One of the less traveled hikes in the Shenandoah National Park, the Catlett Mountain circuit is one of the most beautiful hikes in the SNP for fall colors. Starting from the same parking area as Old Rag, leave the crowds behind, as you can do this hike and not see another person on the whole circuit.
The fall colors explode in yellows, oranges and reds in the upper sections of Catlett Mountain during October. If you're looking for a more secluded hike, and beautiful scenery, this my be the hike for you.
From the lower Old Rag parking area, walk the 0.5 miles up to the Nicholson Hollow Trail turn off where SR600 veers left.
The first 0.5 miles of the blue blazed Nicholson Hollow Trail passes through private property. Please respect the land owners property, and remain on the trail. The Nicholson Hollow Trail will immediately turn right, where in 75 yards it crosses both the Hughes River, and Brokenback Run.
Continue up the blue blazed Trail and in 0.3 miles pass signage marking the entrance to the Shenandoah National Park. Follow the trail as it winds along the right bank of the Hughes River then arrives at the intersection of the Corbin Mountain Trail in 1.0 miles from the SNP boundary.
Remain on the Nicholson Hollow Trail, on the right bank of the Hughes River, and in 0.3 miles there is a large camping area on the right. 100 yards past the camping spot reach the intersection of the Hot-Short Mountain
Stay straight on the Nicholson Hollow Trail and shortly cross Hannah Run. 0.2 miles after crossing Hanna Run reach the intersection of the Hannah Run Trail. Turn right on the Hannah Run Trail as it gradually becomes steeper for 1.5 miles, then crosses a small ridge passing the ruins of an old farmhouse. From the ruins the trail will descend through a gully, then very steeply climb the ridge on the other side for the steepest section of the hike.
After arriving at the top of the ridge, the Hannah Run Trail will wind through a plateau on Catlett Mountain for 0.4 miles and arrive at the intersection of the Catlett Mountain Trail. Turn right on the blue blazed Catlett Mountain Trail and in 70 yards arrive at the intersection of the Catlett Spur Trail. Turn right remaining on the Catlett Mountain Trail as it descends into a hollow and passes a campsite and creek in 1.0 miles.
From the creek and campsite, the Catlett Mountain Trail will gently climb to the intersection of the Hazel Mountain Trail in another 0.2 miles. Turn right on the now yellow blazed Hazel Mountain Trail for 0.5 miles to the intersection of the Hot-Short Mountain
Be alert for the Hot-Short Mountain
Trail trail turn-off, as the marker post is set back on the trail 20 yards and not easily visible when the foliage is thick.
Turn right on the blue blazed Hot-Short Mountain
Trail as it descends for 2.1 miles to the Hughes River and intersection of the Nicholson Hollow Trail. Pass several vistas of Old Rag, and the Virginia plains near the top of the Hot-Short Mountain
Trail. Then as the trail nears the valley floor, pass through a wooded area before arriving back at the intersection of the Nicholson Hollow Trail.
Turn left on the Nicholson Hollow Trail, passing the Corbin Mountain Trail in 0.3 miles, then re-crossing the Hughes River and Brokenback Run in another 1.3 miles before arriving back at the trail head.