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Backpacker Magazine – June 1997

Virginia's Ramseys Draft Wilderness: Rugged And Remote

Challenge and a hint of risk are part and parcel in Ramseys Draft Wilderness.

by: Mary Burnham

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QUICK TAKE: Ramseys Draft Wilderness, Virginia

DRIVE TIME: Ramseys Draft is located in western Virginia, about 150 miles (3 hours) from Washington, D.C.

THE WAY: From I-81 just north of Staunton, exit at the VA 275 west bypass to US 250 west. The Mountain House picnic area and trailhead are 23 miles from I-81 on the right.

TRAILS: There are eight trails within or adjacent to the wilderness totaling 29 miles. Up Ramseys Draft Trail to Hiner Spring and back along Bald Ridge makes for a strenuous long weekend hike. Jerrys Run to Shenandoah Mountain and back along Road Hollow is an easy dayhike or overnight loop. Peripatetic types will want to connect with longer trails outside the wilderness, like the 25-mile Wild Oak and 30-plus-mile Shenandoah Mountain trails.

ELEVATION: Hardscrabble Knob--4,282 feet--is the highest point in the wilderness. The lowest elevation is 2,200 feet at the Mountain House trailhead.

CAN'T MISS: Stands of virgin hemlock more than 300 years old line the upper prongs of Ramseys Draft.

CROWD CONTROL: Rarely crowded, but spring is popular among hikers, fall for hunters.

PIT STOP: At the Buckhorn Inn the buffet is bounteous and the dress code is "come as you are." Leaving the trailhead, it's 7 miles east on US 250 on the left.

WALK SOFTLY: There are no designated campsites. Wilderness rangers discourage making new fire rings.

MAPS AND GUIDES: A Forest Service map is available by mail from the Deerfield Ranger District (address below) for $4. Be sure to ask for the attachment that describes the newer trails not shown on the map. USGS quad West Augusta covers the wilderness.

MORE INFORMATION: Deerfield Ranger District, George Washington National Forest, Route 6, Box 419, Staunton, VA 24401; (540) 885-8028.

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