George Washington National Forest Backpack the Wild Oak Trail in the heart of Shenandoah’s quiet cousin
A sleeper destination oft overshadowed by its northern neighbor, Shenandoah National Park, the George Washington National Forest boasts some of the most rugged and remote country in the East. You can tailor your visit to your time frame on the Wild Oak Trail, a 25-mile loop conveniently trisected by two country roads. Hike in on Friday afternoon and you’ll easily complete the circuit in a weekend; for a Saturday morning start, plan on a 16-mile shuttle-hike from the trailhead to the second country road (FDR 96). Each trail section includes a long, steady climb with some steep and rocky stretches, and a gradual descent shaded by a canopy of chestnuts and oaks. Atop the high point, 4,351-foot Little Bald Knob, you’ll find expansive views of the rolling Shenandoah Valley decked out in seasonal greenery; in the lowlands, you’ll ford a 30-foot-wide stretch of the North River, which is usually knee-deep and running at creek-speed by midsummer.
Get There The Wild Oak trailhead is 2 miles west of the junction of State Routes 730 and 718 in Stokesville, VA.
Get Info The Dry River Ranger District Office (topo and trail maps avaiable), (540) 432-0187; www.fs.fed.us