The Hightop Mountain summit out/back hike has a beautiful panoramic vista, and is also one of the lesser known summit hikes in the Shenandoah National Park. The Swift Run Gap hike start area was was crossed by Virginia Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood leading the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe expedition on September 5, 1716 as they passed into the Shenandoah Valley for the first time. Monuments to this crossing are erected on the southern side of VA33 at Swift Run Gap.
The main out and back hike from Swift Run Gap is 5.6 miles and 1,480ft of elevation gain. You can also shorten the hike by starting at the Hightop Mountain parking area on Skyline drive. This reduces the hike to 2.3 miles and 940ft of elevation gain.
Mile 5.6 - Arrive back at the parking area on on Skyline Drive at Swift Run Gap.
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Reviews For The Hightop Mountain Hike (5 Most Recent)
We had beautiful sunny weather for this Saturday hike. Did the 5.6 mile version. Our overall assessment is that this is a great short-to-moderate length day hike with a TON of visual payoff at the top (especially during winter when leaves are off trees) for very little work. If you’re looking to introduce friends to hiking, this would be a great starter trail! Read more about our hike & see lots of photos here: https://fergusandhenri.com/2017/01/30/hightop-mountain/
Date of Hike: Wednesday, January 04, 2017
I did the longer (5.6 mile) hike, and really enjoyed it. The view at the 2nd overlook is fantastic. Navigation on this hike is straightforward, although a sturdy pair of hiking boots is advisable. Once you cross Skyline Drive (mile 1.3), it's a steady climb until you reach the top, but not too difficult.
Date of Hike: Sunday, October 30, 2016
We did the full 5.6m out and back and thought the distance and effort required was just perfect for a couple hours on an unseasonably warm day. I was worried we missed the peak foliage due to Heather's 10/24 comments, but other than a few bare trees it was gorgeous. The view from the overlook is quite expansive. We were fortunate there weren't too many people up there given the outcropping isn't as spacious as others. The first mile and change on the AT to the Hightop Mountain parking area was a pleasant warmup -- I think we would have felt the hike was too short without it, but it all depends on how much time you have to spend. One word of wisdom is that they really do mean the parking area across the bridge from the park entrance...it looks more like a pull over area than a parking area as it's all parallel parking. We missed it at first!
Date of Hike: Monday, October 24, 2016
Not many leaves left on the trees at this point in the year. We drove up later afternoon just looking to grab a quick view, it was so windy and clear in the sky. The view was 10/10 worth it for the effort of hiking up. The hike was perfect for a quick walk up to a lovely view. The trail is easy to follow. I don't know what you'd gain by parking all the way down at the entrance station area- we enjoyed the hike from the high top parking area.
Date of Hike: Friday, September 23, 2016
Very nice shorter hike along a portion of the Appalachian Trail. Ran into about 5 AT section hikers. Everyone seemed in a good mood, I think because cooler fall weather was here. :) Great views from the second overlook. No streams or other water on the hike. I brought a quart but the weather was nice enough and the hike short enough I didn't need it. I don't understand the "N/A" rating for "Camping" as I saw several campsites near the top.