There are some nice views on both sides of Great North Mountain from the ridge just before arriving at Gerhard Shelter. The views of the valley from Vance's Cove can be wonderful on a clear day as well, but the main attraction is the solitude. We have never seen other hikers on this route.
Begin by turning left uphill on the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail passing a closed gate. At this point the trail is a closed forestry road (FS) that slowly climbs the side of the mountain for 0.8 miles before the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail makes a sharp right, and the FS road continues straight. Turn right on the blue blazed trail. If you start going downward on the FS road you missed the right turn.
The blue blazed trail climbs the side of Great North Mountain steeply and makes several switchbacks before reaching the ridge line in another 3.0 miles. Follow the ridge for 1.0 miles and arrive at Gerhard Shelter. The shelter is generally used by through hikers.
Turn right downhill on the white blazed Gerhard Shelter Trail that very steeply descends Great North Mountain. The footing is precarious with loose stone for the majority of the descent. In 0.5 miles pass a side trail on the left that takes you to a spring, and in another 0.2 miles emerge onto a FS road.
Turn right on the unblazed forestry road. The forestry road is normally closed to motorized traffic, unless your hiking during hunting season (bad idea!). At the end of the FS road in 0.8 miles, just past a burn, the unmarked Vance's Cove connector trail will bear right. Follow the trail for 0.5 miles where it merges with the yellow blazed Vance's Cove Trail.
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Reviews For The Gerhard Shelter Hike (5 Most Recent)
Overall, this was a great hike, but the first three miles till you get up to the ridge was just OK. I'm not sure how else to describe this part other than "dead". A lot of rotted and dying trees and there were a couple of signs about chemicals that had been applied, so who knows. But it's a gradual ascent - in fact, I never thought this hike was ever difficult. Once you reach the open ridge, though, it was really nice. The views are excellent. The shelter was pretty cool, and I would like to return to stay up here for a night. There's a book where you can leave a note for other hikers/backpackers. The spring off the white blazed trail is just a small creek - it's a very short hike down a steep hill. As you come to the end of the grey FS road on the HU map, you'll cross onto a dirt road and will see a clear trail to the right, now marked with white ribbon all the way to the yellow blazed trail. The sign marking VA and WV was cool. I know a lot of hikers dislike being on the FS roads, but I don't mind them at all as long as it's not the whole hike! I enjoyed the yellow blazed trail on the FS road a lot. The wildflowers were in full bloom all along the way and it gave me and my dog some space to move. A note that you will actually pass two gates/small parking areas - the first off the yellow trail, then the second one mentioned in the directions above after you pass the pink blazed trail on your left (you'll see a bench and trailhead, which is the start to the White Rocks hike, another great one posted here on HU). The last part back to the parking area follows Waites Run - beautiful. Didn't see anyone else the whole hike.
Date of Hike: Saturday, May 24, 2014
I did this hike on 5/17 in the direction suggested in this guide and in reverse on 5/24. The first time I went to "scout" the area to see if it would be a good trip for my wife's second ever backpacking trip. I did it in "reverse" that time since the hike up the standard way was pretty tough. It's not so bad that it's not doable, but I'm hoping she'll come to enjoy hiking so I didn't want to overdo it with her. I'll review the standard route.
First, I spend a lot of time in the outdoors and approximately 10 weekends a year in GWNF or another forest/park nearby. I have never encountered as many ticks as I did on this hike, particularly on top of the ridge and especially at the shelter itself. I'm not generally bothered by bugs, but I am very concerned about Lyme Disease and this was a constant worry. I treat my dog monthly with Frontline and he was annihilated by the ticks. Both weekends I ended up pulling over 100 ticks off of him. I wear tall socks and long sleeves while hiking, so I can almost always feel the ticks on me before they bite. I probably knocked 100 off myself and four or five actually bit me. I don't know if there is something about the particular environment of this area or if it's just a particularly bad year. Whatever the case, be prepared to deal with ticks if you go here. I was using the strongest bug repellent available, which helped but did not prevent the ticks from getting all over me. There is an appropriate sign describing the danger of ticks at the shelter. OK, that's all I have to say about that. You've been warned! :)
The hike up is fairly rigorous. I'm in pretty good hiking shape but had to take several breaks on my way up. The trail, forest roads and switchbacks are easy to follow. It took me about 3 hours to reach the shelter, although I perhaps could have done it faster if I was in some kind of hurry and not carrying overnight gear in my backpack.
It is not overly scenic, but there are some nice vistas once you get to the top of the ridge, including a particularly nice view about 1/4 mile from the shelter. As with almost all ridgetop camping spots, not having access to water at the camping location can be a pain.
The trip down the mountainside to the spring is pretty long. It takes about 15-20 minutes to walk down and about double that to walk up. It's totally doable, but just be sure to set up camp up on top and then take your empties and empty backpack down the mountain to get water if you need it.
The shelter is in good condition. Judging by the log book, it gets a few visitors each week, including a fair amount of hunters during the fall/winter.
All of my spring/summer backpacking trips are also hunting scouting trips, so that was my primary focus. Unfortunately, I did not see much in the way of deer sign other than a few tracks and droppings near Paddy Run. I only saw one grouse. I heard many coyotes howling just after dark each night, which might help explain the lack of deer. However, I do plan to return for muzzleloader season if only to enjoy the mountain after the ticks are mostly gone.
I spent some time on Sunday fishing in Paddy Run. The only other people I saw were fishing, so I assume there are trout in that creek, but I only caught one fingerling that I had to throw back. I tested a variety of little grub lures. I saw a few crayfish so I tried a little crayfish lure. I caught a little frog and used it as a lure. Still, nothing. Maybe I missed the run/stocking. Still, a weekend spent hiking in the elements and fishing in a beautiful creek sure beats sitting behind a screen like I am right now!
TLDR there are better hikes out there, but this one is pretty fun and great exercise. I won't ever return during tick season, but look forward to hiking the trail again after a frost this fall in search of deer.
Thanks to all who came before me, maintain the trail, maintain the shelter, and left no trace!
Date of Hike: Saturday, June 09, 2012
I hiked this two days ago on Saturday with my wife, my sister-in-law and her boyfriend. Our trusty mountain dog, Boone, also came along.
We had no problem getting to Wardensville but once we got to Great North Mountain we couldn't really tell where to park. We ended up going further down the road then we needed to and then hiked the loop in reverse by accident. We realized it about 2 miles in but decided to keep going. At one point we misread the map and missed the turn on to Vance's Cove trail as well, which ultimately increased our total distance to about 13 miles.
It was a beautiful day to go hiking but honestly, this was not one of our favorites. We chose this hike because it offered seclusion though, and we certainly got that. We passed 2 mountain bikers early on in the hike but for the rest of the day we had the trail to ourselves.
So yeah, it was a nice day but not much to look at other than service roads for the majority of the hike. The steep trail near Gerhard Shelter was challenging but fun, and the Shelter itself offered a fun respite in the middle of our journey. The views from the ridge, well, they left something to be desired. The ridge walk itself was not nearly as interesting as I thought it would be either, but that may have had something to do with the constant tick removal we were doing at that point.
That's also worth mentioning, the ticks are terrible right now (early June). We found dozens on ourselves during this hike. Clearly, it goes with the territory of being outside, but sometimes it just gets old.
While we didn't love the hike, it was nice to have the trail to ourselves and be out in the sun and fresh air. Hope you enjoy it more than we did!
Date of Hike: Saturday, March 17, 2012
What a great day for a great hike. This was a very pleasant walk in the woods. Some great views some very long walks down a fire road and always fun to see a well maintained shelter. I pretty much had the entire hike to myself besides a few fishermen in the last 20 min of the hike. Very easy to do hike not to many blazes on the trees but the trail is very easy to follow. Did see a very big bears butt as it ran away from me trying to catch a picture. I would recommend wearing a hat during this hike about 50 percent of the hike is in a field also bring sun block I have a little red to me today. I Did this in 5 hrs with 120 pictures taken. Would love to do again in a few weeks when more leaves and flowers are out in full.
Date of Hike: Wednesday, March 07, 2012
This is a pretty hike that rewards you for the early miles of uphill exertion with wide views to the east and west and a very well-maintained shelter for a rest stop. The switchbacked section was sometimes obscured by a layer of leaves, but otherwise the trail was very easy to follow, even the unmarked connector trail towards the end of the loop. We were definitely glad to have done the loop clockwise, as suggested, as the trail just below the shelter is extremely steep and would have been unpleasant to climb up we were also happy to cool our feet in the pretty stream that follows the road for the final few miles. Besides the elevation change early on, this hike is lacking a bit of challenge and variety, but I found those both to be forgivable.