With a large picnic area and many interconnecting trails, including the newer James Ball, Corporal Morgan, and Hadows trails, Sky Meadows Park has become a popular destination for families and more experienced hikers alike. The lower trials pass through rolling fields and cross babbling brooks, with the upper trails above Bleak House providing spectacular views of the Piedmont.
The 7.1 mile circuit hike we describe here takes you through the lower trails and pastures along several creeks, then heads uphill on the South Ridge to the North Ridge Trail and Appalachian Trail (AT). The meadows in this section of the circuit are similar to the high meadows found on Cold Mountain in the southwestern part of Virginia. Finally descend back towards the parking area and pass the Piedmont Overlook, the best vista of the circuit.
Also make sure to check out the many events the park has to offer. From astronomy, to hikes and camp outs, Sky Meadows has something for everyone!
Mile 0.25 - Continue on the James Ball Trails passing a view of one of the valley ponds near Paris, then climb a small rise through the trees and emerge in another field. The trail will now descend before passing through the main picnic area at Sky Meadows Park. The picnic area has many picnic tables and charcoal barbecues that are available on a first come first served basis. The shelter barbecue area needs to be reserved. Stay to the left of the picnic area passing a pine tree stand where the James Ball trail continues on the opposite side of the service road. Continue on the pink blazed James ball Trail for another 0.1 miles where the trail terminates with the brown blazed Corporal Morgan Trail.
Mile 2.4 - Turn left uphill on the yellow blazed South
Ridge Trail passing an overlook. In 0.1 miles pass homestead ruins where the trail becomes steeper before arriving at a clearing and another overlook. Continue
uphill into a more heavily wooded area on the South Ridge Trail, then in 1.0 miles
reach the intersection of the North Ridge trail.
Mile 4.0 - Turn left uphill on the blue blazed North Ridge Trail for 0.3 miles to the ridge and intersection of the white blazed Appalachian Trail (AT).
Mile 4.3 - Turn right north on the AT and and pass the intersection of the purple blazed Old Trail. Stay straight on the AT, cross a pipeline clear cut then pass through a livestock gate. The AT will now gently descend to the intersection of the Ambassador Whitehouse Trail and arrive at the mountain meadows.
Mile 5.1 - Stay right on to the Ambassador Whitehouse Trail as it descends through the meadows, then renters the forest in 0.8 miles. Pass through a wooded area, cross the pipeline clear cut where the trail turns right, then descend steeply for 0.1 miles to the intersection of the North Ridge Trail.
Mile 6.2 - Turn left on the North Ridge Trail for 75 yards to the intersection of the Piedmont Overlook Trail. Turn left on the Piedmont Overlook Trail for 0.1 miles yards then cross a fence stile into an open field with a panoramic view of the Piedmont Valley. Continue down the trail
for the remaining 0.8 miles back to Boston Mill Road, then turn left following the short distance back to Mount Bleak House and the parking area.
Mile 7.1 - Arrive back a the parking area.
Virginia State Parks, Sky Meadows State Park Guide:
In 1731, James Ball purchased from Lord Fairfax a 7,883-acre tract on the east side of the Blue Ridge, south of Ashby’s Gap. Ball died in 1754, and his land was divided among his daughter and five grandsons. John Edmonds purchased James Ball’s land from one of Ball’s grandsons in 1780. Edmonds then built a 1 1/2. story house, which still stands. He died in 1798, and his land was divided among his five children. Sons Elias and George sold most of their inherited land to Isaac Settle, respected postmaster and tavern-keeper in the nearby village of Paris. In 1812, Isaac Settle built a large brick house and named it “Belle Grove” (located just south of the park) where he and his wife Mary raised three children. In 1842, he sold the Belle Grove farm to his son-in-law Lewis Edmonds, who, a year later, sold 148 acres to Isaac’s son Abner Settle. On his new farm, Abner built the stone portion of what is now the "Mount Bleak” house. By 1850, he had added the frame portion of the house to accommodate himself, wife Mary, their six children, and his father. By 1862, five more children were born to the Settles.
In 1866, because of declining health, Abner Settle sold the Mount Bleak farm to Thomas Glascock. Glascock sold the property in 1868 to George M. Slater, who had been a member of Mosby’s Rangers during the Civil War. Slater and his son owned the farm until they both died in 1923. During the following decades, the land changed hands several times. In 1966 a housing development was planned and the property was divided into 50-acre lots. This scenic area was saved through the actions of Paul Mellon. Virginia State Parks received the 1,132-acre farm as a gift from Mr. Mellon in 1975. After building facilities to accommodate the public, the Commonwealth opened Sky Meadows State Park in 1983.
A 248-acre corridor between the park and U.S. Route 50 containing three miles of the Appalachian Trail was added in 1987.
In 1991, Paul Mellon presented an additional 462-acre tract of land as a gift to the park. The Virginia Outdoor Foundation was active in the acquisition process. The tract, the Lost Mountain Bridle Trail area, contains a parcel of land that was purchased from Lord Fairfax by George Washington. During the 19th and 20th centuries, the land had been farmed by several local families.
Interactive Hike Map BelowPrintable
Topo Hike Map (PDF)
Hike route in Drag the map with your mouse using the icon Zoom with the controls on the left Mouse-over icons in the map below for location shots
Calculate roughly how many calories you could burn on the Sky Meadows hike:
Reviews For The Sky Meadows Hike (5 Most Recent)
My wife and I wanted to take advantage of the gorgeous weather so we decided to check out Sky Meadow.We had just gotten some new gear and wanted to test it out on an overnight. Overall the experience was great. Check-in for overnights is super easy and was $15 to stay at a designated camp site. The site says it is best to reserve spaces, but we figured since it was still technically winter, there wouldn't be many people. Out of the 15 campsites, 4 of them were used including ours. I would recommend reserving once the season kicks in.
There is specific parking for overnighters and the hike to the campsites is about 1 mile. A good mix between pull-in sites and complete back country camping. The sites are clearly marked and are all near bathrooms and a water pump of non-potable water (if you need any, plan to boil or treat). It was winter so the foliage wasn't the best for privacies sake, but the campsites are still a good distance apart from one another. Once we set up camp we decided to do a little more hiking. The trails are VERY clearly marked and easy to navigate. There is a wonderful scenic overlook not far from the campsite. There are various other trails to explore as well as a 3 mile section of the AT. Definitely will have to go back and stay longer.
Like I said, the weather was great Saturday. It was rather muddy and some sections of the trail to the campsite still had snow. Possibly 3-4 inches. Nothing major but proper footware was clutch. Overall a wonderful experience and I will definitely be returning.
Date of Hike: Thursday, February 04, 2016
Walking through 6-9 inches of snow along the South Ridge trail and the AT. The Ambassador White trail and the lower part of the North Ridge trail are pretty clear. Didn't venture over to the Lost Mtn side of the park as I suspect the rains have the low lying areas very wet.
Date of Hike: Sunday, January 31, 2016
Sky Meadows is a nice hike -- pretty easy, generally, and good scenery. The problem this time, of course, is that even a week after decent temps and rain following Snowzilla, all of the trails were covered in about 9 inches of snow. This made our seemingly-easy 7 mile hike into a strenuous, annoying hike. I'd probably recommend waiting until we thaw out (probably another week) before tackling this (or any, for that matter) hike, or at the very least, be realistic in terms of either your ability to hike or your ability to slug through deep snow and not get annoyed by your lack of progress.
Not really a knock on the hike as much as it's a knock on my own common sense.
Date of Hike: Sunday, December 13, 2015
It was an unusually warm December day, 70 degrees so decided to take advantage of the weather with a hike. I have been putting off doing Sky Meadows as I assumed it was mostly walking through meadows and not really hiking. I was pleasantly surprised with actual trails and the views from the Piedmont trail. There were some challenging inclines as well so I felt like I was on an actual hike. I took a slightly different route then the one described here and did part of the Appalachian Trail. There were a decent amount of people at the park but it's so large that I didn't run into many people. I would like to come back in the spring/summer to see all of the wildflowers. However, I have read and heard from others that the ticks are really bad in the summer so that might dissuade me.
Date of Hike: Wednesday, November 11, 2015
I choose a slightly different route than the one featured here but hit most of the same trails. It was a beautiful day for a hike. I got there right around 8:15 am and started on the Piedmont Trail. For the first 2 hrs I was completely alone. I would stop, take some photos, and no one was behind me or in front of me. I think I liked the Ambassador Whitehead trail the best. I was tempted to go north on the Appalachian Trail but knew I'd just want to keep going and then be made at myself when I had to turn back.
I completed almost 6 miles and can't wait to come back to Sky Meadows.