disappointed making tracks on these well-travelled trails. So lace’em up!

Old Rag Mountain: One of the most popular hikes in the mid-Atlantic region. The nine mile loop has spectacular panoramic views and offers one of the most challenging rock scrambles in the park.

White Oak Canyon: Some of the best scenic waterfalls in Virginia are on display on this eight mile loop. Be prepared for some serious elevation gain but it’s well worth the perspiration produced.

Dark Hollow Falls: Pressed for time? This stroll of less than two miles will reward with four waterfalls and an easy walk. It’s popular so mid-week hiking is suggested to avoid the crowds.

Stony Man: One of the more secluded loops in the SNP. The ten mile hike provides picturesque views of both the Shenandoah Valley and surrounding mountains. There is a nice swimming hole on the Rose River to cool the motor down on this workout.

Mary’s Rock: This favorite can be approached as either a four mile or nine mile hike. The shorter version starts at the Panorama parking lot and ascends to stunning views in less two miles. The more adventurous can begin in the valley and ascend the Buck Hollow Trail to reach the top.

The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club is a rich resource on what to do and where to go in the park. Visit PATC at http://www.patc.net to purchase maps and guidebooks that will get you safely in and out of the mountains.

For numerous specific hike recommendations, visit Hiking Upward at http://www.hikingupward.com/.


Published in the Summer 2016 edition of inFauquier magazine.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES