Hiking this trail at any time of the year would be enjoyable. We pictured ourselves taking a dip in some of the huge swimming holes when the weather is warmer. If you have done Overall Run before, come back out and try this route, over half of it is on new trails, you will not be disappointed.
Parking is at the end of graveled Chrisman Road (VA-697) and is really just side of the road parking, if done well you could get 4-6 cars parked here. Do not block either of the farm gates. The trail begins at the first gate, there is a yellow blaze on the fence beside the gate, go through the gate (close it properly)and head to the left towards the brown Heiskell Hollow sign, the trail bears to the right of the sign.
You are on private property for 0.3 miles until you reach the Shenandoah NP Boundary gate, so please be respectful and stay on the trail. From the SNP boundary you will be following East Fork Creek, passing remnants of a homestead/fireplace and stone wall on the right, and in 0.4 miles from the SNP Gate you will reach a small falls and swimming hole (Mile Mark 0.7). Continue on the trail crossing the creek about 3 times for 0.8 miles and then bear to the left staying on the trail, DO NOT continue straight (MM 1.5). Note: All other intersections on this hike will have SNP concrete intersection posts. In 0.4 miles beyond this intersection reach the the first intersection with a post and continue straight on the Heiskell Hollow Trail (MM 1.9).
The trail to this point has been very gradual, but the next section you will start to climb, gaining 1100' feet in 1.7 miles reaching the next T-intersection MM 3.6. Go left onto the Weddlewood Trail. Continue climbing reaching the highpoint (2670') of the trail at the next intersection in 1.4 miles (MM 5.0), bear left onto the Mathews Arm Trail. Go 0.5 miles, passing the Beecher Ridge Trail intersection on the left (MM 5.5), bear right staying on the Mathews Arm Trail and in an additional 0.5 miles bear left onto the Overall Run/Tuscarora Trail (MM6.0). This trail will start to descend very steeply reaching some great overlooks of the falls in another 0.5 miles (MM 6.5). There is a side trail that gets you a little closer to the Falls, be careful, great stop for lunch. We did this hike in January and saw the falls frozen. There are some great views of the Page Valley with the Massanutten Range in the background. From June on the Falls can be barely a trickle without some sustained rains, so the ideal time to see the falls is January to May.
Continue to descend and in 0.3 miles off to your left is another small overlook with a possible campsite just below that. The trail continues to descend rapidly and reaches the Thompson Hollow Intersection in 1.6 miles, continue straight (MM 8.6). In about 0.10 miles after the intersection is a side trail on the left to a large swimming hole and slide. The next intersection is 0.7 miles from the swimming hole, bear hard left onto the Beecher Ridge Connector Trail (MM 9.4). The elevation is 800' at this intersection and besides the parking area, this is the low point of the hike. You will have a short but tough 0.7 mile hike up to the Beecher Ridge Trail Intersection (MM 10.1). Bear to the right, heading to the Heiskell Hollow Trail, reaching that in another 0.7 miles (MM 10.8). Turn right onto the Heiskell Hollow Trail reaching Chrisman Road parking in 1.9 miles (MM 12.6).
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Reviews For The Overall Run/Heiskell Hollow Hike (5 Most Recent)
I've done this hike three times, twice in winter and once in spring. This is NOT a good summer hike, unless you are only going for the short version to the swimming pools. As noted, the ticks and bugs can be bad. All the streams are dry, and the falls are just a trickle.
The ice waterfalls in the dead of winter are spectacular!!! Try to go after the temps have been below freezing for at least two weeks. I prefer this hike in reverse from what is listed.
Bring some ice gear in the winter though, or you will not make it very far.
Date of Hike: Sunday, August 05, 2012
Did not enjoy this hike at all.
The "Solitude" rating of 3 is only correct until you get up to the MM 5 at Matthews Arm trail. Before that point, we only saw two other hikers. After that point, we saw more people on this trail than we did last weekend on Old Rag, which gets a 0 rating for Solitude.
5 rating for "Streams/Falls" was garbage for us. Passed a lot of stream beds, but only two of the stream crossings had even a trace of water in them. Falls were dry.
Trail maintenance was terrible on almost the entire length of Heiskell Hollow and Beecher Ridge Connector Trails. Heiskell Hollow still hasn't been cleared of downed trees since the derecho over a month ago. Both Heiskell Hollow and Beecher Ridge Connector are overgrown to the point where the "trail" is frequently only about 15" wide, and your boots and shins are swishing through the edge of the overgrown grass, thorns, nettles, etc. The sides of our calves were shredded by the end of the hike. While your shins are brushing past that grass, they're picking up ticks. When we stopped at the swimming area (which was swarmed with a group of around 30 kids and some camp counselor type chaperones) and stripped off boots and socks, we realized that my wife's legs were coated with tiny little ticks that had mostly crawled down under her socks. I mean covered. We estimate, with no exaggeration, more than 100. Can't believe I didn't take a picture to document it. Not sure if they were deer ticks or just larval stage regular dog ticks, but either way, the doc put her on a preemptive course of antibiotics due to the sheer quantity. I had around 20, much fewer since she hikes ahead of me and probably was clearing them off the grass ahead of me. Gnats and biting horse flies were terrible too.
Other than the insects, we were treated to a bear, a timber rattlesnake, and a juvenile copperhead to round out our wildlife interactions. That, and finally returning to the parking lot, were the highlights of the day...
If you're looking for a challenge around this effort level, Old Rag is 10 times better than this hike.
Date of Hike: Sunday, July 15, 2012
This is a tremedous if strenuous hike. We did it clockwise, so the very steep climb (over 1000 ft in a mile) was at the beginning. Very good workout. The falls were dry but the veiw was nice. Ran into a rattlesnake and a bear along the trail. Lots of blueberry and huckleberry bushes were around although the season was ending so there were few to eat. There were also copious amounts of bear dung all along the trail so clearly the bears use it for getting around. The best part of this hike is the swimming hole near the end. You have never felt so good as when swimming in a moutain stream after hiking 10 miles in 90+ degree/100% humidity weather.
Date of Hike: Sunday, July 08, 2012
This hike was great, providing a nice mixture of views, water, and excitement. Cows entertained us at the start, and then we encountered 5 bears before we made it to the swimming hole (saw 5 at least, but we heard unknown possibly bear-like noises at least 2 additional times). The bugs were only bad for a mile or two of the hike. There was a decent amount of poison ivy and stinging nettles off-and-on throughout the hike so keep your eyes open!
Here's a warning about the swimming hole, it's possible to get to the swimming hole via another trail that makes it a 2-mile hike, meaning it's easy for the water to get crowded. A large group of 20+ young adults effectively chased us off with their loudness. We got caught in a somewhat intense thunderstorm. I hope the large group made it out without too much fright.
Date of Hike: Sunday, January 01, 2012
Hiked this on New Year's day. I don't know if this is typical, but there were a lot of stream crossings, especially on the Heiskell Hollow trail (I would say 20 round trip). It has been a rainy winter so maybe that has something to do with it(it had even turned into a steady light rain by the end of this hike). Mostly, the streams were about 10-15 feet across and shallow with enough stones to hop across, but near the end, we forded some because the back-up socks were already wet. I would recommend bringing extra dry clothes (socks etc.). Because of the number of stream crossings and length, I might rate this as a "5" for difficulty. Beautiful views of Overall Run. Round trip, we probably encountered about 30 people, mostly at the Overall Run leg There were several dogs in the Overall Run leg, but a dog probably could manage the Heiskell Hollow leg if it was big enough to make it over all the stream crossings. Also, a lot of people seemed to have trekking poles, which would probably be helpful for the stream crossings. We lunched at the Matthew's Arm campground, which is closed for the season (bathrooms are locked), which turned out to be a good spot because once we got down to the overlooks, they were already mostly occupied by other hikers.
Just a note about the initial part at mile 1.5. I did not see any crossed sticks, but at around after the 5th stream crossing, there is a yellow blaze on a tree to the left. It is on a small tree and there were a lot of leaves down, so the trail was easy to miss. For a moment, the trail looks like it follows a rain wash (straight-ish or to the right), but you will see that numerous trees have fallen over the small trough the rain has cut. This is not the trail. If you get here, back track the 100 or so feet back to the stream and look or the blaze on the left. All the downed leaves make the trail a little hard to see here, but if you look ahead, you can see some downed trees that have been cut. This is the trail. The directions confused me a little here because I thought this was an intersection with another trail, but it is just a spot where the yellow-blazed trail is a little difficult to follow.