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Shenandoah Mountain - Ramsey’s Draft Wilderness Area

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
18.2 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:

2 Days - Day One - 7 hours, Day Two – 3.5 hours
2,811 ft with multiple ascents
George Washington National Forest
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Right into Mountain House Picnic Area cross concrete spillway, Park on right 100 yards up service road. 38.30804, -79.36119

Shenandoah Mountain, sounds like it should be in Shenandoah National Park (SNP). It is in fact, the sister hike to Ramsey's Draft. It shares the same Draft route but it will take the Shenandoah Mountain Trail to the west as the return route. Friends of Shenandoah Mtn is proposing Shenandoah Mtn as a National Scenic Area with four new Wilderness Areas.

Much of the area we hiked has never been timbered, so many of the trees were huge! You will ford Ramsey's Draft 20+ times and also go through stands of Hemlocks, which have been decimated in SNP. What a great hike but do it as 2 day backpack to really enjoy it.

Also see the Jerry's Run hike for an abbreviated version of this circuit.

Since there are so many crossings of Ramsey's Draft we will not describe them all, but when you get to a crossing scan the other side for the trail and sometimes there will be a well placed rock cairn marking it. Be aware, the Draft can be deep and flowing after heavy rains, so be careful when crossing and do not cross if it is too dangerous. You can always hike it another day. Be prepared to use river shoes or crocs on many of the crossings, others you may be able to "rock hop" or use a well placed downed tree. Switching out shoes will slow you down, you won't set any records on Day 1. This is a wilderness area and as such the trails are not blazed except for the Road Hollow Trail at the end which is Yellow-blazed.

DAY 1 – 9.5 Miles

  • Mile 0.0 – The hike begins at the end of the parking lot just beyond the Information Kiosk. Very quickly you will by-pass the Bridge Hollow Trail on the right and then the Road Hollow Trail on your left, which will be part of your return route. Stay straight and on the left side of the Draft for 0.7 miles, this is the Ramsey's Draft Trail.
  • Mile 0.7 – The first of many crossings and the only one mentioned, keep your eyes peeled for it on the right as we originally missed it.
  • Mile 2.8Jerry's Run, cross it and then quickly pass Jerry's Run Trail on the left, stay straight on the Ramsey's Draft Trail, more crossings.
  • Mile 5.2US Geological Survey Marker on the left, says 2914', easy to miss. The elevation gain has been gradual to this point. The climb from this point becomes steeper with quite a few blowdowns prior to the intersection at Hiner Spring. As you approach the intersection, the trail is faint at best, keep heading up with the creek mostly on your left and you will be fine.
  • Mile 7.3 – Intersection with Bald Ridge Trail, trail sign was on the ground, continue up the Ramsey's Draft Trail and over the next 0.1 to 0.2 miles there will plenty of great campsites and places to fill up with water. This would be a good place to call it a day and camp for the night. You could then do a side trip to Hardscrabble Knob for one of the few good views on this hike. We pressed on for 2 more miles as it was to rain the next morning.
  • Mile 7.7 – Intersection with Hardscrabble Knob Trail. Bear left and reach Hardscrabble Knob in 0.5 miles.
  • Mile 8.2 – Hardscrabble Knob, abandoned shack, and downed fire tower. You could camp here but no known water source, so fill up at Hiner Spring area prior to making that decision. Fairly decent view from top of Knob: Shenandoah Mtn to the Southwest, Big Bald Knob to the Southeast, Gordons Peak to the South and The Pinnacle to the South.
  • Mile 8.7 – Return to intersection and bear left onto Ramsey's Draft Trail.
  • Mile 9.5 – Reach Shenandoah Mtn Trail and bear left. Just off to your left is a great campsite with fire pit. Site is easily big enough for 10-12 tents with a Spring. This is where we camped for the night.
    Note: The Spring is located across the trail from the campsite, look for tree with "SHENANDOAH MTN" sign, bear right 90 degrees, go down about 15-20 yards, quite steep. We cleaned out the leaves from an 8” deep pool of water and 20 minutes later the water was very clear and cold. Spring coordinates: N38 22.868 W79 19.600.

DAY 2 – 8.7 Miles

We had a quick breakfast and packed up in light rain. The rain picked up as we hiked out, so we were highly motivated and made good time, 3.5 hours. If it is nice, take your time and enjoy the woods. There are some views through the trees but over all a nice walk on the ridge through some small stands of Hemlocks.

  • Mile 9.5 – Bear left onto the Shenandoah Mtn Trail after breaking camp
  • Mile 10.2 – Sinclair Hollow Trail on right, stay straight.
  • Mile 14.5 – Jerry's Run Trail on left, stay straight.
  • Mile 15.6 – Bear left onto Road Hollow Trail. You will really start to lose some elevation now.
  • Mile 18.1 – Reach Ramsey's Draft Trail, bear right towards Parking Lot.
  • Mile 18.2 – Parking Lot
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Hiker Reviews For The Shenandoah Mountain Hike (5 Most Recent)
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By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, March 25, 2016
Just wanted to give a heads up, prior to the intersection at Hiner Spring there are a lot of down trees stretching back about a mile or so pretty tough through there. might want to add a little time through there. Pretty good hike for the most part. The creek it pretty low but a good source of water for the first half of the hike. After the spring at mile 9.5 there isn't another water source that I saw.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 19, 2016
Hiked Shenandoah Mountain with a group of friends this previous weekend, overall I enjoyed it and it was a great experience. I have hiked this previously twice and try to return every couple years. On Friday we camped out at the second campsite down Ramsey's Draft, the temp was somewhat low & paired with the moisture in the air made Saturday morning rough. We found that the water was low in most spots which made hiking through Ramsey's Draft relatively easily since it is mostly flat. I would like to note that there several large downed trees through out this portion of the trail which slowed the pace of the hike substantially. The last mile of the hike up the draft is nearly all uphill and this is where a majority of the downed trees were found, so if you are bringing your canine companion with you be ready to lift them over trees portions of this hike. We reached Hiner Springs early and decided to hike to the next spring, past Hardscrabble Knob, at the end of Ramsey's Draft Trail(Where Tearjacket Trail links up). This is also your last opportunity to refill your water from a spring(still treat or filter it, don't take a chance). This was a great decision considering the fog bank that rolled in over night/morning. I set my tent amongst some evergreens and this blocked a majority of the moisture and wind. After we made camp I backtracked to Hardscrabble Knob, the view isn't as good as it was a few years ago. Most of the trees are getting a little high for a clear view of the surrounding area. But it is still cool nonetheless, especially the downed fire tower. The final morning of our hike was cool, due to the fog bank, and made the last half of the hike easy for the most part. It is mostly flat, but there are portions of uphill, and down hill. The last leg of Road Hollow Trail will bring the highway and eventually the parking lot in view, resist the urge to go off trail. I love this hike, I will still come back to this hike every couple years. I just hope to see some of the trees taken care of the next time I return.

By: Pohick Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 05, 2015
I took this as a reunion hike with four scouts from our Philmont trip last summer. We had a good time. We went the opposite way described here, going north on Shenandoah Mountain trail, and south down Ramsey's draft. Only saw a few people, even on Labor day weekend, though a number of people were camping at Hiner Spring. The trail was a little overgrown in parts, and I recommend long pants, especially on the lower half of Ramsey's Draft trail. There were a number of blow downs to scramble over. Hiner Spring was basically dry, but you can get water from the head of the draft, just below where the Hiner trail branches off. There are nice campsites at the spring, but a better one (where we camped) just a couple of hundred yards west of there along the trail. The real disappointment on this trip was the view from Hardscrabble Knob, which was mostly obscured. There are cool remains of a cabin and fire tower (and a nice, waterless campsite) there, though. The draft itself was low, which made the multiple crossings no problem.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 22, 2015
Ramseys Draft Wilderness has been one of my favorite backpacking areas since I discovered the area in 2004. We get back to the area about every year or so. Sadly, given the current state of the area, it is no longer my favorite place. We were planning to head up to the Shenandoah Mtn Trail the first day and then come down the draft the second day, which we have done before and prefer. However, when we discovered a dry streambed near the parking area, we didn't want to take the chance of hiking to Hiner Spring only to find it dry and have to come back down the draft to find water. We opted to hike up the draft as far as we felt comfortable and set up camp. We of course missed the first turn and ended up walking back down the streambed (because it was so dry) to the first stream crossing. We fixed the rock cairn for the next folks who walk through that area. The Ramseys Draft Trail is very overgrown with massive blowdowns that require climbing or straddling to get over. Lots of overgrown blackberry bushes, briery bushes, and other nasties. We ended up camping at a nice site about half mile north of the intersection of Ramseys Draft and Jerrys Run trails. Day two, we opted to hike up Jerry's Run to the ridge and then come back around to make a nice ~10 mile circuit for the weekend. Jerry's Run is so overgrown and contains such massive blowdowns that is took us 2 hours just to get to the old shelter site. It looked like someone had hiked through the area sometime in the last few weeks as there were remnants of bent plants to provide some sign of where the trail was. Had we not had trekking poles and a hack saw to slash away at everything, it would have been impassable. Once we got to the Shenandoan Mtn Trail, it was easy going and a nice hike. The return to the car via Road Hallow was moderate, with about 3-4 good size blowdowns one must weave their way through. With so much overgrowth and downed trees, the water drainage in this wilderness is all messed up- at times you couldn't tell where the streambed was. It's only going to get worse as you can see the huge dead hemlocks throughout the area that have yet to fall. This area is very much wilderness and I would not recommend someone attempt this route without a GPS or being new to the area. I worry that without some trail maintenance work being done that the area will continue to see even less usage and become impassable. We only saw one person the whole weekend and he had turned back less than a mile from the cars because he had dogs and was unable to deal with the blowdowns. Sadly, I don't know when we will return. For a less than 9.5 mile hike for the weekend, we felt like we had hiked 20 miles, are sore from head to toe with muscle aches, and are covered in scratches. We would probably have gotten poison ivy had we not packed long pants!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 23, 2015
We hiked this in two days with our two dachshunds. Day one we did the Ramsey's draft side of the loop and day two we did the Shenandoah Mountain side.

Day one was a bit difficult as the water was pretty high so we had to carry the dogs over most of the river crossings. There were also multiple large trees down across the trail so we had to help them climb other those. As others have said, the first river crossing is VERY easy to miss. We ended up hiking about 1 mile down the wrong trail before we realized we missed the first crossing. There's a stack of stones marking the crossing, however, the stack is no more than a foot high and also very easy to miss. Because of the detour, we ended up hiking a total of 9 miles on day one. We camped around mile 7, just before the large campsite near the intersection with Hardscrabble Knob trail. We wish we would have continued past the large campsite and onto the Shenandoah Mt. trail and there was a very nice campsite there.

Day two was much easier than day one. We crossed through beautiful forests, had great views the entire way, and were able to knock out the remaining 11 miles with ease.

I would recommend bringing some type of water shoe for day one as there are about 20 river crossings. Day two is better suited for hiking boots as there is quite a bit of rocky terrain to navigate. Overall the loop was very enjoyable! We can't wait to go back.

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Late April

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