|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Trailhead is at:
Bears Den Hostel
18393 Blueridge Mountain Road
Bluemont, VA 20135
You can park in the Parking lot at the hostel ($3 per day) or you can start where the Appalachian Trail crosses route 7 (Snickers Gap, Parking available). Starting at route 7 adds .6 miles both ways and a good uphill on your way out (and downhill to finish up on your way back). If you decide to start there I still recommend checking out the hostel as it is a great place.
The trail head (N 39 6' 38.2", W 77 51' 15.9") starts just left of the hostel and the trail descends slightly. After only about 0.1 miles you will reach an intersection with a nature trail. This short hike is worth it (good for kids) if you have the time when you return. After another 0.1 miles you will reach Bears Den Rocks which provide a spectacular view into the Shenandoah Valley and some rock hopping opportunities.
A couple of switch-backs will ease your descent and after 0.5 miles of hiking you will reach a nice campsite on your right. There is a stream just downhill from here, but it is also close enough to the road to hear traffic. In another 0.1 miles you will cross a footbridge across a creek. The descent ends here and you will have a pretty easy climb for the next 0.5 miles through some pretty old growth forest for the region.
You will reach the high point (N 39 06' 21.4", W 77 52' 11.2") of this little section of trail at about mile 1.3 of your hike (0.7 miles from stream). After a short walk along the ridge a steep 300 foot descent will bring you to Spout Run (mile 1.9). This is a very scenic spot as the stream runs through this narrow ravine. This is a good place to get water (you don't need to bring much, it's abundant on this hike) and have a snack before you take the big climb of the hike.
About 2/3 of the way up the climb there is a view (N 39 5' 46.2" W 77 52' 39.4") to the east about 50 feet off the trail. It's a good excuse to take a break on this ascent. Finally, around mile 2.7 (N 39 5' 39.4" W 77 52' 47.1"), you'll reach the peak of this mountain (hard to believe its only 1326 in altitude) where there are some nice winter views just off of the trail. Push on and you'll pass through a boulder "gate" and start a gradual descent. Eventually you'll come to a couple of nice campsites on your left. The second of these provides a nice view (Look out point) and the mountain in the distance is northern end of Massanutten Mountain.
At this point the trail descends sharply until you cross another stream in another ravine. At this point you'll reach a sign for the Blue Blazed trail to Sam Moore Shelter (N 39 5' 26.3" W 77 53' 10.4"). You'll cross a footbridge just before you reach the shelter and this is the location of Sawmill Spring (not reliable during dry periods, but there is a larger stream just in front of the shelter). I would recommend filtering and/or treating your water here as this spring seeps into a pool in which I can imagine more than one boot has slipped.
Sam Moore was a Potomac Appalachian Trail Club member who gave 55 years of service to the trails in the area. The shelter area that bears his name has a covered cooking area, privy, several nice campsites and fire pits. The shelter itself sleeps six easily (and more in pinch). There are lots of pegs for hanging things and we weren't bothered by rodents at all when were there.
Me and my two kids (age 9 and 11) spent the night here and returned the next day. Warning, the return trip is tougher than the hike out, but hikers can, of course, do this in a day. If you continue 0.7 miles past the shelter you reach a nice area known as Fent Wiley Hollow where you ought to be able to find a nice campsite near water. Many people will hike out 0.7 miles past that to Buzzard Hill which has some nice winter views.
If you want a point to point hike and you have a shuttle you can hike on out to VA-605 for a 7 mile one way hike through some varied terrain. The super energetic can hike all the way to VA 50 at Ashby Gap with Rod Hollow shelter providing a possible camping spot at mile 10. Ashby Gap is about 13.7 miles from the trail head.
To summarize, this is a strenuous hike for the distance and area, but it's short length and destination of a shelter makes it a fun one for kids. There are enough interesting stops along the way to keep the kids interested. I recommend letting kids stop as much as they want and giving yourself more time than usual to make this short trip.
If you have more energy and time you can continue past the shelter