Meet your guides and fellow hikers at 7am this morning in Herndon, Virginia. After a short introduction and orientation, we load up in our provided shuttle and set off for a two-hour drive to the Thornton Gap trailhead in Shenandoah National Park. We enter the park on Skyline Drive, which runs along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains and offers spectacular panoramas of the park and surrounding region. We?re then off on our first hike, to the top of 3,514? Mary?s Rock. There are many origin stories for the name Mary?s Rock, but the most memorable claims a young girl named Mary climbed the mountain empty handed, but came back down with a bear cub in her arms. Our final destination of the day is the famed Skyland Resort, where thankfully, guests are no longer awakened by bugle each morning. Lunch and dinner included.
Hiking: Up to 9 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +2,018? / -1,312?; Van transfer: 2 hours
The day begins with breakfast, which is ideal when invigorating hiking awaits. Properly nourished, we set out for our immediate destination: Hawksbill Summit, the highest point in Shenandoah National Park (4,049?). In addition to outstanding 360-degree views, the peak is also used to restore populations of peregrine falcons. Next, we make our way down into Fishers Gap, an ancient dried up waterway that?s now part of the Appalachian Trail. Our final destination is Big Meadows Lodge, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and local laborers back in 1939. Those who are early to bed and early to rise may spot black bears nibbling berries in the morning near the meadow?s edge. All meals included.
Hiking: up to 8.7 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +2,072? / -1,984?
Enjoy a hearty, healthful breakfast at Big Meadows Lodge before hitting the Appalachian Trail on our day-long journey to the Lewis Mountain Cabins. Our route takes us up Hazeltop Mountain, offering beautiful Blue Ridge Mountain views. The woods here teem with wildlife and hundreds of species of plants and trees. Our guides will help us learn to identify many of them so keep those eyes peeled and ask questions. Possible sightings include morel mushrooms, hairy lip ferns, woodchucks, salamanders and even gobbling wild turkeys!
An optional climb up the 311-foot Bearfence Rock Scramble leads to some truly breathtaking views. From there we hike on to where we'll spend the night?the historic and furnished Lewis Mountain Cabins. Here we?ll warm up by the campfire, reflect on the day and rest up for tomorrow. All meals included.
Hiking: 8.6 miles (plus an optional 311-foot scramble up exposed rock), Elevation gain/loss: +1,407? / -1,531?
Our final day on the AT takes us from our cozy accommodations to the Swift Run Gap Entrance along Skyline Drive. We take in our last expansive trail views from Bald Face Mountain before descending into the valley to conclude our hike. Our drive back to Herndon, Virginia begins on Skyline Drive, so we?ll get some final spectacular views of the Shenandoah Valley and Shenandoah River. Once we reach Luray, Virginia we celebrate the completion of our 35-mile Appalachian Trail adventure with a special dinner in town. We expect to be back at our host hotel in Herndon between 8:30?9:30pm. All meals included.
Hiking: 8.6 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,340? / -2,357?; Van transfer: 2.5 hours