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Runner's Resource - A Running Blog

Hiking Hawksbill Peak

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
       Lindsey N. Dyn
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Start by parking at the small Hawksbill Peak parking lot just off of Skyline Drive.  A looped route, you can choose the ascent to the peak from either direction.  We opted to start up the hill first (follow the trail on the left).  A stead ascent sets the pace early, the trail littered with naturally occurring rocks.  Hoping to get at least a few miles of running in on our camping/hiking trip, those hopes were quickly dashed thanks to the terrain.  Described as a moderately strenuous hike of dirt and naturally occurring rock, a more appropriate description is naturally occurring rock, sprinkled with a dash of dirt.  The trail’s terrain reminded me a lot of the hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park – technical trails with miles and miles of rock.  A good pair of cushioned trail or hiking shoes are definitely recommended. 

I had long wondered about the effectiveness and efficiency of trekking poles.  On numerous hikes, particularly when in Colorado, I had seen many hikers using them, often passing us in the process.  Hesitant to splurge on such a purchase, I finally decided to take the jump and invest in a moderately priced starter pair by Black Diamond.  

The trekking poles made a world of difference, making the battle up those uphill pushes more manageable.  After approximately one mile of ascent to the highest peak in the park, we finally arrived at the summit and were amply rewarded with panoramic views of the Shenandoah, the valleys and far towns below, along with other smaller peaks of the Shenandoah.  On both sides of the viewing platform, a metal compass with points of interest (such as Old Rag, etc.) directed viewers to some of the other peaks of the park.

After a short water break and a few last looks at the breath-taking beauty around us, we continued along the trail.  At the next guidepost, the trail splits with gravel on the left and a small, narrow trail to the right which leads to another, albeit smaller overlook.  At that overlook, slight to the left, a very narrow trail continues.  It looks more like a larger game trail than a well-established hiking trail, and we were a little anxious that it might be leading us astray.  Fear not, though, that is the correct trail to continue on back the shortest route to the original parking lot.  The trail eventually widens more and eventually you cross an area of mountain that looks like a rock slide.  Be careful of your footing, especially if it’s recently rained or residual early morning dew lingers.  Eventually another guidepost alerts that we’ve intersected a portion of the Appalachian Trail; to return complete the loop and return to the parking lot, we continued straight along the trail.

Hawksbill Peak Trail was a moderate challenge, a technical trail with formidable ascents at the beginning and quad-working descents at the end.  If looking for a good trail for running, this is not it – but trail runners can still reap the cardio and asthetic rewards by a hike up Hawksbill Peak.  Bring your camera, some snacks, and enjoy the wonderous beauty that the highest peaks in Shenandoah National Park has to offer.

Other Recommended Hikes in the Big Meadows area of Shenandoah National Park:

   * Big Meadows

   * Rose River Falls

-----  see below for pictures -----

Big Meadows

Rose River Falls

All images copyrighted.    Lindsey N. Dyn 2018

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