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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.
Late October
Mid March
Tar Jacket Ridge
Tar Jacket Ridge Hike Comments
Archived Comments

By: Stuart Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 16, 2019
Our group did this as a one-night backpack, camping at the Seeley-Woodworth Shelter. We were treated to beautiful views from Tarjacket Ridge both days. The shelter was a great place to camp with plenty of flat(ish) tent spots. The piped spring was gushing out of the mountain. The privy is a pit toilet in pretty good shape with translucent roof panels for light.

We had a problem finding the 0.3mi Lovingston Spring connector trail leaving the shelter first thing in the morning. The trail was almost non-existent and obscured by newly fallen leaves. The blazes were infrequent and some were only on one side of the tree. Once we found the main Lovingston Spring Trail it was much easier to follow. The trail appears to go back and forth on private property so you probably don't want to try camping back there. And probably want to avoid it altogether during hunting season. We did it in rifle season but on a Sunday. The hunting trailer in the photos is still there but has been completely destroyed and ripped to pieces.
Overall this was a great hike with great views in a less traveled area compared to Cole Mountain/Mount Pleasant.

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: David Bernhardt 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!

By: Tom Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, December 5, 2015
Did this as a 2 day hike and started from Salt Log gap since we had a few novice hikers. This was a decent hike, for late fall. With no leaves on the trees you had some good views the whole hike. I would not recommend this in the summer since you will not be able to see much except at a few points. the weather was nice, high 50's during the day and a chill 26 at night. The shelter area is nice and big, can easily fit 6-8 hikers in the shelter and there is a privy for the more modest. The water source is hike behind the shelter and was flowing good. The lovingston spring trail was a nice change of scenery and was easy to follow this time of year. Next person to hike it should ring some blue spray paint and touch up some of the blazes. Wish I thought of it. Also starting from salt log you drive up alhambra rd and it has some great waterfalls that go into the creek and plenty of places to drive up and camp. overall was a decent hike.

By: Darren V. Wildhare Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, February 27, 2015
Along with three others, we attempted to concur this loop, however from the beginning we knew a challenge lied ahead. The service road that leads up to the parking area on Hog Camp Gap was covered with 6-8 inches of snow and a sheet of ice underneath that. I was able to get my 4x4 Tundra to about within 1/4 mile of the parking area, however backed down and parked in an alternate location. We hiked up 1.5 miles to the meadow to find 12-18 inches of snow. WE set up camp down near the water source to protect ourselves a bit from the wind, however lows got to around single digits Friday night. Needless to say after breakfast Saturday morning we made a smart decision to not attempt the climb up Tar Jacket Ridge due to the uncertain amounts of snow totals on the summit and trail heads leading up to it. Overall it was a great hike and were able to test out our winter gear which held up nicely! We live to hike another day.....

By: Ken Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 8, 2014
If you just like a walk in the woods then this is a great hike. Not too many steep sections, good miles, and not too many rocks on the trail. I took this as described but missed the turn after the hunting trailer on the return route. I ended up walking the service road until it T'd with another service road, hung a left, went way downhill, and eventually intersected back with the AT 2.2 miles from the trail head at Salt Log Gap. Got lucky and if I hadn't had my GPS I probably would have found myself backtracking quite a ways and possibly hiking in the dark. Anyhow...I ran into 2 Southbound thru hikers at the shelter. Spoke with them a little bit and then gave them a ride into Buena Vista. One of them flip flopped the trail and was 85 miles from finishing the trail. Saw another south bounder as well on my way to the shelter.

By: Eric Edens Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 25, 2014
I spread this hike out over two days. One thing I noticed, on this site they refer to the area where you park as Log Camp Gap, it is actually called Hog Camp Gap. I got corrected on this sitting around a campfire with some people I met along the way. Overall, it is a nice hike. The views at the top of Tar Jacket Ridge are beautiful, and all the way along the ridge this time of year you can see out because the leaves have fallen. Coming down the back of the ridge can get fairly steep. I ended up slipping on a leaf covered rock and falling, so be careful when the leaves are on the ground! The rest of the hike back to the Seely/Woodworth Shelter doesn't offer many views, but there are still some nice sights along the way. The large rock formations are cool, and there are quite a few of them. When I arrived at the shelter, I was surprised to see 8-9 other people, and 3 other dogs (I had mine with me, so this was nice!) Everyone was very welcoming and invited me over to enjoy the fire with them once I was set up. This was needed as it got down into the 40's overnight. The sunrises facing straight into the shelter and it was a nice place to sit and eat some breakfast the next morning. The Lovingston trail on the way back wasn't too hard to follow. The blazes that were there were clear, but there were not many of them. Even leaving the shelter, the first blaze is difficult to locate. I had to walk around a few minutes to find it because there is a trail intersection there. Once on the trail though, I could clearly follow the trail itself. After following this back to rejoin the AT you just follow back the way you came in. And the hardest part of the hike I think is hiking back up the steep side of Tar Jacket Ridge. Once you reach the top again you are just about done, but again, it is steep!

    View all 18 archived reviews for the Tar Jacket Ridge hike
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