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Shawl Gap - Front Royal, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
8.9 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:

5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
1,740 ft
George Washington National Forest
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Parking area just up hill on right (yellow blazed just past 608). 38.89485, -78.30437

There are two great sections on the Shawl Gap loop, the first uphill portion on the yellow blazed Shawl Gap Trail and the ever beautiful ridge walk along the Tuscarora/ Massanutten Trail. The downhill Sherman Gap Trail can obstructed with blow downs and is not as heavily used.

The only real downside to the loop is the final 1.2 mile walk along VA613 back to the parking area. There isn't much traffic as it is basically a single lane dirt road but you do have to keep alert.

Start by passing the gate and gradually climbing uphill on the yellow blazed Shawl Gap Trail as it begins its assent. After 1.2 miles arrive at a large animal habitat clearing that gives great views of the mountain and Shenandoah Valley. Continue and in another 1.2 miles arrive at the intersection where Shawl Gap Trail turns left uphill (turning right leads down to VA613).

Turn left uphill still on the yellow blazed Shawl Gap Trail for another 0.5 miles until reaching the crest of the ridge and the four way intersection of the Tuscarora/Massanutten Trail. Turn left on the now blue/orange blazed Tuscarora/Massanutten trail as it ascends and follows the ridge line. There are several great views along both sides of the ridge with one in particular just after you pass High Peak.

In 1.9 miles since turning left on the ridge you will reach pink blazed Sherman Gap Trail as it descends to your right. Continue straight on the ridge for an other 0.4 miles where you will reach the Sherman Gap Trail's descent to the left.

Turn left downhill on the pink blazed Sherman Gap Trail as it winds down a small valley for 2.5 miles before reaching VA613. You will pass close to private property on your left just before you reaching US613 so make sure to remain on the trail.

Sherman Trail ends at US613 (there is no parking there) Turn left walking along US613 for 1.2 mile as it winds back to the parking lot which will be located on your left.

February (photos provided by Patty)
Early March
Shawl Gap
Shawl Gap Hike Comments
Archived Comments

By: Sean Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, August 9, 2019
There was a downed tree about 50 feet from the road (Rt. 613) preventing me from using the parking area, so I parked about 20 feet away from Rt. 613 in a grassy area alongside the entrance. I arrived at sunrise and hiked in the reverse direction thinking there would be more traffic later in the morning. The road portion of the hike was OK -- the road is paved now, as noted in another review. The neighbors I saw waved and seemed friendly. A couple loose dogs were more bark than bite. This is one of the nicest ridges I've hiked. I did it before on the High Peak hike, also on this website, which approaches the ridge from the other side of the mountain. In addition to the ridge the Sherman Gap trail portion was OK. I did not care for the Shawl Gap trail. Too much vegetation overgrowth and erosion. Some grass stands were over my head -- I was glad to have my GPS as a check of my path, but there were usually tall trees alongside the wide trail to help guide me. The worst part of this growth was difficulty in seeing where I was placing my feet, putting them at an odd angle and slipping off a rock sometimes. It wasn't terrible, but I probably won't take the Shawl Gap trail again unless it gets significant maintenance.

By: Evan O Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Had a great time hiking this trail with my dog. We had the trail to ourselves other than the herd of deer we ran into headed back down from the ridge on the Shawl Gap trail (pink blazed) and the pair of large black rat snakes that were sunning themselves on the same section of trail. There are some blow-downs on the Shawl Gap trail mostly in the first 1/2 mile headed down from the ridge but easily bypassed (walked thru, not around.) Views from the top were nice East and West. Definitely can see the views are diminishing with foliage returning. Will definitely do again, most likely in reverse direction next time. Honestly I walked past the parking area and had to backtrack on the road ha! It was a beautiful evening and I got distracted enjoying the walk. Total hike time was 4 hours with backtracking.

By: Bobby Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, August 27, 2017
Great day to be hiking in the woods and there were no other cars in the parking area. GPS only had 8.2 miles and 1750 feet. The return road is  no longer a dirt road and, oh yeah, there are hills on it. Need to come back when the leaves are off the trees.

By: Brian Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 18, 2017
I did this hike a few days ago with a group from Central Virginia Trailblazers (www.cvatrailblazers.org).  As recommended in the reviews, we hiked this in reverse direction.  This turned out to be a good decision, as there were patches of slick, wet snow on the ground on the uphill portion.  There are some nice views and a great campsite on the ridge trail.  We didn't see a soul on the entire hike, so this is a good one if you're looking for solitude.  And yes, the ticks are out already!

By: Suzy & Tom Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, January 17, 2016
Would give the hike 4 stars if it weren't for the 1.2 miles of road walking (all uphill) if you do the hike as described above.  Next time would reverse the direction and get the road part over with first.  The parking area was hard to find -it is on the right just before T-bird Drive which comes in from the left.The pink-blazed Sherman Gap trail was well maintained and blazed.  Blow downs have been cleared.  The walk along the Tuscarora/Massanutten Trail was very pretty especially with the light snow that was falling.  Our GPS programs measured the loop as 8.3 miles and our total moving time was 3 hrs 40 minutes.

By: aldikuma Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, November 23, 2014
This was overall a nice hike, but would definitely not be a great one in the summertime. The first part of the hike is covered in very tall grass (some parts over 5ft.) and I could imagine this would be filled with ticks. Also, the views would be very limited. However, this time of year it was pretty and I only ran into two other hikers. A few things. 1) The parking area turn off is on the right before T-Bird Drive - if you get to T-Bird Drive, you've gone too far. 2) While I don't mind some road walking, this a long portion at the end - be careful, as several cars were speeding 3) I kept thinking that I had passed the Sherman Gap / pink blazed trail as it seems like I was on the ridge longer than 1.9 miles, but the first intersection will be just past a nice fire pit / campground (which will be on your left) - the second intersection felt a little closer than 0.4 miles from the first. Lastly, if you're out hiking this time of year during hunting season, please remember to wear orange, even on Sundays.

By: Walter Edwards Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 9, 2014
As stated, the first couple of miles are overgrown - is you go, wear pants - my son and I both ended up with our legs covered in bites. The views were subpar. I woudn't waste my time on this hike, at least in the summer.

By: The Rileys Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 16, 2012
First and most important is that mapquest tells you the trail/parking is on the left-wrong! Keep eyes open for car path and gate. Sherman Gap portion of trail is currently closed due to wildfire hazard so we continued on toward Buzzard Rock and saw beautifil vista w/a great stone bench someone had made around a firepit. First part of hike had some high weeds but it's not the AT. Overall a good hike for a pleasant Sunday.

By: James G Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, December 3, 2011
Great hike for a chilly December day. Started before 11am. Hike up was nice as you ascend up, not steep.  Ran into some hunters, talked with them for alittle bit, some good tips, especially for wearing orange during deer season and keep an eye out for black bears. Made it to the top, from there you can hike to buzzard rock or a few other local trails.  Walked along the ridge, some good rocks jetting out for lunch.  On the way back you reach another intersection and descend back down.  Great view  (no leaves on the trees) you can see the ridge lines and how far you've traveled (you can see the river and airport on some parts).  Not too many critters, did have a encounter with a ticked off buzzard.  By the time you get to the bottom you are tired.  You do have to walk on the road about a mile and a half back to the parking area.  Alot of no trespassing/private property signs.  Passing by the little ranch with Australian shepherd pups and adults was nice. Finished up after 4 pm.   Going up has unique look that differs from going down.  There is a short part that you need to be mindful as there is a drop on the side and alittle narrow, but not too bad.    Overall, a nice trip.  Make sure to wear good supportive hiking boots and watch your step.  Definitely coming up here again sometime. 

By: wv hiker Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, August 4, 2011
The fist part of the forest road is a little overgrown but once it enters the woods the brush dies down, the rest the trail has seen some wear from hikers this year. Not alot of views in the summer but would have some nice views once the leaves are gone.

    View all 17 archived reviews for the Shawl Gap hike
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