One of the toughest day hikes in the entire SNP. The Peak circuit has spectacular views along the AT and Marshall Mountain, and a grueling straight up and down climb of The Peak two thirds along the hike. You also have the option of making this significantly easier and shorter by 3.0 miles, and not doing The Peak out/back to the summit.
If you are looking for a good workout with plenty of views this may be the hike for you! Also, if you plan on doing The Peak out/back make sure to start early, as this makes the total hike time over 7 hours. It's a steep climb. Check out the profile at mile 11.
From the parking area at Gravel Springs Gap, cross Skyline Drive and turn right on the white blazed Appalachian Trail (AT). In 0.9 miles arrive at the first good overlook towards the west, and of the south fork of the Shenandoah River. In another 0.8 miles re-cross Skyline Drive and shortly pass a parking area on the left. In 0.2 miles the trail will make a turn to the right and climb to a rock outcropping where the AT turns back to the left. Climb up the rocky outcrop for the best view of the hike. Continue along the AT crossing Skyline Drive once again in 1.9 miles, then in another 1.5 miles the AT will begin to descend and arrive at the yellow blazed Jenkins Gap Trail.
Turn right on the Jenkins Gap Trail, pass through the parking area, and cross Skyline Drive. Turn right and continue next to Skyline Drive (no trail) for 0.2 miles to the Mount Marshall trailhead. Turn left down the yellow blazed Mount Marshall Trail as it winds around the mountain crossing Waterfall Branch, and Sprucepine Branch before arriving at the intersection of the Bluff Trail in 3.5 miles.
The Peak now is directly in front of you :) Again, there are no views at the summit, but it's a great workout. If you decide NOT to do The Peak out/back turn right here onto the Bluff Trail.
For The Peak out/back continue straight on the Mount Marshall Trail for another 0.4 miles to Thoroughfare Gap and intersection of the Jordan River Trail. The abandoned blue blazed Peak Trail is directly ahead going straight up the ridge. The trail is hard to locate for the first 100 yards, then climbs the ridge steeply for 0.3 miles where there is a small rock cairn indicating the turn left. Pick up the trail again and continue along the ridge for the remaining 0.5 miles to the tree covered summit. Return by following your path back to Thoroughfare Gap, then back to the intersection of the Bluff Trail.
Turn left on the yellow blazed Bluff Trail as it winds around the mountain for 2.3 miles to the intersection of the blue blazed Big Devils Stairs Trail. Stay straight on the Bluff Trail for another 1.4 miles arriving at the next intersection where the Bluff Trail turns left. Turn right uphill for 0.1 miles to the intersection of the horse trail and turn right again for 0.1 miles to the yellow blazed fire road. Turn right uphill on the fire road for the remaining 0.3 miles back to the Gravel Springs parking area.
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Reviews For The The Peak Hike (5 Most Recent)
I hiked this as described taking the option to skip the peak starting from the Gravel Springs Gap parking area, then the AT, Mount Marshall Trail, and returning on Bluff Trail to the parking area. I did this in a little over 6 hours including some breaks. By my measurement with a semi-accurate smartphone app, it was 14 miles and about 2200 feet elevation gain. In difficulty I'd rate it a high "3" or low "4". It is a great, longer circuit hike. I eyed the peak when I was close -- I made the right decision. This wasn't the day. Any day it would be a lot to add that to a longer hike -- someday I may just hike down to the peak and back. As longer hikes in the park go this is a good one. The AT segment is in good condition and has several great overlooks not overgrown so you can see. I saw 10-11 bears on that segment and none on the others -- never saw so many bears before on a hike. The first 2/3 of the Mount Marshall trail is quite nice -- it's an old road and it is wide and smooth -- it gets rockier near its end. The Bluff Trail gets back to the more familiar rocky trail I see in these parks, but it's not too bad. I'd do this one again when I was looking for a longer hike.
Date of Hike: Sunday, July 10, 2016
ONLY FOR EXPERTS. This hike is dangerous and should be removed. The trail to the peak is not maintained for a reason. You guys are going to get people lost in a very remote part of the park. Everything else was fine, but seriously don't do the peak.
Date of Hike: Sunday, July 03, 2016
The AT portion, the Bluff trail and the Mount Marshall sections are very pleasant and seclusive. We started around 8 am and only see a few people along the whole loop. The peak segment has been completely abandoned we took the small path right after we got on the Jordan River Trail. The path is very difficult to recognize and follow. When we finally arrived at the top and tried to walk toward the high ground, we could not find out way back - we lost! Finally, we used our compass, a toppo map to navigate back to where we started after a couple of hours. For the future comers, I strongly suggest you not to try this peak hike unless the path are well marked.
Date of Hike: Saturday, April 16, 2016
I hiked this in two days, starting from Jenkins Gap heading down the AT and camping at the Devils Staircase campground (flat spot under a tree). Day two was the peak and the east side of the trail. It's probably ~19 miles to add the Devils Staircase trail which I felt was well worth it when taking two days. Contrary to what I've read here, I was surprised to be able to find a view at the top of the Peak. The dotted blue line trail seemed to be better marked to me, so I took that, and it led me right to a rock outcropping on the far east side. I would definitely recommend this hike, I was even lucky enough to see two black bears (from a comfortable distance).
Date of Hike: Sunday, March 27, 2016
Overall a very good hike. I started out about 7am on a Sunday morning. I saw a few campers on their way out early on in the hike, and then basically saw nobody for the last 8 miles of the hike, which was nice. To be clear, the peak portion of the hike is no well marked at all, and I am not really sure if I actually followed the trail. I missed the turnoff onto blue trail, and had to backtrack, so my mileage was closer to 19 miles. Great training.