The Stephens Trail Hike is at its best in early spring before
the the leaves start to bloom. The hike along the
Massanutten Mountain ridge line offers spectacular views in the
Shenandoah Valley. The panorama from Kennedy Peak is an unbelievable
360°. Stephens Trail and the whole loop in general
is popular with equestrians so don't be surprised to run into
groups of riders.
From the back area of the parking
area take the yellow blazed
Stephens Trail as it traverses the side of Massanutten Mountain.
The trail will pass over several streams before turning right
uphill in 3.4 miles.
The trail winds back and forth several times
for another 0.8 miles before reaching the
ridge line and intersection of the orange blazed Massanutten
Turn right on the orange blazed Massanutten Trail continuing
on the ridge line for another 0.8 miles until reaching the intersection of the white blazed Kennedy Peak Trail (the orange blazed trail
now turns right).
Continue straight on the now uphill white blazed trail for
0.3 miles to the Kennedy
Peak lookout tower. Return 0.3 miles back
down to the intersection you just passed and turn left continuing
on the orange blazed Massanutten Trail.
The trail winds around Kennedy Peak before making a sharp
cutback in 0.6 miles and continuing on the ridge line for another
1.6 miles where it comes
out on US675.
Turn right on US675 and in just 30 yards turn right again
on the orange blazed Massanutten Trail as it now goes downhill.
portion winds back and forth before returning to the
front of the parking area in 0.7 miles.
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Reviews For The Kennedy Peak Hike (5 Most Recent)
This hike just went to the top of my list of favorite hikes! It has everything I like- amazing views, superb track (both through the forest as well as on the ridge line), just enough solitude (didn't see anyone else until I reached the tower, and then a handful of hikers coming up as I started my descent, as well as a pack of horse riders), the perfect mix of sun and shade, and a great terrain- a mix of rocky as well as smooth trail. I started my hike at 8:45 am and was back at the parking lot at 1 pm, which also included a 30 minutes lunch break at the tower. The view is simply breathtaking! The trail is pretty clear and well marked, but I was slightly confused about parking- as you approach the coordinates, the parking lot is located to the left of the road through the white gate.
I am definitely coming back to experience the fall and winters!
Date of Hike: Sunday, October 02, 2016
I really enjoyed this easy-to-moderate, medium distance trail. We started from route 675 and walked north up the Massanutten trail to the parking lot and then took the yellow-blazed Stephens Trail out the back of the parking lot and followed it 5 miles until it rejoined the Massanutten, then walked the Massanutten back to the car for a round trip on the GPS of 9.75 miles.
Finding the parking lot and trailhead could have been tricky (it is not very well signed and the parking lot is not visible from the road) except that I really studied the aerial view on Google Maps and got my landmarks down. From the west, the parking lot is at 10.0 miles on the left on route 675 after leaving route 11, up a short driveway beyond a gate. As soon as you pass Camp Roosevelt, you will see a little pull-out loop on the right. Continuing beyond this loop, you will cross the Page-Shenandoah border and maybe 50 yards further, the driveway to the trailhead goes off to the left. Coming over the mountain from the east, if you get to Camp Roosevelt, you've gone a bit too far.
The Stephens trail is fairly straight and fairly flat with a gradual climb as it skirts along the mountainside through largely open woods. I enjoyed how the flora changed from minute to minute along this trail. The last half mile as the trail turns east and climbs the mountain is a good climb up to the intersection of the orange-blazed ridge trail.
The Massanutten trail follows the ridgeline with the land sloping off on either side of you. I love this kind of walking. As you near the Kennedy Peak tower, the trail becomes rockier. Be careful of your footing especially if there are wet fallen leaves obscuring the trail. The 360-degree view is worth the hike. While we were there, scores and scores of hawks, mainly Broad-winged, were migrating by.
After visiting the tower, the trail heads downhill and becomes a jeep trail, continuing until it meets route 675 again at Edith Gap, up the mountain from where you parked. This is the only place on the trail that could be confusing. There is no signage to indicate that you should turn right on 675 and then pick up the orange-blazed trail again about 30 yards on the right. Forewarned, you won't have any trouble finding the trail. While you are there and before heading back down the hill, turn left on 675 and walk over to the hang-glider launch pad at Edith Gap for a wonderful view of the Page Valley and the Shenandoah River. You'll want to have your camera at the ready.
Except for a large and very vocal group at the tower, we had the trail to ourselves. The trail itself was torn up in places from horses and the trail was often littered with horse apples. You should expect to share the trail with equestrians. If you are unsure about hiker-equestrian etiquette, now would be a good time to Google it.
Date of Hike: Sunday, September 04, 2016
We had trouble finding the parking lot to start. It is up Rt 675 from Luray (Rt 340 south past Rt 211 to Mechanics street and over the river left and then right on 675 and up the mountain. You come to a scenic overlook and can park there and start the wide path next to that overlook (marked with orange marks) or continue a little over a mile down the hill and start from the parking area (mentioned by a sign but not visible from the road), then following the orange marks. If you get to Roosevelt camp, you have gone too far. I was surprised there were no signs to Stephens trail or Kennedy Peak until just before Kennedy peak and no information on it at Roosevelt Camp or on road maps. We found out how to get there from the tourist office in Luray - open 7 days.
It took us 45 minutes to get up the first part of the path to the road and then about 90 minutes for the second part to get to Kennedy peak. The first part goes through the woods along a horse path and is fairly pleasant but has rocks easy to trip on. The second part starts out very easy but make sure to make a u turn following the orange marks when you reach a low barrier of rocks. The path is not very difficult, but is a bit steep and rocky prior to the peak. The peak looks out over the Shenadoah river and Luray - a pretty view and there is a little structure including a lower part in the shade and an upper platform.
The whole trip took us a little over 4 hours plus half an hour break at the peak. Two of our party of three almost fell on the lower path tripping on the rocks. It was an invigorating walk.
If we hadn't done Mary's Rock in Shenandoah Park earlier, I probably would have preferred that but this was quite a nice walk with a very nice view from Kennedy Peak and a good workout and less traveled than Shenandoah paths. We saw some people who carried their toddlers up the second part of the path - quite challenging.
Date of Hike: Monday, April 25, 2016
Was the only one in the parking lot upon arriving around 10. Just saw one other on the whole hike, a local hunter hunting wild turkey on the Stephen's Trail. He was very nice. He was skittish about poisonous snakes and was concerned I didn't have specific first aid for poisonous snake bite (I'll look into that, but now I just am very careful when near rocks and logs where snakes may hide).
Flies and a swarm of gnats upon exiting the car, reducing in number along the Stephen's Trail. Swarms of flies again at the tower -- they didn't bother me too much except for the noisy drone when I was trying to relax. I think they were attracted to the shade. I usually tolerate bugs fine on a hike but if I did this one again I'd apply insect repellent to my face and neck.
I see from other reviews some find the Stephen's Trail boring. I found it very pleasant. There are no sweeping views but the forest is enough of a view for me. It is a relatively smooth trail as well, at least the portion closest to the parking area.
It gets rocky closer to the peak on the way up, and even rockier on the way down (following the suggested route). Boots would be better but I did fine with my preferred trail running shoes. A hiking pole was a help keeping me upright when I otherwise would have fallen.
The tower is neat. Too hot and sunny to spend too much time on top. The lower level is shaded and comfortable. No one else up there so I lied down for a while. Surprised to see several lizards at the top. Too dry up there I think to be amphibians like newts or salamanders. They look similar in appearance and behavior to the common anoles you see in Florida and the pet stores.
I became a little confused just going by the map on the last part of the hike back to the parking area. Be sure to have the description with you, for when you go off the orange trail, on to Route 675, and back on to the orange trail.
Suzy and Tom
Date of Hike: Sunday, March 06, 2016
Hiked this starting early on a Sunday, high of 49F, partly cloudy day. For some reason there were few people on the trail. Saw only 5 people the entire loop. Enjoyed lunch on the tower at Kennedy Peak. 360 degree views would be great on a clear day. Agree with the rating of 3, nothing too strenuous for those used to doing longish hikes. Our GPS calculated it as 9.1 miles.