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G. Richard Thompson Wildlife Management Area - Paris, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
7.9 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
4 hours plus a half hour for lunch
1,670 ft
Virginia State Parks
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Park in the GRT Wildlife Area 20 car lot. 38.95740 -77.98902

This hike loops around the entire G. Richard Thompson Wildlife Management Area and is one of our favorites in the winter months. Almost 8 miles in length and with an elevation remaining under 2,200 feet, you can still have a great hike when the daylight hours are shorter.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This hike is in a Virginia Wildlife Management Area which now requires a permit.
Effective January 1, 2012, The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) requires an Access Permit for visitors to department-owned Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and public fishing lakes for anyone age 17 and older, unless they possess a valid Virginia hunting, freshwater fishing, or trapping license, or a current Virginia boat registration. All hikers who are age 17 and older, unless they possess a valid Virginia hunting, freshwater fishing, or trapping license, or a current Virginia boat registration, will need an access permit to hike on any Wildlife Management Area.

The one thing to keep in mind is that this area is very popular during hunting season, so make sure you wear some blaze orange if you are hiking anytime from late November to the end of January.

If you do this hike in nice weather a great way to top this hike off is to stop for lunch at Maxwell's Pub in Middleburg on the way back and grab a seat on their outdoor deck, which is dog friendly.

Start by walking up the dirt road to Lake Thompson. Turn right walking beside the lake and then veer right uphill. You will run into several large blow downs from tropical storm Camille obstructing the trails.

After .8 miles come to the intersection of Lake Trail that turns to the left. Continue straight on the smaller Stone Wall Trail for the steepest portion of the hike. In .5 miles the Appalachian Trail (AT) will enter from your right.

Continue straight (which now becomes the AT) for 1.2 mile where the trail branches, stay left on the white blazed AT until crossing the Lake Trail in another .3 miles.

In another .6 miles the AT will cross a dirt road. Rejoin the white blazed AT on the opposite side of the dirt road. In .3 miles pass a side trail on your right. Start descending and in 1.1 miles you will reach the junction of the Vernon Smith Trail (VST).

Turn left on the VST (the AT is part of this) and in 70 yards the AT will turn to your right. Continue straight on the VST for 1.2 miles as it winds around Wildcat Hollow before passing some ruins and a small trail on your left. Continue straight on the VST for another .7 miles where it reaches a small shed and intersects a dirt road.

Turn right on the dirt road for .1 miles until the road branches, veer left as you continue downhill for another .9 miles. This section of the trail runs alongside a fence and private property as it descends the mountain.

A trail will intersect from the left (private property with a red barn on your right). Turn left downhill for 100 yards. Then turn right at the four way trail junction. In 150 yards, you will arrive back at Thompson Lake. Continue straight back to the parking lot.

Calculate roughly how many calories you could burn on the GRT Wildlife Management Area hike:

Hiker Reviews For The GRT Wildlife Management Area Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the GRT Wildlife Management Area hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 26, 2015
First of all, never had to pay a fee to hike here also there is many parking spots to access this area. Yes, there is a sign that says you need a fishing, hunting or boating licenses which helps fund the place, but no front person asking any money. Funny thing, there is no donate box that I can find...

Anyways back to the hiking! I went today with a group of people from Sunday Funday Hiking Group in Front Royal. We did the full loop but parked a car at Ted Lower parking lot if we wanted to switch things up. We never encounter any knee deep mud like others talked about (even yesterday rain storm), also the parking lot (lake) is big compared to other locations. The Trillium trail was blooming and seen a lot of trillium on the AT too. We also found morel mushrooms throughout our hike :)

The trails need a little work on but most of the trails were at some point logging roads back in the day. Little trails here and there from deer and hunters, so keep an eye on your map. Some trees are on the trail but not much, I counted about three. Didn't see any weeds up to my chest then again it's April.

By: Katie Brainerd Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, April 10, 2015
Such a crappy place!! All these trees everywhere and mud up to my knees!! I'm 5 feet and I almost drowned in the mud. Plus parking was terrible. I recommend NOT to attend😡😤

By: Ellen and Tim Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, January 12, 2014
There is no hunting on Sundays. Hunting schedule is here: We have been hiking Thompson for years. One of our favorite hikes. We amp it up a bit by turning right on the AT and hiking down to a small trail that leads back to the main trail that comes up from the lake, so we are doing a loop that adds some mileage and also takes us up that climb twice. Today was clear, only slightly chilly. Beautiful day to hike. Some parts of the trail up from the lake and the AT in between the two fire roads were in bad shape due to downed trees/limbs. The wind storm apparently snapped off the tops of many trees and brought down lots of limbs. We spent a fair amount of time climbing over this stuff or, in some cases, bushwhacking around it. Still loved this hike anyway.

By: GinaLo Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 31, 2013
This is a fee area, which we paid online before heading out to the hike. The parking area is not marked from the road, but we did not have too much trouble locating it. The lake was full, and we saw one fisherman. All started well, but ended quickly. The trails are not kept up at all at this time of year, weeds up to your waist and chest at some places. Not fun nor comfortable for us or our dog. We only made it about 30 minutes before deciding to turn around when conditions did not improve. The trails are more suited for hunting in full coverage clothing, in the fall/winter, not hiking in late summer. Not impressed that we used a paid area with worse trail maintenance than any of the other (20+) hikes in the area we have tried.

By: Hans und Heidi Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, April 5, 2012
This is a "fee area" now. You must have a license to hunt, fish or boat in Va. or you can call 866-721-6911 or go online to to get a pass to hike here. Hardly worth it as we think there are more scenic places to go. We found the woodlands here not so pretty. The trails have many wildflowers and we came for the trilliums, but they have barely begun to come up yet. In two weeks they should be in full bloom.

Also the sign on the road is down, so if you don't know this place look for the lake on the left just before the car park entrance. In previous reviews the lake was leaking dry, but now it is fulled up and stocked with trouts. We saw many trouts swimming about and several fishermen but the fishes were doing a smart job of avoiding the fishermen.

    View all 30 reviews for the GRT Wildlife Management Area hike
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