This trip is rated Moderate Plus [3–4]. We plan to hike 6–9 miles each day for 6–10 hours on steep, rocky, sometimes exposed terrain, gaining and/or losing up to just over 2,400 feet in elevation some days. We will be carrying packs weighing 30–35 lbs throughout our trip, with the exception of one day, where we will be carrying lighter packs on a day hike up Little Devil Stairs.
Guides and backpackers meet at 10am at the REI store in Fairfax, Virginia. After introductions, a trip orientation and distribution of group gear we make the two-hour drive to Shenandoah National Park. Entering along spectacular Skyline Drive, we take in the scenery before arriving at the famed Appalachian Trail at Elkwallow Wayside. We hike through old growth forests, past tumbling waterfalls and finish for the day along the Piney River, our camp for the next two nights. We share a meal, listen for owl hoots and rest up for tomorrow’s hike. Lunch and dinner included.
Backpacking: Up to 6.2 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +574’ / -1,587’; Van transfer: 2 hours
We leave our heavy packs at camp and set out to tackle the formidable Little Devil Stairs. The challenging route is steep in many sections and requires some scrambling and hand-over-hand navigation. Don’t worry, it’s worth it! Our path up the stairs and along Keyser Run takes us through waterfall-filled gorges and past historic Bolen Cemetery, which predates Shenandoah National Park's creation in 1935. From the top of the gorge we take in the spectacular views across the Shenandoah Valley and beyond. We return to camp after a full day of hiking, and should all sleep well tonight! All meals included.
Day hiking: 8.3 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,918’ / -1,907’
After packing up our camp and resupplying our provisions we set out towards tonight’s campsite along Jeremy’s Run. Our route takes us out along Piney Ridge and up to the Appalachian Trail. Along the way we keep an eye out for the black bears who love visiting the area’s plentiful berry patches.
After lunch at Elkwallow Wayside we continue hiking along Jeremy’s Run. The stream runs high during summer’s early months and will require a number of stream crossings en route to camp. Jeremy’s Run is prime habitat for brook trout, so those who've acquired permits and gear ahead of time can spend some time fly fishing. All meals included.
Backpacking: 8.9 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,721’ / -1,901’
The final day starts with a hearty breakfast before we trek back to Elkwallow Wayside, then up to the summit of nearby Knob Mountain. Relish the stunning views of the Shenandoah Valley and Massanutten Mountain from the top of the 2,865’ peak. By the time we hike back down to the Elkwallow Wayside trailhead we’ll have completed our 30+ miles backpacking trek. From here we’ll board our shuttle for the drive back to the REI store in Fairfax, Virginia.
We anticipate arriving there at approximately 6:30pm tonight. Please note that this time may vary depending on group pace, trail conditions, weather, traffic, and other elements beyond our control. Breakfast and lunch included.
Backpacking: 8 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +2,368' / -1,256’; Van transfer: 1.5 hours