Mile 0.0 – From the parking area before crossing Passage Creek follow the road towards the picnic day use area. Cross Passage Creek and pass the gate. In 60 yards the road will split with the orange and blue blazed Tuscarora/Massanutten Trail going left. Stay right and follow the road into the main parking area. (Park here if the gate at Passage Creek is open).
Mile 0.34 - Turn left following Passage Creek on the white blazed trail. There are several good spots to walk down to the creek and take a break. In 0.5 miles the trail will head slightly uphill away from Passage Creek, then in another 0.16 miles the trail ends at the intersection the Sherman Gap Trail.
Mile 3.65 - Stay straight, and proceed upward following the ridge on the blue and orange blazed Tuscarora/Massanutten trail as it climbs Little Crease Mountain. Follow the trail around to the left and pass an interesting rock formation on the right. The trail will then arrive at the ridge between Little Crease and Shenandoah mountains. Along this section of trail are views north of High Peak and Shenandoah Mountain. Continue along the trail for another 0.1 miles to the point the trail begins to descend. There are a 360° views here. Continue downhill on the blue and orange blazed trail, then soon turn south on Shenandoah Mountain arriving at the hike turn around point in another 0.2 miles.
1. The last mile or so up (and the first mile down) is poorly maintained. Lots of tall grasses, the trail is hard to find for small parts, and a TON of poison ivy. Definitely wear longer pants if you're going all the way to the ridgeline.
2. The views in the summer aren't that great. Just too much foliage around. So don't expect panoramic views all over--this hike is probably better in winter or early spring for this reason.
Date of Hike: Wednesday, February 15, 2017
I concur with most of what the previous reviewer said about this hike. I also took the orange/blue blazed trail back to the start to make it around 10 miles. Also agree the climb started very gradually and I was thinking it was going to be an easy day. Then at around mile 2.5, that sucker pitched up for the next mile and it was almost straight up the mountain. I'm not sure that I went all the way to the outcropping to overlook the valley at the top but the views were fantastic to me.
The trail along the ridge was rocky but very enjoyable. I took the switchbacked blue and orange blazed trail back down and while it crossed the jeep trail a number of times, I enjoyed the sights along the way. There is a huge rock garden at around mile 8 and if I had more time, it would have been a blast exploring all over the rocks. You'd miss this taking the straight line back down.
Total time on the hike was 3:40 but that included one "nature break" and a number of photo opportunities. You can see the hike and associated pics here: https://www.gaiagps.com/public/hTugXbNJkaXbNThjhrBho9WA
Really enjoyed this hike and definitely prefer it over the Signal Knob hike.
Date of Hike: Sunday, February 12, 2017
This is a hike that is best done in winter because the absence of leaves leads to much nicer views. Alas for us, Sunday started rainy and the low clouds over all the valleys obscured the views, especially of the river, and left us with blazing sun and wearing shorts above the clouds at elevation and sweating under rain gear in the clouds.
When I looked at this hike on the map, I couldn't figure why it would be an out-and-back when you could just as easily go back to Elizabeth Furnace via the Massanutten/Tuscarora to Shawl Gap and then down the hill to the parking lot. So we made a loop of it, roughly 10.5 miles on the day, and I come to discover that this is the hike documented here as the High Peak Hike.
The white-blazed trail along the creek was pretty muddy but the initial climb up after joining the pink-blazed Sherman Gap trail was steady and easy. Then the trail takes a hard left east and starts to really climb. And it's not a level 3 difficulty climb. It's a hard climb more in line with a level 4 difficulty, but not so hard as say the climb up Cedar Run in SNP. Still, even though I hike constantly, it was a heart-pumping climb.
There's a lot of rock too. If you walk the ridgeline, as we did, from Sherman Gap to Shawl Gap, the rocks start to remind me more and more of Buzzard Rocks just a bit further north and because of all the rock, it is hard to make time on this trail. And certainly impossible on a rainy day when everything is slippery. I'm not a fast hiker and I'm not a slow hiker, but the four hour estimate listed here is certainly unrealistic. I think you should plan on 5 hours plus a half hour for lunch, and even more time if the weather is wet.
The views on top of Little Crease were really nice (but you wouldn't see much of anything in the summer) especially looking back at High Peak and Buzzard Rocks sticking up out of the clouds. Ditto over at the rock overlook: we couldn't see the river, but the peaks of SNP sticking up out of the clouds were cool. A nice spot for lunch before doing a 180 and heading back.
If you make this a loop and go back via Shawl Gap, the switchbacks on the official trail coming out of the gap are a long, long pain in the butt. You can save a half an hour by heading straight down the jeep road. If I ever hike this again, I won't do the pointless, pointless, long, and endlessly meandering switchbacks.
Date of Hike: Saturday, February 11, 2017
I love this region of George Washington National Forest. It's fairly accessible, being on the north end of the forest and near I66, yet still feels remote.
My expectations for this hike were in check, given the mediocre star ratings (3's). But I was pleasantly surprised, enjoyed the hike and would definitely do it again.
The trail description is accurate, although I didn't see all the campsites described. This trail is well marked and clearly well-used, but on this mild February afternoon I encountered only 4 other groups of hikers in the 5 1/2 hours I was on it. Speaking of time, I think the 4 hour time listed is pretty optimistic. I'm not the speediest hiker out there, but I do hike quite a bit and consider myself of at least average fitness.
I also don't agree with the difficulty rating given here. Having done lots of these Hiking Upward hikes I feel like I have a pretty good idea of what to expect of a 3-star trail. This was no 3-star! If you look at the elevation profile, that steep incline from just before the 3-mile mark to just before the 4 is no joke. Given this, the length, and the overall rockiness of this trail, I'd give it at least a 4 for difficulty.
If you're looking for a milder hike, I would suggest do the first half. The first mile follows Passage Creek and then it winds through the woods with only a slight incline.
As for the views, this time of year is probably the best to do this hike. With the trees bare, I was able to enjoy views of the creek for the first mile, and adjacent mountain ridges the entire length of the trail (part of the reason I love winter hiking). When the trees leaf out, I would guess you don't get the expansive views until you get up to the ridgeline at abut 3 1/2 miles. The views here are great, though I wouldn't call them '360' (but check out the photos and judge for yourself).
The turn-around spot is obvious, with the nice campsite and rocky outcrop to enjoy the lovely view of the Shenandoah River. Total length I clocked was 9.2 miles from the parking area described.
Overall a very enjoyable, moderately strenuous hike. Recommended!