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Tar Jacket Ridge - Oronoco, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
14.9 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
8 hours over 2 days
George Washington National Forest
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From VA634/Coffey Town Rd: Right onto VA755/Wiggins Spring Rd. following the Mount Pleasant Sign, In 1.3 miles VA755 enters the GWNF and becomes FS48, In 1.4 miles from entering the GWNF park on the left where the AT crosses the road and small parking area.
37.75978, -79.19477

The beautiful views on Tar Jacket Ridge are often overlooked with the spectacular vistas from Mount Pleasant and Cold Mountain just next door. The vista from Tar Jacket Ridge offers views of The Cardinal,The Friar, and The Little Friar. This hike is at its best as a two day backpack in the Fall or Spring when the leaves are off the trees.

From the parking area at Log Camp Gap head north on the white blazed Appalachian Trail (AT) as it ascends Tar Jacket Ridge where in 0.5 miles you arrive at a view to the west of Big Butt and Jump Mountains west of I81. Continue to the top of Tar Jacket Ridge for one of the best vistas on this section of the AT. The vista north is of The Cardinal, The Friar, and the Little Friar; along with the views east of Mount Pleasant.

Continue down Tar Jacket Ridge for 1.1 miles where the AT crosses FR634 at Salt Log Gap. If you are doing this hike in the Fall there are numerous apple trees of different flavors here. Continue north on the AT and cross another forestry road in 1.1 miles.

From this point the AT will cross over a small spur and reach the intersection of the blue blazed Lovingston Spring Trail in another 0.5 miles. The Lovingston Spring Trail is a shorter route to the Seely/Woodworth Shelter that loops around back to the AT, and is the return route for the hike listed here.

Again continue north on the AT for 4.0 miles where you arrive at the four way intersection of the AT, Lovingston Spring Trail, and Seely/Woodworth Shelter Trail. Turn right for the short walk down to the shelter.

On the return route take the blue blazed Lovingston Spring Trail for some different scenery. The trail heads north for 0.3 miles where it makes an abrupt turn to the southwest at Twin Springs. The trail climbs over Elk Pond Mountain and in 1.3 miles passes an old hunting trailer then joins a narrow forestry road.

Continue to follow the blue blazes and forestry road for 0.5 miles where the blue blazed trail turns off the road to the right. From this intersection it is 0.2 miles before the trail crosses the same forestry road and climbs over a spur of Rocky Mountain then arriving back at the intersection of the AT.

Turn right/south on the AT to follow the trail back past Salt Log Gap, along Tar Jacket Ridge before arriving back at the parking area at Log Camp Gap.
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Hiker Reviews For The Tar Jacket Ridge Hike (5 Most Recent)
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By: John Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, March 12, 2019
Following up on my prior review, we did the "front half" of the hike today - an out/back to the Wiggins Springs Road AT junction. What a great hike!

The two vistas on the ridge were outstanding...and one does not need to leave the AT to reach them. They just appear. Great views of Mt. Pleasant, the bald on top of Cold Mountain, Jump Mountain and the religious range. The ascent up the sou

h slope is much easier than the return ascent up the north slope (which was draining).

The USFS has done some bush-hogging around the vistas to keep the scrub down which otherwise might block the views. The AT was the AT...always a pleasure.

This goes on our list for a late fall do-over where the colors should be terrific.

Registered 6.8 miles with 1,600' of ascent. Between the two hikes, 17.3 miles w/ 3,800' ascent vs HU's 14.9 miles w/ 3,150' ascent. As we duplicated the out/back between Salt Log Gap and Wiggins Springs Road - 2.5 miles w/ 500' ascent, the stats line up nicely.

Looking forward to doing this one again.

By: John Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, March 7, 2019
Did an abridged version as a day hike starting at Salt Log Gap and hiking the loop to the north - will save the Tar Jacket Ridge portion for another day.

Hiking on the AT has always been a pleasure - this 5 mile stretch to the Seely Shelter was no exception. We connected easily to the LST for the return trip and found it very pleasant although it could use some new blazes. We blew the turnoff mentioned in the hike description and, even more amazingly, did not notice the trail crossing over the fire road a bit later. By that time, my GPS was telling me that I was off-track and I finally listened. We bushwhacked less than 100' to the LST and followed it down to the AT junction and home.

Great hike. 10.8 miles which would be a bit less if we had paid attention to the hike description on this website. 2,200' of ascent which is quite a bit for our group but there was really no steep ascents...fairly pleasant gradual ascents.

We'll do it again next year and follow the instructions this time.

By: chungo Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, June 5, 2018
Did this last minute as my planned overnight area was closed due to wildfire. Ended up staying on the ridge campsite, the view of the stars was incredible! The huge rock keeps a lot of the wind away from the campsite. Moderately difficult hike with a full overnight bag (30-35lbs). Decent amount of thru hiking traffic.

By: Jim Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, October 21, 2016
Did this as two night trip with a first time backpacker who thought it was hard, but not too hard. Definitely recommend camping by the big ol rock at piney river. That's a nice spot. Be careful when hiking LST. After that abrupt turn the trail climbs up a mountain and becomes not so clear cut in parts and the blazes are spread out, so you have to search a little to find the next blaze. And a lot of the blazes are faded. Double blazes at intersections are reminders to not take the wrong trail. Other than that it was a nice trail to hike. You can fill up at hog camp, piney river, the shelter, and the end of LST when it finally crosses the spring. Camped at Salt Log Gap next to the forestry road the 2nd night but people were driving on it at night which weirded me out, so I'd recommend camping a little up the hill to the south or just before the first LST/AT intersection. Overall, some interesting sights, good water, 2 memorable views (tar jacket and wolf rocks). Good hikers can do this in one or two days

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, February 20, 2016
We hiked this loop with 10 Boy Scouts at a good time to see the views in February--they were fantastic! There was still a little snow on the ground in the shadowy areas. The road to the parking area is tough--I would not do this in my Honda Accord.  We had a 10 passenger van and a Land Rover Disco which did fine. There were a lot of people at the meadow when we arrived (with slushy snow covering the road completely), but other than one trail-runner (doing 18 miles!) we saw no one else on the entire hike.  The trail was pretty muddy. The hike was strenuous for the 2 adults--the Scouts did fine.  There are a lot of tough ups and downs for us old guys, but it was a great trip (someone mentioned in a comment that it was relatively flat for the AT. I guess compared to the Priest, yes, but there were still some tough ups and downs with a fully loaded pack).  We had no trouble finding the Seely/Woodworth Shelter, of course, since it is right on the AT. You might be tempted to walk right to the shelter once you see it, but coming from the south, the blue-blazed trail to the shelter is farther up to the north along the AT.  It was pretty muddy around the shelter.  We were alone at the shelter and had plenty of places to camp. The water source was fairly close (not as close as I typically like, as at Johns Hollow), but it was adequate--it was flowing nicely with all the melting snow.

The next day just as it started to rain, we started back on the Lovingston Spring Trail.  The Lovingston Spring Trail was well marked, and we had no trouble following it at first, but we did miss the right turn after the Hunting Trailer--it must be very close to the trailer (this was our fault for not more closely consulting the above description). We followed the forestry road which pretty much starts at the hunting trailer. After a while, we saw the Lovingston Spring Trail where it crosses the forestry road again. We made a left hand turn a the spring onto the trail--FYI, the trail crosses the forestry road just where a spring crosses the road, so it was hard to miss. The trail continued up the spur there in sight of the road off to our right.  It was a great hike back to the AT and we thoroughly enjoyed it, though I might need a couple more days to recover!

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