This dayhike in Shenandoah's northern district starts next to Skyline Drive and follows the Appalachian Trail for a brief stretch before turning off onto the Sugarloaf Trail. Along the way, you'll pass a wide variety of flora, fauna, and geographical features. At mile 3.3, tackle a moderately challenging 1-mile, 500-foot ascent of Hogback Mountain. Expansive views of Shenandoah await at the top—as does the opportunity to catch views from the top of a hang gliding launch site. Wrap up your day with a post-hike snack at a scenic overlook.
-Mapped by Ivan Levin (The American Hiking Society)
- Distance: 9.0
Location: 38.7611961364746, -78.2822723388672
From south end of parking area, turn left onto the Appalachian Trail (AT) and cross Skyline Drive. Next, continue hiking northeast on the AT. Note: Use caution when crossing Skyline Drive. (this busy road is the main scenic drive through Shenandoah).
Location: 38.7618980407715, -78.2778625488281
Turn right @ 3-way junction onto the blue-blazed Sugarloaf Trail; trail descends ahead. Keep an eye out for bears (Shenandoah is known for its black bear population).
Location: 38.7503471374512, -78.2751083374024
The trail straightens out here and continues to descend gradually. Follow blue blazes as trail winds beneath tree canopy.
Location: 38.7483406066894, -78.2744903564453
The trail crosses Piney Branch (a small stream), and then passes several old stone walls. Continue hiking south.
Location: 38.7468566894531, -78.2748718261719
Go left @ T-junction onto blue-blazed Pole Bridge Link Trail. Follow trail for 0.5 mile.
Location: 38.7500495910644, -78.2680130004883
Turn left @ 4-way junction onto the yellow-blazed Keyser Run Fire Road. This is a great spot for lunch or a snack. There are logs to sit on and an open area. You can also access the Little Devil's Stairs Trail from this location (an optional side trip that adds 5.5 miles to the hike).
Location: 38.7572402954102, -78.2572631835938
At the parking lot at the end of Keyser Run Fire Road, walk through the lot and cross Skyline Drive. Continue northeast.
Location: 38.7581977844238, -78.2557525634766
At cement post, turn left onto the AT and ascend slightly.
Location: 38.7594833374023, -78.2611694335938
Great scenic view to the west of Shenandoah Valley and Massnutten Mountain. AT turns left, heading south.
Location: 38.7589340209961, -78.2619171142578
The Little Hogback Overlook and parking lot are on the left with another great view of the Shenandoah Valley to the west. Follow the AT as it turns to the right and descends into a wooded area. The AT then ascends steeply up Hogback Mountain with a least ten switchbacks. Despite the steepness of the trail, the footing is fairly stable here.
Location: 38.7610931396484, -78.2694854736328
Summit the first crest of Hogback Mountain. Stay straight and continue following AT. Catch another view of the valley through the trees at the summit.
Location: 38.7618827819824, -78.2718734741211
At the cement post, go straight to follow the AT. The trail to the left leads to a small spring. In 100 yards, admire the view to the west: Browntown Valley lies below and Dickey Ridge rises to the north. This rock ledge is one of three hang glider launch sites in the park. Follow the AT to the top of Hogback Mountain's second crest—the highest point of the park's northern district.
Location: 38.76220703125, -78.277099609375
Turn left onto service road, and follow the AT across Skyline Drive.
Location: 38.7620010375977, -78.2782363891602
Turn right on the AT @ T-intersection marked by cement post (Sugarloaf Trail starts on the left). Cross Skyline Drive, then continue past the parking lot where the hike started. Stay on the AT.
Location: 38.7587051391602, -78.2850723266602
Trail passes a clearing on the left with scenic views of the eastern side of Shenandoah National Park. This is a great post-hike snack spot. Next, turn around on the AT and continue back to the parking lot.
Location: 38.761116027832, -78.2820587158203
The parking lot at milepost 21 on Skyline Drive.
Location: 38.7561683654785, -78.2752075195312
Hiking the Sugarloaf Trail.
Location: 38.7482833862305, -78.2744598388672
Crossing Piney Branch on the Sugarloaf Trail.
Location: 38.7500953674316, -78.2679672241211
Trail Junction: Pole Bridge Link Trail, Keyser Run Fire Road, and Little Devil Stairs Trail.
Keyer Run Fire Road
Location: 38.7552375793457, -78.2651824951172
Walking up the Keyser Run Fire Road.
Location: 38.7581672668457, -78.2567672729492
Location: 38.7592468261719, -78.2607650756836
View of Shenandoah Valley from the AT.
Turn in AT
Location: 38.7594718933106, -78.2611312866211
The AT turns left away from the scenic overlook.
View of Hogback Mountain
Location: 38.7589530944824, -78.2618560791016
View of Hogback Mountain from the AT.
Location: 38.7610282897949, -78.2693786621094
Looking north up the AT at the first crest of Hogback Mountain.
Location: 38.7618789672852, -78.2717590332031
One of three hang-gliding launch sites in the park.